It was always about the money, but over the past few years that truism has descended into a miasma of self-interested perversity that has begun to put the entire game at risk with more and more of the nation's economically disenfranchised sensing that they have become powerless in a system that looks only after the well heeled and well connected. The disparity between have and have nots has escalated to a degree that earlier generations of Americans after the Civil War would not have tolerated. The level playing field that was America, even with the occasional pothole, was a system in which Americans believed in and in and in which they took comfort and pride.
With the financial events of the past few years, and with the insatiable self-engorgement of the financial sector and a complicit or haplessly blind government, forever coming to the financial sectors rescue at the expense and risk to the nation at large, trust in our institutions has been profoundly shaken.
Rather than enough being enough and to add insult to injury, we are given another ignoble example of the tone deafness and the disregard with which the system now works
Over the past days we have learned that J.P. Morgan Chase, the nation's second largest bank, increased its CEO Jamie Dimon's 2011 payout by more than 50% of the initial value of that which Mr. Dimon received in 2010. Yes, I know, some ballplayers get paid more. But they don't have the ability to wreck people's lives by foreclosing on their homes as our government shovels our rescue money to the very same financial institutions who do, all the while covering their bonuses and salaries. We, at the very least, have the choice of going to the ball park or not.
Certainly, under Dimon's stewardship J.P. Morgan Chase brought home the bacon, making some $17.4 billion in profit, a gain of 48 percent from the year before. Big numbers deserve a big salary, or so we are told. After all, it's all about the money, Right? Well, maybe.
First of all, it's not hard to make big money if you have access to virtually cost-free money at the Fed window, or vast pools of money from your depositors accounts insured by you and me through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) giving Morgan almost limitless chips to speculate in the oil market (thereby helping to push oil prices ever higher without ever having to say thank you to us when we pay at the pump), or engaging in such community enhancing banking services, as reported by Reuters, that JP Morgan Chase "holds between 50 and 80 percent of the 350,000 tonnes of copper held in London Metal Exchange warehouses." Not to speak of extensive dallying in the silver market and on.
Certainly these forays into money-making commodity speculation must have held much of Mr. Dimon's attention. Clearly he was too busy to notice, or perhaps he didn't care (not much money here) when, in breach of law, members of our military on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan were being dispossessed of their homes by J.P. Morgan in contravention of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and while more than 4,500 servicemen were being overcharged on their mortgages and/or threatened with foreclosure. All the while the servicemen had tried to protect their rights in the courts trying to get J.P Morgan to obey the law (NYTimes Frank Rich Op-ed 02.12.11). A thimble of the money pouring into the J.P. Morgan's oil and copper trades could have easily accommodated a workout with our servicemen permitting them and their families to have a fragment of continuum in their lives.
Yet, in spite of the public opprobrium at J.P. Morgan's abrogation of its basic societal banking responsibilities, it clearly wasn't about the money in sufficient degree to garner the attention of Mr. Dimon and his entourage. That our soldiers were being stripped of their homes on Jamie Dimon's watch and to J.P. Morgan's shame clearly didn't figure in the compensation committee deliberations. Enterprise reputation and its mandate to being responsible tillers of the business soil doesn't come into play. You see, in this day and age and sadly more than ever before, it's all about the money.