GOP Presidential Candidate Chris Christie On His Economic Policies

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Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Republican Presidential Candidate & Former NJ Governor Chris Christie on CNBC’s “Last Call” (M-F, 7PM-8PM ET) today, Tuesday, September 5.

Watch CNBC’s full interview with GOP Presidential Candidate Chris Christie

BRIAN SULLIVAN: And as you know, we’ve been speaking with candidates about their plans if elected, and so without further ado, joining us now is former New Jersey governor and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, Chris Christie. Governor Christie, good to have you on CNBC and “Last Call.” Great to speak with you again, sir. Thanks for joining us.

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Thanks for having me on, Brian. Looking forward to our conversation.

SULLIVAN: All right. Well, we’ll say that at the end. I’m kidding. Governor Christie, let’s go. How would a Christie White House economically, taxes, etc. differ from either a Biden administration Part Two or a Trump administration?

CHRISTIE: Well, for a Biden administration in very significant ways, Brian. First is we have to get federal spending under control. The fact that Joe Biden was out there yesterday, on Labor Day, touting that he’s reduced the deficit – while he’s doubled the deficit from one year to the next is you know, an outrageous lie on his part. The fact is that spending has never been worse than what it is now.

And, you know, going back to the beginning of the Biden administration, Larry Summers, hardly a conservative, said that if they did the kind of spending Biden was planning, that it would bring about real inflation. And that’s, of course, exactly what we’ve gotten. Prices are 17% higher today, across the board than when Joe Biden became president.

And that is priority number one for Christie administration, is to bring inflation back under control, not only so that families can afford to buy the things they need to support their families, but also to bring down interest rates which you were just talking about in the last segment. You know, you have people – young people in this country who want to buy a home, can’t afford to do it with interest rates up over 7%, can’t buy a car, can’t do the kinds of things they want to do to try to help move to the next step in their lives and that takes hope away from them.

Christie administration economic policies, which deliver hope. We would also extend the Trump tax cuts. I think they were a good idea. They worked well at the time. But the problem with Donald Trump, same way as Joe Biden, was no control of spending. As you’ll remember back in New Jersey, Brian, when I came in, Jon Corzine left me with an $11 billion deficit on a $29 billion budget. We sat down and eliminated 683 individual programs, swept excesses by our school boards all across the country or across the state rather, and balance that budget without raising taxes on the people in New Jersey. We would do the same thing nationally.

SULLIVAN: With the president, when he talks about the deficit reduction, what he’s talking about is the automatic spending end during the Covid programs that both parties had already should have agreed on to clear that up. And let’s talk about debt. $31 trillion, and growing by some estimates, $50 trillion in just over a decade. Interest rates keep going up.

Governor, we can be spending a trillion dollars on interest, on the national debt in a decade or so. That’s more than the federal budget was about 30 years ago, That will be spent just on – not on schools, not on teachers, not on military, not on safety, not on anything. Just on interest on the national debt. But yet nobody wants to cut spending not even many of the Republicans.

CHRISTIE: No look, it’s – you know why, Brian? Because it’s hard, and it makes you less popular when you’re going to cut spending. Every politician likes to say yes. You know, I was as you know, a conservative governor in a very blue state. And so I went out there and did what needed to be done, even with a Democratic legislature for all eight years. And our spending in New Jersey went up an average of 2% a year for all eight years that I was there.

Just a little over 16% in eight years. You compare that to Florida, for instance, in the last five years, spending has gone up 30%. So I think when you’re looking at who will do the job the right way, when we get to the White House, Donald Trump added over six and a half trillion to the national debt. Ron DeSantis had spending going up at an average of 6% a year in Florida for his first five years. We’re the ones in this race who has controlled spending when we were in charge, and we’ll do the very same thing when I become president.

SULLIVAN: Well you know, to be fair, and we interviewed Governor DeSantis a few weeks ago, costs in Florida have gone up in part because a lot of people are moving there so you have more people competing for the same house. I’m also a New Jersey resident, Governor, so I’m not gonna lie. This is going to be coming from me as a New Jersey resident editorial. New Jersey is hardly the bastion of low housing prices and low taxes.

Part of that Trump tax cut, you know, it’s a tax cut for the wealthy. If you’re a higher income homeowner in New Jersey or New York or Massachusetts or California, you got crushed by the cap on state and local tax deductions. It crushed – most people I know taxes went up even if their top line rate went down. How would you handle that so-called SALT cap deduction and what can we learn from New Jersey that could actually benefit housing prices around the rest of the country?

CHRISTIE: Look Brian, what happened in New Jersey and what continues to happen there is that you know, despite the high costs, people still want to live there. They want to live there because of our geographic convenience, that’s always going to drive up housing prices. And as for Governor DeSantis’s claim that housing was more expensive, I’m talking about pure government spending, Brian. Pure government spending went up. And in New Jersey, we still were adding to our population during my years as governor. I

get – spending went up three times higher per year in Florida than it went up in New Jersey. Those are just the actual numbers. Now you can give whatever excuses you want. And New Jersey is not a low tax state. I inherited a very high tax state. But here’s the difference. Taxes did not go up in New Jersey. We capped property taxes. They had gone up 70% in 10 years before I became governor. In the eight years I was governor, property taxes went up 14%. So the fact is that we did bring taxes down in New Jersey. And we made it better. And that’s what real strong leadership can do. When you’re willing to say no. And I am willing to say no to more federal spending.

SULLIVAN: Yeah. Well, to your point, Governor, people get elected by saying yes, and then once you pay the money, it’s hard to take that back. You reference interest rates and housing costs earlier. What would you do with the Fed and how would you grade the job the Federal Reserve is doing because there’s a lot of people that are concerned with the pace of these rate hikes to quash inflation, a lot of which they brought by the way they and Congress contributed to they may crush the economy.

CHRISTIE: Well, look, I think that’s always a very tough call for the Fed. But I’d say this, that, you know, what we’re seeing now is that inflation has started to retreat, I think, almost exclusively because of Fed policy. We’re certainly not seeing any reduction in spending by the Biden administration and they’re still printing lots of free money.

And so what I think needs to be done is the Fed will do its job the right way and begin to lower rates when they see that the people running the executive branch of government are not spending trillions and trillions in deficit spending a year.

And so we can’t blame all of this on the Fed. Now, they may have waited too long to do what they were doing on rates and therefore had to raise them much more quickly. And I would be critical of that. But in the end, the cause of this is Joe Biden and his spending and Donald Trump and his spending during his time in the White House.

SULLIVAN: Yeah. If elected, would you reappoint Jay Powell to be chair of the Fed? I mean, his term is up in 2026. I know it’s a way out Governor, but it’s still I think an important question for our audience.

CHRISTIE: Sure, and look, I know what I would say is it depends on how he does from here out. You know, he’s got some tough decisions to make, and you were just detailing them in your earlier interview. You know, are they because they’ve stopped raising rates? Are they now going to cut rates? And what are they going to – how are they going to take into effect that the Biden job growth has not been as robust as initially reported?

And does that mean we do need to give businesses some relief on rates so they can begin to grow jobs at a faster pace? I want to see what Jay Powell does between now and 2026. But I’ll guarantee this, I won’t wring my hands over the decision. I’ll make the decision that I think is best for America’s economy when I get there in 2026. But I think the jury’s still out on Jay Powell. I don’t think he has earned reappointment yet, but he certainly hasn’t earned being disqualified either.

SULLIVAN: You know, we interviewed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. last week, Governor. I know he’s a Democrat, but he made some comments about corporate ownership of housing. Things like BlackRock and others – not pointing the finger just at them – buying up tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of homes and basically helping to make housing less affordable. As president, do you feel like there’s any role for some executive action or congressional action around the corporate ownership of mass amounts of housing?

CHRISTIE: I have to tell you the truth, Brian, I’m much more concerned about China buying property in the United States than I am about Blackstone doing it. The fact is that there are always going to be things that we’re going to see corporations do that we like, we don’t like. I don’t think it’s yet to the epidemic point where it needs government action.

I’m not a big government Republican, like Governor DeSantis is, who thinks that every time you disagree with a position that a corporation takes you should take punitive action against them. I’m much more concerned about dealing first with China buying farmland in this country that would help to control in part the food supply both here in the United States and around the world. I don’t want the Communist Chinese party controlling that in the United States. And I’d be much more focused on that –

SULLIVAN: How do you prevent – what do you do about that, Governor? I think a lot of people might agree with that. What do you do about that?

CHRISTIE: I’d be much more interested in working with Congress to prevent that kind of foreign ownership of key national security type of ownership, like the food chain and the food supply. I’d be much more interested in working that out with the Congress and saying we shouldn’t have the Chinese owning any aspect of our food supply chain.

SULLIVAN: Let’s talk a couple more questions on energy and also on labor. First up with energy oil prices, they are back on the rise. Crude hitting its highest level in almost a year. American daily production still below its peak of four years ago, not by much but still not hitting that 13 million a day. Gasoline oil demand is growing, Saudi Arabia and Russia extending their supply cuts for an additional three months basically to the end of the year.

And Governor, all that happening as our emergency oil reserves known as the SPR are down for 45% from their peak in case of a true emergency. We’ve actually gotten really, really lucky with the weather. How would you handle rising oil prices and deal with OPEC and Russia if you were president?

CHRISTIE: First off on what we’re doing here domestically, we need to uncap what we’re doing on domestic oil production and natural gas production. We should not only be self-sufficient here in the United States, we should be an exporter of natural gas and oil to our allies so they don’t have to rely upon Russian oil and Middle Eastern oil.

Secondly, the agreement between Saudi, Saudi Arabia and Russia is absolutely wrong. It is going to give Russia more money for Putin’s meeting tomorrow with Kim Jong Un to buy more sophisticated weapons to fight against the Ukrainians. We should be supporting the Ukrainians wholeheartedly and part of that is making sure that they are not getting around the sanctions that we have to keep the price of Russian oil where it is by lowering supply and driving up price that way.

And, you know, this is what, you know, folks in our party who don’t want to care about the war in Ukraine, this is one of the things that we need to be worried about the idea that somehow whether it’s Donald Trump or anyone else could go over and convince Vladimir Putin in 24 hours to end the Ukrainian war. The only way to do that would be to turn Ukraine over immediately to Russia. That’s not what we should be doing. We should be standing up to authoritarian dictatorships like Putin and what—

SULLIVAN: Do we keep funding Ukrainian defense?

CHRISTIE: Yes, we do. And in fact, we should fund it more than we’re funding it now. And more quickly than we’re funding it now. What we’re doing is giving the Ukrainians just enough not to lose. We are not giving them enough to win. Even despite that we see them making gains in the counter offensive now breaking through one of the Russian defensive lines and making some progress, but they can make a lot more if we hadn’t, you know, Joe Biden hadn’t wrung his hands on supplying, then we’d have F-16s.

If he hadn’t wrung his hands on how much artillery you know, every day, Ukraine is getting outgunned about ten to one on artillery shells in this war. It’s very difficult to win a war when you don’t have those supplies. We and our NATO allies should be upping our supplies to Ukraine, not cutting them.

SULLIVAN: There looks like there could be a strike imminent for the United Auto Workers Union the contract set to end on September 14. Governor, the UAW and the Big 3 don’t seem any closer to a deal now than they were a month ago. You know, a strike could cripple Detroit and maybe a large part of the American economy.

You had some knockdown drag out fights with labor, particularly the teachers’ union while Governor of New Jersey. How would you handle the current negotiations between the UAW and Detroit and handling potential auto workers strike if there was one if you were in the White House?

CHRISTIE: Well, first off Brian, you know, part of these problems are being, are being because the Biden administration is deciding corporate policy. It’s the same thing that the DeSantis administration of Florida is doing regarding Disney and other corporations. This push on electric vehicles, the demand that they do it this way are causing all types of consternation inside the auto industry, and that affects the way they get to deal with their own labor and how they can pay them and what kind of profits they’re making.

And so problem number one is we should let the UAW and the Big 3 and others deal with this on their own. We shouldn’t be having government dictate corporate policy through this, you know, crazy green environmental push that they’re moving on where we don’t have, quite frankly, the electric grid in this country to support that number of electric cars that the Biden administration is pushing towards.

As to dealing with with the UAW and the Big 3 auto worker, auto companies, we need as what a president would need to do is to make sure he’s understanding both sides of that argument and putting the type of political pressure on them to come to a resolution. We should not Brian be going and dictating either wages or prices.

SULLIVAN: You know—

CHRISTIE: That would be wrong for us to do.

SULLIVAN: On that, on that note Governor speaking, you know, we listen, we want to fight climate change. We don’t want any more Superstorm Sandys. We want to have clean air spending on so called, you know, green and clean energy like offshore wind is a key component of the Inflation Reduction Act. I’d like to get your quick comment on the Inflation Reduction Act, but also we just saw this in New Jersey, right.

We just had this big fight I go to Seaside Park as you know, and you know, you look out and there was this big fight about offshore wind in the 11th hour the New Jersey state government gave a billions of dollars of tax credit supposed to go to New Jersey residents, they gave them to the offshore wind developer a Danish company called Orsted in order sort of to entice them to get this deal done. That’s a New Jersey issue.

You’re not governor anymore. But this is a national thing that we’re talking, the growth of renewable energy. How do we make sure that we are not just lining the pockets of certain corporations while ensuring that we have clean air and fighting climate change at the same time because this was kind of a fast one that was pulled on the people of New Jersey?

CHRISTIE: Look Brian, I would say this. First off when you look at what the United States has done on clean energy in the last decade, we have reduced our carbon output by a billion tons a year, a billion tons a year, in the last 10 years. You know what the Chinese have done? They’ve increased theirs 5 billion tons a year over the same decade. So anybody who thinks any of what we do here in the United States by itself is going to fix the climate crisis is just dead wrong.

We have to do this and get the Chinese doing what they need to do. I am someone who believes in an all in philosophy on energy, but these energies have to be competitive. They have to show that they can provide the type of not only pricing but also the type of reliability that we need. That’s why we can’t back off on oil and gas. We need to keep our grid reliable. And if they want to move towards electric vehicles, Brian, I have no objection to moving towards it.

But these mandates that governors like Phil Murphy in our home state and Gavin Newsom in California are doing with unrealistic timeframes are what’s driving all this stuff to drive the economy wrong. And as far as the Inflation Reduction Act, it didn’t reduce inflation. It is a green energy bill. And you know, this kind of stuff that governors like Newsom and Murphy are doing is is just not fair to what we need to do for energy for our country as a whole.

As President, I’m going to make sure that we have an all in energy program all of the above making sure that everybody’s getting what’s fair, but we got to stay with oil and gas Brian, the grid must be reliable and 100 degree days like this in New York and New Jersey, we don’t want people turning the grid off.

SULLIVAN: Today was a scorcher. Governor Chris Christie, we’re going to leave it there. But I didn’t even get to my UFO question, which is disappointing, but we’ll have to leave that out for next time.

CHRISTIE: You know—

SULLIVAN: We’ll have to leave—

CHRISTIE: I’m always ready, Brian. I’m always ready for UFOs.

SULLIVAN: We’re gonna, we’re gonna have to leave that for next time. Governor Chris Christie, good sport. We appreciate you joining us, sir. Thank you very much.

CHRISTIE: Brian, thank you very much.