Horror, fear and disgust resonate across the world with the prospect of Donald Trump becoming U.S. president. Trump demeans, disrespects and brags about abusing women as if they are objects. Extreme racism is also a core character trait of his. With these views he has found support for his brand of demagoguery, where supporters consider him “anti-establishment.” Ironically, that perception neglects not only the fact that Trump is and has always been a member of the 1% – but also that other members of the financial elite, and those bankrolling politics as usual, hold misogynistic and racist attitudes, too.
Recent hacking has again revealed the ways the 1% control politics in the U.S., as WikiLeaks’ published leaked emails and transcripts point toward corporate manipulation in government months before the Obama administration took over. The hacked emails come from John Podesta, who managed Obama’s 2008 campaign, and show that prior to the 2008 election, the formal positions of state were already decided. The correspondence suggests that Michael Froman, then an executive at Citigroup and now chief U.S. Trade Representative, set out a list of who should take key positions in the administration. After the popular vote, this wish-list of revolving door appointments came, almost exactly, to pass.
Podesta’s emails reveal how the revolving door has become the norm, not the exception, of the so-called “Western democratic system.” A crucial example of this is the way that former Goldman Sachs executives, on a global basis, have held or currently hold top political positions in governments – including as the former unelected prime ministers of Greece and Italy, the Governor of the Bank of England, ECB President, and last but not least, George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary who wrote the bailout deal, Henry “Hank” Paulson.
In Britain, the recent coronation (without election) of Theresa May as Prime Minister meant the revolving door needed a further oiling. Key business appointments to her team included former Goldman Sachs chairman Jim O’Neill as Commercial Secretary; Lord Nash, a lifelong venture capitalist, as junior minister for Education; and Lord Prior of Brampton, a former Lehman Brothers banker and venture capitalist, as Under-Secretary of State for Health.
So how does Trump compare to these faceless members of the 1% who buy politics the world over?
Goldman Sachs stands out as perhaps the most influential and vile of global political players. The bank has cashed in on many crises, including the Greek debt crisis and global food speculation. It financially backed President Obama, and George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him. In Britain, Goldman’s executives have donated both to David Cameron’s Conservatives and Tony Blair of New Labour. Unsurprisingly, they are donating to Hillary Clinton.
Goldman Sachs has been famously referred to as a Vampire Squid, although this is perhaps a disservice to the deep water creature. If you look at the behavior at the bank – alongside the rest of the international banking sector – what it most resembles is, in fact, Donald Trump. Both Trump and Goldman are misogynistic and racist, and both have shown themselves to be ruthless in the pursuit of profit.
There is a strong culture of sexism inside Goldman Sachs. In 2015, the investment bank reached an out of court settlement one day before trial in a case brought by a former female executive, Sonia Pereiro-Mendez. Pereiro-Mendez’s case explained how she was subject to sexist abuse and had her basic pay cut when she became pregnant.
Another sex discrimination case brought last year by three former Goldman women asserted: “Goldman condones the sexualization of women and an uncorrected culture of sexual assault and harassment.” The case brought forward by Christina Chen-Oster and co-plaintiffs included claims that an employee was demoted for refusing to have sex with one of her bosses.
Taken together, the cases strike a chord with the behavior of Donald Trump, who has said openly that due to his position of power he can go around grabbing women’s sexual organs. The culture of sexism – including sexual violence – seems the norm, rather than the exception, among the global 1%.
Take as a further example Morgan Stanley, which settled two discrimination cases for over $100 million, in 2004 and 2007. Or read the fictional book published by Maureen Sherry, who based her writing on her experiences as the former CEO at Bear Sterns, and speaks about how women are hired based on their looks, and face a barrage of discrimination and worse.
In-depth research on the history of Wall Street sexism has also been detailed by Salon magazine, and the same story happens in the City of London, revealed in this long read in the Financial Times called “Sexism and the City.”
The international banking industry is also institutionally racist. A clear-cut example of this in the United States was the way the financial industry, with Wells Fargo at the head of the pack, purposefully targeted non-white communities with sub-prime mortgages ahead of the 2008 financial meltdown.
This charge, made by the American Civil Liberties Union, also asserted that in the lead-up to the 2008 crash, communities of color were made to pay added or hidden charges not given to white people in the same economic position. The Atlanta Black Star compiled eight separate, racist charges levied in court against major U.S. banks, including denying access to certain products on racist grounds.
The unjust impact of big investment banks targeting communities of color has been devastating on a global scale. An additional example of this is the way investment banks have speculated on food prices. In 2013, Goldman Sachs reportedly made $400 million on the practice, which has been linked to increasing food prices as millions starved in the global South.
All of which is to say, in case you didn’t already know it: Be fearful of a Trump presidency. It is extremely concerning the way he has made his case for leadership based on hatred, fear and privilege. Additionally, we must ask how far Trump would be prepared to go if he were actually handed the office of president, given the level of misogyny and racism he has expressed in public. But what should remain clear, even long after the presidential race is over, is that Trump isn’t the only one. Global financial power is intrinsically misogynistic and racist. And like Trump, this regime must be challenged.