Steve Forbes: I see a ‘good chance’ of GOP tax cuts being retroactive

Key Points
  • The "instinct of self-preservation" alone should motivate Republicans to deliver a tax cut this year, says the two-time GOP presidential candidate.
  • "There's even a good chance they'll make it retroactive," predicts the chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media.
  • President Trump on Wednesday makes his second push in as many weeks for overhauling the tax code for Americans and for U.S. corporations.
GOP will get tax bill this year and it may be 'retroactive': Steve Forbes

President Donald Trump and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill must pull together a tax cut package this year, if for no other reason than the "instinct of self-preservation," media mogul and two-time GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes told CNBC on Wednesday.

"There's even a good chance they'll make it retroactive to get a real kick and big refunds going out in April of next year," the chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media said on "Squawk Box."

Forbes spoke hours before Trump makes his second push in as many weeks for overhauling the tax code for Americans and for U.S. corporations. Both of North Dakota's senators, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican John Hoeven, as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin were traveling with the president to the state for his speech.

Republicans know if they don't get the economy really moving "they're going to be in trouble next year," said Forbes, referring to the midterm election in November 2018 when Americans vote on all 435 House seats and 33 out of 100 Senate seats. "Members of Congress don't want to be Uber drivers."

Forbes, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000, ran on a platform for a flat tax to apply consistent rates across all brackets.

"On the personal side, I don't think they'll get real reform. What I think you're going to get is an across-the-board tax cut and a doubling of exemptions," Forbes predicted, saying Republicans should not worry about whether the cut would be permanent. The proposed time frame of 10 years, "that's a lifetime" in Washington, he argued.

"Get the tax cut effective now," he said, adding GOP lawmakers can address the expiration of the tax cuts after the midterms. The Republican base is "tired of this process that put health care up first," he said.

On the corporate side, he said Trump should continue to push to get the rate down to 15 percent from the current 35 percent, one of the highest effective business tax rates in the world, and be open to a compromise at 18 percent. A rate of 20 to 25 percent has been favored by GOP tax writers.

Republican should be able to get some Democrats on board to lower corporate taxes because giving U.S. companies relief has been a bipartisan idea, he said. Until it comes to how to pay for it, he added.

Forbes said demands by Democrats for "overnight neutrality in revenue is preposterous."

Republicans will be able to pay for tax cuts for corporations and Americans over time with strong economic growth, he argued. "Pay for it with economic growth. That's the only way to pay for it," he said.

"Just go back 10 years, if we had normal growth rates of let's say 3 or 3½ percent … there would be no deficit today," Forbes said.