"Fox, meet henhouse," was how progressive Sen. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and others reacted to the news Friday that Goldman Sachs president and chief operating officer Gary Cohn had been offered the position of National Economic Council (NEC) director by President-elect Donald Trump.
"By choosing Gary Cohn and other Goldman Sachs crony capitalists to lead our nation's economic policies, Trump is betraying his own voters – putting the interests of the corporate establishment ahead of working families." —Progressive Congressional Campaign Committee
Should Cohn accept, he and Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, another Goldman alum, would hold "the top two economic policy jobs in the Trump administration," as Vox's Matthew Yglesias observed. White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is also a former Goldman exec.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who during his presidential campaign vociferously spoke out against the dangers of allowing Wall Street executives to set economic policy, offered a swift response to the news:
It’s called a rigged economy and this is how it works. https://t.co/npoLcKQmfJ— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 9, 2016
As head of the NEC, Cohn would hold significant power over the implementation of White House economic policy. According to the agency's website, the NEC is meant to "coordinate policy-making for domestic and international issues, to coordinate economic policy advice for the president, to ensure that policy decisions and programs are consistent with the president's economic goals, and to monitor implementation of the president's economic policy agenda."
As observers on both sides of the aisle are pointing out, Trump is elevating those at the top of the very Wall Street firm he railed against during his campaign. Cohn's appointment is yet another indication that the agenda of President Trump is a far cry from the populist rhetoric that propelled him to power.
Number of former Goldman Sachs execs in Trump's admin: 3. Number of billionaires: 4. Number of "forgotten men and women": 0.— Alex Gale (@AlexGale) December 9, 2016
Addressing that disparity, Trump transition adviser Anthony Scaramucci told CNN on Friday that bringing Wall Street execs on board would somehow "bring the country together."
"I think the cabal against the bankers is over," Scaramucci said. "And I think what Mr. Trump is really trying to do right now is put the country together...and you can see it in his actions in terms of his outreach to so many different people, we really want to bring the country together."
To progressive groups, however, the choice of Cohn is just the latest example of Trump betraying the populist facade he presented to voters during the campaign.
"By choosing Gary Cohn and other Goldman Sachs crony capitalists to lead our nation's economic policies," said the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in a statement, "Trump is betraying his own voters – putting the interests of the corporate establishment ahead of working families."
In addition to Goldman executives, Trump has lined his cabinet with an out-sized number of military generals and other millionaires and billionaires. "It's the G&G cabinet," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) recently quipped. "It does seem to be fairly limited to Goldman Sachs and generals."
Curiously, Cohn is a registered Democrat and had donated substantial sums to Democrats in years past, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton, before more recently giving to GOP lawmakers.