Talk to people who know Jamie Dimon, the best banker in the business, and they will tell you that he really wants to work in government at some point in his career.
Given his political sensibilities (moderate Democrat), and skills (15 years running the nation’s largest bank, JPMorgan), Dimon should be a shoo-in as Joe Biden’s Treasury secretary and an easy confirmation by a likely GOP-controlled Senate.
That’s the logic of Dimon-as-Treasury-secretary mantra that I’ve been hearing on Wall Street since Biden’s still-contested, but near-certain, election as president. The country rejected progressivism up and down the ballot even in electing Biden by a thin margin. Dimon, meanwhile, is an imposing business leader with a conscience — he doesn’t spare lefty fools who vilify corporate America or Trump supporters with their trade-war fanaticism and denial of climate science. And let’s not forget he was the one banker who avoided the excesses that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
But in politics, namely the politics of a Democratic Party whose leaders spent the summer describing riots as largely peaceful protests, logic is rarely on the menu. So, barring something drastic, Biden is being advised to steer clear of anything Wall Street-related in terms of top cabinet choices, including Dimon, I am told by people with direct knowledge of the matter.
The brand of politics pushed by lefty firebrands such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and AOC may have been rejected nationally, but they still carry an allure inside the Democratic Party. At least for now, bankers aren’t welcome for marquee spots like Treasury in the new administration.
Which is a shame, because we really need Dimon — and there’s a strong possibility he would take the job if asked by Biden, people close to Dimon say.
Let’s start with the obvious: the pandemic economy is getting better, but it’s still not on sound footing. Dimon knows he can help soften some of Biden’s economic promises made during the campaign (massive tax increases on businesses and investors) that would make it worse.
Recall, even President Barack Obama (when Biden was VP) postponed his planned tax increases after he took office in 2009 because the aftershocks of the financial crisis were still evident.
Biden has said he would go forward with his tax hikes despite the current overhang of COVID-19 on businesses. Dimon would have the standing to make the case that Biden back off anything dramatic at least until a vaccine is widely distributed and people are back to work.
Ditto for anything that resembles Green New Deal-type spending.
People close to Dimon say that when he was asked in the past to run the Treasury Department (including just after President Trump was elected) he demurred. They also remind me that he has said he plans to stay at JPMorgan until 2023 — which means that could still make him available to run Treasury in a few years since many people who take this high-burnout job don’t make it through the president’s entire term. That also could give time for the left’s hold on Cabinet choices to possibly wane.
In the meantime, the second-stringers likely to get a strong look are economists like Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard and Roger Ferguson, who runs TIAA-CREF, a teachers pension fund. Both are smart and seen as less likely to draw the ire of AOC and Warren, particularly since Ferguson manages money for a major Dem constituency and Brainard spent much of her career in government, academia and think tanks.
Speaking of Warren, progressives losing House seats and likely GOP control of the Senate appears to have taken her name off any short list for Biden’s Treasury secretary, I am told. So even without Dimon, things could have been worse.
A JPMorgan Chase spokesman declined to comment.