Op-Ed: Former CEO of Goldman Sachs gaining power in Trump administration

Posted Apr 16, 2017 by Ken Hanly
Wall Street winning out over populism as Trump makes Gary Cohn former CEO of Goldman Sachs from 2006 to 2017 more powerful within the Trump administration.
A view of the Goldman Sachs stall on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
A view of the Goldman Sachs stall on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Brendan McDermid / Reuters
Cohn is a registered Democrat although he has donated money often to the Republican party. Cohn has been able to win over Trump to business-friendly economic policies at the expense of more populist, nationalist, policies of Steve Bannon. Unlike Bannon, Cohn did not even work on Trumps' campaign and has only come to know him since after he was elected last November. His rise within the Trump administration has angered some conservatives.
Trump refers to Cohn who is director of the National Economic Council (NEC) as "one of my geniuses" according to a source close to Cohn. What is certain is that Cohn is now a new denizen of the Washington Swamp and part of the establishment that Trump campaigned against. The Trump administration has many former Wall Street employees and also many retired military officials. The Trump administration is becoming more mainstream right-wing Republican and will put the military-financial-industrial complex first and America second. The protectionist trade views of strategists such as Bannon have receded into the background if not disappeared altogether. Bannon is correct in tagging Cohn as a globalist.
According to White House sources Cohn will take the lead on formulating Trump tax reform, infrastructure, and deregulation policies. Orin Snyder of the law firm Gibson Dunn, a long-time friend of Cohn said: "Gary's singular focus is tax reform and he's working to try and get that done in 2017. He is working to implement the president's twin goals of economic growth and job creation. The tax plan will also include a reduction in the corporate rate, but also tax relief for middle- and low-income Americans."
Some conservatives would like to see more emphasis on focusing on businesses and entrepreneurs, including Adam Brandon, president of Freedomworks who would prefer that Trump went ahead with the plan Trump unveiled last year that was shaped by Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation think tank. Conservatives worry that the new plan could be overly complicated as well. Brandon said that Trump should not have scrapped the plan and started over.
Cohn and Trump have apparently developed a close bond. Cohn is loyal, direct, and assertive, characteristics that Trump appreciates. Also, Cohn has the trust of Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and adviser as well as his daughter Ivanka Trump.
John Paulson, a billionaire hedge fund manager, said:"Gary is a huge asset to the Trump administration. He'll be of great help in eliminating unnecessary regulation, stimulating growth and reforming the tax code." Paulson knows Cohn from his Wall street days. It should be clear whose interests Trump's policies will benefit. It will not be the many workers from US rust belts who voted for him.
Kushner was at Goldman Sachs when he first met Cohn. Kushner was instrumental in having Cohn meet the president. During the campaign Trump had frequently described investment banks as modern-day robber barons. This talk is no longer operative once Trump became president. The same is true of NATO being obsolete and many other issues. As some comic said: Trump eats his words three times a day. So now a robber-baron is made head of Trump's NEC. Trump also changed his stance on China as a currency manipulator for now, and also Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve chair.
Cohn and Kushner successfully pushed for Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. His name will go to Senate for a vote. Cohn will also play a leading role in developing the promised Trump infrastructure plan to rebuild airports, roads, and bridges. A main problem will be how to finance the cost that Trump estimates at $1 trillion.
As with many other members of the Trump administration, Cohn is hardly poor. Cohn's salary at Goldman Sachs in 2014 was $22 million and $21 million in 2015. His severance package amounted to $285 million. As well, Cohn sold off his stake in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China worth $16 million.
Cohn is a prominent member of the "Democratic" faction among Trump aides led by Jared Kushner and opposed by the "nationalist" faction led by Steve Bannon. While many supporters of Cohn claim he is competent and efficient, Bannon holds Cohn mainly responsible for the failure of the Trump health care bill while Bannon took much of the blame. Rush Limbaugh the conservative radio commentator calls Cohn " a very ideological liberal Democrat." Former Trump adviser, Sam Nunberg said: “Gary Cohn would be too liberal for the Obama administration. I don’t know what he’s doing in a Republican White House.” He is no doubt drafting policies that will be accepted by the Republican Congress but who knows he may also find Democratic support for some of his policies. Alternatively, he could find himself out of favor as Trump changes his mind again.