Jen Psaki ( Photo by Cameron Smith )
Jen Psaki ( Photo by Cameron Smith )

This Friday at the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Director of the National Economic Council took the podium to talk about the economy, Afghanistan, and the Fourth of July. Delaney Tarr reports on the press briefing. 

Updates on the Economy

Director of the National Economic Council (NEC) Brian Deese took the podium today to talk about the economy. Earlier in the day, President Joe Biden delivered remarks on the employment report. 

The economy was rocked by COVID-19. Approximately 600k people died, and unemployment rates skyrocketed. Supply chains faced shortages and bottlenecking, leaving industries without necessary items. 

Yet as the country opens up, the White House reports growth in the economy. In the last month alone 850k jobs have been created, marking 3 million jobs created since Biden took office. 

The unemployment rate is now at 5.9% according to the June job report, and Deese said wages have risen 3.6% over the past year as well. 

Deese delivered statistics describing success for the US economy, like an increased number of consumers seeing the job market as improving and an uptick in labor force participation. 

The success isn’t across the board, as the unemployment level for Black men is about 10%– almost double what it is for white men. Deese said the best way to address the disparity is to have a strong economy, citing the broad goal of full employment that the President has previously discussed. 

Deese also acknowledged the growing pains of a rebounding economy. “We continue to have challenges in an economy that is coming back from a historic pandemic,” said Deese. 

Manufacturing jobs have lagged in comparison to other industries, a fact Deese attributed to the cratered production and supply chain issues brought on by the pandemic. 

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the White House has established a supply chain disruptions task force to address issues in the area, with meetings between timber and logging companies and semiconductor producers. 

Deese centered focused back onto marginalized groups and the goal of full employment, specifically addressing “what are the barriers to full participation in this economy” for discrepancies among race, ethnic, and gender-based lines.

Gearing up for July 4th

The White House is lining up to host a 4th of July celebration this weekend, still aware that the administration fell short of their self-imposed vaccination goal by the holiday. The guest list is expansive, with almost 1,000 people invited. 

Psaki pushed back against their failed goal, saying that about 70% of adults aged 27 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. She also stressed that hospitalizations have fallen by more than 90% since January. 

The Press Secretary then doubled down on the effectiveness of the vaccine leading into a nation planning celebration for the 4th.  

“If you’re vaccinated, you’re safe,” said Psaki, “If you are not vaccinated, you’re at risk of getting the virus.” She then addressed the increased risk of the Delta variant, a highly transmissible strain. 

Yesterday morning the administration announced plans for a team to act in response to the rise of the Delta variant across the country that will include sharing of resources and personnel. A team has already been sent to Colorado and the White House said they will continue to work with communities across the country on the Delta threat. 

Despite concern around Delta,  the White House reported that Moderna and Pfizer are effective in combating the variant. 

Ending the War in Afghanistan

After 20 years of war President Biden has decided to withdraw the remaining US troops in Afghanistan. As of today, the US has pulled all troops out of the Bagram base, with the rest to follow in the coming months. 

The move came after the Taliban set a May 1 deadline and said they would shoot at troops after that date. The withdrawal is set to be completed by the end of August. 

Psaki said the US will continue to have a diplomatic presence there. She revealed that the  administration’s review left them with a “clear-eyed assessment of the best path forward”, leading to Biden’s decision 

Amidst the withdrawal, the White House has identified a group of Special Immigrant Visa applicants who are in “at-risk” categories, like interpreters and translators, to be relocated outside of Afghanistan. The details of their relocation were not revealed, with Psaki citing “security reasons”. 

Psaki said the US government will continue to have a diplomatic presence on the ground even after the removal of US troops.