Jamie Dimon would like you all to stop discriminating against banks now.
The golden sun-god CEO of America's greatest bank, JPMorgan Chase, has become the last line of defense for the country's least-understood, least-loved minority, Banker-Americans.
His defining moment, his "I Have A Dream" speech, if you will (and you won't), came on Thursday at the University of Rochester's New York City Conference, where he was given an "Executive of the Year" award and appropriately introduced as a "CEO statesman," according to the American Banker.
There Dimon expressed wistful sorrow at the way the government has wrecked the economy and kept job growth horrible, simply because it can't stop getting in the way of America's banks, constantly pestering them about petty things like "regulation" and "solvency" and "where did all of our money go?"
"We have the widest, deepest and most transparent capital markets in the world. Why the hell are we so depressed?" he asked -- rhetorically, of course, because he already knew the answer: The government is why the hell we are so depressed. From the American Banker:
"We keep shooting ourselves in the foot," Dimon said, using "we" to refer to Washington policymakers. "The reason things are coming back so slowly isn't that things had to be that way. It was that we made it that way."
Economists have actually written entire long books about how maybe things actually did have to be this way, because of the financial bubble and crisis that bankers created, but who is counting?
Your money's just gone, OK? Asking a lot of questions isn't going to bring it back.
Speaking of which, Dimon had come from a Wednesday sit-down with Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo, in which he and the CEOs of other big banks peppered Tarullo with complaints about new financial regulations, Fed stress tests and the like. Apparently the meeting did not go well, because Dimon seemed to feel the need to do some venting before a friendlier crowd.
As is de rigueur on Wall Street these days, Dimon did genuflect to the Occupy Wall Street movement a bit, saying he even had "a few relatives" in the crowd of protesters. (Dear Jamie Dimon's Occupy Wall Street relatives, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We should talk.)
But he also said people shouldn't be mad at every bank, and certainly not at JPMorgan, the way they should be at, like, Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers or other banks that got into trouble during the crisis. JPMorgan was just fine, thank you, it didn't even need your stupid bailout money.
"That's just another form of discrimination," Dimon actually said, with words, in a room where his words could be reported by the American Banker and Forbes.
No, all JPMorgan did was invent the very credit derivatives that helped blow up the system, while also lending money to Lehman Brothers right up until its sudden death. More recently it was also lending money to the also-defunct MF Global. And it is the biggest of the too-big-to-fail banks, with $2.3 trillion in assets and the largest derivatives exposure of any bank in the United States.
Dimon, more in sadness than in anger, said he thinks the other thing the government needs to do, besides leave banks the hell alone, is put aside its partisan differences and slash government spending. That should fix the economy for good. The American Banker reports:
"We've got to get it done,' he said of the need to pass a debt reduction plan along the lines of the Bowles Simpson proposal. "It's obvious and not that painful to do." Instead of tackling such issues, Washington has blundered into financial services and "denigrat[ed] great institutions," Dimon charged.
Great institutions like JPMorgan. When will we learn?