President-elect Donald Trump, despite railing about Wall Street and global financial firms, is putting together a team of millionaires and billionaires that likely will be the wealthiest group of Cabinet members in history, experts say.
On the campaign trail, Trump said Wall Street had created “tremendous problems” for the nation and that massive financial firms had “robbed our working class.”
It was part of a Huey Long-styled populist message about forgotten workers.
But when it comes to filling out his Cabinet, Trump is turning to Wall Street insiders and members of wealthy families. Rather than a “team of rivals” as Abraham Lincoln famously assembled, it’s more a team of millionaires and billionaires, analysts said.
“They are extremely wealthy and they certainly represent a larger bundle of wealth than any previous Cabinet selections,” said Robert Spitzer, a political scientist at the State University of New York at Cortland and author of several books on American presidents.
Spitzer (no relation to ex-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer) noted the joke that Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Cabinet was “nine millionaires and a plumber,” a reference to the former labor union leader who filled out the administration.
Spitzer said there is “no reason a wealthy person can’t be effective” in a Cabinet post, while adding caution not only about the selections but also about Trump countering his own campaign message.
“Billionaires don’t always have the best view of what’s going on with average Americans,” Spitzer said. “Another consideration is that he campaigned on ‘draining the swamp’ and pushing his outsider status. ... It was a keystone of his campaign and here he is returning to these people to populate his administration.”
Among his billionaire selections, Trump has named Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge-fund manager, for treasury secretary; Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor who has won praise and criticism as a takeover specialist of distressed companies, for commerce secretary; and Betsy DeVos, who married an heir to the Amway sales company fortune, for education secretary. Among the millionaires, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) is the nominee for Health and Human Services; Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general.
Trump also reportedly has talked to Gary Cohn, the No. 2 executive at Goldman Sachs, about a position.
Trump defended his choices as smart business people.
“The guy knows how to make money, folks,” Trump, speaking about Ross, told supporters in Cincinnati.
Rivals accused him of pulling a bait-and-switch.
“Donald Trump’s administration: of, by and for the millionaires and billionaires,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in an online post. “That is not the type of change that Donald Trump promised to bring to Washington.”