Nomi Prins. All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power. Nation Books, 2014. See here to purchase the book.
Nomi Prins is a former Wall Street executive. Her writings have appeared in such publications as The Nation and Mother Jones, which are anti-establishment left-wing periodicals, but also in mainstream sources such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Fortune.
This book is about the influence of bankers from the Presidential administration of Theodore Roosevelt to that of Barack Obama. I decided to read this book as a check on right-wing John Bircher material that I have read. John Birchers believe that the international bankers are conspiring to create a one-world socialistic government. Among the people they criticize are David Rockefeller, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. All of these are featured in Prins’s book, only she writes from the perspective of the anti-establishment left, whereas John Birchers form part of the anti-establishment right.
How did the two compare? Here are some items, based on my impressions:
—-John Birchers criticize the Federal Reserve system and President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal as corrupt ways to pad the pockets of the rich and well-connected. G. Edward Griffin, who has a Bircher background, argues that the conflict between Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan was solely a matter of show. Nomi Prins, in these areas at least, tends to accept the standard historical narrative. In her telling, the Federal Reserve system was established to redress the problem of bank panics, the conflict between Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan was real, and the wealthy did consider FDR a traitor to his class on account of his New Deal and attempts to reign in Wall Street. This is not to suggest that Prins always embraces the standard narrative, though. For example, she argues that Dodd-Frank was all for show and fails to curb banks.
—-John Birchers essentially believe that the international bankers are left-wing in that they desire a one-world socialistic government. Prins, by contrast, contends that international bankers have had right-wing ideas. David Rockefeller opposed Richard Nixon’s wage and price controls, acts of government control of the economy that many right-wingers criticized. The bankers during the 1970’s and 1980’s supported deregulation of the banking industry so that they could compete more effectively on an international scale. David Rockefeller also supported the existence, maintenance, and spread of democratic capitalism because democratic capitalist countries allowed the bankers to have more influence and to make more money. Whereas G. Edward Griffin argues that the Federal Reserve pursues inflationary policy, Prins contends that the bankers’ desire has been to restrain inflation. Prins maintains that the bankers and the IMF pressure Third World countries to adopt austerity policies, whereas Griffin holds that they prop up socialist and Communist dictatorships.
—-At the same time, to nuance the above two items, Prins also argues that the bankers prior to the Reagan era at least had a social conscience. Prominent bankers endorsed the Glass-Steagall Act under FDR in order to combat the reckless speculation that had led to economic disaster. The Rockefellers and other elite families felt a need to uphold their family name and thus initiated philanthropic projects. Whereas G. Edward Griffin contends that the international bankers liked war because that allowed them to lend to both sides and make money off the interest, Prins refers to bankers who opposed war and endorsed disarmament, since war could disrupt their economic interests. (John Birchers, of course, would be on board with her about bankers favoring disarmament, since that would coincide with their claim that the international bankers are seeking to create a one-world government). By contrast, Prins contends that, with the Reagan era, the bankers were largely focused on their personal and individual prosperity.
—-Another area of nuance, in Prins’s telling, is that the bankers took different positions. There were bankers who supported the tax cuts of JFK, LBJ, and Reagan, but there was also a concern that tax cuts could be inflationary, especially in the 1970’s. Bankers were concerned about inflation, yet there were Wall Street interests who saw Paul Volker’s high interest rates as too draconian in their attempts to squeeze out the last drop of inflation.
—-John Birchers tend to treat the international bankers and Presidents as part of a conspiracy. You will find some nuance from right-wing conspiracy theorists, though, since some allege that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated because he challenged the banking establishment. Prins presents a more complex picture. In her telling, some Presidents were closer to the bankers than others: Nixon and Reagan, for example, were distant from the Eastern establishment banking interests. At the same time, even Presidents who may not have been close to bankers could pursue their interests, as Reagan did, heavily. President Kennedy was criticized by banking interests because he sought to tax more heavily the business that they did abroad. Overall, though, Prins argues that Presidents have largely been beholden to the banking interests, since Presidents rely on Wall Street for political contributions. This goes for both Republicans and Democrats.
Who is right: the John Birchers or Nomi Prins? Well, both draw from primary sources about what people said and did. John Birchers may say that some positions are for show and do not reflect the bankers’ actual positions. But they themselves draw from what the bankers, the CFR, and the TC say when they argue that these interests support Communism or a one-world government. Why is some polite remark that David Rockefeller makes towards Communist China reflective of his position, whereas the data that Prins amasses are not? Both are probably reflective, on some level. That said, the John Birchers and Prins each highlights things that the other does not. (To her credit, though, Griffins’ book is cited by Prins, since she uses it as a secondary source that engages primary source information.) The John Birchers can point to examples of bankers’ support for Communists, whereas Prins can cite data about their support for democratic capitalism and opposition to Communism. The bankers may not care about whom they do business with, since their goal is to make money. Moreover, the Trilateral Commission may not have supported Communism, per se, but recognized that the West needed to find some way to co-exist with Communist countries and interact with them as established powers in their own right.
Some knowledge of economics can help a person with this book, which is why I struggled with parts of it. In addition, the narrative was useful and informative, but the book is not as juicy as one might expect from reading the cover and the summary.
I checked this book out from the library. My review is honest.