Jamie Dimon, head of JP Morgan Chase, has decided to stick his neck out and become one of the first bank CEO’s to offer a statement regarding Occupy Wall Street:
“Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and that everyone who is rich is bad,” he said. “I just don’t get it.”
Now full disclosure – I happen to have inherited a small amount of JP Morgan Chase stock. It’s not the sort of company I’d invest in on my own and I’m actually waiting for the right moment to sell it. I also have a close friend who’s involved in the banking industry, and seems to have the same sentiment expressed above. A sense of being “under attack” from OWS seems to be common among the banking industry.
Finally, I’m not an OWS guy myself. I certainly sympathize with the goals and concerns of Occupy Wall Street, but I frankly just don’t like protesters. My opinion on protesters was sealed when I went by an air show once and saw some protesters there with their various costumes and irrelevant antics. It just seems so ineffective, such a poor method of trying to spread one’s ideas. It’s off-putting to those who are not already one of the protesters. I’m not a “mic check” guy and I’m not a “sparkle fingers” guy, I’m just a dude who is sick of seeing our society become more stratified and our government become more corrupted by the Chamber of Commerce and other large industry lobbyists. Thus, my role is limited to that of sympathizer rather than participant.
But I’m getting too far afield here. I am still an OWS sympathizer, and I do still have something to say about Mr. Dimon and others who think like him.
When Mr. Dimon says he “doesn’t get it”, he’s absolutely right. OWS, for me anyway, is not about calling rich people “bad.” Instead, OWS is saying to the wealthy, “YOU DON’T OWN US.” I don’t care how someone got to be wealthy or how they feel about the fact that you make tons of money running a for-profit machine, I care about them using their wealth to take over our government and society and to subjugate the rest of us.
It did not make me angry when I heard that health insurance companies made record profits last year, but it made me angry when they used those profits to bribe politicians with campaign cash to kill the public option, the one realistic chance we had of controlling health care costs in this country. It makes me angry when I hear about for-profit prisons bribing judges with straight cash to lock up kids for as long as possible. It makes me angry when the recession hits, and the first thing the government does is bail out big banks and the car industry (and don’t buy into the bullshit that the bailout was free, based on what is being considered in “bailout” the cost ranges from billions to trillions) and gives out tax cuts and corporate welfare as “stimulus”, but does NOTHING to directly employ the people who are without jobs as a result. It makes me angry when I see the US Chamber of Commerce, a behemoth organization that claims to represent “the interests of over 3 million businesses”, using it’s huge resources to mislead voters into picking their hand-picked candidate in Ohio, and to prevent important steps on health care reform and getting the country off fossil fuels for the sake of short-term profits. I get angry when scientists attack the science of global warming in attention-grabbing articles, and then admit that they were bribed by coal and oil companies to do it.
Then, after reading about these and many, many, similar stories of corruption of our government by the wealthy, I hear about the widening income gap and collection of wealth at the highest levels, where the top 1% controls 35% of America’s net worth, and get worried that this sort of thing is only going to get worse. I see the growing and accepted importance of being “well-connected” and having a “strong network”, the increasing trend by which the wealthy stay wealthy by getting the best jobs, the lack of upward mobility – and think that it’s already significantly affecting each and every one of us. We no longer need to stop the wealthy from taking over, because they already have control of both our government and our society. Now, it seems as if they (by which I mean the few but powerful among the super-wealthy that don’t think they have enough power yet) are trying to stamp out what little power the rest of us have.
If Mr. Dimon and the like-minded bankers who doubtlessly agree with him (or have more extreme beliefs) but are unwilling to speak up would like to see OWS go away, don’t give up being rich. We don’t want your fucking money, you can keep it. Instead, STOP USING YOUR MONEY TO DOMINATE EVERYTHING. Then we’ll like you, we promise. When a small group of people uses their power to seize control, that usually tends to cause anger among those whose power they’re taking.
Still, Dimon deserves credit for saying a mild version of what many in Wall Street are thinking. And can you blame them? The average banker gets up early in the morning, works long hours, and feels that he or she has really earned the large paycheck (ignore for the moment that any working-class grunt would change places with them any day). That’s why it’s important to acknowledge that people who work harder should get paid more, and maybe should get a somewhat faster and better-looking car than the rest of us. In fact, no one really disputes that. But when the difference in income gets so massive that it threatens the health and well-being of the poor and allows the wealthy to effectively act as a tyrannical super-legislature, that’s a big fucking problem, and the rest of us will NOT stand for it. Especially when something like your parents’ position in society* seems to be the prime determinant of whether you have the chance to make that kind of money.
So if you’re someone who “doesn’t get” OWS like Mr. Dimon, maybe the above rant can help you understand it a little better.
*There’s no doubt that Jamie Dimon got to where he is in part by hard work, but do you think maybe if his father wasn’t a broker in the banking industry, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be where he is now? This article suggests not:(“Weill [Dimon’s mentor and source of his first job after his MBA] knew Dimon’s father and the two families had formed a close relationship, convening annually for Passover dinners.”) Of course Dimon was kind enough to return the favor by hiring his dad at JP Morgan, presumably passing over some person who would have otherwise gotten the job but for lacking the benefit of nepotism.