'I don't think anybody cares' about rising deficits, argues Trump friend and real estate mogul

  • Howard Lorber says most Americans don't care about the U.S. deficit, despite surveys to the contrary.
  • Conservative lawmakers have expressed concern that Trump's tax plan could balloon the U.S. deficit.

Most Americans don't care about the deficit because it doesn't affect their day-to-day lives, a top real estate executive and friend of President Donald Trump told CNBC on Friday.

"I don't wake up at night worrying about deficits," said Howard Lober, chairman of Douglas Elliman.

Lorber's comment came during a discussion on "Squawk Box" of what changes the Trump administration could make to spur economic growth, including tax reform. Trump has said lower tax rates, particularly for U.S. businesses, would boost the economy.

In an interview this week with The Economist, Trump acknowledged his tax plan would increase the budget deficit, if only for a short time to "prime the pump" for growth.

"I heard for 40 years, 'your children will be in debt, your grandchildren will be in debt,'" Lorber said. "I don't think anybody cares."

With tax reform, he argued, the U.S. deficit will then take care of itself.

But according to a recent CNBC All-America Survey, reducing deficits ranks higher than cutting business taxes in the list of the public's priorities. And when asked to choose directly between cutting the deficit or generally cutting taxes, 39 percent said the deficit is more important, compared with 22 percent who favored cutting taxes.

According to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted in early December, the federal deficit ranked 6 percentage points higher than taxes as what Americans view are the most important issues facing the country.

Many Republicans, including influential Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, have said any tax reforms should be deficit-neutral. After Trump's address to a joint session of Congress in February, Portman cautioned in a CNBC interview about adding to deficits and the nearly $20 trillion national debt.

To Lorber's broader point, however, according to data from June 2010 to 2015 from Poll Reporting, the percentage of Americans citing debts and deficits as a top priority has declined.

—CNBC's Matthew Belvedere, Jeff Cox and Steve Liesman contributed to this report.

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