Is Corporate America in Denial About Trump?

There was anxiety in the thin mountain air when the planet’s economic leaders gathered in January at Davos for the 54th meeting of the World Economic Forum. Donald Trump had just trounced Nikki Haley in the Iowa caucuses, all but securing the Republican nomination for president. Haley was reliable, a known quantity. A resurgent Trump, on the other hand, was more worrying.

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The Davos attendees needed reassurance, and Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, had some to offer. In an interview with CNBC that made headlines around the world, Dimon praised Trump’s economic policies as president. “Be honest,” Dimon said, sitting against a backdrop of snow-dusted evergreens, dressed casually in a dark blazer and polo shirt. “He was kind of right about NATO, kind of right on immigration. He grew the economy quite well. Trade. Tax reform worked. He was right about some of China.” Asked which of the likely presidential candidates would be better for business, he opted not to pick a side.

“I will be prepared for both,” he said. “We will deal with both.”

Dimon presides over the largest and most profitable bank in the United States and has done so for nearly 20 years. Maybe more than any single individual, he stands in for the Wall Street establishment and, by extension, corporate America. With his comments at Davos, he seemed to be sending a message of good will to Trump on their behalf. But he also appeared to be trying to put his fellow globalists at ease, reassuring them that America, long a haven for investors fleeing risk in less-stable democracies, would remain a safe destination for their money in a second Trump administration.

Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, here testifying before Congress in 2023, has attempted to reassure global business leaders the economy would remain stable during a second Trump administration.Credit…Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

But would it? As Dimon noted, for all Trump’s extreme rhetoric in the 2016 campaign — his threats to rip up America’s international trade agreements and his attacks on “globalization” and the “financial elite” — his presidency, like most presidencies, proved to be business-friendly. Corporate America wound up with plenty of allies in the administration, from Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive; to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, a Harvard Business School-educated bankruptcy guru; to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, an aspiring Wall Street player. And the Trump administration’s economic agenda of reduced taxes and deregulation largely suited corporate America’s interests; JPMorgan saved billions of dollars a year thanks to Trump’s corporate tax cuts.

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