Donald Trump: ‘I’m the king of debt’
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Donald Trump isn’t afraid of debt.
“I’m the king of debt,” Trump told CNBC on Thursday, seemingly trying to explain the comfort level he has with debt after a long business career that included four bankruptcy filings by his companies.
However, Trump warned that America’s huge $19 trillion of debt could be harder to pay off if rates go up.
“If interest rates go up one percent, that’s devastating,” the presumptive GOP nominee for president said. “What happens if that interest rate goes up 2, 3, 4 points? We don’t have a country.”
At first glance, Trump’s endorsement of low rates would seem to make him a fan of Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, under whose leadership rates have continued at near-zero. She is also known as a “dove” because of her cautious stance against raising rates.
But Trump told CNBC that if he became president he would “most likely replace” Yellen when her term expires in January 2018. He pointed out that she’s “not a Republican.”
Trump did call Yellen a “very capable person” and said “people I know have a high regard for her.”
Last year Trump criticized Yellen, who was appointed by President Obama in 2014, for keeping rates low for “political reasons.”
But Trump’s seemingly contradictory call for low rates and also replace Yellen has observers on Wall Street scratching their heads. After all, Republican-leaning Fed chiefs tend to be hawks, not doves. They prefer to raise interest rates more quickly to ward off inflation.
“Are we looking at a dovish, deficit building GOP nominee here?” Michael Block, chief strategist at Rhino Trading, wrote in a note. “So maybe he wants someone more dovish. Like… an actual bird. Or someone in a large bird costume.”
Trump also threw his weight behind the idea of spending heavily to revamp America’s roads and bridges. It’s an idea that many Democrats, including Obama, have embraced as a way to breathe life into the economy while simultaneously investing in the future.
“The beautiful thing about infrastructure is it puts people to work, immediately puts people to work,” Trump said.
However, some worry that Trump hasn’t spelled out a credible way to pay for all that new spending. In fact, on Thursday he reiterated plans to dramatically lower taxes.
“Deficits would explode in his administration,” Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments, said in a report on Thursday.
This week influential investor Jeff Gundlach predicted Trump will win the White House — and boost the national debt in the process.
“Let’s face it, Donald Trump is extremely comfortable with debt,” Gundlach said at the 21st Annual Sohn Investor Conference in Manhattan.
Of course, dramatically higher government spending with no new revenue to pay for it would likely rile financial markets.
In other words, the bond market may sell off and rates will go up — exactly the outcome Trump warned against.