Once upon a time, a term at the helm of Goldman Sachs all but guaranteed a smooth transition from the heights of financial power to those of political power. The legendary Sidney Weinberg served as Franklin Roosevelt’s liaison to Wall Street and helped lead his War Production Board before more or less hand-picking Dwight Eisenhower’s Cabinet. John Whitehead worked in the State Department, led the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and chaired the New York Fed, as did Stephen Friedman, who also chaired the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and served as director of the National Economic Council. His predecessor at Goldman, Bob Rubin, was the first head of the NEC and later Treasury Secretary, a role later held by Hank Paulson. Jon Corzine got to be both a senator and governor before running a different company into the ground.
Indeed, of all the men who have led Goldman Sachs, only four haven’t gone on to hold high office. Two of them have their names over the door. Another, Gus Levy, literally died on the job, and John Weinberg—Sid’s son and Whitehead’s co-chair—was so publicity-averse he had a full-time employee on hand working to keep his name out of the paper.
And now, Lloyd Blankfein makes five.
Blankfein, too, would love to serve as Treasury secretary.
“Who, offered that job, would decline that?” he said. “You’d have to be preparing for your end of life or jumping off a cliff or something like that. Of course, to make that kind of a contribution, to be at that fulcrum of that very large lever, of course you’d want to do it.”
But he hasn’t been asked.
It’s quite the snub. I mean, even Gary Cohn got to chair the NEC for a while.
Of course, Lloyd didn’t do himself any favors in the last couple of years. Though like Jamie Dimon nominally a Democrat and, as a retired bank CEO, under no obligation to run his mouth off, he, for instance, noted his preference for a second Donald Trump term over the candidacy of arguably the second-most influential person in terms of winning appointment to Joe Biden’s administration, and that was after going out of his way to antagonize the woman who would become the first and generally showing himself rather out of touch with the way the political winds were blowing.
To his credit, Blankfein is smart enough to read the writing on the wall.
Blankfein, a lifelong Democrat who grew up in New York public housing, describes Washington as a “charged environment” and has grudgingly accepted that his chances of going there are slim.
By his own admission, Blankfein, a billionaire, trades “a lot” -- multiple times a day, buying and selling stocks and commodities, and occasionally currencies…. For a while, he toyed with the idea of being a paid consultant but ultimately decided he didn’t want to “get on a horse with a sample case and try to build that business.”
Trading is different. It comes easily, and he doesn’t mind the reflexive urges to check prices….
He wryly describes his performance as a day trader as “brilliant,” crediting winning bets on the so-called new economy -- companies using innovation to disrupt old business models -- and to monetary policies that lifted all boats.