Friday afternoon, Donald Trump traveled to the US Treasury Department where he’s expected to sign a new executive order. The order aims at making life easier for American companies that want to avoid corporate income taxes, relax regulation on some large financial institutions, and make it harder for federal regulators to wind down big banks that fail during a financial crisis.
Paired with the Trump-era surge in immigration arrests, potential deportation of a DREAMer, and broad attacks on judicial review the financial services executive order is meaningful primarily for clarifying what the exact meaning of the rising clout of “globalists” inside the White House is.
National Economic Council chair Gary Cohn comes to the White House from a job as the number two official at Goldman Sachs. His version of globalism isn’t the high-minded humane cosmopolitanism that would, say, forestall massive cuts in the foreign aide budget or militate in favor of generous treatment of Central American families seeking refuge from gang violence. It’s the globalism of Goldman Sachs which wants light-touch regulation of the financial sector, plenty of room for multinational corporations to engage in tax chicanery, and no major trade wars that would threaten US-based financial services companies ability to compete for market share internationally.
A little protectionism here and there for the steel industry is fine as long as things don’t get out of hand.
But there’s no real economic populism here. Trump’s alternative to technocratic liberal bank regulation is bank regulation pursued in the interests of the banking industry. Formally repealing bank rules through legislation will be difficult, and even rolling back regulations through executive action could be hard. But Trump can and will appoint like-minded business friendly officials to key regulatory posts, and they can simply regulate the industry laxly.
Still, Obama once rode on a yacht after leaving office, so the lesson is that Both Sides Do It but the Democrats are worse.