by Stephen Gandel
The GOP frontrunner says low interest rates are good for America, even if the Fed Chair isn’t.
Donald Trump likes Janet Yellen’s low interest rates, but not the Federal Reserve Chairwoman herself.
“I think she’s done a serviceable job,” Trump tells Fortune. “I don’t want to comment on reappointment, but I would be more inclined to put other people in.”
As he’s said in the past, Trump tells Fortune that he would “absolutely” support proposals that would take power away from the Fed, and allow Congress to audit the U.S. central bank’s decision making.
That said, Trump seems to like what the Fed is doing with monetary policy.
“The best thing we have going for us is that interest rates are so low,” says Trump, comparing the U.S. to a homeowner refinancing their mortgage. “There are lots of good things that could be done that aren’t being done, amazingly.”
In fact, if the Fed were to raise interest rates now it could be disastrous, Trump says, because the country would be forced to pay higher interest rates on our debt, and that would be very “scary” for the economy.
“People think the Fed should be raising interest rates,” says Trump. “If rates are 3% or 4% or whatever, you start adding that kind of number to an already reasonably crippled economy in terms of what we produce, that number is a very scary number.”
It’s not certain that raising the fed funds rate would result in higher borrowing costs for the U.S. government—Treasury yields might fall if higher rates cause the economy to tip into recession—but other Republican candidates, like Ted Cruz, have said that low interest rates are hiding the cost of the nation’s debt. And if you were to raise interest rates that would force the government to stop spending, and cut the deficit.
But Trump doesn’t seem to be focused on that. Instead, Trump says he would like to take advantage of lower interest rates in order to refinance the debt and spend more money to rebuild the military and the country’s infrastructure. Trump did acknowledge that he thought we need to reduce our debt, but it was one of a number of things he thinks we need to do.
“The problem with low interest rates is that it’s unfair that people who’ve saved every penny, paid off mortgages, andeverything they were supposed to do and they were going to retire with their beautiful nest egg and now they’re getting one-eighth of 1%,” says Trump. “I think that’s unfair to those people.”
And while Trump boasts about making America great again, he no longer has a plan, or a desire, to make the country debt free. In an interview with The Washington Post earlier this month, the GOP frontrunner said he’d be able to get rid America’s more than $19 trillion national debt “over a period of eight years.”
But Trump softened that stance in an interview Tuesday afternoon at his offices at Trump Tower.
“You could pay off a percentage of it, depending on how aggressive you want to be,” he says. “I’d rather not be all that aggressive. I’d rather not have debt but we’re stuck with it. If I had a choice of taking over debt free or having $19 trillion – which by the way is going up to $21 trillion very soon because of the omnibus budget, which is a disaster. If I had my choice I’ll take no debt every time.”
Trump made the comments about Yellen, the Fed, and the national debt to Fortune in a wide-ranging interview on his business career and how that would translate to his potential presidency. Fortune will publish a transcript of the interview later this week, accompanying a cover story in the magazine on how Trump runs his business, and what it says about how he would lead the country.