Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How Do They Not Get This?

Apparently the great minds over at JPMorgan haven't quite figured out the American mood as it pertains to everything outside of one street in New York City. This golden nugget from ABC News yesterday makes it into my new "How Do They Not Get This?" segment. 

JPMorgan thinks it'd just be a swell idea to go ahead and drop $138 million in mad fliff on some new corporate jets and a special hangar. Don't worry though, they're doing this thing the green way: it comes with a roof garden! Yes, that's right--JPMorgan is being awarded this lease from the state of New York because they've pledged to make the hangar a state-of-the-art "green building." Huh. So in order to save the environment, they're going to purchase a fleet of private jets that will eventually belch much more carbon than a passenger jet--I guess they can't be seen among the unwashed. Can anyone say greenwashing?

The article says that they're not using any of the $25 billion in TARP money to pay for their new toys. That's like saying, "It's OK honey, I didn't use any of your money to pay for my trip to Vegas with your sorority sister!" And now, at the end of the article, behold the money-est of all quotes I've seen this week, from none other than JPMorgan chair Jamie Dimon. Jamie, drop it like it's hot:
"When I hear the constant vilification of corporate America I personally don't understand it," Dimon said.
Well, he's right about that--clearly he hasn't poked his head out of that little financial bubble for quite some time. I would like to turn his question on his head and ask why AIG, JPMorgan and others don't understand basic fairness. How do they not get this? We were already struggling and had to spend our tax dollars to save these guys from their own incompetence, and they repay us by writing themselves massive bonuses and buying new jets. As President Obama said on 60 minutes, these guys need to spend a little time outside of New York. 

But I think the best way to describe this move comes from Nell Minow, a corporate watchdog quoted in the article:
"There are going to be business school case studies for generations about exactly these decisions, and people will be learning forever about what incredible stupidity these executives showed," said Minow.
Look, don't get me wrong. I think capitalism is the best system ever devised for the exchange of goods and services. With enough hard work, smart moves and some luck, a high school dropout can become a self-made millionaire. But like democracy, the whole thing can collapse in the blink of an eye when there's too much power in too few hands. Our founders understood that pure democracy is nothing more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner, and so we got a republic. In the same way, we have allowed the balance of power in our economy to shift into the hands of people like Dimon, who have become so insulated from reality that they've lost their grip on it.

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