Trump would focus on foreign affairs to rein in US debt

“My policy is very, very simple,” he said. “I would tell China, very nicely, 'Fellas, you're my friend, I like you very much.' I've made a lot of money with China, by the way, a lot of money with China. I would say, 'We are going to put a 25 percent tax on all your products coming in.'

“As soon as they believe it’s going to happen, they will behave so nicely, because it would destroy their economy,” he said.

Trump's comments arrive amid a fierce national debate over how to rein in the country's soaring deficit spending. Republicans want to slash funding for federal programs, largely to fund new tax cuts they say will encourage job creation. Democrats, on the other hand, are wary that steep cuts this year will send the economy swirling back into a recession just as it’s showing signs of strength.

Trump this week seemed to reject both strategies. He blasted the Republicans' new 2012 proposal — crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — which would turn Medicare into a voucher-style benefit, arguing that lawmakers should do more to protect seniors.

“I'm very concerned about doing anything that's going to tinker too much with Medicare,” he said. “I protect the senior citizens. Senior citizens are protected. They're lifeblood, as far as I'm concerned.

“Paul Ryan is too far out front with this issue,” Trump added. “He ought to sit back and relax.”

Similarly, Trump rejected both tax hikes and defense cuts as strategies to rein in the country's deficit spending.

“We need great defense,” he said. “I guarantee you, of all of the Republicans, I'm the strongest on defense.”

Fueling the budget debate, Standard & Poor's on Monday revised the outlook on its rating for U.S. sovereign debt from stable to “negative” — an indication that the nation's triple-A status is in danger of being downgraded.

Adding urgency to the debate, Congress is soon poised to vote on whether to raise the nation’s debt ceiling — a move opposed by a number of conservative Republicans, even as a growing list of economists and business leaders are warning of economic chaos if Congress fails to act.

Trump, for his part, dismissed the notion that raising the debt ceiling is crucial to economic stability.

“What do economists know? Most of them are not very smart, and if you look at their predictions over the last 20 years, most of them are wrong most of the time,” he said. “I would not raise the debt ceiling.”

A Washington Post/ABC poll released Tuesday puts Trump second, behind Mitt Romney, in a field of 15 potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates. The reality TV host said he’ll announce his decision whether to run before June.