If you share my belief that the major obstacle to the free society is the national-security/corporate state, 2016 is shaping up to be a year of apprehension. The Wall Streeters, who are among the biggest advocates of partnership between big government and big business, are looking forward to a presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, a contest the bankers can’t lose.
They have already discounted any populist rhetoric Clinton may need to fight off a primary challenge from, say, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. As “one well-placed Democrat” told Politico, “Wall Street folks are so happy about [having Clinton run] that they won’t care what she says.”
Clinton recently spoke to a gathering in New York organized by Goldman Sachs, the giant, influential (and bailed-out) investment bank, a gathering that Politico says was attended by “a few hundred major investors.”
Ordinarily these masters of the universe might have groaned at the idea of a politician taking the microphone. In the contentious years since the crash of 2008, they’ve grown wearily accustomed to being called names — labeled “fat cats” by President Obama and worse by those on the left — and gotten used to being largely shunned by Tea Party Republicans for their association with the Washington establishment. And of course there are all those infuriating new rules and regulations, culminating this week with the imposition of the so-called Volcker Rule to make risky trades by big banks illegal.
“But,” Politico continues, “Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish.”
Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it. What the bankers heard her to say was just what they would hope for from a prospective presidential candidate: Beating up the finance industry isn’t going to improve the economy — it needs to stop. And indeed Goldman’s Tim O’Neill, who heads the bank’s asset management business, introduced Clinton by saying how courageous she was for speaking at the bank. (Brave, perhaps, but also well-compensated: Clinton’s minimum fee for paid remarks is $200,000).
She got one thing right: The politicians and big bankers “all got into this mess together.” The financial and housing collapse of 2008 was the fruit of that malign partnership of big government and big business. (See my article “Wall Street Couldn’t Have Done It Alone.”) But the big banks are doing fine now, thank you, and there’s no reason to think that too-big-to-fail is over. It’s regular people who are still hurting.
So the bankers liked what they heard. Politico reports:
“It was like, ‘Here’s someone who doesn’t want to vilify us but wants to get business back in the game,’” said an attendee. “Like, maybe here’s someone who can lead us out of the wilderness.”
Back in the game? That’s a good one!
In Clinton, then, we have a friend of the bankers and a friend of the military-industrial complex, since as secretary of state she was an advocate of a muscular foreign policy, including intervention in Libya. (When she was in the Senate she voted to give George W. Bush a blank check to invade Iraq, and when she was first lady, she pushed Bill Clinton to drop bombs on the Balkans).
“And if the banking class is delighted with Clinton lately,” Politico notes, “the feeling appears mutual.”
Wall Street’s first choice on the GOP side is apparently Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. He had his own meeting with the big-money crowd in July 2011. Politico calls him “the candidate with the best chances at winning the support of bankers in the next presidential election.”
At that 2011 meeting: "Henry Kissinger [!], the former secretary of state, stood and pleaded with the governor to enter the presidential race for the good of his country. Christie would, of course, resist their pleas, becoming perhaps even more alluring to those on Wall Street as a prospect for 2016."
“I like him. I do. I think he’s authentic, and I think he is a good manager and a good leader,” Goldman’s Lloyd Blankfein said of Christie at a recent Wall Street industry event, where he also praised Hillary Clinton.