The stock market has done well since Donald J. Trump’s victory, with the Dow average rising almost 9 percent. However, the stock of just one company, banking giant Goldman Sachs, is responsible for roughly a quarter of that so-called “Trump bump.”
That might seem odd. During the campaign, Trump used Goldman Sachs as a symbol of the international global conspiracy that he promised to unravel. When he ranted that “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty,” he was referring in part to paid, off-the-record speeches by Clinton to Goldman Sachs. When he railed about a global power structure that has “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,” Goldman Sachs was among his targets.
And when Trump summarized his populist campaign pitch in the final ad of his campaign, as he explained how the global elitists were robbing the working class and stuffing their own pockets, the image shown on the screen was that of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.
A month later, Trump has nominated Steve Mnuchin, a former partner at Goldman and the son of a Goldman partner, to serve as Treasury secretary, overseeing the nation’s entire financial apparatus. As director of the National Economic Council, his top economics adviser, Trump has turned to Gary Cohn, the president and COO of Goldman. Basically, Trump is handing control of the nation’s entire economic system to the very people whom he claimed were raiding it for their own benefit.
And sure enough, they are stuffing their pockets. According to Fortune, the rise in Goldman stock since election day has added $50 million to Cohn’s net worth. Blankfein has made almost $140 million. Their stock has risen because the smart money on Wall Street realizes what Main Street still does not, that Trump has no intention of “draining the swamp.” They are betting that the swamp will do very nicely indeed.
What really makes that maddening is that at a very basic level, Trump was right. Yes, globalization, technology and free trade have produced a net gain in wealth. But that net growth has come with a significant maldistribution problem. One group of people — Wall Street, banks, corporate executives, investors — has benefited disproportionately; another group — largely working America — has suffered disproportionately.
In economic terms, that’s the core complaint of those attending Trump rallies. And if you listen to Trump speak to them, it quickly becomes apparent that our president-elect has a salesman’s knack for knowing what his audience wants to hear, and a salesman’s shamelessness in reflecting it back to them, regardless of whether he means it.
However, if you wipe away the populist rhetoric and look at the people whom Trump is appointing and the policies that they advocate, what do you see? Tax cuts for the wealthy, the dismantling of consumer, worker and environmental protections, the headlong pursuit of quick profit without regard for impact on living, breathing human beings. None of it reflects a sudden realization among Republicans that working people deserve a bigger piece of the pie or better protection against a more randomly cruel economy. None of it is new.
And certainly, none of it reflects an assault of any kind upon the economic elite. Trump promised his followers pitchforks and torches; he’s delivering pate de foie gras and Dom Perignon … if you can afford it.