Sir, Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, has said that he doesn’t know whether Senator Elizabeth Warren, a critic of large banks, “fully understands the global banking system”. I do not think I understand the global banking system either.
Specifically, I do not understand why that system is incapable of functioning in a world where the banks borrow from the public at rates sometimes as low as 2 per cent and then lend the funds out at more than that, earning the difference. I thought that was what they were there for. I know it is what they used to do before they became modern, comprehensive, broad-based, one-stop financial institutions.
It is now essential, if I understand correctly, that Mr Dimon’s and other too-big-to-fail bastions of financial sophistication be provided funds at damn-near 0 per cent by the taxpayers, which they may eventually give back with, at best, a mumbled Thank You. This, I gather, is the only way to keep them alive. It also seems essential that they be encouraged to merge and become even bigger. I know they have political contributions to make, but are these really that enormous?
As a taxpayer, I don’t like what is happening to my money, and as a grandparent I like it even less when our political bigwigs (the recipients of those contributions) ensure that my grandson’s savings account also earns damn-near 0 per cent: this makes it hard to explain to him, as my father and grandfather explained to me, that a savings habit is a good thing to acquire early. My grandson is unimpressed, and I have no answers. He has heard me say, but it does not seem to register, that banks used to be smaller — even so small as to be manageable — and used to stick to banking, shunning the financial equivalent of the racetrack and the casino.
Brian A Jones
Brooklyn, NY, US
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