Trump has decided to name a member of Wall Street as his Treasury Secretary: Goldman Sachs Group executive Steven Mnuchin. As you might remember, Sachs had a major hand in almost sinking the world back in 2008. They have been richly rewarded for their greed and sociopathy.
Our economic system favors them, Obama cherishes them, Team Clinton worshipped them, and now Donald Trump pays homage. This is the latest of those prizes. To quote Bloomberg Markets, “If Mnuchin becomes Treasury secretary, he’ll be the third Goldman Sachs alum in three decades to get the job.” Sachs, who Matt Taibbi famously called a “Vampire Squid,” is welcome at Trump’s table.
According to Business Insider, the usual suspects were not pleased:
“During the campaign, Donald Trump told the American people that he was going to change Washington by taking on Wall Street,” Sanders and Warren said in a rare joint statement. “Donald Trump’s choice for Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, is just another Wall Street insider. That is not the type of change that Donald Trump promised to bring to Washington – that is hypocrisy at its worst.”
The Orangeman’s deep draw from the smiling-son-of-a-bitch pool is a nice indicator of what’s to come. This won’t come as a shock to those of you who paid close attention to Donald. His principles bend, and so do his knees. The financial industry has drained more than its fair share of the life-energy of the Republic for two hundred years.
However, they’ve really taken off in the last decades, drinking up fat times like a poison mushroom. Trump spoke of draining the swamp, but in reality, the man will do nothing but fill the bog full of debauched bankers and billionaires. Why wouldn’t he? He’s not a President; even when he becomes President—he’s a pile of iron shavings which flicks itself at the strongest magnet in the neighborhood. That magnet currently resides at 200 West Street in the city of New York.
Supporters of the Donald were quick to offer contrary takes: Mnuchin, they insisted, was a longtime friend of Trump. The Orange Nation pointed out, nervously, that Trump and Mnuchin were bros—and even megabros—from yesteryear on. Mnuchin’s pa was Robert Mnuchin, who toiled in the Sachs mills, working the institutional equity angle for thirty-plus years. Steven became the firm’s Chief Info Officer back in ‘99. He collaborated with the bogeyman himself, George Soros, and financed Hollywood movies.
I suppose Mnuchin’s tie-in with another showbiz billionaire makes sense. There are plenty of marks against Steven, including that he managed mortgage-backed securities trading.
But let’s be honest: he’s from Goldman Sachs. Does it matter precisely what kind of Dracula he is?
It didn’t help Trump’s cause that this happened right after the embarrassing dinner with Romney, where the stalwart man of the people was seen deep in secret cahoots with the country club set, the very same people his entire campaign had been so dead-set in opposing. Was this the Marmalade-Colored Revolution we’d been promised?
In a way, it’s comforting. A Trump administration which falls to the usual right-wing corruption will be easy prey. The Orange House is a short-term danger to all kinds of people, but what about the far-off future of four years from now? Trump-style populism, if successful, would pose a long-term threat to alternative theories of politics, other parties. It would be something new in the system, something not easily countered. A serious, enduring shadow.
Success would legitimize Trump’s whole mad gamble to be Prince of Playboy Mountain. It would be the final sick irony in a political universe full of them, if this hustling rube from Queens actually accomplished progressive goals in a fit of half-assed, half-improvised strategy. It would show that all of the calculation, all of the gaming, triangulation, and think-tanking, really were as useless as they appeared. I don’t know if political science has a term for when a functional illiterate achieves something that countless grad school theses have only speculated about.
But if Trump’s administration is simply a collection of dime-bag leftover schmucks who stopped being ready for the GOP Primetime decades ago, then the Trump Administration will be another Republican presidency, but more heavy-breathing and dull-witted. It will be crippled at its birth, like all of the other far-right-wing doctrine in the history of world.
Left to its own devices, zany modern conservatism will eat itself. Climate change will continue to over-run everything we’ve built, while scores of well-scrubbed Trump family retainers inform us that icebergs were always going to betray us by melting at the most inconvenient time for the economy.
Practically everybody who voted for Trump thought he was going to take the bolt-cutters to the big-wheel financial institutions. Yet those of us who watched him switch tracks during the long campaign were reasonably certain that the King of Orange had no strong beliefs. Like the crown of Alexander the Great, Trump would go to whomever was strongest.
It was always clear that Hillary would appoint a Wall Street drone to the highest spot of the Treasury, but for Trump, who bows to the last person talking in the room, it was still kind of a guessing game. Would the Donald lift a Bible-college yearbook editor to the seat of Alexander Hamilton? What role would Tila Tequila have in monetary policy? As far as the financial imagination was concerned, it was a Wild West of possibility.
Now the way is clearer: pretty much nothing will change. What does the law matter, when Goldman Sachs can screw over the peasants without any fear of being slapped down by the watchdogs of the state? Business as usual is terrible news for the country, good news for his opponents, and dispiriting for his supporters.
I suspect that a secret desire to watch the Tangerine Messiah sink teeth into the financial barons was more widely shared, even among Hillary voters, than anyone could admit. A Sachs ass-kicking is a long time coming. Maybe it’s a consequence of the Wall Street folks having free reign since the Eighties to do whatever they pleased. The collapse of the Soviet Empire made them weirder or drunker than usual; the fall of the Red Star drove them to froth at the mouth. The reign of Clinton and his terrible years of triangulation were boom times for the plutocracy. And now, apparently, those days are back.
For if a populist like Trump won’t take an ax to them, and the Democratic Party refuses to dump its leadership, then who, really, can bring the guillotine to Wall Street? As I write this sentence, the call of Trump beckons up and down the concrete canyons of Manhattan; I envision greedhead lords descending from their terrible stone crypts, leaving a scent of rotten fruit and blood in the air, lingering like a racial slur someone shouted in a smoke-filled back room.
If only we let more wild curs fight in the streets of New York’s banking district, these people might’ve been hidden up in their attics whispering sweet nothings to their shotguns. Instead, they’re trading toxic assets and probably jetting off to hunt tigers and serfs on hidden Pacific islands. What kind of show are we running in this country? Elected officials come and elected officials go, but Goldman Sachs’ term in office never ends.