Trump Treasury Hopeful John Allison Wants To Replace Fed, Dodd-Frank With Copies Of “Atlas Shrugged”

Former BB&T CEO wants to return America to a late-nineteenth-century era of banking.
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(Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons)

(Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons)

On Monday Donald Trump is scheduled to discuss potential cabinet positions with a former bank CEO who bribed colleges to teach Ayn Rand, wants to end the Fed, and has argued that bank regulations dating back to the Great Depression should be chucked.

That man is John Allison, longtime head of the North Carolina-based bank BB&T and, most recently, president of the libertarian think tank Cato. As a Treasury secretary hopeful, Allison’s politics make Jamie Dimon look like Elizabeth Warren.

Some exhibits:

  • Allison has long echoed the Trump campaign’s view that Dodd-Frank should be dismantled. But that’s just the beginning for Allison. He also wants to scrap the Fed, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which guarantees bank deposits, and the 1968 Truth In Lending Act, whose onerous mandates include the requirement that banks to disclose APRs to borrowers.
  • He wants a return to the gold standard. “A free banking system would almost certainly pick a gold standard,” Allison said in 2014, adding that the late nineteenth century was a halcyonage for banking and the economy. For those who wonder what era “Make America Great Again” refers to, Allison might answer: 1893. 
  • He gave every employee of his bank, the 14th-largest in the U.S. by assets, a copy of “Atlas Shrugged,” and regularly lectured them on the evils of altruism. He also ran a program, through the BB&T Charitable Foundation, that offered $2 million to colleges that taught the book and gave a course on capitalism. At least 25 schools took him up on the offer.
  • As BB&T CEO in 2008, Allison took a $3 billion bailout from the government. He later called it a “rip-off” that he was “forced” to accept (though he also noted he “had an obligation” to exploit an opportunity his competitors were also taking). He was less defensive of other banks. Bailing out Citigroup, he said in 2008, was “like nursing a snake back to health.”

Allison likes to tell the story of two children playing in a sandbox, one of whom takes a toy from the other. When the aggrieved party complains to mommy, she tells them both to share. This is where it all went wrong. As the New York Times recounts:

“You learned in that sandbox at some really deep level that it’s bad to be selfish,” says Mr. Allison, adding that the mother has taught a horrible lesson. “To say man is bad because he is selfish is to say it’s bad because he’s alive.”

Clearly a natural fit for the Donald. And another dark moment for the #DraftDimon campaign.

[Correction: John Allison did not found BB&T, as commenter Molly correctly points out. The article has been amended.]

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