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Cabinet Room, 3:31 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, today — today’s Cabinet meeting, I want to give a brief progress report as to where I think we are and the job you’re doing in the first six months.
First, the pandemic. I know folks are watching the number of cases rising again and wondering, quite frankly, what it means to them. But overall — overall, COVID-19 deaths are down dramatically — dramatically. And these last six months, about 90 percent down due to our vaccination program. And I want to thank you all for the great job you did in getting that done.
But we have to stay vigilant, especially with the Delta variant that’s out there. While COVID-19 cases are rising, virtually all of the COVID death — virtually all of the COVID deaths and hospitalizations are from unvaccinated people. Let me say it again: Virtually all are from unvaccinated people.
And that means the safest thing to do is to get vaccinated — get vaccinated. And that’s why we’re focusing, on our next phase, on getting the unvaccinated vaccinated. I know it seems like a constant uphill climb, but it’s gradually — we’re making progress, but we’ve got a way to go yet.
Secondly, the economy. Yesterday — that I spoke of the historic economic progress we’ve made, which starts with the American Rescue Plan: shots in arms that saved a lot of lives; checks and tax cuts to give them just a little extra breathing room — ordinary Americans; and — and lower healthcare costs, just when so many Americans needed that help. And it’s helped create 3 million — 3 million jobs — more than any administration has done in the first six months of being in office — again, thanks to all of you.
And with our Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and our Build Back Better plan, I think we can turn this — this great movement into a economic boom for some time to come. And I really mean that. I think we’re in a cusp — not only getting us out of the hole, but setting us on a — on a path that’s going to generate significant continued economic growth.
And the American people are overwhelmingly supportive of our plans — that’s support that a lot of our friends and the other team kind of miss. The polling data shows that they strongly support — strongly support our effort for infrastructure.
I think they’re a little tired of Infrastructure Week for four years in a row. I think we’re on the verge of me being able to get something really done — rebuilding roads and bridges; replacing lead water pipes; delivering high-speed Internet to every American — rural and inner-city; and taking on the climate crisis with — with American jobs.
And they want us to build back — to build back better. They don’t know the name necessarily, but they know that they support universal pre-K and two years of community college; paid leave and childcare, which is essentially a significant tax cut for working-class families; and allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs, which will significantly reduce drug prices across the board for people.
And they support asking the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and corporate America not to pay more than they should; just begin to pay their fair share, just step up a little bit.
The idea that 50 of the largest corporations in America pay no tax, it’s — I — I think people should be able to be millionaires and billionaires if they have the ideas, but, Lord’s sake, the idea — let’s start paying your fair share.
And third thing is, there are — and, by the way, there’s overwhelming evidence, in the polling data, they support what we’re doing — is how to pay for these programs.
Thirdly, restoring American leadership in the world. I know you all have — those of you who’ve travelled around the world — I know our Ambassador to the United Nations knows it full well — that America has — is really behind the eight-ball the last four years. We’ve lost a lot of our standing. I don’t have to tell that to my buddy sitting to my right here — the Secretary of State. He understands it well.
And as I’ve said before, we are — we are defining — in a defining competition right now for the 21st century — for the second quarter of the 21st century — with China and many other nations. And many of these nations believe that autocracy is the future; that democracies cannot compete with autocracies because it’s so hard — things are moving so rapidly, technologically and otherwise, that democracies can’t get the act together enough to get a consensus on how to move.
Well, I reject that most — notion completely, and I think the vast majority of American people do as well.
You know, in my conversations and meetings with world leaders — just coming back from, I guess, about eight, nine days over there, ending with a — a meeting with Putin — you know, I’m making it absolutely clear that democracy is more capable — more capable, and America is back, whether it’s helping vaccinate the world.
And we’re not just vaccinating ourselves. We’re going to do — we’re going to vac- — help vaccinate the world. We’re building back better to create jobs and grow the middle class not just at home, everywhere. It’s in our interests the economic — the economies of these other nations grow.
And we’re going to lead the fight against the climate crisis and tackling — tackling the challenges of cybersecurity. We’ve been very clear to our — our — other nations as to what we expect in terms of their conduct.
And finally, there’s much more to be done and so much more to do — tackling voting rights, which is an existential threat to democracy right now. The things that are being asked are just beyond the pale. And the Vice President has been working hard on this issue and is going to continue to — we all are — but there’s much more to do. We have to tackle the immigration problem, which we’re working really hard to get done in a humane and serious way. Police reform and crime.
And the bottom line is: We’re delivering on our promises. We have to deliver on all of the promises we made. Because I think we’re in a situation where the vast majority of the public agrees with the essence of what we’re trying to do.
And so, I just think that we’re showing there’s nothing that America is unable to do when we do it together.
And so, you know, I think it’s time for us to — to stop now so we can get started with our meeting. So, are you ready, folks, to go to work?
Q Mr. President, quickly: Do you think vac- — do you think vaccinated people should start wearing masks?
THE PRESIDENT: Guys, we’re — we’re going to work now. We’re — we’ll have plenty of time to (inaudible).
3:38 P.M. EDT
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