JPMorgan’s CEO says “something is wrong” with America—especially the $900 billion in student debt

What could it be?
What could it be?
Image: Reuters/Larry Downing
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Jamie Dimon is worried about America. In his annual letter to shareholders (pdf) released earlier this week, the JPMorgan Chase CEO—whose yearly notes always catch the attention of the business world—found 45 pages’ worth of criticism to level at the US’s public policies. Chief among them were critiques on non-economic factors affecting national growth and productivity, such as housing and crime regulations. “It’s clear that something is wrong,” Dimon wrote.

He also zoomed in on one particular source of America’s troubles: the education system. Dimon mentioned the words “school” or “education” 31 times in the letter—dramatically more than even the number of times he described JPMorgan as “extraordinary” or “exceptional”—writing that inner-city schools are failing poor students and that high schools and institutions of higher education, particularly vocational colleges, are not preparing people well enough for work.

Dimon also noted:

Since 2010, when the government took over student lending, direct government lending to students has gone from approximately $200 billion to more than $900 billion—creating dramatically increased student defaults and a population that is rightfully angry about how much money they owe, particularly since it reduces their ability to get other credit.

There is a “deep and understandable frustration among so many Americans,” the CEO remarked. “It is understandable why so many are angry at the leaders of America’s institutions, including businesses, schools, and governments—they are right to expect us to do a better job.”

While some education experts quibble with Dimon’s condemnation of the way the federal government has handled student loans, his figures on the skyrocketing amount of student debt in the US are accurate. So, too, is his claim that less-educated Americans are increasingly being pushed out of job opportunities.

That point turned out to be one of the main rallying cries of Donald Trump voters last year; as US president, Trump now faces the task of delivering the educational overhaul that will be needed to create the kinds of job opportunities his supporters want to see.

Count Dimon among the concerned Americans who will be watching.