Cornyn: Economy robust but beware

Published 2:00 pm Thursday, May 9, 2019

A robust U.S. economy is being felt nationwide, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Wednesday, with more American jobs than there are American people willing to work.

Speaking to Texas reporters on a conference call from Washington, Cornyn said the current 3.62 percent unemployment — it is well below the natural rate of unemployment, which is 4.5 to 5 percent — represents “practically full employment,” with “more jobs than people who are willing to show up and do those jobs.”

But that doesn’t mean the U.S. is without challenges when it comes to employment.

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“We know there is a skills gap and that we need to do more to train people to qualify for high-pay jobs,” he said, an insight especially applicable in Southeast Texas, where skills and knowledge in process technology, instrumentation technology, welding and crafts prepare the local workforce for high-pay jobs in the energy industry and at petrochemical plants.

He said that continued strife at the Texas-Mexico border affects the workforce in Texas. For example, he said, some workers in Mexico hold skills that are needed to do jobs here. Some specific parts of the Texas economy — he mentioned the cattle industry — also suffer in filling open positions.

In response to a reporter question, Cornyn also suggested that tariffs might be undercutting longterm U.S. economic interests.

The senator said he and other lawmakers met with President Trump last week and encouraged him to drop outstanding tariffs against allies and strong trade partners like Canada and Mexico. Trade with the latter is particularly important to Texas’ economy, he said.

“The tariffs are hurting agriculture and sending prices up,” he said. “Tariffs are not good policy in the long run.”

“We need to cut a deal with Mexico, Canada and move on.”

In other matters, Cornyn said:

  • He is working on bills to protect consumers against high prices for prescription drugs. This week, he’ll present legislation pertaining to anti-trust problems.
  • He has advocated for release of as much of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report as possible on alleged Trump-Russia campaign collusion in 2016.
  • Attorney General Robert Barr should not release redacted portions of the report because they involve ongoing investigations and grand jury testimony, neither of which should be released. He said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has written to Mueller, giving him an opportunity to air complaints about Barr’s characterizations of his report; Mueller has not responded.