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News Release

ICYMI: U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia Delivers Remarks On Department of Labor’s Coronavirus Response

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia delivered remarks at an event on June 15, 2020, featuring the launch of the final report of the Heritage Foundation’s National Coronavirus Recovery Commission.

The speech included the following excerpts:

“At the start of this year, Americans enjoyed a record-setting economy – though it wasn’t the economy the Congressional Budget Office had predicted back in the summer of 2016. Back then, the CBO said that by February of this year, we’d have an unemployment rate of 5% and we’d have created 1.9 million jobs. In fact, in February unemployment was 3.5% and our economy had created not 1.9 million jobs, but 7 million jobs since January 2017. Wage growth had been at or above 3% for 19 straight months.

“And as President Trump said in his State of the Union address, this was a ’blue collar boom.’ Workers in the bottom 10% of income saw higher average wage growth than those in the top 10%. By January 2020, low income earners had seen a 15 percent pay increase since the President took office.”

“At the heart of those policies should be recognition that the single best thing for American workers is creating conditions for a vibrant economy. We don’t have to look far to see that’s true, and to see what those policies are. We just have to look back to February of this year.”

“Four months ago, unemployment was at 3.5 percent, wages were rising, and were rising faster for lower-wage workers. Since 2018, there had been more vacant jobs than Americans looking for jobs: In February, there were 1.2 million more vacancies than workers looking for jobs. When I spoke to business people, the concern they mentioned most often was finding skilled workers they could hire to sustain growth. The labor market was a seller’s market. It was a worker’s market.”

“Many good things came from that. Perhaps the best – and I know the President joins me in this – was it provided more opportunity for Americans who historically had less. African-American unemployment was at an all-time low in the Trump economy, and the poverty rate among African-Americans was the lowest ever recorded, in records going back to the 1960s. In the words of a Wall Street Journal news story last week, pre-coronavirus we had ‘the best African-American job market on record.’ We also saw record-low unemployment for Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, and for workers who don’t have a high school degree. Unemployment for adult women hit a 67-year record low.”

“The last three months have been a period of exceptional and essential government intervention. With the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, President Trump and the Congress enacted a swift, sweeping, bi-partisan plan for protecting American workers and our economy from the measures necessitated by the coronavirus. There is now discussion of a possible final bill later this summer.”

“The Senate Minority Leader has described his ambitions for an additional bill as “Rooseveltian.” For me, the statement called to mind two monumental statues from the New Deal outside the Federal Trade Commission. On each, a powerfully-built horse is straining to charge forward, but is being held back by a giant, musclebound man. The statues are titled “Man Controlling Trade.” I still recall, as a boy, driving by with my father and him commenting, ruefully, that the statues showed, in his words, “government restraining the beast of free trade.” I was young, but understood my father to be expressing some skepticism that trade is actually such a terrible beast. Now, with hindsight and understanding the view of the Constitution of the man who became Justice Scalia, I appreciate that there was more to his comment: The Founders of this country were principally concerned to restrain government, not with creating a hulking government to restrain free enterprise.”

“The genius of our Constitution is the autonomy it allows the people, and the ways it checks and limits government so that private individuals and institutions may thrive. A number of restraints by the government are essential, of course; so are government relief programs. But for all we’ve been forced to ask the government to do recently, we must not mistake government programs for the economic growth and opportunity that come only from the private sector. And we must not forget that it was limiting government, not expanding it, that delivered the extraordinary prosperity we enjoyed so recently, and to which we all want to return.”

The full text of the speech can be read here.

Office of the Secretary
June 16, 2020
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Media Contact: Emily Weeks
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