President-elect Donald Trump has selected yet another billionaire for his cabinet: infamous corporate raider Carl Icahn will advise Trump on his sweeping plans to dismantle government regulations, it was announced late Wednesday.
"According to Forbes he is worth $16.5 billion, making him the 50th richest man in the world," notes CNN Money. "That would make him the richest member of the Trump administration, including the President-elect himself, who Forbes estimates is worth is worth $4.5 billion."
"Donald Trump has selected a man who epitomizes predatory corporate capitalism to lead his deregulatory charge," observed Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, in a statement.
"In accepting the designation," Weissman continued, "Icahn cites fanciful and false claims about the cost of regulation, while failing to acknowledge regulatory benefits, which include preventing consumer rip-offs, protecting the air and water, making our food and water safer, and much more."
"It's precious to hear talk about protecting jobs from the corporate raider famous for actions that cost thousands of workers their jobs," Weissman added.
Indeed, just months ago, over 1,000 employees at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City were striking against severe cuts that Icahn imposed on workers—after Icahn purchased the casino in a "shady personal deal" with Trump in 2014.
Icahn first made his fortune in the 1980s trading junk bonds and pillaging public corporations for private profit—most infamously when he took over the airline TWA, which he drove into bankruptcy multiple times, all while pocketing enormous profits. Like many companies subjected to the predatory capitalist, TWA never recovered from Icahn's tenure.
On Twitter, progressives highlighted Icahn's anti-worker and elitist stance:
There's nothing anti-establishment about billionaire Carl Icahn. But there's lot that's anti-worker. https://t.co/o1AkqMoxAg
— Our Revolution (@OurRevolution) December 21, 2016
Heart-warming, isn't it, how Trump champions the interests of the downtrodden in everything he does? https://t.co/Gjwkky5riP
— GeorgeMonbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) December 22, 2016
Reuters reports that Icahn will be a "special advisor," and not a government employee. Yet the conflicts of interest when it comes to Icahn's role are rife, critics also charge.
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Democratic National Committee spokesman Eric Walker condemned Trump's choice in comments to Bloomberg, arguing that it puts Icahn "in charge of overseeing regulatory overhauls while simultaneously controlling or owning stock in companies that could benefit from the changes he makes."
"The corrupt nature of this arrangement cannot be understated," Walker told the outlet. "Voters who wanted Trump to drain the swamp just got another face full of mud."
Pundits and journalists echoed the sentiment on Twitter:
How many more billionaires can Trump fill the swamp with? Carl Icahn to regulate how his own industry is regulated.
— Katrina vandenHeuvel (@KatrinaNation) December 21, 2016
Now, Carl Icahn.
Drain the swamp of lobbyists.
Give the gov't to corporations.
Trump cut out the middlemen.
Welcome to the kleptocracy.
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) December 21, 2016
Some raised the alarm about what Icahn's record of pillaging corporations could mean for his impending government role:
Icahn's expertise is asset-stripping: taking over companies and selling off their parts.
He's about to do that to the U.S. government.
— (@leahmcelrath) December 22, 2016
"If Carl Icahn is going to advise Trump on regulation, he would do well to revisit how Wall Street deregulation led directly to the 2008 financial crash and the Great Recession. These are facts he must know well from personal experience," Weissman noted, "and which show how regulation is vital to limit corporate abuses, ensure financial stability and preserve jobs."