During the 2016 Republican Primary Campaign which was one of the most immature, intellectually insubstantial and vicious in the history of American politics – devoid of ideas and policies but heavy on petty playground name calling – Florida Senator Marco Rubio ripped into Donald Trump and implored his fellow Republicans: «What we are dealing with here, my friends, is a con artist. First of all, he runs on this idea that he is fighting for the little guy. But he has spent his entire career sticking it to the little guy». The Washington DC political elite and Wall Street had in the words of Trump «bled the country dry». In Trump's closing campaign advert which some – charged was riddled with anti-Semitic dog whistles – a picture of the Jewish Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfien is flashed on to the screen with the narrator intoning: « It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities». Trump ran on a vague promise to «drain the swamp». His vacuous campaign slogan of «Make America Great Again» charged that the country, and especially the white working class of the rust belt states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – had been badly let down by the East and West Coast intellectual political Establishment who were in bed with Wall Street bankers and more interested in feathering their own nests than serving the national interest.
It was an amazing act of displacement activity and a virtuoso performance by Trump. Probably the greatest confidence trick he has pulled off in his entire career. Indeed, it was hard to imagine that a billionaire who has many, many friends on and deep ties to (not to mention debt) Wall Street and has built his career on trampling over working people when their interests did not coincide with his own quest for profits, was able to dupe so many Americans that he was going to be the great champion and saviour of the American blue collar worker and make sure the «rigged» DC/Wall Street system worked for average folks. One need only examine the people Trump has stuffed his Cabinet with to understand that was simply a ploy to appeal to the embittered and largely uneducated white working class of the rust belt. After years of being semi-persona non grata in Washington DC with the center of gravity having shifted, ever so slightly against Wall Street – in the aftermath of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis – and a Democratic Party in control of the White House and coming increasingly under the influence of anti-Wall St crusaders such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders, Wall Street in the Era of Trump is back big time.
Of all the American Wall Street investment banks, it is Goldman Sachs, which stands as the most egregious, sinister and dangerous. In many ways you cannot really call it a bank. It is more akin to a deeply corrupt criminal racket. A Mafia. Rolling Stone magazine carried out a thorough analysis of Goldman Sachs's unethical practices and christened it the great «Vampire Squid». The list of Goldman Sachs corruption is an extensive one, a whole book would be needed to cover it adequately. Its role in the subprime mortgage scandal which triggered the Global Financial Crisis and Great Recession has been well documented. As has its role in the Greek debt crisis which almost destroyed the Euro. There is the regular and high level of fraud it engages in against its clients. The laundering of money for brutal sadistic regimes. The greed of its executives such as its CEO Lloyd Blankfein, a stereotypical money grubbing troll if ever there was one, who was paid $23 million in 2015. No matter how you slice it, no one, let alone a banker, is worth that much for one years work, perhaps only vital public servants such as doctors and teachers, but alas it is those who work to make already rich people and (themselves) rich who get paid such obscene amounts. Then there is the revolving door between Goldman Sachs and the American Government. In many ways, the American economy is run by Goldman Sachs. Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretaries, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, were Goldman Sachs employees, as was George W Bush's Hank Paulson.
Now, Wall Street and Goldman Sachs are enjoying a takeover like no other with the impending Trump administration. Steve Bannon, Trump's Chief Political Strategist, is a former Goldman Sachs employee. Trump's pick to be steward of the US Economy as Treasury Secretary, a man called Steven Mnuchin, is a former Goldman Sachs employee. The President of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn, will be Trump's Director of the White House National Economic Council. This is the same Trump who who said Goldman Sachs had «total, total control» over his rivals Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz. Trump often referenced Clinton's speeches to Goldman Sachs accusing her of meeting «in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty». But then as Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandoski put it: «This is the problem with the media: You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally». Indeed, if only the voters who have given Trump the White House realised that what Trump said was to be taken with a heavy pinch of salt then perhaps the coming catastrophe of the Trump Presidency and all the damage it will wrought could have been averted. But then as that great American television character JR Ewing put it: «Never underestimate the stupidity of the American public. One must at least given Trump a little credit, he is perhaps the greatest Con Artist of our time.