IT BEGAN WITH Donald Trump’s racist tweets demanding that the four Democratic congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, go back to the crime-infested places from which they came.

All four women are American citizens and only one, Omar, was born overseas.

Last week, at a rally in North Carolina, Trump continued his attack, especially on Omar. In response, the crowd chanted “Send her back.”

The relevant question is not whether Trump is a racist; of course he is. Or whether he’s going to continue bashing these members of Congress who fill all his demonization boxes of Democrats, females, people of color, a Muslim; of course he will.

The real question is whether the people bankrolling Trump and the Republican Party are going to stop this rot before it consumes the politics of 2020 and perhaps more.

Early signs are not encouraging. Just before Trump’s North Carolina rally, the Republican National Committee released an ad attacking the Squad, as the four congresswomen have become known.

The ad opens with a clip of Ocasio-Cortez referring to migrant detention facilities as concentration camps, then saying “ ‘Never again’ means something,” referring to lessons from the Holocaust. This is followed by a clip from a 2018 primary debate where she asked her opponent, Joe Crowley, why he was willing to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement fascist, but not to call for its elimination.

It then cuts to Tlaib saying she agreed with Ocasio-Cortez’s concentration camp phrase and to Pressley saying “You will see the light. And if you don’t, we will bring the fire.” There follows footage of an attack on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Washington state showing a burned car and a facility in Colorado where an American flag was replaced with the flag of Mexico.

It’s profoundly misleading. The clips are all taken out of context. Pressley’s reference to fire was part of a statement calling for a humane system and noting that positive change happens either because people see the light or feel the fire.

Who is funding this? Much of the money that’s flowing into Republican coffers is coming from the same place it’s always come from: Wall Street.

Last year, JPMorgan Chase contributed $149,908 to the Republican National Committee. JPMorgan’s Chairman and Chief Executive Jamie Dimon is no racist. A few months ago, in a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago, he said white people don’t adequately understand racial discrimination.

“If you’re white, paint yourself black and walk down the street one day, and you’ll probably have a little more empathy for how some of these folks get treated. We need to make a special effort because this is a special problem,” he said.

JPMorgan isn’t the only Wall Street firm backing Republicans. Between April and June, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell collected $3 million, but just 9% of it came from individuals in his home state of Kentucky. The biggest block came from executives at Wall Street hedge funds such as the Blackstone Group ($95,400), KKR and Co. ($51,000), and Apollo Global Management and GoldenTree Asset Management ($65,100).

Why is Wall Street funding Trump’s Republican Party? Because it is delighted with what Trump and Senate Republicans are giving it: tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks.

Dimon was instrumental in getting the Trump-Republican tax cut through Congress. Last year, it saved JPMorgan and the other big banks $21 billion.

Trump and the Republicans also have given Wall Street more freedom. They defanged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and have allowed the banks to grow even larger, announcing more mergers and acquisitions in the first five months of 2019 than in any full-year period since the Street nearly imploded in 2008.

The result has been vastly more money for the Street. Last year’s bonus pool totaled $27.5 billion, more than three times the combined incomes of the approximately 600,000 Americans earning the minimum wage.

Since Trump’s inauguration, JPMorgan’s stock is up nearly a third. Dimon earned $31 million in 2018.

When asked recently how Trump was doing, Dimon gushed. “Regulatory stuff, good.” The summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un? A great idea.

He also complimented the administration’s negotiating tactic on China, and called the relationship between big business and the White House active and good.

When asked about Trump saying the Fed had gone crazy, Dimon said he had never seen a president who wanted interest rates to go up.

Wall Street and the CEOs of major corporations have made a hellish deal: ignore Trump’s repugnance and provide ongoing support for the Republican Party, regardless of its complicity, in return for high returns.

Perhaps they also believe that the flames of racism and xenophobia will distract the nation sufficiently for them to continue looting it.

But a deal with the devil can exact a large toll. Flames that distract now could lead to an uncontrollable conflagration.

The putative leaders of the American economy owe it to the nation. 

They must help douse this fire.

Robert Reich’s latest book is “The Common Good” and his newest documentary is “Saving Capitalism.”