Davos WEF

Carlyle's David Rubenstein: Trump 'policies seem to be working' to boost the US economy

Key Points
  • Policies implemented under the Trump administration seem to be boosting the U.S. economy, said private equity billionaire David Rubenstein.
  • "There's some bragging about the economy, but the economy is in really good shape," Rubenstein said after Trump advisor Larry Kudlow crowed about growth.
  • However, Rubenstein also said the economy could "always be better, could always be fairer," pointing to the rising budget deficit and persistent income inequality.
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David Rubenstein: I don't see any prospect of a recession in 2020

Policies implemented under the Trump administration seem to be boosting the U.S. economy, private equity billionaire David Rubenstein said on CNBC on Tuesday.

"Some of these policies seem to be working," The Carlyle Group co-founder told "Squawk Box" from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, without getting specific.

Rubenstein was addressing questions about the optimism from White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who told "Squawk Box" earlier from Davos that he expects U.S. economic growth to top 3% this year.

"There's some bragging about the economy, but the economy is in really good shape," said Rubenstein, whose Carlyle has $222 billion of assets under management. "Who would have predicted a year ago that we'd be here today?"

Rubenstein pointed to signs of a stronger economy ahead, including low unemployment, historically low interest rates and continued optimism around U.S.-China trade relations. He added that concerns about a global economic recession, which were building last year before the "phase one" trade deal between Washington and Beijing, are dissipating.

The economy is in "reasonably good shape," Rubenstein said. But he argued that it could "always be better, could always be fairer."

He pointed out that the federal budget deficit could be lower. Recent figures showed the U.S. government was on track for its first fiscal year shortfall of over $1 trillion in about seven years. He also cited income inequality, lack of social mobility and concerns about whether entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security will be there for future generations.

Rubenstein, a major philanthropist, is one of the signatories to the Giving Pledge, which was created by Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett to get the ultra-wealthy to give away more than half of their fortunes to charity. Rubenstein, for example, matched federal funding of $7.5 million to expedite the renovation of the Washington Monument after damage from a rare D.C.-area quake in August 2011.

Earlier in his career, Rubenstein donated to both Democratic and Republican candidates and causes. But he has not made a political contribution in more than a decade.

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Watch CNBC's full interview with Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein