Interview with Steve Bannon

CNN host Fareed Zakaria interviewed Steve Bannon on June 1, 2018. Originally CEO of Donald Trump's campaign, Bannon was a leading strategist in the conservative movement and for a time advisor to the president.


ZAKARIA: So you think at the heart of this populism that you see sweeping the Western world is the kind of economic populism to take care of these working-class people who have been often left behind? So I wonder 500 days into the Trump administration, the signature achievement of the Trump administration has been a tax cut that has basically been disproportionately to -- for wealthy, to corporations, there hasn't been much return of manufacturing jobs and you give a speech once where you said the three things they got to do. They got they got a control immigration, you got to take care of bring back jobs from China --


ZAKARIA: -- and get out of these wars.


ZAKARIA: None of that's happened, there's no wall, there's no jobs back from China that, they were still --

BANNON: Let's go it --

ZAKARIA: What we have is a big tax cut. I can't believe you approved that, that tax cut --

BANNON: Let's go to the tax cut. Remember, when we first came in, Paul Ryan and guys had been working on for seven or eight years. The border adjustable tax, that was very much made on the model of Germany to make us more of an export nation, heavy inducement to manufacturing, 100% expensing a capital equipment, period zero that blew up in the first 90 days. The Koch's and Walmart and the retailer said, this is going to be a value-added tax, we got to get rid of this thing.

The -- then the Trump Program was I believe in the center of it. I think it's quite wise because what they did is said, hey we can't get anything else done, what we have to do is get competitive with Germany. And we have to get competitive with China as far as taxes go and repatriation. The heart of it, the heart of a member, I was a guy that argued there ought to be a 44% tax for the upper brackets, right? But I was -- that was kind of dismissed early on. But the beating heart of it, I think even the reason populist came together, it was a major first step for trying to get investment back to United States. You have to make manufacturing competitive in the United States and that's the heart of that tax --

ZAKARIA: And by the way --


BANNON: I wouldn't when it's --

ZAKARIA: That hasn't come back. BANNON: OK.

ZAKARIA: Investment hasn't come back.

BANNON: No, no, no. We really don't --

ZAKARIA: The estate tax has been -- exemption has been doubled. Steve, 0.2% of Americans pay a state taxes. The 0.2, this is about the one --


BANNON: Fareed, I did -- I do disagree because I think sometimes you're carving too much process. And here's the thing, is that it's a beginning directionally, you are starting to see the animal spirits, you're all starting to see reinvestment in the country. It's one of the reasons we are 3% growth at the fourth quarter of last year. And now we're 2.2% this year. But the projection is up to 3% growth. A lot of that is for the reinvestment in manufacturing.

Now was it a perfect tax cut and as a perfect populist tax cut? The answer is no, but is it -- I stuck the thinking started to rejuvenate the American economy and kind of gives us an engine to drive? The answer is yes. And I think you're going to see President Trump in it later in his first term. And then in his second term, start to address some may be the inequalities in our tax code, which should have been addressed in the Ryan (ph) bill, but that kind of blew up very early on in the administration.

ZAKARIA: OK, so then the other part here --

BANNON: By the way, that's one thing about the elites. I -- here's the thing, I don't believe that people focus enough on what started this. And it's issuing your show start about 10 years ago, the financial crisis of 2008, the employee brought on by the elites of both parties, OK, where they bail themselves out. Remember, that was when the Bernanke and Paulson went up the capital -- went up to Bush's White House, said we need a trillion dollars, this is when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt on the 15, the administration let it go in.

The smartest guys from the geniuses didn't realize that Lehman Brothers was the heart of the world's commercial paper market. The whole economy started to blow apart. They go up to Bush and said hey we need a trillion dollars by 5:00 in the afternoon.


ZAKARIA: So, let me ask you from the point of view of somebody in the Republican establishment, and I've talked to a few of them actually after that column of you referenced. And they said, look, from our point of view things are working out fine. Trump talks stuff on some of these things. Very little actually happens. But the stuff that gets implemented is the core Republican agenda.

[21:50:12] And what you're going to see is he's going to make some of these attempts of protectionsim, but look what the reality is, he has doubled down on Afghanistan, he has doubled down on Iraq. He is more engaged militarily in all those wars that you wanted him to get out of. There is no wall, there is no great tariff war with China right now.

So, when they look at it, it seems to me they're saying, "Donald Trump hasn't taken over the Republican Party, the Republican Party has taken over Donald Trump."

BANNON: OK, let me beg to defer for one second. You have to remember is that what he is doing is the right-wing populism is different than the populism you see in Europe. Europe, even at the end of the day always looks for a state solution.

Part of what right-wing populism is, is deconstructing the administrative state. Getting rid a lot of regulations, opening up entrepreneur opportunities for working class people. OK. And again, more of a piece of the action for the working class and the lower middle class.

What Trump has done with the judges, what Trump has done with this massive deregulation which is really under the surface is deconstruction the administration state, total place to the populus agenda, OK?


ZAKARIA: The studies show that America is more polarized today than at any point since the civil war.


ZAKARIA: And I wonder your style of politics, the intense polarization, the battle, the sense in which people are now war in tribes, isn't it, I mean, that might win -- work in politics, but how do you -- to you, to quote Lincoln, how do you bind the wounds of the country back together?

BANNON: We don't have the ones here. I think what we have -- I think it's healthy. I think it's healthy like here -- was here in Italy. Here is what I think it's healthy and you guys hear from (INAUDIBLE), people are more engaged in these topics now than they've ever been. These are the great issues of the day.

We're trying -- this is why I keep saying in this theory of history and by the fourth turning, we're in a fourth turning. The country is going to be one thing or the other. This battle between nationalist and globalist, OK, is at the fundamental roots of what America is, what America will be.

I welcome it, I love the confrontation. In fact I keep saying if Bernie Sanders had been more confrontational and had more stones, he would have been the nominee and would have had a real fight with Donald Trump in the run up to '18 or '16, not Hillary Clinton. What I think is that this is very healthy.

And by the way, for the folks at home I think this is going to go on for a long time. I think it's a long time before we bind up the wounds. We got a lot more fighting, a lot more fighting, a lot more scar tissue to go over.