'Private jet class' not my concern: Neel Kashkari

Neel Kashkari—Republican candidate for governor of California—on Tuesday delivered a scathing critique of President Barack Obama and Democratic policies in Washington.

"In spite of Washington's best efforts to keep the U.S. economy down," Kashkari sarcastically said on CNBC, "the U.S. economy has a vibrancy and a natural energy that we're starting to see break through."

"I'm not at all concerned about how the private jet class is living," he continued in a "Squawk Box" interview. "But what President Obama fails to appreciate is when the CEOs are talking about pro-growth economic policy they can grow the their companies and they can hire more workers."

The president faced criticism from corporate America over the weekend, after he told the Economist magazine that CEOs should stop complaining about regulations and show greater social responsibility.

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"The question is not: Are we better off a month ago or six months ago? It's, where could we have been if we had the right policies coming out of Washington?" said Kashkari, formerly head of equities at investment giant Pimco. "The government can create conditions where the private sector can thrive. That's where the disconnect is."

Kashkari, who also was the administrator of TARP during his time at the Treasury Department, is facing Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown in California's gubernatorial race. Kashkari said the governor's claims of an economic recovery there are overblown.

To witness the struggles of the homeless, Kashkari spent a week living on the streets of Fresno and videotaped his experience. "I tried to get a job. For seven days, I went door-to-door to small businesses, restaurants, hardware stores, and I said, 'Hey, I'll work. I'll wash dishes. I'll mop floors. I'll pack boxes. Anything.' Nobody was hiring."

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"I had a hidden camera in my backpack when I went in to apply for jobs," he explained. "Then I had a videographer. So when I was sleeping on a park bench, a videographer was sleeping on a park bench, sleeping next to me."

Kashkari said he didn't know what to expect. "Maybe I'd get a low-end job and I'll wash dishes for three days and it would be like 'Undercover Boss.'"

What was clear, Kashkari said, "this notion that California is back, it just rang hollow." He added: "The budget surplus right now [in California] is temporary. It's because the stock market rocketed up last year, capital gains [are] high."

"Squawk Box" had invited Gov. Brown on Tuesday's program, but he declined. CNBC also reached out to Brown's office for reaction to Kashkari's interview, but did not immediately receive comment.

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—By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere