Billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump tells Newsmax he disagrees with President Barack Obama's assertion that the American economy has greatly improved, saying unemployment remains "dangerously" high.
The Trump Organization chairman and reality TV star also says Larry Summers did the right thing by withdrawing from consideration as the next Federal Reserve chairman; maintains that another economic meltdown could absolutely happen; and warns that Obamacare will "destroy the country."
Monday marks the fifth anniversary of the financial crisis, and in a speech President Obama painted a rosy picture of how much better he believes the economy is doing now.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Monday, Trump takes issue with that claim.
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"Unemployment is amazingly high. The real number is probably 17 or 18 percent," he says. "It's very, very high, and dangerously so.
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"In the old days if you were unemployed, you were unemployed. Today if you stop looking for work, you're no longer considered unemployed for purposes of statistics. So unemployment is really, really bad.
"As far as business is concerned, it's very tepid. If you look at certain countries, as usual China and others are doing very, very well, but our country is moving along at a very slow pace, a snail's pace."
Larry Summers has withdrawn his name from consideration to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve, and Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair Janet Yellen is now widely expected to replace Bernanke.
Trump comments: "You don't know who's going to replace him, but Yellen seems to be the person they're talking about. She is respected, but we'll have to see what happens.
"She believes in low interest rates. Some people agree with that and some people don't. I have to speak somewhat selfishly as a developer — I like low interest rates. But as far as it is good for this country, that is yet to be determined.
"Larry Summers is a smart guy who frankly is very controversial, and a lot of people [were] going to be voting against him. So he did the right thing by withdrawing. He didn't have a lot of support, either Republican or Democratic. In fact, the Democratic senators were saying we're not voting for him, a number of them, so it would not have been easy for him."
Bernanke this week is expected to announce the beginning of the Fed's tapering of quantitative easing after pumping $85 billion a month into the markets, but Trump cautions: "Janet Yellen might feel differently about that."
Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson warns the crisis that brought the world to the brink of financial collapse five years ago could be repeated.
Trump says he "absolutely" agrees.
"It can always be repeated," he says. "Lots of different things can happen both good and bad and lots of things will happen both good and bad, so absolutely. It can happen again, and it can be as bad as it was, or it can be worse.
"I don't see it happening but you never really see it happening. Nobody thought the last one was going to happen.
"It's been very much a false economy. So we'll see what happens. We hope it doesn't happen but certainly it could."
Congress and the president are on track for a standoff over funding Obamacare and preventing a government shutdown. Asked if he believes Republicans should go for a shutdown if necessary, Trump responds: "I do. They have to because, ultimately, it's going to destroy the country anyway. Obamacare is going to shut down government in a much worse way.
"It's just not affordable and it's not good insurance. It's not good for people that need it. So we should come up with a plan for great healthcare, better than Obamacare provides, but we can't use Obamacare. It's a disaster.
"I have many people that are very good friends of mine who are closing businesses. I know so many people that are either closing or they're hiring part-timers or they're telling people that have been with them for 20 years, 'listen, you're going to have to go part-time.' It's terrible what's happening.
"Obamacare is, in a way, ultimately going to lead to a shutdown of government. So what's the difference between doing it now or doing it later? You're better off doing it now.
"Whether it's defunding or just terminating it in some form, the Republicans have a lot of strong cards, much stronger than people are saying and much stronger than a lot of the Republicans themselves are saying. This is a good opportunity to do something that really would be good for the country."
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As for President Obama's handling of the Syrian crisis and the chemical weapons agreement brokered by Vladimir Putin and the Russians, Trump tells Newsmax: "It's been a very, very rough couple of weeks for [Obama], and Putin is looking very, very strong. He's really looking like the world leader. The deal that was made assures that Assad is staying in power and that if you look at Putin, he's going to be the one that is helping and controlling Syria. Assad owes everything to Putin and to Iran.
"We should stay out of Syria anyway. We should invest and take care of our own country. This country has so many problems. We have $17 trillion in debt. Our country is a disaster right now. The last thing we need to do is go into Syria where people truly hate us. It just doesn't make sense.
"So certainly our country has been hurt from a public relations standpoint, and certainly the president's prestige has been hurt. I would say about Putin, whether a good man, bad man, or somewhere in the middle, his stock has certainly gone up."
Looking toward the elections in 2014 and 2016 and the role he might play, Trump says: "I've been very active in supporting people all of my life and only recently did I start thinking about other things. But I'll be helping people in 2014 and we'll see what happens, we'll see where this country is, where the world is.
"But the big things are the elections coming up in 2014. [They're] going to be very, very vital. The Republicans have a great opportunity to do something very dramatic."
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