By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: December 21, 2016
Donald Trump is increasingly looking like Wall Street’s back up plan in the event that the Wall Street Democrats didn’t triumph in the 2016 election. Trump has appointed two Goldman Sachs alumni and the current President of Goldman Sachs to top posts in his administration. On Monday, Trump announced that Vincent Viola, a billionaire who spent the bulk of his adult life trading oil and gas futures on Wall Street, would become Secretary of the Army – at a time when tens of thousands of service members rely on food pantries to get by. Forbes reports this about how Viola gets by: “Viola owns a 20,000-square-foot townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, near Central Park. In December 2013 he listed the home — complete with a giant red bow tied across its facade — for a staggering $114 million. He later quietly reduced the price to $98 million before pulling it from the market.”
Curiously, the New York Times called Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Army, a “retired Army Major.” That phrasing suggests Viola had a long military career including battle experience. In fact, Viola achieved his rank of Major in the reserves. Shortly after graduating West Point nearly 40 years ago, the Wall Street Journal reports that Viola only served “several years” of active duty in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
According to Federal Election Commission records, over the past 14 years, Viola has kicked in over $300,000 to both Democrats and Republicans and their committees. The images attached to those filings show that he has repeatedly listed his career as a “commodities trader.”
Apparently, in Trump’s view, having Wall Street run the U.S. Treasury Department and his economic team is no longer adequate. (See related articles below.) A high frequency trader will now govern the largest branch of the U.S. military.
Wall Street veteran and critic Nomi Prins calls Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric during the campaign “the biggest scam of his career,” writing the following at her blog: “In the realm of politico-financial power and in Trump’s experience and ideology, the one with the most toys always wins. So it’s hardly a surprise that his money- and power-centric cabinet won’t be focused on public service or patriotism or civic duty, but on the consolidation of corporate and private gain at the expense of the citizenry.”
Trump’s billionaire-buddy administration couldn’t come at a worse time for an America still feeling the aftermath of the greatest economic upheaval since the Great Depression – produced by the same brand of crony-corruption and devious schemes on Wall Street that crashed the economy in the 1930s.
Just yesterday the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study showing that there is a growing number of older Americans whose Social Security benefits are being reduced by the government to repay delinquent student loans. The government uses the benign sounding word “offset” to explain these reductions. According to the report, in 2015 there were 114,000 Americans impacted by these offsets, resulting in many living below the poverty level.
When serially charged banks like Citigroup couldn’t pay its bills during the 2008 crash, here’s what the U.S. government did to lend a helping hand: it injected $45 billion in equity into Citigroup; provided asset guarantees of over $300 billion; while the Federal Reserve secretly sluiced over $2.5 trillion in revolving loans to Citigroup for more than three years – much of which was at a loan interest rate of less than 1 percent as the bank charged its struggling credit card customers double-digit interest rates.
More proof that the American government is failing its citizens came in a devastating report in the Wall Street Journal this morning. Reporter Chris Kirkham writes as follows:
“Almost 40% of young Americans were living with their parents, siblings or other relatives in 2015, the largest percentage since 1940, according to an analysis of census data by real estate tracker Trulia…The trend runs counter to that of previous economic cycles, when after a recession-related spike, the number of younger Americans living with relatives declined as the economy improved.”
Why did so many working class Americans buy into the rhetoric of a billionaire philanderer ensconced in a penthouse in Manhattan with a long history of disdain for labor rights. Figuring that out is likely to be the stuff of many history books in future decades. One thought that comes to mind is that America has fallen so far and so fast at the hands of Wall Street that a slogan on a hat, “Make America Great Again,” was seized upon like a comfort food.