Last week Noah introduced DWT readers to union activist Joe Hill for a quote he's most famous for, made just before he was executed by a firing squad, “Don't waste any time mourning. Organize!”
Hill was a Swedish immigrant who, age 23, came to the U.S. in 1902. He was a day laborer and rose in the ranks of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, AKA- the Wobblies). He was a union organized, known for his political songs and invented the phrase “pie in the sky.”
The video up top is the documentary Bernie Sanders made in 1979 about Eugene V Debs, one of the founders of the IWW. and one of Bernie's political heroes. Bernie wrote it, directed it and played the part of Debs in it. Originally a Democrat and an Indiana state legislator, in the late 1800s he started the American Railway Union and wound up going to prison for when a court found that a strike was obstructing the U.S. mail. He became radicalized reading socialist literature in prison. He was one of the founders of the IWW in 1905 and he ran for president 5 times as the Socialist Party candidate. Like Hill, he is mostly written out of American history, something Bernie addresses in his documentary.
In his New Yorker essay yesterday, Donald Trump's First Alarming Week As President-Elect, Ryan Lizza wrote that “The Greeks have a word for the emerging Trump Administration: kakistocracy. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as a 'government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.' Webster is simpler: 'government by the worst people.'” The Trump presidency will be Life Losers' thumb in the eye to America. Feel the pain– revenge of the deplorables! What does the white working class in Macomb County, Michigan get in return for voting for a narcissistic fascist? He won 224,589 votes there (53.6%), a county Obama won in 2012 with 52%. So what do they get– aside from the satisfaction of inflicting kakistocracy on the rest of us? Probably not what Joe Hill and Eugene Debs had in mind for the working class. AT Politico yesterday, Ben White observed that “a populist candidate who railed against shady financial interests on the trail is putting together an administration that looks like an investment banker's dream” and that, with Trump's election, “Christmas has arrived early for Wall Street.”
Former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin has been seen at Trump Tower amid rumors that he’s the leading candidate for Treasury secretary. Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross appears headed to the Commerce Department. Steve Bannon, another Goldman alum, will work steps from the Oval Office. If Mnuchin drops out, as some rumors suggest he may, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon remains a possibility as Treasury secretary, and will serve as an outside adviser if he doesn't get the job.
It’s a restoration of Wall Street power– and a potential flip in the way the industry is regulated– perhaps unparalleled in American history.
“You would have to go back to the 1920s to see so much Wall Street influence coming to Washington,” said Charles Geisst, a Wall Street historian at Manhattan College. “It’s the most dramatic turn-around one could imagine. That’s the truly astonishing part.”
Evidence of Wall Street’s improved prospects is everywhere.
The Dodd-Frank financial reform law that bedeviled the industry for years and cost banks untold billions could soon get burned to the ground. Bank stocks are soaring. Trump is going around Manhattan promising to lower rich people’s taxes. And industry critics led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren– long in ascendance– are seeing their populist power deflate.
The anti-banker culture of Washington has been turned on its head in an instant. And the industry can barely believe its good fortune. “Those of us who have been around D.C. for a long time, are we relieved that we are not going to be subpoenaed every week? Of course we are,” said Richard Hunt, head of the Consumer Bankers Association.
Bank stocks are up by around 10 percent since Trump’s win, according to the KBW Bank Index, as investors contemplate an agenda tailor-made for the industry including deregulation and potentially higher interest rates sparked by significant deficit spending. Bankers themselves also stand to make a killing. Massive tax cuts including an elimination of the estate tax and big reductions for top earners seem like slam dunks in Trump’s Washington.
Wall Street bankers and their Washington lobbyists are quietly celebrating. They went from expecting fresh crackdowns from a Hillary Clinton administration with Warren wielding heavy influence to the cusp of a deregulatory bonanza with Republicans in complete control of Washington.
You going to cry when those Macomb voters get their houses foreclosed on by the unshackled banksters? Or when their parents and children die without medical case? And that Wilbur Ross billionaire mentioned by White above? Trump's thinking of making him Commerce Secretary. All those white coal miners in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky may recognize his name before non-Trump voters in Ross' native New York City do. That's because Ross owned the notorious West Virginia Sago non-union coal mine where dozens of miners were killed in 2006. This week, The Nation reported that “Ross made his money collecting 'distressed assets'– failing steel and textile mills in the Midwest and South, and coal mines in Appalachia. Dubbed the 'the King of Bankruptcy,' Ross cut jobs, wages, pensions, and health benefits at the companies he acquired, and reaped the profits. In the early 2000s, Ross’s foray into the steel industry netted him a $267 million personal windfall, but stripped health-care benefits from more than 150,000 retired steelworkers. Then he moved on to the coal industry, at one point controlling as much as $1.2 billion in coal assets through his company, the International Coal Group.” I have no comment on that.
Nor on the Trump voters who actually believed Trump would reverse out-sourcing. That takes us back to Trumpy Mar-A-Lago neighbor, the unesteemable Wilbur Ross again. As Betsy Woodruff reported for the Daily Beast yesterday, along with all his other charming credentials, mass murderer Ross, “has a history of sending manufacturing work to China and Mexico.” Michael Kink of the Strong Economy for All Coalition: “The general idea that Donald Trump and Wilbur Ross will save working and middle class Americans is belied by their track record. These are the guys that destroyed the jobs. These are the guys that outsourced the jobs. These are the guys that cut the wages and the pensions.”
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis