'Another trillion in debt, here we come': Cohn sees Trump working with Democrats on infrastructure

  • "If the Democrats win the House I will be shocked if the first thing they don't do is infrastructure," Gary Cohn said Monday. "Another trillion dollars of debt, here we come."
  • The national debt is expected to rise to $28.7 trillion from $15.7 trillion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Cohn said he would have preferred a public-private partnership to tackle infrastructure, but that his plan faced fierce opposition on Capitol Hill.
President Donald Trump meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (2nd L), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd R), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R) and other congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, September 6, 2017.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
President Donald Trump meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (2nd L), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd R), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R) and other congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, September 6, 2017.

Former White House economic advisor Gary Cohn said President Donald Trump will work with Congress to pass a massive debt-fueled infrastructure bill if Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in November.

"If the Democrats win the House I will be shocked if the first thing they don't do is infrastructure," Cohn said in a live interview with Reuters on Monday. "I think they'll do a trillion dollars, trillion and a half dollars of infrastructure, and the president will sign it."

"Another trillion dollars of debt, here we come," he added.

A perennial issue for Washington lawmakers, the national debt is expected to rise to $28.7 trillion from $15.7 trillion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

As a share of gross domestic product, the national debt is forecast to swell to 96.2 percent from 78 percent over the next 10 years —the highest mark since 1946 and well more than twice the average over the past five decades, the CBO said in April.

Cohn, who quit the White House post earlier this year after 15 months as director of the National Economic Council, said his conviction on the topic comes from the way Trump crafts his economic philosophy.

"The president looks at these economic decisions in a very simple lens: 'I want to grow the U.S. economy, I want to create jobs, I want to create wage growth,'" the former Goldman Sachs executive said of Trump.

"If the federal government can do something that helps [him] accomplish those three things, he will be 100 percent inclined to do it," Cohn added. "I mean, that's literally how he looks at it."

Once the chief operating officer and president of Goldman, Cohn's time in the administration oversaw a historic overhaul of the U.S. tax code that resulted in the reduction of the corporate tax rate to 21 percent.

But despite agreements on deregulation and tax cuts, Cohn and Trump frequently sparred over the president's plans to impose trade sanctions on economic allies.

For his part, Cohn said he would have preferred a public-private partnership to tackle infrastructure, but his plan faced fierce opposition on Capitol Hill.

By combining "a little bit" of U.S. equity and letting the private sector leverage it, Cohn said the venture could then sell off a lot of the noncrucial infrastructure back to the government.

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