Tags: 2020 Elections | blankfein | politicians | elizabeth warren | populism | demagoguery

Blankfein: Politicians Like Warren Moving From Populism to Demagoguery


By    |   Tuesday, 19 November 2019 12:52 PM

Former Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein pushed back against attacks from Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday saying that, while people in the financial system often get blamed for inequality, it was not good to attack individuals.

“I’m used to Wall Street getting pelted,” Blankfein said in a wide-ranging interview on CNBC. “But going after specific individuals…is that really good? I’m not so sure,” he said.

Blankfein said politicians like Warren are moving away from “populism” toward “a kind of demagoguery.”

Warren, a Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts, aired a television ad on Thursday about her proposed 2% tax on wealth beyond $50 million. In it, Blankfein is shown with a caption saying he “earned $70 million during the financial crisis.”

Blankfein last week criticized Warren for engaging in the “vilification” of billionaires and said that “maybe tribalism is just in her DNA,” after he appeared in the ad on taxing the super rich, Reuters explained.

Asked on Tuesday if the comment was intended to be a dig at Warren's claims of Native American heritage, Blankfein declined to elaborate, saying people can come to their own conclusions.

“It’s like looking at a piece of impressionist art,” Blankfein said. “You ask yourself, ‘What is the artist thinking?’ It’s really for you to take away.”

In February, Warren apologized to the Cherokee Nation for using a genetic test to prove she’s part Native American. Pressed further on the tweet, Blankfein said only that “the message stands.”

Warren's staff did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

President Donald Trump has criticized Warren for saying she was of Native American heritage, dubbing her “Pochahontas” ahead of her presidential bid and calling for her to take a DNA test. Warren did, and it showed Native American ancestry dating back multiple generations. She has since apologized to Native American leaders for the ancestry claims.

Blankfein is the latest billionaire to publicly clash with the progressive candidate, who has built her campaign on combating Washington corruption and ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share.

Blankfein also said he understands the public support for a wealth tax, but called the policy "completely unworkable" because he said it would require annual assessments of the value of an individual's estate. "You'd spend years fighting about it ... and next year, you'd have to do it again," Blankfein said.

“I used to be kind of a moderate Democrat and now, without having moved anything, I’ve become like a -- in their eyes, kind of a right-winger because I don’t want to blow up the financial system,” Blankfein told CNBC.

“It’s an odd time where we’re shifting a bit from populism, where you want to represent underrepresented people that feel they didn’t have a voice and you want to appeal to them, to a kind of demagoguery [where] you’re labeling people as villains who may not have a role in the problem just to vilify them and improve your own prospects,” Blankfein said.

Asked if he thinks CEOs make too much money, another thorny issue Warren has discussed, Blankfein said that he did not think “anybody should apologize” for how their pay is determined.

Blankfein, a registered Democrat who previously supported Hillary Clinton, declined to say which presidential candidate he supports.

On the ongoing trade dispute with China, Blankfein voiced support for President Donald Trump for "taking on this issue of how to get China to conform to standards of international behavior," and said that tariffs may prove useful to achieving a positive resolution for the United States.

Blankfein also said he commends the efforts by his successor, current Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, to expand the bank's revenue, which has stalled in recent years.

Meanwhile, the Warren ad also shows a clip of Leon Cooperman, the chairman and chief executive of investment advisory firm Omega Advisors, saying the “vilification of billionaires” is “bull,” along with the fact he was charged with insider trading.

Venture capitalist and Republican donor Peter Thiel also appears in the ad, saying he is “most scared by Elizabeth Warren.”

“Surprised to be featured in Sen Warren’s campaign ad, given the many severe critics she has out there. Not my candidate, but we align on many issues,” Blankfein, now a senior chairman at Goldman, wrote in response on Twitter.

“Vilification of people as a member of a group may be good for her campaign, not the country. Maybe tribalism is just in her DNA.”

Warren has proposed a host of policies such as universal childcare, free public college tuition that she would finance with her wealth tax, along with an expansion of it to partially pay for Medicare for All healthcare.

Blankfein, 64, led Goldman, a U.S. investment bank, from 2006 to the autumn of 2018, and is largely credited with helping keep the company afloat during the financial crisis with an early decision to rein in exposure to risky mortgage-backed securities.

However, the bank was highly criticized for its role in the crisis and for paying out billions of dollars in bonuses to top staffers during the years surrounding the crisis.

Born in the South Bronx and raised in a predominantly Jewish housing project in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood, Blankfein’s rags-to-riches story is well known in the world of finance.

This report uses material from Bloomberg and Reuters.

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Former Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein said Tuesday that politicians like 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren are moving away from "populism" toward "a kind of demagoguery."
blankfein, politicians, elizabeth warren, populism, demagoguery
Tuesday, 19 November 2019 12:52 PM
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