JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon put out his annual letter to shareholders earlier today and was forthcoming about his views on the current political picture, however, he neglected to take sides on the issues of the time, a posture common over his illustrious career.
“Our public policy failures are not partisan issues. Our problems are neither Democratic nor Republican – nor are the solutions,” Dimon writes in the 66-page letter. “Unfortunately, however, partisan politics is preventing collaborative policy from being designed and implemented, particularly at the federal level.”
Dimon did take aim at the parties in name, saying that Democrats need to acknowledge legitimate concerns of Republicans that “money sent to Washington often ends up in large wasteful programs, ultimately offering little value to local communities…while we need good government, it is not the answer to everything.”
Conversely, Dimon says Republicans need to “acknowledge that America can and should afford to provide a proper safety net for our elderly, our sick and our poor, as well as help create an environment that generates more opportunities and more income for more Americans.” He adds that “we should spend more – think infrastructure and education funding.”
Dimon famously said: “My heart is Democratic, but my brain is kind of Republican.” However, in 2021, silence around major political and cultural issues of the day is less acceptable, according to Judd Legum, a journalist who publishes a political newsletter called Popular Information.
JPMorgan Chase has waded into some of the major issues of 2021, pausing all political contributions in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and with Dimon himself speaking out against the recent voting restrictions passed in Georgia.
Dimon acknowledged one of the major points of contention on Capitol Hill in the letter, potential tax increases to pay for infrastructure, saying more spending could be warranted, even if it means higher taxes for the wealthy, adding that those with significant wealth should “keep in mind that if tax monies improve our society and our economy, those same individuals will be, in effect, among the main beneficiaries.”
“We must remember that the concepts of free enterprise, rugged individualism and entrepreneurship are not incompatible with meaningful safety nets and the desire to lift up our disadvantaged citizens,” Dimon adds. “We can acknowledge the exceptional history of America and also acknowledge our flaws, which need redress.”
Looking beyond the U.S. borders, Dimon says that the country can learn from the rest of the world, citing German and Swiss apprenticeship programs, healthcare in Singapore, infrastructure in Hong Kong and inclusion from Ireland, where a homosexual Indian immigrant was recently elected prime minister.
While exalting capitalism, he also mentioned the need for government regulation to ensure a fair and efficient system. This middle of the road outlook is not new coming from Dimon. Legum said that JPMorgan and its CEO have long struck a balance of keeping a good relationship on both sides of the aisle.
Looking at Dimon’s political donations, they don’t tell much of a story of a partisan bent, with marginal contributions in the 2020 election cycle to groups supporting Republicans in the Senate to the tune of $2,800 to the McConnell Senate Committee. However, his wife Judy, contributed $52,800 to the Biden campaign and political action committees supporting his candidacy. Judy Dimon also contributed to Biden, Cory Booker and John Delaney during the Democratic primary.
Duff McDonald has met with Dimon several times and published a book about his career in 2010 entitled “Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase.” He says that there is no doubt in his mind that Dimon is liberal, but that he is more focused on his job as CEO of a massive financial institution. Citing his consideration to serve as Treasury Secretary under President Obama, he says that Judy and Jamie Dimon are “very active in Democratic causes.”
“He has liberal tendencies, he’s a decent human being and not consumed by the tax code,” McDonald adds. “The mistake people often make with Jamie is not realizing that he advocates from his position as CEO of one of the largest banks in the country. He is a passionate advocate for his industry, as one should be but on a more personal level I would say he is one of the most genuinely progressive or liberal people I’ve met on Wall Street.”
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