WASHINGTON — JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said Monday that political score-settling between Democrats and Republicans is standing in the way of real and sustained growth, which he said would contribute to ending social issues like income inequality.
Speaking during a gathering of the Economic Club of Washington, Dimon said that both political parties have legitimate arguments and perspectives — Democrats emphasizing the need to invest in common resources like transportation infrastructure and Republicans targeting the need to curb wasteful spending. But the failure to bridge those priorities is keeping the U.S. economy in low gear, he said, and whenever those issues are finally resolved, substantial growth will again be possible.
"The Democrats are right; we need more infrastructure. The Republicans are right; they're afraid of just raising taxes to keep up with spending," Dimon said. "This is a perfect place where you get people in a room … and figure out a way to do this in a way that you improve it and build the [projects] that you actually need. If the president took care of those things … the economy would be booming. I don't believe this argument of secular stagnation and permanent [low growth] — it would be booming."
Dimon said the U.S. has some significant advantages — abundant natural resources, peaceful neighbors, a functioning system of justice and rule of law, an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit and hard workers — that people often forget. Partisan politics are blinding ordinary Americans to the potential that is being squandered by not working together, he said.
"America has the best hand ever dealt to any country on this planet, ever," Dimon said. "We have it all. We have been shooting ourselves in the foot in my opinion. What we need is not this Democratic and Republican bullshit."
Dimon went on to say that other areas also need common solutions, pointing to performance metrics in inner-city schools that he described as "a disgrace" and income inequality issues. He added that there is a legitimate argument to be made that regulatory overreach — not just in the financial sector — is holding back certain industries from their innate potential, but said that businesses should also be willing to look past their narrow interests or those of their industries when they communicate with regulators in Washington.
"I think there's a serious issue on reducing the regulatory burden on the economy," Dimon said. "I also think, as a businessperson, the interest of the country should be put before the interests of your industry or the company."
When asked about whether the Federal Reserve should raise interest rates at its regular meeting Sept. 20-21, Dimon unambiguously said that a 25-basis-point increase would be "a drop in the bucket" and that he would prefer the Fed "go sooner rather than later." He also said that he believed that the fallout from the U.K.'s decision in June to leave the European Union could be contained, but that the lingering concern is that the so-called Brexit vote "would cause the EU itself to unravel."
Regarding post-crisis regulatory reforms, Dimon said that he believed that banks — including his own — are far better capitalized since the 2008 financial crisis, and that much of that capitalization was due to Dodd-Frank and other regulatory improvements. He said JPMorgan Chase now has $500 billion in capital, which he said is enough to "bear the losses of all 31 [systemically important] banks" based on the Fed's stress-testing analysis.
But he also said that the law conferred sweeping authority to regulators in some areas, and that power has perhaps exceeded its intended purpose. Like any piece of legislation, it could be improved as its application is better understood over time, he said.
"Barney Frank and I agree that some of the things that were put in there after the fact shouldn't have been in," Dimon said. "So it is what it is. I have to deal with it, and it's the law of the land."