When JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon testifies in the U.S. House today, he will present himself as a champion of free-market capitalism in opposition to an overweening government. His position would be more convincing if his bank weren’t such a beneficiary of corporate welfare.
To be precise, JPMorgan receives a government subsidy worth about $14 billion a year, according to research published by the International Monetary Fund and our own analysis of bank balance sheets. The money helps the bank pay big salaries and bonuses. More important, it distorts markets, fueling crises such as the recent subprime-lending disaster and the sovereign-debt debacle that is now threatening to destroy the euro and sink the global economy. (snip) In recent decades, governments and central banks around the world have developed a consistent pattern of behavior when trouble strikes banks that are large or interconnected enough to threaten the broader economy: They step in to ensure that all the bank’s creditors, not just depositors, are paid in full. Although typically necessary to prevent permanent economic damage, such bailouts encourage a reckless confidence among creditors. They assume the government will always make them whole, so they become willing to lend at lower rates, particularly to systemically important banks. Implicit Subsidy With each new banking crisis, the value of the implicit subsidy grows. In a recent paper, two economists -- Kenichi Ueda of the IMF and Beatrice Weder Di Mauro of the University of Mainz -- estimated that as of 2009 the expectation of government support was shaving about 0.8 percentage point off large banks’ borrowing costs. That’s up from 0.6 percentage point in 2007, before the financial crisis prompted a global round of bank bailouts. To estimate the dollar value of the subsidy in the U.S., we multiplied it by the debt and deposits of 18 of the country’s largest banks, including JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. The result: about $76 billion a year. The number is roughly equivalent to the banks’ total profits over the past 12 months, or more than the federal government spends every year on education. JPMorgan’s share of the subsidy is $14 billion a year, or about 77 percent of its net income for the past four quarters. In other words, U.S. taxpayers helped foot the bill for the multibillion-dollar trading loss that is the focus of today’s hearing. They’ve also provided more direct support: Dimon noted in a recent conference call that the Home Affordable Refinancing Program, which allows banks to generate income by modifying government-guaranteed mortgages, made a significant contribution to JPMorgan’s earnings in the first three months of 2012. Like all subsidies, the taxpayer largesse distorts supply. If the government supports corn farmers, you get too much corn. If the government subsidizes banks, you get too much credit. As of March, households, companies and government in the U.S. had amassed debts of $38.6 trillion, or 2.5 times the country’s gross domestic product. That’s up from 1.3 times in 1980. The picture is similar in the euro area, where debt outstanding is 1.8 times GDP, double the level of 1995.
I would have more faith in our system, if free-market capitalism actually actually didn't depend so heavily on government subsidies... as it is, this system is rotten, rotten, rotten, and fuck the enablers of this grotesquery.