Donald Trump will soon preside over the wealthiest cabinet in U.S. history. However, a recent appointment that has gone under the radar may prove to be his most troubling to date.
Billionaire corporate raider and long-time Trump supporter, Carl Icahn — who by the way was the inspiration for the character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film Wall Street — will soon become an official adviser to the future president on matters of Wall Street regulatory reform.
Icahn built a reputation during the 1980s for his involvement in numerous hostile corporate takeovers. Investopedia defines such a take over as follows:
A hostile takeover is the acquisition of one company (called the target company) by another (called the acquirer) that is accomplished by going directly to the company’s shareholders or fighting to replace management to get the acquisition approved.
The billionaire investor believes that companies have been “crippled” by what he considers to be excessive government regulation. He often names the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as other regulatory bodies, as being poorly managed and needlessly aggressive.
In a statement released by Trump’s transition team, Icahn said:
Under President Obama, America’s business owners have been crippled by over $1 trillion in new regulations and over 750 billion hours dealing with paperwork. It’s time to break free of excessive regulation and let our entrepreneurs do what they do best: create jobs and support communities.
Icahn currently owns large shares in companies such as RJR Nabisco, Texaco, Viacom, and Netflix, just to name a few. Since he will only be serving a “special advisory” role to the president, that means that he is exempt from the same conflict of interest rules that would apply to members of Trump’s cabinet. In other words, he’s free to give “advice” that will mainly help his bottom line, and have a distinct advantage over other investors because he’ll have influence over which regulations go and which stay in place.
Trump continues to put people in positions of power who believe that businesses are somehow handcuffed from creating more jobs and providing better pay and opportunities to their employees. His administration believes that stripping such things as banking, Wall Street, and environmental regulations, the economy will suddenly take off like a rocket freed from excess weight. However, there are several fallacies in this way of thinking.
Among conservatives, the term “regulations” has become this vague bad thing that we need to get rid off. However, a poll taken in February by the Pew Research Center shows that many Americans say they’re against regulations as a rule, but are often for specific rules they feel protects them and their family.
Currently, 52 percent say government regulation of business usually does more harm than good while 40 percent think regulating business is necessary to protect the public interest. These views are similar to January 2008, before the financial crisis and onset of the economic recession.
Last March, opinion was more divided; 47 percent said regulating business is necessary to protect the public interest while 45 percent said government regulation does more harm than good.
Overall, the public overwhelmingly supports strengthening regulations or keeping them as they are in specific areas, such as food safety and environmental protection; very few want to reduce regulations in these areas. And these views of regulation have changed little from July 1995.
However, corporate cheerleaders like Icahn continue to promote the false narrative to desperate Americans that they need only free independent benevolent entrepreneur “job creators” from silly regulations that protect the public. Icahn said in an announcement:
It’s time to break free of excessive regulation and let our entrepreneurs do what they do best: create jobs and support communities. President-elect Trump is serious about helping American families, and regulatory reform will be a critical component of making America work again.
He explained on CNN, “I’m not anti-regulation. I’m anti the stupidity of some of these regulations, and it has just run amok.”
Americans have to seriously consider whether or not the government is making thousands of unnecessary regulations just for the hell of it or if those rules are designed to protect them from harmful business practices. However, trusting billionaire corporate investors like Icahn to advise on government regulation reform is a bit like trusting Al Capone with overhauling the Justice Department.
With his current appointments, Trump has sent a clear message to those concerned about issues like the environment and income inequality, that they are in for a very long four years.
Featured image via Mat Szwajkos/Getty Images