Who Runs The World?

Monday, December 5, 2016
Image credit: 
Poster Collection, UK 2484, Hoover Institution Archives.

Image credit: 
Poster Collection, UK 2484, Hoover Institution Archives.

According to the conspiracy theorists, it is, or used to be, the Jews, the Freemasons or the Bolsheviks who ran the world. Or Bilderberg and the Council on Foreign Relations. Wrong. It is Goldman Sachs, as a very sober, factual piece in the Financial Times has it.*

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, used to be at Goldman. So was Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s man for the Treasury. Gary Cohn, COO at the bank, might yet join them. Nor is Goldman Sachs, supposedly Hillary Clinton’s best friend, picky about party allegiances. Former CEO Robert Rubin served as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury, and Hank Paulson, also a former CEO (1999-2006), did the same job for George W. Bush. During the Great Crash of 2008, so many Goldman Sachs folks traveled the corridors of power that wags began to refer to the administration as “Government Sachs.” In 2008, Barack Obama raised record amounts of cash from Goldman Sachs.

Now let’s go global. Among the alumni of Goldman Sachs are Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, and his counterpart, Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank. José Manuel Barroso, the ex-President of the European Commission, is now the chairman of Goldman Sachs International.

So forget about the anti-Semitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Think Goldman Sachs and also Citigroup. Jack Lew, the current Secretary of the Treasury, is an alumnus, and so is Stanley Fischer (a friend of mine) who is Vice Chairman of the Fed.

This author, a Harvard Ph.D., used to think that his alma mater was the ladder to world fame. And so it was until recently. Recall a slew of presidents from the two Adams to the two Roosevelts, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama—not to forget Rutherford B. Hayes. Harvard’s Henry Kissinger served as Nixon’s National Security Adviser and Secretary of State.

More recently, Stanford has moved to the fore. Trump has nominated the Hoover Institution’s Jim Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Before him, various Stanford professors manned positions one or two levels down both in the Bush and Obama administrations. But even this shift in influence from east to west is not the real news. What counts is that the groves of academe are no longer at center stage. The real locus of power is not the White House, but the Goldman Sachs headquarters on New York’s 200 West Street.

If you need final proof, look at the new geography of clout. The 45th president’s other White House will be Trump Tower. From there, it is just a 20-minute subway ride to Wall Street, whereas Washington is 250 miles away. New York is finally coming into its own—as hub of political, and not just cultural and financial power.

 *Ben McLannahan, “Goldman maintains its influence in the corridors of power,” Financial Times (December 2, 2016), p. 6.