Trump Treasury Pick Aims to Make Tax Reform a Priority

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(Bloomberg) U.S. Treasury Secretary-nominee Steven Mnuchin outlined an economic agenda aimed at almost doubling the growth rate of the current expansion, saying he will boost jobs by making tax reform his overriding priority.

Mnuchin, speaking Wednesday on CNBC alongside Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor who is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to be Commerce secretary, said tax cuts for businesses and the middle class, fewer regulations, infrastructure investment and bilateral trade deals can help the world’s largest economy achieve 3 percent to 4 percent growth. The U.S. expansion has averaged 2.1 percent at an annual rate since the end of the 2007-2009 recession.

“We’re going to cut corporate taxes which will bring huge amounts of jobs back to the United States,” he said. “There will be a big tax cut for the middle class. But any tax cuts we have for the upper class will be offset by less deductions that will pay for it.” (Mnuchin elaborated on this in a separate interview -- see "Trump Wants 'No Absolute Tax Cut' for Upper Class.")

Mnuchin said his plan involves reducing the corporate tax rate to 15 percent -- from the current 35 percent -- echoing an idea Trump pledged to deliver during the campaign. Mnuchin said he wanted to bring “a lot of cash back to the U.S.,” proposing a one-time 10 percent repatriation tax to return corporate tax revenue held abroad, another key promise by Trump.

Mnuchin, a 53-year-old former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner and movie financier, who says he’s known Trump for 15 years, also said the Trump administration will work “reasonably fast” to overhaul housing finance, and that to finance the nation’s debt, he’ll explore issuing debt maturing in more than 30 years to cushion the effect of rising interest rates.

While Trump campaigned with tough rhetoric on China, saying he would instruct his Treasury secretary to designate the nation a currency manipulator, Mnuchin’s tone was softer without ruling out such a move. Mnuchin said he will work closely with Ross on the enforcement aspects of trade agreements.

Both Mnuchin and Ross are subject to Senate confirmation. The frosty response from Democrats in the Senate on Mnuchin’s nomination indicate that he may face a contentious confirmation battle ahead. His approval will first go through the Senate Finance Committee and then require a majority in a floor vote.

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