Op-Ed, 597 words

Who Voted for Wall Street?

Trump railed against Wall Street bankers on the campaign trail. Now they're joining his administration.

Josh_Hoxie

During the campaign, Donald Trump said he wanted to fix our rigged economic system. And we can’t do that, he said, by counting on the people who rigged it in the first place.

He talked a big game about Wall Street and the big banks. He repeatedly called out Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street behemoth, by name in ads and speeches, characterizing the firm as controlling his rivals Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz.

So it should come with some shock, at least to Trump voters, that now President-elect Trump has chosen a consummate Wall Street insider, Steve Mnuchin, for treasury secretary.

Mnuchin spent 17 years as an executive at Goldman Sachs before continuing his lucrative career as a banker and investor. Is this not the swampiest of characters that Trump vowed to drain away?

draining-the-swamp

Crocodile Tears, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

Trump’s anti-Wall Street messaging resonated with millions of voters. A poll taken just before the election showed that nearly 70 percent of undecided voters in key swing states wanted to break up the big banks and cap their size to avoid another financial crisis.

The same proportion wanted to close the “carried-interest loophole,” an insidious provision that enables hedge fund managers to pay lower taxes than nurses.

It’s unclear whether Trump’s anti-Wall Street messaging made the difference for these voters. But it’s abundantly clear that he didn’t mean a word of it.

In Washington, personnel is policy. And Mnuchin’s appointment casts serious doubt that Trump will follow through with any of his bluster on Wall Street.

Mnuchin isn’t just any Goldman Sachs alumnus: He oversaw one of the largest foreclosure operations in the country. Mnuchin bought mortgage lender IndyMac in 2009, renamed it OneWest, and continued on as its chair through 2015 — a period in which OneWest foreclosed on more than 36,000 families.

What exactly does Mnuchin want to do while in power?

In his first announcement, Mnuchin exclaimed his “number one priority is tax reform,” promising to work with Congress to pass the “biggest tax cut since Reagan.” He claims the benefits of this tax cut will go to middle class families, rather than the upper class.

Fortunately, tax plans, unlike campaign promises, can be easily and quickly fact checked. Unfortunately, Mnuchin’s statement comes back pants-on-fire false.

Over half of the cuts in Trump’s proposed tax plan would exclusively benefit the top 1 percent, according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The plan would increase their after-tax income by 14 percent, 10 times more than for middle-income earners.

Mnuchin won’t be the only Wall Streeter in the Trump administration. Steve Bannon, the chief strategist for the president-elect and former head of the white supremacist news outlet Breitbart, is a fellow former Goldman Sachs employee.

The Wall Street swampiness of both Mnuchin and Bannon, however, pales in comparison to that of Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor selected by Trump to lead the Commerce Department. The 79-year-old investor built a career on greed, exploitation, and apparent tone deafness. Ross infamously whined in 2014, “The 1 percent is being picked on for political reasons.”

These former Wall Streeters will have serious power overseeing major parts of the government and the overall economy.

It’s been just eight years since Wall Street bankers had to come to Washington, hat in hand and utterly humbled, to ask for a taxpayer funded bailout. The reforms put in place to prevent a repeat of the 2008 crisis are tenuous at best — and now they’re under serious threat from the same people they were designed to rein in.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Taxation and Opportunity at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org. 

  • Karen Husted

    Ruthless psychopaths like to hang together and devise ways to further steal from the little people, make their lives more miserable, blame them for their misfortune, and laugh at how easily manipulated these ignorant folks are. Yes, the 1% are being picked on for political reasons, do we appeal to something nonexistent, their humanity, and pray they will do the correct thing? Or do we regulate through law to keep psychopaths from harming people? People have a difficult time identifying the enemy, especially when the enemy is promising the world, and enough are desperate enough to believe them. They are cowardly serial killers let loose on the public, which sounds like how the US military corporate complex operates on a grand scale.

  • DFinMOzarks

    Psychopath: Someone affected by a personality disorder, marked by agressive, violent, ruthless, antisocial thought and behavior.

    I think the word fits most business leaders and most of the conservative politicians who they sponsor into office.

    I do disagree with the part about the US Military being involved and the point that all businessmen/women are psychopaths. It’s true, most are ruthless, brutal and greedy without feelings for their fellow citizens. They view the public like a rancher views his cattle. Like live beings fit for little more than stealing from or harvesting.

    A few though are decent corporate citizens, sharing the wealth they create with their employees and investors equally and taking a fair share off table for themselves.

    Most I agree take everything but a few crumbs and consider those of us scrambling for those crumbs as ignorant peons fit only to be ripped off.

    Well face it, the GOP has convinced enough of the public to elect the greediest and most self aggrandizing of their entire cabal as president and these voters have given the GOP total power over all 3 branches of government even after suffering terrible consequences the last time we gave them total control from 2001-2007. Back then they took a surplus and ended up more than doubling our national debt, they got into some really stupid and costly wars, our foreign policies alienated our closest long term allies, the greed the GOP tolerated on Wall St. nearly bankrupt the world economies and their policies allowed continuing of the raping the public over health care.

    A recent poll showed a majority of women also voted for Trump despite seeing massive amounts of evidence highlighting just how misogynistic and low life this character is.

    Maybe a good number of our voters are short on imagination and intelligence….