Dimon is the chief executive of
JP Morgan Chase, and wrongdoing by him and the CEOs of other big corporations is more responsible for Trump's election than anything Russia dreamed of, as I'll explain. "A big chunk of [Americans] have been left behind," Dimon said, unveiling a new $350m program to train workers for the jobs of the future. "Forty percent of Americans make less than $15 an hour, 40% ... can't afford a $400 bill, whether it's medical or fixing their car; 15% of Americans make minimum wages, 70,000 die from opioids."
All true, but $350m over five years isn't even a drop in the ocean of Americans who have been left behind. Nor is it a large sum for JP Morgan, America's biggest bank, whose profits last year alone amounted to $35bn. The annual budget of the US Department of Education is $70bn. Dimon's own compensation package was $31m last year, and his reported net worth is $1.3bn. Besides running JP Morgan, Dimon also chairs the Business Round-table, composed of the CEOs of America's largest corporations, whose 2018 profits broke all records. Due to vast amounts they spend lobbying and donating to politicians, these CEOs also have more influence over what happens in Washington than any other group of people. They were instrumental in gaining passage of the Trump tax cuts, which they predicted would generate a wave of corporate investment and boost wages. Instead, the tax cuts generated a tsunami of stock buybacks (more than $910bn last year, an all-time high) that boosted their own pay and the stock prices of their companies, but have done little for average workers. The Business Round-table's motto "More than Leaders. Leadership" suggests some higher purpose than making the rich richer, but CEOs like Dimon say their hands are tied. Their responsibility is to their shareholders. But why, exactly? If Dimon and the others were serious about helping most American workers whose real wages have been going nowhere for decades and job security is dwindling, they could use their outsized political influence to push for laws requiring CEOs to consider all their stakeholders, not just shareholders. Rather than make it harder for workers to unionize, they could fight to make it easier, and to give workers larger voice in management decisions and a greater share of the profits. Rather than reflexively seek tax cuts, they could push to raise taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans like themselves, so there'd be more school funding to prepare American kids for the jobs of the future. They could seek a higher minimum wage, a larger Earned Income Tax Credit, universal healthcare, and other measures to make left-behind Americans more secure. If this sounds far-fetched, that's only because we've come such a long way from the era of the 1950s to the 1970s when the heads of big American businesses viewed themselves as "corporate statesmen" and lobbied for measures to improve the well-being of all Americans. Those CEOs supported civil rights, argued that unions "serve the common good," urged stronger environmental protections, and even backed campaign finance reform. But then came the 1980s corporate raiders, Wall Street "greed is good" manipulators, Ronald Reagan's market fundamentalism, union-busting, and a gusher of corporate money into politics. Since then, most Americans have come to believe the system is rigged in favor of big corporations and the Street, and they're right. But nothing is stopping Dimon and other major CEOs from putting an end to the rigging.