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President Biden ‘beat expectations’ in his State of the Union delivery: Expert

National Urban League CEO and President Marc Morial joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the State of the Union, energy, economic sentiments, child tax credit.

Video transcript


DAVID BRIGGS: Last night's State of the Union put our divided government on display for all to see, with a lively crowd that openly responded to President Biden as he gave his speech. Joining us now with his reaction to the address is Marc Morial, National Urban League CEO and President. Nice to see you, sir. One of the more--

MARC MORIAL: Hey, good to be with you.

DAVID BRIGGS: --fiery moments of the night found controversial Congresswoman-- to say the least-- Marjorie Taylor Greene calling the president a liar when he addressed a conservative proposal to cut Social Security and Medicaid. Listen.

JOE BIDEN: Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans-- some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I'm not saying it's a majority.


Let me give you-- anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I'll give you a copy. I'll give you a copy of the proposal. That means Congress doesn't vote.


JOE BIDEN: Well, I'm glad--

DAVID BRIGGS: You see MTG there dropping liar right there, Marc. What did you make of that moment? And did it end up being a master stroke for President Biden, who then got everyone in that room to commit to, all right, we're taking that off the table?

MARC MORIAL: It was a brilliant power move by President Biden. And Marjorie Taylor Greene is a performance artist. She craves media attention. So we're giving her what she wants, and that is attention. But what she did was she forced the hand of her own caucus to thereby say in public we're not going to cut Medicare or Social Security.

Let's see if they stick to their word on this because, as you know, Medicaid and Social Security, important parts of this safety net for the American people, is broadly popular and should not be touched for political reasons. And I do believe that President Biden was energetic. He was fiery. I kind of liked the feisty Joe Biden who gave an impassioned defense of the work he's done and I think talked about things like police reform.

He talked about, if you will, reforming a whole host of corporate practices that sort of nickel and dime the American people and a range of issues related to his blueprint for the American economy. So it was a strong performance. And once again, Joe Biden, underestimated by many pundits, beat expectations, and that's what's important with this year's State of the Union.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Hey, Marc, sticking with the economy, we all saw president-- the president getting some jeers. He went off a-- a little off script talking about the oil and gas industry. Let's take a listen to this.

JOE BIDEN: And when I talked to a couple of them, they say, we're afraid you're going to shut down all the oil wells and all the oil refineries anyway, so why should we invest in them? I said, we're going to need oil for at least another decade and that going to exceed--


--and beyond that. We're going to need it.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Sort of a mixed message there from the president on the energy industry. What's your take on that, talking about how--

MARC MORIAL: I think anyone--

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: --we want to transition, but we need a decade more power?

MARC MORIAL: Anyone who knows this issue understands that there's a road to a renewable future. And it is a gradual road because not only does the technology, the capacity, and the capability have to be developed, there are investments needed in order to do this. So oil and gas is going to be used for the foreseeable future-- in the transportation sector primarily, natural gas in the utility sector-- as we transition to a more renewable future.

So maybe you could quarrel or quibble with details and specifics about what the president said. But the president was being candid, and he was also answering alarmists who seem to suggest that if you're for renewables, you mean you want to shut down oil and gas production. And this sort of polar discussion is really inconsistent with what we must do as a country to move to a different type of energy future.

DAVID BRIGGS: Interesting when we're talking about the economy here, and he had some strong talking points. I agree with you on the energy and the feistiness. And he has those jobs numbers at his back.

But we saw a Gallup poll today showing 50%, Marc, of the American public says they're worse off today. He'll get a little short-term bounce here. Every president does. But can he move that needle and convince Americans that they are, in fact, doing better?

MARC MORIAL: That's the work ahead of the president. But I think the American people, there's a COVID overhang. There is a sense that the soul of the nation is being negatively impacted by racism and racial division in this country and partisan divisions and the attacks on American democracy.

So I think that what you see in these numbers is a channeling of how people feel on an overall basis. And let's be honest-- it is expensive to live in America today. Housing is up significantly. The cost of food is up significantly. So I think we should give the president due credit for the incredible rebound from the COVID recession that he inherited from Donald Trump and the creation of millions and millions of new jobs at a pace faster than any presidents, including Reagan and Clinton, while understanding that there is a lot more work left to be done.

If we pass the child tax credit, if we raise the minimum wage, if we did a few things, we could create relief for working, middle-class, and poor Americans, and we could put a dent into poverty. The tragedy of America's economy today is the many, many people that work hard every day and still cannot make ends meet. So the president should be judged is the economy better off today than it was when he took office on January 20, 2021? And I think that answer is clear, but there is a tremendous amount of work to be done.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Marc, you mentioned the child-- the child tax credit, you know, Biden talking about how he wants to see that expanded. Can we actually see that happen with this Congress? And then how important is that to be done?

MARC MORIAL: This is so important that the president and those that favor the child tax credit build the public will. The GOP and the filibuster have been obstacles to this. We had the child tax credit. We could not make it permanent because in the negotiations, this was something, remember, that Senator Manchin objected to, but it was never clear as to why he objected to this very important provision, which would benefit many, many people in his state and across the nation.

The minimum wage has not been increased on a national basis since 2007, I believe. And therefore, 25 states, half the states roughly, have increased their minimum wages on their own. But a national minimum wage is better economic policy than a patchwork system. This will test Joe Biden's persuasiveness, but it will also test whether the GOP is truly interested in bipartisan engagement versus obstructionist.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Big year for Washington for 2023, that's for sure. Marc Morial, National Urban League President and CEO. Thank you so much.