New York Millionaire, Bachelor of Arts, Banker and Speculator
In a hard-working and fat-headed commercial republic, like the United States of America or the Most Serene Republic of Venice or the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, does it not make sense that the public treasury administrator would be someone akin to a Cosimo d’Medici? The United States does not have the largest population in the world. It doesn’t have the largest land army, the most factories or a public healthcare system. But it is the richest nation on earth. It is a place of business. And banking and lending is the lifeblood of business. Placing a leader over seeing these enterprises should not be politicized nor taken lightly. Goldman Sachs today is America’s own Medici Bank. And we have been fortunate enough to have one of its former spear-carriers appointed as Secretary of the Treasury.
When the office of Treasury Secretary was conceived and Alexander Hamilton placed in charge, the department was the most powerful in the federal government. Its office building was the largest and most lavish, dwarfing those of the War Department or other executive departments. It controlled America’s first fleet of warships—the Revenue Cutter Service. It was responsible for collecting duties and revenues. It oversaw US customs, lighthouses, sea rescue. It funded wars, oversaw the operations of the national bank, monitored the mints and distributed treasury bonds. It later managed the factories that printed the federal reserve notes. It also later controlled a Secret Service of lawmen responsible for preventing counterfeit operations and who pulled double duty by guarding the excellent person of the president of the United States. It managed the securities and exchange regulatory agency and the fearsome Internal Revenue Service. In the last fifteen years, most of the law-enforcement and military powers of the treasury secretary have been stripped away and he (always a he, thank God) is expected to have a firm grasp of how trade, lending and savings works in the private sector of the United States. Or, if nothing else, the secretary should understand what his subordinates are talking about on these matters. Sadly, for too long, our treasury secretaries have been little more than public bureaucrats. Sure, many of them have been presidents of banks. Yet these were only figurehead positions given to academics, foreign affairs specialists or other theorists on trade.
Enter Steven Mnuchin. He’s a Yale Bachelor of Arts, a millionaire and a New York Jew whose family goes back in the great city for many generations. His brilliant father had risen to become a partner at Goldman Sachs. After a respectable career at the same firm, Steven Mnuchin voluntarily struck out on his own into the world of hedge funds. Taking what he learned in the bureaucracy of a company, he became a banking entrepreneur. He worked among many wealthy financial geniuses, won and lost deals and became a multi-millionaire in his own right. He purchased a failed mortgage lender while blood was running in the streets during the recession of 2008; rebuilt it and re-sold it at a staggering profit. My point here is that Mnuchin is a true financial insider. He knows it all and no one in the public or private sector can fool him as has so often happened with academic and bureaucratic treasury secretaries in the past. Some say it takes a thief to catch a thief. While Mnuchin is no thief, I think he knows how they operate having undoubtedly known so many in his career. Just imagine if the captain of the Titanic had been an expert in physics, metallurgy and maybe even knew a few things about welding—or, better yet, knew that his lookouts would be lazy and not looking out for icebergs.
Mnuchin was attacked in his senate hearings for the reasons one would expect. The socialist element implied he was a crook because he was rich and independent, rather than a sad appointed federal administrator collecting a weekly salary. Never mind that President Obama’s first appointment of a treasury secretary was in fact legitimately a crook (not to mention a national sellout to the Far East) who was only confirmed because the politicians were in a panic and had no idea what they were doing. Like many of President Trump’s appointees, the US Senate largely didn’t like Mnuchin because he was not a Washington man. He hadn’t served public office through appointment or election and so he was free. He would not be in awe of their power or celebrity. He saw them for what they were. Certainly, he had bribed politicians through donations and this made him a silent partner in the past. Now he was stealing their spotlight and inadvertently exposing them all as worthless frauds by taking over the Department of the Treasury. Luckily, they could not attack him too harshly in the hearings because none of them really understood what the hell he did. The Democratic Party, now run almost entirely by women and philandering men, is at sea in the world of finance. Their proud demeanors cowered and their spines turned to glass in the presence of real power and practical knowledge.