Former Goldman Sachs boss Blankfein dishes on the markets, the economy and politics

Not being the CEO of what is arguably the most famous financial services firm in the world can be a liberating experience. During his 12 years as the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein was never exactly shy with his insights. Now in his first year of retirement, Blankfein is enjoying his freedom to speak a bit more freely. In a wide ranging interview at CME Group’s 12th annual Global Financial Leadership Conference, Blankfein flexed that freedom on an array of topics: 

On his recent Twitter spat with Senator Elizabeth Warren: With his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, Blankfein says the tweet he sent in response to being featured in one of Sen. Warren’s campaign ads should be viewed as “Impressionist art,” adding, “I’d like to meet with her so we can bury the hatchet.” Should Warren become the Democratic nominee for president, Blankfein, a long-time Democrat says he would have to give some thought about whether to vote for her or President Trump. 

On negative interest rates: Blankfein is not a believer in negative interest rates. “If you have a commodity, in this case money, that has no cost then markets get distorted. People won’t make as stringent of lending decisions.

On President Trump’s repeated attacks on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell: “I don’t support the assault on these institutions … but so far, the Fed is resisting.”

On the negativity attached to the state of the economy: Blankfein said he doesn’t understand why everyone is so unhappy with the economy when data points like the unemployment rate are so strong. “The sentiment is in excess of the actuality.”

On the possibility of a President Michael Bloomberg: Blankfein says people would find Bloomberg to be a savvy, measured and data driven administrator. “The hard road for Mike isn’t whether he’d be a good president, it’s if he could get the nomination.” Blankfein also added that the dynamics of New York City have changed since Bloomberg last ran for office. “I don’t know that he would get elected in New York today. New York is sort of Ground Zero for getting woke.”

On the tribalism in today’s politics: Blankfein lamented how candidates don’t move to the middle anymore. They run to the extreme, certainly in a primary, to make sure true believers vote. “I kind of miss … I wasn’t a guy with a cigar in a room, but I’m not sure we didn’t have better outcomes.”