President-elect Trump's pick for treasury secretary said Wednesday morning that the administration's top priority would be tax reform to spur growth, one that wouldn't cut taxes for the wealthy.
In his first public appearance since being identified as Trump's choice for the treasury, financier Steven Mnuchin also discussed his plans for other administration policies, including a deregulatory agenda for banks and a pursuit of bilateral trade deals rather than major trade deals.
Appearing on CBNC, Mnuchin promised "sustained growth" of 3 percent to 4 percent annually, well above the recent numbers.
"To get there, our number one priority is tax reform," Mnuchin said. "This will be the largest tax change since Reagan."
That tax change, Mnuchin claimed, won't result in tax cuts for the wealthy.
"There would be no absolute tax cut for the upper class," he explained. "There will be a big tax cut for the middle class, but any tax cuts we have for the upper class would be offset by less deductions to pay for it."
Trump's campaign tax plan would have been a major tax cut for high earners, according to a number of outside analyses, which means that Mnuchin would have to make major changes to ensure that the wealthy did not get tax reductions.
One deduction that might be limited for the rich, he suggested, would be the deduction for mortgage interest, one of the biggest and most popular tax breaks in the tax code.
He didn't specify whether he would keep Trump's campaign target of a 33 percent top income tax rate for high earners. He did, however, mention that the target for business taxes was still 15 percent, a rate he said would encourage jobs and business to come back to the U.S.
Although Mnuchin will face skepticism during the nomination process because of his background as a banker at Goldman Sachs and investor at his own hedge fund, Mnuchin said that his experience in finance would be a benefit, not a hindrance.
Mnuchin said his experience in running a bank helps him understand the problems with existing financial regulations. As a result, he will look to pare back post-crisis rules, if not eliminate them entirely as some Republicans want to.
"We want to strip back parts of Dodd-Frank that prevent banks from lending," he said, referring to President Obama's 2010 financial reform law.
On trade, "we believe in bilateral negotiations," rather than regional agreements, Mnuchin said. "We'll have very good deals with lots of countries."