By Simon Johnson, co-author of 13 Bankers (out in paperback on Monday)
Bill Daley, President Obama’s newly appointed chief of staff, is an experienced business executive. By all accounts, he is decisive, well-organized, and a skilled negotiator. His appointment, combined with other elements of the White House reshuffle, provides insight into how the president understands our economy – and what is likely to happen over the next couple of years. This is a serious problem.
This is not a critique from the left or from the right. The Bill Daley Problem is completely bipartisan – it shows us the White House fails to understand that, at the heart of our economy, we have a huge time bomb.
Until this week, Bill Daley was on the top operating committee at JP Morgan Chase. His bank – along with the other largest U.S. banks – have far too little equity and far too much debt relative to that thin level of equity; this makes them highly dangerous from a social point of view. These banks have captured the hearts and minds of top regulators and most of the political class (across the spectrum), most recently with completely specious arguments about why banks cannot be compelled to operate more safely. Top bankers, like Mr. Daley’s former colleagues, are intent of becoming more global – despite the fact that (or perhaps because) we cannot handle the failure of massive global banks. Continue reading