Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President Gary Cohn is forging ahead on taxes, infrastructure, financial regulation and replacing health-care law despite many key vacancies yet to be officially fulfilled in Donald Trump’s White House.
Cohn has found himself in a prime role when several top economic posts remain vacant, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"Though these will eventually be filled, Cohn is rapidly assembling a growing portfolio that could solidify his influence in the administration for the long term," the Journal reported.
“When you’re dealing with the economy, which is my realm, you have to be pragmatic,” Cohn told WSJ.com. “You have to be realistic to what’s going on in the world and you have to be willing to adapt. I think that’s my job, to advise the president on what is the right solution.”
Trump’s selections of Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to run economic policy last fall struck a contrast with some of the president’s campaign rhetoric, including an ad in which he alleged a global plot to take wealth from workers that flashed an image of Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, the Journal explained.
Cohn, 56, stepped down as Goldman’s president and chief operating officer in December after agreeing to lead Trump’s National Economic Council, an influential panel that helps coordinate and develop the president’s economic program, Bloomberg reported. He was long seen as the heir apparent to Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein.
Cohn said last week that he has been meeting with members of Congress and working on two key goals: cutting corporate income taxes and individual income taxes. He emphasized during a Feb. 3 interview with Fox Business News that he has been focused on tax cuts for low earners. “We’re not spending a lot of time with the high earners,” Cohn said during that interview.
Meanwhile, Cohn said the administration’s goal of deregulating financial markets “has nothing to do with Goldman Sachs” but was focused on maintaining the nation’s dominant position in global banking.
Several gaps remain in the administration’s policy team. There is still no Senate-confirmed Commerce secretary or U.S. Trade Representative. The White House hasn’t named any members to the three-person Council of Economic Advisers.
Highlighting Trump's other cherry-picking of Goldman veterans:
- Stephen Bannon, another alumnus of the firm, has been named chief strategist.
- Goldman partner Dina Powell has been selected to become a White House economic adviser.
- Jay Clayton, a Wall Street lawyer picked to head the Security and Exchange Commission, represented Goldman in private practice.
“The Goldman and Wall Street takeover of government raises incredibly serious concerns,” Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets, which backs tougher financial regulation, told the Financial Times.
“They’re not evil people. The problem is their whole life — their thinking and net worth and measure of success — is invested in the mentality that what’s good for Wall Street is good for America.”
However, on the presidential campaign trail, Trump accused primary rival Ted Cruz of being controlled by Goldman Sachs because his wife, Heidi, previously worked for the Wall Street giant. He slammed Hillary Clinton for receiving speaking fees from the bank.
(Newsmax wire services AP and Bloomberg contributed to this report).
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