Trump’s Risky Wall Street Play Could Drain The Swamp

Who better to find all the hidey-holes, end-runs and workarounds firms use to scam government rules, and then replace those rules with straightforward and streamlined regulations than the people who did the scamming?

This may well be the nicest thing I’ve ever written about the president elect. To borrow from Mitt Romney, “I’m hopeful” it won’t be the last nice thing.

The entire case for Washington, D.C. stalwarts to back Donald Trump rested upon their perception that he was “malleable.” Now those insiders are jealous of Trump’s own swamp.

Flash back to last April, when there was a chance Ted Cruz could put together a “unity ticket” to squash Trump, but the beltway bandits preferred Trump because (a) they thought he’d lose and they could spend four years fundraising against Clinton’s administration, and (b) if he won, they believed he would need their indispensable help.

Within a week of winning the election, Trump gave them all the bum’s rush–the first move in his promise to “drain the swamp.” Those who sidled up to former transition team head Gov. Chris Christie learned that things weren’t going to be the way they thought. Then they started sowing stories of “chaos” and “discord” with the media.

They are amateurs.

Now they’re jealous because President-elect Trump isn’t truly draining the swamp, he’s just replacing the stagnant water with his own fresh supply, a strange mixture of his top advisors, lifelong bureaucrats, high dollar donors, former military, conservative senators, representatives and one governor, and now, decidedly Democrat-leaning Wall Streeters.

The last puzzle piece is the powerful secretary of state nomination, and it’s down to four “finalists,” including former chief Never Trumper Mitt Romney, leading Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani, and rumored to include Gen. David Petraeus, Sen. Bob Corker, or Marine Gen. John F. Kelly. Petraeus is embroiled in some newly surfaced issues related to his 2012 security breach investigation and later plea deal for a misdemeanor conviction; that may take him out of the running.

One thing that ties all these diverse personalities together is that they are part of Trump’s swamp, not the Washington swamp, or they are personally loyal to their new boss. Even Trump’s White House counsel Don McGahn, who is as swampy a lawyer as they come (that’s a compliment in D.C.), knows that his ability to keep Trump out of scandal and away from the bandits is his top priority.

Trump will use these diverse and very different individuals to craft a unique, Trumpian policy of large-scale investments, business savvy planning, and quick pivots. Hopefully it will work, despite the high risk.

Bringing in a passel of Wall Streeters is very risky, but could result in a big payoff. Treasury pick Steve Mnuchin is not a conservative–he’s a liberal. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s nominee for Commerce, was known as “the king of bankruptcy” for his knack at buying troubled firms. Todd Rickets, Ross’s deputy, is a Republican donor and co-owner of the Chicago Cubs.

Many of Trump’s kitchen cabinet has ties to Goldman Sachs (you know, the firm Trump trashed and used to taunt Ted Cruz because wife Heidi worked there). Mnuchin is a 17-year Goldman vet. Stephen Bannon worked there early in his career. And Trump is finally getting face time–and respect–from Goldman president Gary Cohn, who would not do business with the Trump organization due to his record of bankruptcies and appetite for enormous risk.

Goldman Sachs, and Wall Streeters in general, know how to react to market conditions, and to government regulations. Who better to find all the hidey-holes, end-runs and workarounds firms use to scam government rules, and then replace those rules with straightforward and streamlined regulations than the people who did the scamming?

For all the talk about how Goldman Sachs is Lucifer personified because of how they took advantage of the mortgage-backed securities fraud, big government liberals tend to miss the point that the government created the structures, regulations, and incentives for Wall Street to build its house of cards. This wasn’t Goldman’s fault any more than it was Trump’s fault that he used the tax law in 1997 to file a $916 million loss.

As much as conservatives carp and complain that liberal Democrats will be in control of U.S. money and commerce policy, they were not chosen for their politics.

“I commend President-elect Trump on his outstanding selection of Steven Mnuchin to be Secretary of the Treasury,” former Goldman CEO and George W. Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said in a statement on Wednesday. “Steven embodies the characteristics necessary to be a very good Treasury secretary. He is a doer with the analytic and political skills to get things done in a complex environment.”

Trump could potentially defenestrate all the speculation of “friendly treatment” of Wall Street firms, because much of that treatment came at the hands of Democrats who used excessive regulation riddled with hidey-holes for certain companies with big lobbyists to hide their money-grubbing schemes (Dodd-Frank is a stunning example). Most of the intractable economic problems in this country aren’t due to the fact that businesses are motivated by profit–they are because government believes it can monkey with a thousand levers to manipulate the economy to force a certain social outcome.

Trump is much more likely to use those levers to free businesses instead of deciding who wins and who loses, or conduct social experiments using blunt-force tax and regulation strategies. Why would I say that? Mostly because Trump is a big-picture guy who doesn’t care about the minutiae, and I’d say he has a visceral aversion to social justice games and political correctness.

Deregulation, a level playing field, and financial stability are the keys to growth. Mnuchin and Ross will quiet the big banks’ jitters, and will be able to help manage Trump’s enormous debt load. Bringing on Goldman’s Cohn as director of OMB would create the perfect Wall Street trifecta. It’s risky, but nobody loves risk more than President-elect Donald Trump.

The best standing orders Trump could give to his liberal-leaning Wall Street financial crew is “KISS”–keep it simple, stupid. Trump’s own mix of conservative law and order, big investment, pro-business, and anti-Washington lobbyist may find itself draining the swamp after all.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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