Challenged by Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo about the country's economic "malaise," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it will be two years before growth gets back to 3 percent, assuming the president can pass his tax plan.
Bartiromo pressed for a timeline for passing a tax bill Monday at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, but Mnuchin deferred.
The treasury secretary said President Donald Trump's goal is to vastly simplify taxation, to the point where most Americans could fill out their tax returns "on a big post card."
The plan includes lowering the business tax rate from a high of 39.6 percent to 15 percent. "Companies have left trillions of dollars offshore," Mnuchin said, predicting the money would come back home once business taxes are lessened.
The tax plan is a "jobs bill," he said, given that 70 percent of the tax burden on a business is passed down to the employees.
He said House Speaker Paul Ryan is about 80 percent on board with Trump's tax proposals, though he didn't specify the sticking points.
As treasury secretary, Mnuchin said half of his time is spent on foreign policy, specifically sanctions, money laundering and terrorism.
"These sanctions really do work. When you cut off the money to terror organizations, you have a big impact," he said.
Another priority is an overhaul of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, since taxpayers are at risk through the Treasury Department's exposure to those government-sponsored lending institutions.
"We're focused on financial services regulation. I know there's a few people in this room who care about that," he told about 1,000 attendees. "You should all thank me for your bank stocks being better."
A stone's throw away from Hollywood, Mnuchin and Bartiromo weren't interested in discussing the entertainment industry, where Mnuchin has deep ties as an executive producer on Suicide Squad, Sully, The LEGO Batman Movie and many more.
Washington D.C., he said, is "not as different as everybody says it is," Mnuchin told Bartiromo. "A lot of the same issues in business exist."
Naturally, the conversation touched a bit on immigration, Trump's signature issue.
"The fundamental issue is, if we have laws in the country, we have to enforce the laws. And if people don't like the laws, then they should change the laws through a congressional process," Mnuchin said. "The president wants to make sure we have legal immigration. That's really the priority."
"You seem happier. Just, content, when you're here in L.A. Tell us how your life has changed. How's the job going?" Bartiromo asked.
"It's changed a lot," he said. "People ask me if I'm having fun. What I normally say is, 'fun is hanging out in L.A.' It's the most interesting thing I've ever done. It's a great honor to serve the country."
Bartiromo asked Mnuchin to tell the audience something about Trump that they may not know. "The media gets it wrong sometimes, right?" she asked.
"You mean the fake news?" Mnuchin said.
"He really does listen," Mnuchin said of Trump. "He takes in a lot of input, and at the end of the day he makes his own decisions .... this is someone who is absolutely willing to listen to ideas."