By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 20, 2015
Judging by the speed at which U.S. billionaires are going unfiltered on the airwaves and in print, the U.S. may soon find itself indelibly defined as a nation of well-heeled meatheads.
Yesterday we reported on billionaire Sandy Weill, whose crackpot idea of a financial supermarket and rollback of the Glass Steagall Act resulted in his becoming a billionaire despite the implosion of his creation, Citigroup, in 2008. Citigroup became the largest banking bailout in U.S. history and a catalyst for the largest U.S. downturn since the Great Depression. Now in their twilight years, Weill and his wife, Joan, have nothing better to do than attempt to gut a dead man’s will in order to chisel Joan’s name into the façade of Paul Smith’s College, a 1,000-student campus in New York’s Adirondack mountains.
As the Weill article evolved, reflecting a life-long pattern of “let them eat cake,” a legitimate concern came to mind that aging will only accentuate the bad behavior of America’s one percenters if average Americans don’t grab the high road and call out the behavior.
Thoughts quickly moved to what JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon might be like at 80. In 2014, the same year that JPMorgan became the first major Wall Street bank in history to receive a deferred prosecution agreement for felony actions in the Bernie Madoff matter, and in a year in which it rarely left the front pages of the business press for charges of assorted malfeasance against consumers, Jamie Dimon was mailing out a Christmas Card so lacking in humility that it went viral within moments of arriving in mailboxes.
The card featured wide angle views of Dimon and his family in casual clothing, gleefully playing tennis (yes, tennis) in their lavishly appointed living room. Chris Hayes at MSNBC said the image suggests “hey, we’re so rich we can destroy our own stuff.” Matt Vella at Time Magazine called it “maddeningly tone deaf.”
In 2013, Dimon actually bragged in public about his outsized wealth by putting down a lower salaried Wall Street analyst at the company’s own investor conference. In response to a question posed by banking analyst Mike Mayo, as to whether higher capital at rival bank UBS might create a competitive headwind for JPMorgan, Dimon responded:
Dimon: “You would go to UBS and not JPMorgan?”
Mayo: “I didn’t say that; that’s their argument.”
Dimon: “That’s why I’m richer than you.”
And, of course, who can forget Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein telling The Times of London that he’s “doing God’s work.” Goldman Sachs is, of course, the firm that created and sold Abacus to its customers, a deal knowingly designed to fail.
Against this unseemly background comes the quintessential presidential candidate to complete America’s image as a nation of arrogant egomaniacs whose crass ruminations are trumpeted to the masses by corporate media.
In a recent column, George Will, the conservative columnist, called Donald Trump an “unprecedentedly and incorrigibly vulgar presidential candidate. It is his right to use his riches as he pleases. His squalid performance and its coarsening of civic life are costs of freedom that an open society must be prepared to pay.” Will goes on to depict Trump as an “interloper” and a cynical opportunist “deranged by egotism.”
Progressive columnist, Maureen Dowd, of the New York Times conducted a recent interview with Donald Trump. Quips from Trump include the following:
“Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10…”
“I can’t hit people who don’t hit me. Maybe that’s my weakness. Perry started it. Lindsey Graham started it. This moron Rand Paul just started it because he is mired in 12th place and he’s a U.S. senator…” In other comments about Rand Paul, Trump adds:
“Tiny little guy. Did you see the press release I put out about Rand Paul? Pretty brutal, right? A nasty, nasty guy. I gave him a lot of money for his eye center. I played golf with him. I’m a good golfer. I’ve won 18 club championships. And he’s a golfer and I killed him. I could play him a thousand times and never lose to him.”
This is America, circa 2015, where the man leading the polls for Republican presidential candidate speaks with the unfiltered mouth and ego of a pubescent adolescent, flaunting his athletic conquests and measuring women with numerical scores.