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It's Donald Trump's billionaire boys club band


Donald Trump, that great advocate of ordinary Americans -- you know, the guy who stands up for "The Forgotten Man" so well that Sean Hannity bought him a shitty painting to commemorate his common touch -- has picked a couple more everyday, ordinary billionaires for his cabinet. For Treasury secretary, Trump wants Steven Mnuchin, a 17-year veteran of Goldman Sachs who was the Trump campaign's chief fundraiser, and for Commerce secretary, he's going with Wilbur Ross, a hedge fund manager who got rich buying failing businesses, implementing layoffs, and reselling them. You know, helping the ordinary worker.

But wait! There's more! During the housing collapse following the 2008 economic crisis, Mnuchin was one of several investors who bought a failing bank and made tons of money foreclosing on homeowners, and Ross ran a textile business that outsourced jobs overseas, and also owned the Sago coal mine, where twelve miners were killed in a 2006 explosion. Let's hear it for Donald Trump, champion of the Forgotten Americans!

Here's NPR with the deets on Steven Mnuchin's time as CEO and chairman of a bank in California that was called a "foreclosure machine":

Back in the bad old days following the 2008 economic collapse, Mnuchin and some other billionaires looked at the wreckage and figured they could make even more money, so they bought the remains of IndyMac, one of the banks most notorious for making crappy loans solely for the purpose of reselling them to other speculators. Mnuchin and friends renamed the outfit "OneWest Bank" and got quickly to the business of foreclosing on as many homes as possible, then selling the houses -- over 36,000 homes in all. After six years, Mnuchin and his pals sold OneWest for about a $1.5 billion profit, yay!

And everybody got a share -- not of the profit, but of the pain, says Kevin Stein of the housing advocacy group the California Reinvestment Coalition -- not only did 36,000 homeowners lose their homes, but taxpayers got to help Mnuchin and Co. get richer, since we supported FDIC payments to OneWest of about a billion bucks to cover the costs of the foreclosures. "In essence what they did is they bought a foreclosure machine," says Stein.

And then there was the top-notch way those foreclosures were handled, which makes "Kafkaesque nightmare" seem far too kind. Consider the treatment of Rex and Rose Schaffer, who qualified -- three times! -- for a government assisted modification, but who never managed to actually get OneWest to actually grant them the loan modification:

"It was a disaster dealing with those people," Rex Shaffer says. "We'd have a different person every time we called in." He counted 33 OneWest employees, in all, and each one would give him "a different story."

Facing threats that their home would be auctioned off, the Schaffers finally got through to a OneWest vice president. According to Rex Shaffer, the VP said, "I'm going to get you a 60-day extension on the sale date, so we can work this thing out." That was on Feb. 17, 2011. But the next day, the Schaffers' house was sold without their knowledge. "We didn't even know it — didn't have the faintest idea," Rex Shaffer says.

Remember how Donald Trump promised he'd get "the best people"? Yep, that would be Steven Mnuchin. The Schaffers voted for Trump (oops) but now they're hoping Mnuchin's nomination won't go through. "If he can't run his own little bank," Rose Schaffer asks, "how can he handle a large thing for the United States?" BEST PEOPLE, Rose. See, don't you feel better?

Then there's Wilbur Ross Jr., who Trump wants for Commerce Secretary. A real billionaire investor (people have seen his taxes), Ross is a longtime Trump pal who helped the fake billionaire bring his casino company out of bankruptcy in the 1990s. And how did Ross get his billions? By scooping up wobbly businesses, laying off huge numbers of employees, moving jobs overseas, and then reselling the companies. Now, this might, to some small-minded critics who don't see the big picture, sound like exactly the kind of practice Trump railed against in his campaign, like, every time he opened his mouth, but you have to understand that it's really why picking Ross to run Commerce is such a brilliant idea -- you need someone who's an expert at outsourcing to stop all the outsourcing. Yeah, that's the ticket. Tell us more, Daily Beast!

In 2004, Ross bought Cone Mills, a North Carolina textile company facing bankruptcy, as Bloomberg detailed in a 2012 write-up. He combined it with another textile company, Burlington Industries, to form International Textile Group. And it was renamed Cone Denim. Bloomberg explained that Ross expanded production “in less-expensive emerging markets” and that he also “eliminate[d] duplicative facilities.”

In other words, layoffs and outsourcing.

So, more jobs for Americans? Not quite! When Ross bought the place, Cone Mills employed about 1,100 people. By 2012, the company was down to 300 employees in North Carolina, but had greatly expanded in China and Mexico. That's the kind of expertise Ross will bring to the Commerce Department, where presumably he'll have a Post-it somewhere on his desk to remind him not to do more of that. Unless of course Russia offers a really sweet deal to take over Commerce Department operations.

Another teensy little blemish on Ross's record: In 2004, he bought up a bunch of troubled coal mines and steel mills, to make them more efficient -- it helped that a bankruptcy court agreed to take away medical and union benefits from thousands of miners, some of whom had black lung disease. But oopsies, one of those mines was the Sago mine in West Virginia, which racked up 208 violations of safety regulations in 2005, the year Ross bought it. Under Ross's ownership, the mine didn't do anything to correct the safety issues, and on January 2, 2006, part of the mine exploded, killing 12 miners. Ross did feel right bad about that, and paid $2 million to the miners' families, which might have been a good amount of money to spend on fixing safety problems earlier.

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Ross should probably have to answer some questions about the Sago mine during his confirmation hearings, don't you think? We bet all those people who voted for Trump because he promised he'd bring the coal industry back are pretty excited Ross will be in Trump's cabinet. Maybe they could send Mr. Trump some photos of the dead miners from Sago, with a reminder of who owned the mine when it exploded. Trump appreciates personal touches like that.

[NPR / NPR / HuffPo / Daily Beast]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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