After the 2008 campaign, many Americans were full of “hope” as then-President-Elect Barack Obama was set to bring much-needed “change” following the Bush years. However, warning signs flared as Obama set about arming his cabinet picks, filled with the very same Wall Street insiders and corrupt political figures that he had railed against in the campaign. At the time, many of his supporters made excuses for these choices, saying that Obama had to work within the system to change it and that these appointments were “compromises.” However, it was actually the massive bank Citigroup that had hand-picked Obama’s cabinet. Upon assuming the office of President, Obama did anything but deliver on his lofty promises of “hope” and “change,” particularly his promise to reign in Wall Street and stop government corruption in its tracks.
Six years later, history seems to be repeating itself. Donald Trump, thrust into office by promising “to drain the swamp” of Washington corruption and give voice to the struggles of everyday Americans, is filling his cabinet with insiders who represent everything Trump claimed to have stood against. One of Trump’s most recent picks, the soon-to-be Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, epitomizes this dichotomy. Mnuchin, like his father before him, worked for Goldman Sachs for nearly twenty years before leaving to manage a hedge fund. While managing the hedge fund, he began to preside over banks which aggressively foreclosed on homes following the 2008 crisis while also practicing racial discrimination. One of the banks that Mnuchin oversaw during this time was OneWest bank, which has foreclosed on the properties of 36,000 homeowners. Many of these former homeowners helped vote Trump into the White House, but Mnuchin’s appointment has made some of them deeply regret their decision to vote.
Now Mnuchin, who has called his close Wall Street ties a point of personal pride, will preside over the US Treasury Department, giving him considerable control over the US and even global economy. Like nearly every other Treasury Secretary of the last several decades, Mnuchin is set to use his position to further Wall Street interests on the national and international stage. Sadly, their interests almost always run counter to those of the average US citizen and certainly counter to many of those who elected Trump into office. It seems that these Americans, not unlike many Obama supporters in 2008, were swindled. Trump’s campaign rhetoric frequently targeted Goldman Sachs, yet now a particularly unsavory Goldman Sachs veteran will run the US treasury. It seems that history may be doomed to repeat itself once again as Trump is set to fill “the swamp” rather than drain it.