Dimon Says iPhones, Cars Help Balance Out U.S. Income Inequality

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  • Paying CEOs zero "wouldn’t put a dent" in income inequality
  • Dimon comments in Detroit where bank is investing $100 million

Life is getting better in the U.S. even with stagnating wages for some workers, thanks to improvements in technology and cars, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon.

“It’s not right to say we’re worse off,” Dimon said Thursday at an event in Detroit in response to a question about declining median income. “If you go back 20 years ago, cars were worse, health was worse, you didn’t live as long, the air was worse. People didn’t have iPhones.”

While income inequality is a problem, slashing CEO pay wouldn’t help, he added.

“It is true that income inequality has kind of gotten worse,” Dimon said, noting that he wants things to get better for low- and middle-class households. Still, “you can take the compensation of every CEO in America and make it zero and it wouldn’t put a dent into it. What really matters is growth.”

Rising income inequality has become a heated political topic in the U.S. Hedge-fund managers are the target of Democrats and Republicans seeking the 2016 presidential nomination, and some Republicans in Congress have expressed openness to the idea of raising the tax rate on carried interest. Regulators are seeking to make it easier for shareholders to see the gap between what companies pay their leaders and the rest of their workforce.

Changes Needed

Dimon, 59, focused on how to grow the economy during a wide-ranging question-and-answer session conducted by “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd. The banker emphasized the need to overcome political gridlock to solve key problems, such as overhauling immigration, trade and entitlement programs and investing in “intelligent infrastructure.” Higher growth will help build more schools and improve training, enabling people to succeed, he said.

"To me, that’s what we should do," Dimon said. "Not just yelling at each other about who’s to blame.”

Dimon spoke at an event held by the Detroit Economic Club. JPMorgan committed last year to investing $100 million toward the city’s revitalization. 

“Yes, we can do a lot better for a lot of segments of our society,” Dimon said.

(An earlier version of this story was corrected to add Dimon’s reference to health and lifespan in the quote in the second paragraph.)