Donald Trump ran for president attacking the influence of Wall Street, and especially Goldman Sachs, in Washington, pledging to “drain the swamp.” As president-elect he is stocking that swamp with alligators.
For Treasury secretary, Trump chose Steven Mnuchin, a 17-year veteran of Goldman who left with a stake worth $46 million.
Mnuchin was among the buyers of IndyMac, a Southern California bank deeply involved in the mortgage mess that wrecked the economy eight years ago. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a federal agency, sold the bank for the fire sale price of $1.5 billion and renamed it OneWest. Mnuchin became chairman, operating it in ways that drew formal accusations of discrimination in making loans as well as aggressive actions against borrowers, including complaints of improperly foreclosing on some homeowners.
Mnuchin and his partners paid themselves more than $2 billion in dividends before selling OneWest six years later for a profit of close to $2 billion more.
Another former Goldman Sachser, Steve Bannon, will become Trump’s chief strategist.
And the Trump team floated a trial balloon Wednesday about yet another Goldman Sachser, suggesting that the Office of Management and Budget might be run by Gary Cohn, currently the president of Goldman.
There’s billionaire investor Wilbur Ross. He specializes in keeping troubled companies going while he recapitalizes them, winning applause for saving jobs, only to cash out, move on and leave the corporate carcasses to die, taking those jobs with them. Trump wants him as Commerce secretary.
Sometimes it’s not just jobs that die. Ross got control of the firm that owned the Sago Mine in West Virginia. Safety violations became rampant. The mine racked up 16 of the most severe safety violations in 2005, what the law calls “unwarranted failures.” The next year a coal explosion trapped 13 miners, 12 of whom died. Ross says he is guilt-ridden over the tragedy, but he didn’t visit the widows and orphans. And he didn’t offer any money, either, until others donated. Then Ross said he’d match those gifts.
Then there’s Betsy DeVos, advocate for lower wages and aggressive opponent of efforts to impose oversight on charter schools to make sure they perform. DeVos and her husband are billionaires whose fortune comes from Amway, calls itself a direct marketing company, but critics have long assailed as type of pyramid.
The Devoses donate to many right-wing policy organizations that advocate policies inimical to the interests of the factory workers and others who voted for Trump in the vain or mistaken belief that he would be their champion. She is against unions, regulation of schools and differences in spending between pupils even though costs of living vary widely with geography.
DeVos—who American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten calls “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee” ever—presents herself as an advocate for charter schools while supporting organizations like the Heartland Institute and the Actin Institute, which are severely critical of what they call the monopoly of public education run by school boards. She has worked with businesses that run schools for profit.
DeVos is also a fan of vouchers, a loosely defined term that can mean anything from a subsidy for parents to cover the cost of religious school tuition to giving every parent the full amount of their children’s schooling to spend at any school of their choice.
What DeVos wants are schools without standards. You read that right—no standards. She pushed hard in Michigan to prevent audits and other oversight of charter schools, including the many poorly performing ones in Detroit where commercial operators are failing to make schools great again.
Put your trust in the market to educate kids and you can be sure that some of these schools will be run by Bible literalists who will inculcate children with nonsense about the sun revolving around the earth while also teaching that people like me who call out such nonsense are trying to “impugn the veracity of the Scriptures.”
DeVos and her husband, billionaire Amway scion Dick DeVos, are widely praised by organizations that want unregulated schools and perhaps no schools at all except for those who can afford them. There’s a lot of money to be made if the Trump administration arranges to funnel tax dollars to private corporations to run schools from kindergarten through high school.
So much for draining the swamp.
The way it looks now, the Wall Streeters whose banking deals sank the economy eight years ago and who financed the transfer of factory jobs from America to Mexico, China and other low-wage countries will not be flushed from Washington, as Trump promised. Instead, Trump is giving them power to shape the economy, trade and education with more appointments to come.
Drain the swamp was a con, and Trump, the greatest con artist of all time, fooled just enough voters in manufacturing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to gain entry to the White House via the Electoral College. Instead of delivering on his promises to those workers what we can see in Trump’s appointments is his embrace of the super-rich he told us rigged the system. Turns out they did.