I have disappointed Jamie Dimon. I am, of course, loath to admit to this personal failure but, it has to be confessed. I have made the CEO of J.P Morgan Chase & Co. “tired” with my continual harping on how he and his banking brethren decide to spend their money.

I wish Jamie had possessed the courage to speak to me directly about this failure, on my part. However, he did not, and I had to hear about it from various press reports.

I should point out that, while I am certain I loom largest in Jamie’s mind, I suspect he is equally disappointed in many of you. Perhaps that, and not cowardice, was why Jamie chose to alert us via the press. There are simply too  damn many of us disappointing persons to contact individually. That being so, being a man of impeccable manners, Jamie felt it would be unfair to the rest of you if he contacted me directly and individually.

On the other hand, it could be that Jamie simply doesn’t give a damn about any of us. Perhaps he is simply pissed off at having to take any time from his busy day to deal with our chronic and unreasonable bile. Could that be it, you think?

Whatever his inter motivations, Jamie’s angst and aggravation is a symptom of a much larger political struggle between two competing concepts of the role of government in the American economy. It really isn’t his fault he is whiney. It is his job to maximize the returns to his shareholders and other stakeholders. I belong to neither of these populations. So, I can see how he may well ask himself, “What business of it is Copeland’s?”

Putting aside the huge bailout the U S taxpayers paid to save the banking system and J. P Morgan Chase, I have an interest in Jamie’s complaints because they relate directly to this political struggle that has, in no small way defined the nation. (Please do not insult your or my intelligence by saying that Morgan and Goldman Sachs were two banks that needed no bailout money but were made to take it. Had the rest of the financial system not been rescued, both those banks would have died an immediate death. Further, while it is clear Goldman Sachs staged the most brilliant daylight raid on the public treasury in all history through the payments they received indirectly from the government via AIG, I am not so certain as to Morgan’s take from this haul. Perhaps that will come to light in the near future.)

See, here’s the thing, beginning, more or less, with the election of McKinley as president, the nation began a sixty to seventy year march to protectionism. Not trade protectionism, though that was sometimes a part of it, but protection of the less gifted of us from the talents and energy of the most talented of us. This march to protection, whether it was called “Civil Service Reform” by Theodore Roosevelt, child welfare reform by various presidents, including Republican presidents, other labor reforms by a variety of presidents from both parties, the New Deal by Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, the massive infrastructure projects and programs of Dwight Eisenhower, the New Frontier of John Kennedy, the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson or the creation of NOAA and the EPA under Nixon, the march to protection, sometimes called the “nanny state,” was the consistent, primary national domestic policy of this nation until the administration of President Ford.

Oddly, beginning in Johnson’s administration, taking vicious root in Nixon’s and continuing unabated throughout time right on up to, and including, today, the national policy shifted away from protecting the less talented from the potentially voracious capacities of the most talented to freeing and empowering the most talented. Whether this effort is called “free trade, free movement of capital,” “tax relief,” “deregulation” or “privatization,” it was all part of removing impediments to business by removing protections covering the rest of the citizenry.

The Nixon and Johnson administrations, being cusp presidencies, were rather conflicted. Once past the cusp, it did not matter whether the president or the Congress were controlled by Democrats or Republicans, the guiding policy was to create a “playing field” that favored the most talented of us and worked against everyone else. Carter’s and Clinton’s policies were designed to accomplish this “encouragement” of the wealthy no less than Reagan’s or the family Bush. The only difference was of degree, not intent.

I would like to think that this policy of empowering the rich at the expense of the middle class and the poorer classes in our nation reached its zenith during the administration of George W. Bush. Bush pushed through (whatever you think about him, ‘W’ knew how to be president.) program after program of tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation and removal of protections and the general destruction of the heath delivery system. He did all this never having more than a two vote majority in the Senate and never more than a twenty vote majority in the House.

Moreover, ‘W’ had a genius for degradation and defilement of any program that protected the middle and lower economic classes. In spite of this assault on the middle and lower classes, he made many of those he hurt the worst love him for it. Though history may record him as the worst president, I think he was one of the most effective at pushing through the corporate statism by which we are now governed. More than any other president, ‘W’ marshaled the political power of corporate America to help push his programs through Congress. In doing so, he has left us with a tricameral legislature.

We now have what, in effect, are three houses of Congress: the Senate, the House of Representatives and the body of corporate lobbyists. While the last group does not get a direct vote on any issue, it does get to manipulate the legislative process and the electoral process in a way that grants it effective control over any congressional action on which a corporate consensus forms.

Nevertheless, the original two houses of Congress do still have some clout. That there are some representatives interested in all the “AIG emails” from the NY Federal Reserve Bank directing the company to violate the open records law is something that smacks of a reversal of the anti-protection policy. While the people we have in Congress probably have no interest in protecting anybody, the existence of these emails does offer a little leverage over leaders of the third house of Congress. The representatives can use these emails as leverage to extort some favor or other from the third branch. Maybe more campaign money, maybe a new plant somewhere, maybe an out and out payment for services rendered. Who can say?

How can you blame Jamie for being whiney and feeling put upon. Here he has the very man, Timothy Geithner, on whose watch at the NY Fed the AIG counter party payments were made, at one hundred cents on the dollar.  It was also on Geithner’s watch AIG was ordered to stonewall, in violation of federal statutes, the press and Congress about who received these payments.

Be charitable. Look at things from Jamie’s point of view. Jamie has worked hard.  He and his fellow bankers apparently own the current president as surely as they owned the last one. The bankers’ man is the U S Treasurer. Congress should be fully to heel. Yet, now these representatives are asking questions and complaining. That has to be frustrating.

Well, surely now, now that I have explained it, you can understand Jamie’s and other banker’s hurt feelings. I mean, how many times do Jamie and his banking brethren have to buy the damn government before it stays bought?

Mike Copeland

Mike Copeland

I am old enough to know better. I have a B. A. from Birmingham Southern College and a Master's in City Planning from Georgia Tech. I have worked in SC State government for over a decade leaving as the Deputy Executive Director of the State Budget and Control Board, the state's administrative agency. I have owned the Fontaine Company since 1984 and am the managing member of viscerality.com.llc a management, marketing and consulting company.

I am the author of several novels, some of which you may buy and read if you are of a mind to do so.

  1. Cliff Green

    Mike, your observation…”I think (George W. Bush) was one of the most effective at pushing through the corporate statism by which we are now governed” is right on. It’s called fascism.

  2. I agree GWB was a very effective president. I’m not sure why anyone thought the banks had some moral reason to act in the public interest.

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