President-elect Donald Trump named Wall Street banker and Hollywood financier Steven Mnuchin ’85 as Secretary of the Treasury on Wednesday.
A former publisher for the News, Mnuchin served as national finance chairman for the Trump campaign. After graduating from Yale, he spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs, where he worked his way to the executive level before departing in 2002 and later launching his own hedge fund. More recently, he produced a number of blockbuster films, including “Avatar” and the “X-Men” franchise. He has no prior government experience.
Mnuchin’s deep roots on Wall Street present a stark contrast to much of Trump’s populist rhetoric. On the campaign trail, Trump condemned big banks and labeled opponents corrupt for their Wall Street ties, sometimes referring to Goldman Sachs by name. One campaign ad that aired just days before the election presented Goldman’s chief executive as part of a “global power structure” that “robbed our working class.”
In a statement Wednesday, though, Trump praised Mnuchin for his business acumen and financial experience.
“Steve Mnuchin is a world-class financier, banker and businessman and has played a key role in developing our plan to build a dynamic, booming economy that will create millions of jobs,” Trump said. “His expertise and pro-growth ideas make him the ideal candidate to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. He purchased IndyMac Bank for $1.6 billion and ran it very professionally, selling it for $3.4 billion plus a return of capital. That’s the kind of people I want in my administration representing our country.”
In a statement of his own on Wednesday, Mnuchin said he felt honored to have been tapped for the position and emphasized his commitment to creating jobs and protecting workers.
He also stopped briefly to speak with the press at Trump Tower Wednesday morning. The incoming administration’s “first priority” will be to cut both corporate and personal income taxes in an effort to stimulate growth, Mnuchin told reporters.
“Our number one priority is going to be the economy, get back to three to four percent growth — we believe that’s very sustainable — and focus on things for the American worker,” he said. “That’s absolutely our priority.”
Although Mnuchin said he “understand[s] what needs to be done to fix the economy,” professor of economics William Nordhaus ’63 GRD ’73 is skeptical.
In an email to the News, Nordhaus expressed concern that Mnuchin has “minimal qualifications for the job, … no government experience and minimal experience in budgetary or tax-policy matters.” He also said Mnuchin’s claim that Trump’s tax policies would not benefit the upper class were “either ignorant or disingenuous.” To Nordhaus, Mnuchin’s nomination signals a betrayal of the populist message at the core of Trump’s campaign.
“The choice of Mnuchin (along with other key members of the Trump economic team) indicates that President-elect Trump is not taking seriously his advocacy of the ‘forgotten men and women,’” Nordhaus wrote. “The policies will probably make the trade deficit worse and increase the national debt at a fast pace, at best, and lead to trade wars and major disruptions in health care markets at worst.”
The Yale College Democrats echoed Nordhaus’ sentiments, expressing disappointment, but not surprise, at Trump’s newest hire in a statement to the News. Like Nordhaus, the Yale Dems see Mnuchin’s nomination as a sign that the president-elect is “not at all concerned with standing up to economic elites on behalf of working people but rather rewarding wealthy Trump loyalists.”
Yale College Republicans Co-President Emmy Reinwald ’17 took a more optimistic stance. Although she did not comment on Mnuchin specifically, she said she was “pleasantly surprised at Trump’s cabinet so far” and expects the Trump transition to surround the president-elect with “a great team of conservatives.”