Mnuchin Confirmation Preview: Treasury Nominee Stands Up for Pro-Growth Tax Reform, America First Trade Policy

Mnuchin AP

Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin’s confirmation hearings on Thursday will feature a robust call for pro-growth tax reform, debt reduction, an America-first trade policy, and dramatic cuts to overbearing federal regulation.

According to briefing notes released in advance by the Trump transition team, Mnuchin will stress his background as a “world-class financier whose decades of experience with financial and monetary matters make him the ideal candidate to serve as US Treasury Secretary,” and his highly successful management of the Trump campaign’s finances. This is no small achievement, given Hillary Clinton’s staggering financial advantages, not to mention the inestimable value of in-kind contributions from the mainstream media and Hollywood.

“On my travels with the President-elect, we heard the pained and heartbreaking stories of many Americans who had lost their jobs to workers in foreign countries. We heard the concerns of people and small businesses burdened by high taxes – these were people who were just trying to make ends meet,” Mnuchin says of his experiences during the campaign, in his prepared opening statement.

“Throughout my career, my commitment was to my clients and shareholders, for whom I worked tirelessly to get the best results,” he says of his resume. “Thirty years later, my commitment is now to the American people for whom I will work tirelessly by helping to grow our economy and create jobs.”

He’s well aware of the criticisms that will be directed at his career, and intends to address them head-on: “Since I was first nominated to serve as Treasury Secretary, I have been maligned as taking advantage of others’ hardships in order to earn a buck. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

In particular, he will discuss his involvement with IndyMac bank, which critics deride as a “foreclosure machine,” explaining how the risky loans which threatened the bank’s survival were made long before he and his partners became involved, and they had to make some tough decisions to protect a $1.6 billion capital investment… saving thousands of jobs in the process. He also seeks to highlight the strategies he developed for preventing foreclosures, which were effective enough to win acclaim from independent review boards.

“I have great empathy for the millions of hardworking American families who needlessly lost their homes because the system failed them. If confirmed as Treasury Secretary, I will work diligently and compassionately for the American people, so that we never endure anything like the meltdown of 2008 again,” Mnuchin vows.

He will express a commitment to President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for wide-reaching tax relief, including reform of the death tax, and reducing the tax burden on small business to “get the engine of economic growth firing on all cylinders once again.”

In a rather pointed jab at the outgoing administration, Mnuchin talks about the need for vigilant cybersecurity in an “age of unprecedented online attacks,” and promises to use his technological expertise to “protect Americans’ information at the IRS and keep our financial architecture safe from malicious attacks.” He also plans to take aggressive action against the financing of terrorism.

The New York Times anticipates Mnuchin will take some heat for assets he did not disclose until prodded by the Senate Finance Committee, including real estate holdings and nearly a million dollars in artwork held by his children. Mnuchin said he didn’t disclose these properties because he didn’t consider them to be “investment assets.”

The NYT also expects Mnuchin to be grilled over his job as director of Dune Capital International Ltd., an investment fund that was incorporated in the “tax haven” of the Cayman Islands. Seven other investment fund management positions were “inadvertently missed” in his initial disclosure documents. That’s all useful ammunition for Democrats looking to make class-warfare and conflict-of-interest arguments.

The Chicago Tribune sees IndyMac and its foreclosures as the major line of attack against Mnuchin, noting that liberal groups have been running a TV ad campaign to pressure several Republican Senators to vote against Mnuchin. The ad christens him “the foreclosure king” and accuses him of “taking people’s homes with no regard to anything but his own bottom line.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) warmed up for the big show by holding a forum on Wednesday to hear testimony from people who lost their homes.

“OneWest was notorious for its belligerence and for its cruelty,” Warren declared, using the name of the bank after Mnuchin’s group acquired it. She also trotted out the “foreclosure machine” label, signaling that we can expect to hear that phrase quite a bit during Mnuchin’s hearings.

From a policy standpoint, the Treasury nominee can expect aggressive questioning about Trump’s tax cut plan, which Mnuchin has described as “the largest tax change since Reagan.” He’ll also be clashing with Democrats like Warren over regulatory reform, since they regard the forest of red tape he wants to buzzsaw through as their proudest achievement. The vision he embraces is exactly the opposite of the Democrat philosophy that brought us the weakest economic growth of any two-term presidency in modern history. They are very, very eager to prevent anyone from delivering better economic growth and decisively disproving their economic beliefs.

As we’ve seen with the other Trump confirmation hearings, Democrats are looking to bloody up nominees they can’t stop, and grandstand about their personal issues (or, in the case of Senators like Cory Booker of New Jersey, launch their 2020 campaigns.)

Mnuchin is a veritable demon striding forth from the pages of their political bible. He finances a lot of Hollywood movies, so he should recognize Senator Warren as the egotistical star ready to burst forth from her trailer and demand endless close-ups from the director. They’ll have so much grandstanding to do that they probably wouldn’t notice if he quietly slipped out of the chamber after delivering his opening remarks. He’s not going to do that, of course, so he’d better be ready for a fight.