Treasury

Eminent Domain Critic, Ayn Rand Superfan, Former Cato CEO John Allison Could Run Trump's Treasury

Allison wants to repeal all Dodd-Frank regulations, which didn't fix the problem of banks being "too big to fail."

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Cato Institute

The Trump administration is slowly coming together and a libertarian is reportedly among those being considered to run the Treasury Department.

Bloomberg reports that John Allison, a former president and CEO of the Cato Institute, is on Trump's short-list for Treasury Secretary. Allison ran the Washington, D.C., based libertarian think tank from October 2012 until April 2015 and continues to sit on the organization's board today. He is also the former CEO of BB&T, a North Carolina-based investment bank, which he ran from 1989 until 2008.

Currently, Allison is director at Moelis & Co., an investment bank, and is an executive in residence at Wake Forest University's business school. He is 68 years old.

"John Allison has both the experience and the economic knowledge to be an excellent Treasury Secretary," Peter Goettler, president and CEO of the Cato Institute, told Reason via email. "Through his work with small businesses at BB&T, he has seen up close the negative effect of regulatory overreach on growth and innovation."

Bloomberg says Steven Mnuchin, an ex-Goldman Sachs Group partner, remains a leading candidate for the job of Treasury Secretary. David McCormick from Bridgewater Associates and U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) are other candidates.

If Trump is hoping to signal that he will take the government in a new direction, Allison would be the best choice of the bunch. Not only is Allison an outsider to government, but he's a critic of the outsized—and often bullying—role that the government plays in regulating the finanical affairs of ordinary Americans.

In 2006, following the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial ruling (in Kelo V. New London) allowing the use of eminent domain for private development projects, Allison somewhat-famously announced that his bank would not invest in any such developments.

"The idea that a citizen's property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact it's just plain wrong," Allison said at the time. "One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won't help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership."

Aside from that, Allison is probably best known in libertarian circles for his vocal criticism of the federal regulatory state and for his outspoken Ayn Rand fandom.

He's criticized the Affordable Care Act for encouraging employers not to insure their employees and instead pass the cost onto the government. That's because the Affordable Care Act is "designed to fail," he told John Stossel in 2011.

In 2012, Allison authored a piece for American Banker calling for a complete repeal of Dodd-Frank, the complex legislation passed in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse that gave the government broad powers to regulate financial institutions.

"It is not fixable," he wrote.

He called the parts of the law that deal with consumer compliance "a fundamental move towards statism" and said Dodd-Frank's curbs on debit card fees amounted to price fixing that would reduce the availability of banking services to low-income customers and increase costs for everyone else.

Allison criticized Dodd-Frank for failing to deal with the problem of institutions that are supposedly "too big to fail" by institutionalizing government bailouts as backstops against financial collapse.

"Instead, it identifies companies that are too big to fail and ensures that they will be protected by the government," he wrote.

Allison's bank accepted more than $3 billion from the federal government through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, the name given to the bailouts that followed the 2008 financial meltdown. He later told the New York Times that BB&T was "forced" to accept the money.

In the years since the recession, Allison has written two books criticizing the federal government's heavy-handed efforts at regulating the economy back to good health and praising the value of free markets.

Underpinning his belief in the value of private property and his skepticism toward government intervention is a longstanding devotion to free market philosopher Ayn Rand. In a 2008 interview with NPR, Allison said that Rand changed his life and called Atlas Shrugged "the best defense of capitalism ever written."

Over the final three years of his tenure at BB&T, Allison gave grants to 25 colleges and universities to start programs dedicated to studying Rand's books, their underlying economic philosophy, and the works of other important works like Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations.

"To say man is bad because he is selfish is to say that it's bad because he's alive," Allison told a crowd at a convention in 2009, per a New York Times account. "Put balls and chains on good people, and bad things happen."

This story has been updated to correct the attribution of the quote from Peter Goettler.

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  1. He’s may not be the Treasury Secretary Trump deserves, but he might be the Randian hero the country needs.

    If Trump is smart enough to pick him, he deserves him. Go fuck yourself. Stop being butt hurt over the prospect that you and every other Cosmotarian might be wrong about Trump.

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    1. Newsletter. How do I subscribe?

    2. Geez John it seems like you’re the butthurt one.

      1. Yes I am. People saying stupid shit like “he doesn’t deserve this guy” makes me butt hurt. Stupidity has a way of doing that to me. It is why I am so often butt hurt at you.

        1. Get some powder to rid the chafe. You might not be so angry all the time.

      2. How would that be distinguishable from his usual demeanor?

      3. Seriously. God forbid we say anything negative about Trump.

    3. You’re right about this, John.

      Even if he’s only “not quite as bad as Hillary” on his foreign policy picks, his domestic policy picks are shaping up to be much better than Hillary. Allison is a genuine libertarian.

      1. Everyone please read John Allison’s book published after the bailouts.

        I can’t believe it but trump is raising some eyebrows for the right reason’s in the last few days.

        Good for trump,. keep it up.

      2. Who’s not been confirmed.

    4. Is this the 2nd or 3rd mention of a libertarian being a possible for the Trump admin? What happened to Thiel? He seems to have disappeared from mention. Until I see an actual libertarian sitting in a position of influence, I refuse to believe it. So far we have Sessions as confirmed (as Trump pick), that’s not a good start.

    5. So was the post edited or has John gone full senile?

      1. It was edited. Apparently I hit a nerve.

    6. It’s called a joke. You might of heard of them, it I doubt it.

    7. He’s going to make the lives of all the college dropouts who voted for him light-years better.

    8. He sounds more like the best Supreme court justice in the last 100 years to me. Seems like too much to ask though.

  2. Ayn Rand Superfan

    This has been a good sign in the past.

    1. Yeah. Alan Greenspan worked out so well.

      1. My first thought.

      2. I keep forgetting that in Trump’s America, you must never forgo the /sarc.

        1. I knew you were being sarcastic. I was just agreeing with you.

      3. Greenspan’s problems were not rooted in being an Ayn Rand superfan.

      1. You can’t spell “Ayn Rand” without “Aryan”. So it’s code for “Nazi”.

        1. Everything’s code for nazi.

          Billy Joel? Nazi.

  3. But does he know how to run TurboTax?

  4. Oh, that’s going to cause some butt-hurt. And libertarians will get blamed for everything the Trump administration does, no matter how un-libertarian.

    1. Yeah, but since we’ve been lumped in with the alt-right, we were going to get blamed regardless. Might as well get some actually libertarian policies out of the deal.

  5. This is what appointING an outsider looks like.

  6. I have had a lot of good results with BB&T.

  7. ?and for his outspoken Ayn Rand fandom.

    My proggie friends will oppose him just because of that, no matter what he actually does.

    1. Your proggie friends will oppose him even should he goose-step around Washington on the bodies of dead rural whites all while reciting Stalins poetry.

  8. It’s rumored that Trump will pick Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, who is against Common Core and supports vouchers and charter schools.

    This misogynist authoritarian must be stopped!

    1. Oh, that must be what my brother’s girlfriend was talking about when she said that Trump “thinks that poor people shouldn’t be allowed to get an education”.

  9. He looks like a total Poindexter. Is Trump sure he wants a nerd like this guy in his cabinet?

    1. You gotta pick one guy for your team who will stay late and do all the work while you’re out banging Chris Christie’s wife.

      1. +1 Eye roll

  10. So Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary and maybe this guy? That almost makes up for Sessions.

    1. And the thing about Sessions is that he is awful but any AG appointed by either party would have been awful. It is just who gets picked to be AG.

      1. John, there is a new rule: each reference to Jeff Beauregard Sessions must include his middle name. I

        1. Sessions isn’t a racist. He is just an asshole

          1. Improper post, John. You didn’t say Beauregard!

    2. Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary

      I think it would be great if they made all the teacher’s unions join Amway.

  11. So he was forced to accept $3 billion in bailout?

    Must be one of them coercion things where the rules are just a bit different at the top and everyone else is encouraged to simply ignore it all.

    1. Most of the banks were forced to accept bailout money. It was the Fedgov’s way of masking which financial institutions were in dire straights and trying to prevent a run on the bad banks.

    2. Most banks were forced. There were forced mergers too.

    3. Boston Globe May 15, 2009:

      “NEW YORK – The chief executives of the country’s nine largest banks had no choice but to accept capital infusions from the Treasury Department in October, government documents released Wednesday have confirmed.

      Obtained and released by Judicial Watch, a nonpartisan educational foundation, the documents reveal “talking points” used by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson during the Oct. 13 meeting between federal officials and the executives that stressed the investments would be required “in any circumstance,” whether the banks found them appealing or not.”

    4. There is a good series from NOVA on it too. They focused on the Wells Fargo president refusing at first, then being threatened by officials that his regulator would declare WF insolvent if he did not accept the loan.

      Lots of stuff in that one about Tim Geithner keeping Obama informed during the campaign while keeping McCain in the dark.

  12. Did the sub-headline just change, or am I high?

    1. Yes, just because it’s the start of a long week-end, doesn’t mean you should be butt-chugging in your cubicle.

  13. Ayn Rand fans are pedantic, socially retarded freaks who will never know the touch of a woman.

    1. What’s your excuse??

    2. Not all Ayn Rand fans are Cytotoxic.

      1. He hasn’t been around for quite a while. Are you trying to summon him?

        1. On the one hand, the absence of his unique brand of obnoxious has been pleasant.

          On the other hand, he was supremely confident – even more smug than usual – in Hilary soundly defeating Trump. So it would be fun if he’d come back and eat his words.

          1. As I said in another thread, he stuck his head out of his mom’s basement and saw Trump’s shadow.

            It’ll be another six weeks before he posts.

    3. That’s just because word got out that the women they do touch are in for some rough trade, whether they want it or not.

    4. ha.

      The Most Interesting Man Alive once said:

      “I don’t play pokemon, because I have seen a vagina.”

    5. Yes, but they feel her touch on their minds, each time they gaze upon the stark angular beauty seen in the precision of the many skyscrapers rising from the city, each with a destiny and purpose all its own.

    6. Interesting comment from someone using that particular handle.

  14. Related : trump picks Betsey devos as secretary of education. Left freaks out.

    1. Nothing is more revealing about the left than the fact that the mere thought of giving the poor and marginalized more control over their own lives causes them to freak the fuck out.

      1. So This^

      2. When you’re running a retirement ponzi scheme, an important part of the strategy is using poor brown children as human shields.

        1. Another interesting use of strategy is to strike from teaching school in an effort to elicit sympathy from the population of parents whose kids then get no schooling and have to pay for babysitters.

          1. Somalian kids don’t need babysitters. They have AK-47’s.

      3. But Grand Moff, the poors don’t what’s good for them! What if they make the wrong decision???

        1. To be fair, a lot of people are poor precisely because they make the wrong decisions. I say this as a guy who spent a great deal of my twenties poor, because I was an impulsive jerk-off who valued immediate gratification over temperance.

      4. Remember when Obama ended vouchers in DC and the effect it had on poor minorities? All the while he was sending his kids to the best private schools? The left are hypocrites.

  15. Allison criticized Dodd-Frank for failing to deal with the problem of institutions that are supposedly “too big to fail” by institutionalizing government bailouts as backstops against financial collapse.

    “Instead, it identifies companies that are too big to fail and ensures that they will be protected by the government,” he wrote.

    If he stops making too big banks even too bigger by arranging shotgun weddings for “troubled” institutions, it would be a welcome start.

    1. Ask yourself this: If prohibitionist asset-forfeiture was causing money to disappear from banks and brokerages, collapsing the credit structure and causing a crippling liquidity crunch, would ANY government agency or hostage admit this? Hitler would blame it on the “greed of stock market jewry” or something equally false. So who would be the first mouse to offer to bell the cat?

    1. Not a euphemism.

  16. He wants to repeal doddfrank. That will jumpstart the economy fast. Barack was too ideological or stupid or both to oppose that turd those two left in the punchbowl.

    1. Brak is incredibly stupid. He was smart enough to pull off the greatest fraud in history or more likely had some smart puppet masters.

      But he is truly a stupid man. I dare say dumber than bush.

      If you want a good laugh and a hint of how truly moronic he and his wife are, please read a few lines of Michelle O’s college thesis. Its like there is a dictionary of made up phrases that these retards have been spitting out for decades.

  17. “Trump continues to assemble his white right wing super squad”

    FTFY

  18. Wow, first Betsy now this is on the table?

    If trump goes thru with this I will vote for the sum bitch in 2020…unless @Kmele runs.

    1. I am holding out for Austin Petersen, no matter what.

  19. For months, most of what I heard around here was: “There’s no real difference between Trump and Hillary!”

    1. I thought the same. He is doing some very interesting stuff so far.
      When he takes on the FED, he might convert me.

    2. Remember when brak became president and all he did was appoint Marxists to his cabinet.
      Remember that dumb cunt who said her hero was Mao?

      So far this trump stuff is a little different.

    3. Who did Hillary pick for her Treasury Secretary?

      1. Should would have picked someone from Goldman or Citi that’s for damn sure.

    4. I heard Trump was WORSE than Hillary. Matt Welch wrote/said that repeatedly.

      1. It was weird how every famous libertarian was more scared of trump than clinton. That never made sense.

        Based on their words, trump was always a little better on paper than that psycho hose beast. I just assumed he was going to get in there and bring in his group of corrupt cronies and get rid of the old guard.

        So far, he seems to be doing a few good things. I’ll eat crow. It tastes like chicken.

        1. It was weird foreseeable how every famous libertarian cosmotarian was more scared of trump than clinton. That never always made perfect sense.

          FTFY

      2. Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong!

  20. If John Allison is really against eminent domain, I doubt Trump will pick him.

  21. I’ll be surprised when he makes Walter Block the Fed chairman.

  22. Allison is a gold standard fool.

    1. Shorting $600 gold would make sense.

    2. What’s more foolish, the belief in paper money backed by the “full faith and credit” of folks in fancy suits, or using a media of exchange such as gold that has a 6,000 year history as a media of exchange?

      Why not, instead of making foolish statements, read about the history of money. You’ll find the Roman Empire debauched the Denarius, took all the silver, and made the coin into worthless junk metal.

      Oh look, the same thing happened to US coins. Your purchasing power would be far greater with the 1964 (and prior) quarter, half dollar and dollar pieces, than it is with the current one coined in junk metal.

      One silver quarter (90% silver) has a purchasing power of around $2.94. Multiply that by 4 and you have $11.76 worth of purchasing power. Take a salary of $50,000, then multiply it by $11.76. That equals $588,000 dollars you would have in purchasing power.

      Yet the central bank and fiat money according to you is so wonderful, that instead of one person in a middle class family working to support a household, family car, etc. it takes two, in many cases people working two jobs. Many elderly individuals have to go back to work because their retirements and COLA isn’t enough.

      Folks like you cry about income disparity, shrinking middle class, and all of these things without doing any research into the reasons why. Yet stand on your soapbox yelling how compassionate and caring you are. that is furthest fr the trurh.

      1. You have stupidly mistaken me for a progressive. Income inequality is good and a result of market forces. I am not “compassionate” concerning wealth disparity.

        A gold standard is pure bullshit and has been proven so many times. You are rehashing the arguments of the goldbug idiots who cried HYPERINFLASION! back in 2009. You were wrong then and are wrong now.

        1. Dont be sad Hillary lost little fella !!!!

        2. “A gold standard is pure bullshit and has been proven so many times. You are rehashing the arguments of the goldbug idiots who cried HYPERINFLASION! back in 2009. You were wrong then and are wrong now.”

          Like I said, do some reaearch about the history of money. Your reply is nonsensical. You ramble on, talking about gold bugs and hyperinflation while failing to see how much central banking has debauched the currency. The simple math is in my previous post.

          Monetary inflation, and price inflation are very obvious, except when you fail to look. This is evident in so many things.

        1. By the way, who wants the gov’t in charge of controlling money? If you read anything in the link you provided, price fixing should have stood out. Another note is Nixon closing the gold window because the US was caught pyramiding dollars on top of gold.

          The Bretton Woods agreement was a disaster, only gov’t could convert their dollars to gold, and vice versa. Individuals were prohibited in doing so. So individuals had no means of controlling their property, that being their media of exchange. They couldn’t go and convert dollars that were being printed left and right, for gold or silver and abandon the dollar.

          You are doing a great job at showing how gov’t and central banks should NOT control money in any way. Thanks.

  23. haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa………

  24. “John Allison has both the experience and the economic knowledge to be an excellent Treasury Secretary,” Allison Miller, a spokeswoman for Cato, told Reason via email.

    Well sure Allison is only have nice things to say about Allison.

  25. Trump will pick someone who will help him print and borrow money for his terrific trillion dollar “infrastructure” projects.

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  28. Unfortunately, Trump disagrees with him about the Kelo case. One can only hope this isn’t a fatal disadvantage given how much use Trump has made of these forced sale forfeitures.

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  31. Finally! A Treasury Czar able to understand that prohibitionist asset-forfeiture enforcement is what causes most major crashes AND honest enough to report it would be a plus. Geithner probably understood, but used the same gambit to import hard currency by exporting looter asset-forfeiture to Latin America and Europe and recouping by shorting their currency and securities markets. An honest Treasury chief would show the President that Bert Hoover, Ron and George, Clinton and G. Waffen Bush crashes ALL followed ramp-ups of asset-forfeiture looting under the guise of prohibition enforcement on a Mission from God and Allah.
    With God’s Own Prohibitionists back in the saddle, that’s America’s greatest threat.

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