The world’s richest people are waging a war on poor people, a Columbia University economics professor has said.

Jeffrey Sachs urged Republican senators not to support tax cuts or proposed changes to health care, which he warned were examples of “populism by the super rich.”

In an interview with Bloomberg Surveillance, Mr Sachs said: “Well this war of the rich on the poor is really astounding.

“On top of a huge budget deficit, unprecedented inequality in America, largest wealth soaring at the top, they want more, and more, and more.”

Asked what he would advise Republican senators who were on the fence about tax cuts or changes to health care, Mr Sachs replied: “Patriots should oppose this, period.”

He added: “Because our budget deficit is already huge and rising and this is pure populism. An unusual kind of populism. Populism by the super rich. But it’s pure populism.”

Going on to talk about the $1.5trn tax cut passed by the House of Representatives last week, he said: “We cannot afford tax cuts. The idea that somehow has gotten into our heads in recent weeks that ‘oh, $1.5 trillion, that we can give away’, is unbelievable in any serious country.”

The economist continued: “Unfortunately we are not seriously governed right now. Governance is flakey in this country. How you start out with the idea we can make a gift of one and a half trillion to the super rich for the heck of it is really shocking.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in being part of and watching policy in this country for three and a half decades.”