Steve Forbes: US worried about incomes, not inequality

Steve Forbes' message to the GOP
Steve Forbes' message to the GOP

The mood on the campaign trail shows that Americans are not feeling better about the economy, Forbes Media Chairman and two-time Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes said Thursday.

"You see the anger out there — angst about the economy, worry about the security of this country," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "People aren't worried about income inequality. They want growth in their own income."

In a new book, "Reviving America," Forbes is calling on GOP presidential candidates to adopt "radical" pro-growth initiatives, including repealing President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act, implementing a flat tax and reducing the Federal Reserve's influence over monetary policy.

Forbes said he believes many Americans believe in these initiatives, and he wants to empower people to advocate for them.

"The candidates, many of them, are moving in that direction, but they have much more to do in terms of how you replace Obamacare," he said. "On the tax side, you've got to make some tweaks into their various tax proposals."

Forbes made the flat tax — which would establish a single rate for all Americans — a centerpiece of his first presidential run in 1996.

Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have proposed flat-tax plans, while some other candidates have proposed similar one-size-fits-all plans or reductions to the number of tax brackets currently on the books.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump listens as retired physician Ben Carson speaks during the debate in Milwaukee, Nov. 10, 2015.
GOP 'simple' flat tax proposals simply don't add up

Forbes said only Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have been willing to tackle the central bank and its "disastrous" policies. Those policies have "gummed up" the credit markets and created "lousy" labor markets, he said.

The United States has been adding jobs at a monthly average of 237,000 positions for the last year, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5 percent from 5.8 percent over that period. But Forbes pointed to the labor force participation rate, which stood at 62.5 percent in November, the lowest level in nearly 40 years.

He said the Democratic mantra is, "We've got a punk economy. Don't think about getting ahead. We'll just help you out a little bit, but don't think you can have a better life."