DAVOS, SWITZERLAND — The main topic of conversation at the World Economic Forum last week was the fate of the world under the US Presidency of Donald J. Trump.
Views on this topic ranged from fear to greed.
At a private lunch on Thursday, a number of high-profile attendees were asked to share a few thoughts about life under Trump. One of them was Jamie Dimon, the CEO of the US financial services firm, JP Morgan Chase.
Dimon has an admirable ability to rise above the consensus and noise and put things in a way people can relate to. His remarks were insightful and compelling.
Like most of the lunch speakers, Dimon did not share detailed personal views of Trump or Trump’s plans. Given the power of the Presidency, as well as today’s polarised political climate, there is too much at stake for that. Instead, Dimon provided a broader perspective — of technological progress, of the challenges in our society and economy, and of the Trump Administration.
Most Davos events are off the record unless speakers agree otherwise. After the lunch, Dimon kindly gave us permission to share the remarks below.
INTRODUCTION: There’s an elephant hanging over Davos, which is Donald Trump. Jamie, you actually know Donald Trump. How do you see the US economy under Donald Trump?
JAMIE DIMON: I’m going to take a longer term view. Because every time I come here, everyone gets very depressed about the local things [that people are worrying about at the moment]. There are legitimate concerns long-term, in my view, about nuclear war and policy and stuff like that. But the world has become a better place every 20 years for the last 2,000 years. Murder by mankind including war is coming down. When my grandfather was born, there was no healthcare. There were no aeroplanes. There were no boats. There were no trains. There were no communications. No Internet. No widespread knowledge. It will be a completely different world but a much better place in a hundred years. I’m not surprised that China is rising up. That’s happened every year since we’ve been here, so I’m surprised people are acting like it’s a tectonic shift.
The big thing I hear here all the time is that the problem we all missed — that the elite missed — is that we weren’t listening well, and people were suffering, and we didn’t know it. I just don’t think that’s true. We’ve always known that jobs, medicine, and healthcare matter and that we’ve had a problem with wealth inequality and lower-income wages. What I haven’t heard about is the solutions. And there are solutions. The reason it got so bad is bad public policy. People talk about productivity in America. We spent $2 trillion on war. We have an unbelievable regulatory policy. We’ve had two government shutdowns, sequestration… just bad policy…
America is going to be better in 10 years than it is today. And there are solutions. I think negative income tax is a big solution for the low-skilled, to give people a living wage and the dignity of a job. I think that technology is the best thing that ever happened to mankind. It’s an absurd notion that somehow, ‘My God, what are we going to do when driverless cars come along?’ It’s going to save lives on the road. And maybe one day we’ll all be working four days a week and not five or six days a week. In fact, I think in Europe they’re already down to four days a week. [Laughter.]
So I think people should take a deep breath and think more about what’s going to happen long-term and not just tomorrow.
Donald Trump has put some professional people around himself. Experienced. Successful. I know a lot of people seem to think that success and experience are reasons you shouldn’t serve in public office. But they are knowledgeable and smart and they have been around the world. And hopefully when we go from one-liners — forget the one-liners and tweets — to serious policy, maybe we’ll do the things that help America grow better and help the average American.