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58 mins

The Problem With The Economy

Jon Talks With Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase

In the United States, we pride ourselves on having a free market economy—but we don’t actually have one. Corporations are given endless help while workers often struggle to survive. Jon sits down with Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, to discuss these two sides of the economy.

The Problem with Jon Stewart Podcast
Episode 4 Transcript

Jon Stewart: What’s nice about me is, I try every scam once.

Jay Jurden: All right.

Jon: I’ve lost – I – My first gig in Vegas, I blew my entire two week paycheck first night at the craps table. First time in New York City, three-card monte right down the drain. Like I am the guy that they point to and go, “Hey, you’re new in town, let me show you the ropes.” And it turns out the ropes are them taking my money.

Jay: Jon, I, your name is Jon, but it’s also Mark.

[JON LAUGHS]

Jay: That’s how that works out.

[INTRO MUSIC]

Jon: Ladies and gentlemen, once again, welcome to the podcast. I’m with writer Jason P. Jorgansinsin III. You’re from – Jay. His name is Jay Jurden, but I like I like to –

Jay: You used my full Swedish name. You know, my ancestry.

Jon: – That’s exactly right, Jay. I like to. I like to bring, you know, I like to learn little biography facts about everybody on the staff, for instance Jay –

Jay: You mean blackmail? That’s what that implies.

Jon: – That’s, that’s absolutely correct. The good news for you guys is I completely make up those biographical facts, so there’s really no basis for any kind of blackmail. Uh, Jay, do you know who’s the guest on the podcast today? Do you know who the –

Jay: I do it’s Jamie Dimon, who’s the CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

Jon: So this is interesting, you bring this up, he’s actually the teller at my local –

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: – JPMorgan Chase, happens to have the same name. My real question is when you chain up the pen.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: And really does it, it feels like you’re assigning a value to the pen that I don’t think is warranted.

Jay: I don’t know. JP Morgan or Chase, but I did go to Ole Miss, so I went to a bunch of frat parties with guys of that ilk –

Jon: You’re talking about Runnin’ Rebels?

Jay: Yeah. No, not Runnin’ Rebels, just regular rebels. That’s UNLV.

Jon: Oh, you’re right. UNLV is the Runnin’ Rebels. Ole Miss is just the rebels.

Jay: Just the rebels. Which –

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jay: – Historically –

Jon: It’s the Sandinistas, that’s what I’m going to say.

Jay: Yeah, 100 percent. Yeah, I think that it’s those those specific rebels, I can’t think of any other conflict.

Jon: Jay Jurden, when you’re going to school in a place, you have to walk in buildings where the nickname of the school is the side that was fighting to keep you out of that school –

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: – What goes through the mind?

Jay: You go, “Oh man.”

[JON LAUGHS]

Jay: “Did I get my movement template for theater today?”

[JON LAUGHS]

Jay: That’s what I think. I think, “Oh man, am I off book for my street car scene?”

Jon: Let me ask you a question, Jay, what is movement class? Because it’s the go to kind of comedy trope of acting class. I don’t know what it is. Clearly, if you’ve seen my my oeuvre, you know, I haven’t taken acting classes. So what’s movement class?

Jay: You learn how to use the body as a performer –

Jon: Interesting

Jay: – I mean every – you roll around on the ground.

Jon: What’s the tuition on a class like that?

Jay: Oh, at Ole Miss? For me? I mean, not a lot.

Jon: All right. Fair enough. Jay Jurden, we’re going we’re going to talk to Jamie Dimon. We’re actually recording this after I talked to him. I talked to him for over an hour.

Jay: I’m sorry.

Jon: And when we’re done we’ll have solved the economy, as you can imagine. He and I perhaps disagreed robustly, and I think I’m a little more experienced at this than old Jamie Dimon.

Jay: It took an hour to solve the economy. What did you do for the other 45 minutes?

Jon: It took, can I tell you something? It took about 10 minutes to solve it, and then we just talked about holiday plans.

Jay: Oh, that’s beautiful.

Jon: Yeah, pretty nice. And you know what he did?

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: At the end of it?

Jay: What?

Jon: He said, “Now I have all your money.”

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jon: While I was talking to him. He had we – he had a siphon. The whole thing was just a misdirect.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jay: It was just a scam.

Jon: It was the whole thing was a scam for him to suck the money out.

Jay: You played three-card monte with Jamie Dimon for an hour and lost.

Jon: And at the end of it, I just stood there going, I was f***ing sure that it was under that one folded card. I was short.

Jay: Just a folded Chase Bank card.

Jon: We’re excited, though. So I hope you guys enjoy the conversation and then you can send your angry comments and emails to Jay Jurden, care of the rebels of Ole Miss.

[JAY LAUGHS]

Jay: Hotty Toddy.

[MUSIC CUE]

Interview with Jamie Dimon

Jon: I’m new to the podcast game.

Jamie Dimon: Yeah, me too, actually. So, uh.

Jon: Is that true? You’ve not done a ton of these?

Jamie: I’ve done two. I did one for David Axelrod.

Jon: Right.

Jamie: And one for David Novak.

Jon: So I’m your first non-David.

Jamie: That’s correct. That’s a good point.

Jon: Wow. That’s what I’m here to do.

Jamie: My first Jon.

Jon: Point out, point out, salient features. And I know you’re busy, so we’ll jump in. We’re talking to Jamie Dimon, who I think is in, are you in the loan department at JPMorgan or are you I’m not sure what department you’re in.

Jamie: I’m in the large loan department.

Jon: The large loan department. So here’s the premise, and it’s simply this, uh you are obviously a fan of free enterprise. You’ve spoken about that.

Jamie: Mm hmm.

Jon: I don’t believe we have a free market capitalist system. And I want to hear your take on that, because we’ve always been told that the choice in this country is between Free market capitalism and socialism. I don’t believe we have free market capitalism. And I believe that socialism has become a catchall for any programs and subsidies that help labor as opposed to investment. So that’s the premise of it and we can chew on it from there. Do you agree or disagree that we have a free market capitalist system?

Jamie: Well, you know, in my view, we’ve never really had a free market capitalist system and we’ve always had a fairly heavily regulated, for better or worse, you know, not all regulations are good, not all regulation is bad, but we do have a market economy. You know, when you wake up in the morning, you go work where you want, people invest where they want, we have freedom of enterprise and freedom of capital and freedom of human nature. But if you mention fairness. No, it hasn’t been totally fair. There have been a lot of winners, a lot of people left behind. You know, in this society, we want opportunity. You know, have inner city school kids been given opportunity? No, their schools have failed them. We don’t train them in jobs. You know, we want everyone to have this kind of opportunity and we need good regulations and good government to have a system work better for everybody. It has lifted two billion people out of poverty. You know, I am unabashed about, you know, this country is a shining city on the hill., and I don’t like it when people denigrate this country. That does not mean we can’t recognize its flaws. Those are two different things.

Jon: But though – they’re not necessarily portrayed as two different things.

Jamie: That’s correct.

Jon: And it’s interesting even to hear you say, “Yeah, I don’t think we have… I think we have a market economy, but not a free market economy.” Because if you were to watch CNBC or any of those other programs or if you hear politicians talk about capitalism, the point is always that the outcomes of our system are dictated by the invisible hand or by market issues.

Jamie: Mm hmm.

Jon: And if you don’t recognize how much intervention, whether it be from the Fed or through tax policy or through legislation, occurs in our economy, you begin to think that if I’m a loser in this economy, that’s a natural order of things. You said something earlier that I thought was really interesting and that was, “We have the freedom to move around, to do what we want,” and I think I would, I would say we don’t. I would say that there are many people in this country, millions and millions of people who are trapped in a kind of perpetual stasis, not necessarily even poverty, as it’s defined by the government, but are trapped in this economy.

Jamie: There’s truth to that, but you have to look at – we have an unbelievable, prosperous, vibrant economy with unbelievable schools and businesses and innovation and growth and doctors and medicine and Googles. And it’s it’s kind of unbelievable, I mean, when you travel the world, you don’t kind of see that innovation, that growth everywhere. It has done a great job for many, if not most. Again, that does not mean that it’s done a good job for everyone. There are people trapped. And so if you look at the health care, when people don’t have medical insurance, you look at inner city schools, where half the kids don’t graduate. Obviously, largely minorities. You know, if you look at ex-felons, who don’t have a chance for jobs. Yeah, there are a lot of people trapped. And I think it’s a very reasonable thing to say, “Hey, let’s, here’s some people left behind. What are we going to do?” Just like you would in your family, by the way, you know, a lot of people, well-off people, you know, they take care of their family members who aren’t necessarily well off. And you know, it doesn’t mean you have to change the freedom of people and the freedom of enterprise, which created all these great things. It means you should acknowledge its flaws and do something about it.

Jon: The way I’m hearing you talk about it, is that that’s a bug in the system. That a bug in the system is that there are some people, a few people that don’t necessarily share in this grand prosperity that free market has given us. But I would say, given the amount of people, it’s more of a feature of the system. Do you think our economy over the past 60 years has gone too much to the side of the investor class and has not gone in any way beneficial, or in maybe small measure beneficia,l to the labor class?

Jamie: I think 60 years, uh, is too far, but I would agree, if you go back just the last 20 years –

Jon: I was speaking to since like Reagan and Clinton, when deregulation and those kinds of things first came into play.

Jamie: – Again the economy has done very well in general. And when you say it’s a feature, no, I think look, the American public looks at some of the flaws. Okay, and they’re severe. You know, when you look at the swamp of Washington, it’s true, there are special interest groups, there are special taxes. And I think it’s gone far too far. I think that the things, the flaws we’ve already pointed out health care, education, wages, those things, it’s gone too far and is too big and has become a kind of a fault line in America’s kind of why we have this fraying of American capitalism. Again, my view would be, fix things, but don’t destroy the thing that got us here and it is free enterprise.

Jon: I think that’s the I think the pernicious lie that we’re told is, “trying to fix things, destroys the thing that got us here.” It feels like we’re given a false choice. You can either have Venezuelan socialism or you just have to accept a system that 10 percent of the population controls 80 percent of the stock market.

Jamie: I, again, I think it’s fixable. It should be fixed. But let me give you a very specific example.

Jon: Right.

Jamie: So socialism is where the state owns productive assets. If you have a situation like that, if you read history when the state owns productive assets, those companies start to be used for political purposes, not for what the people want, and they start to control just about everything over time. And it’s a really a terrible, slippery slope. So the American public, people say, well, Sweden is an example of a healthy socialist system. Now you may not know this, Sweden has more less public owned run assets than America. So public owned assets are things like, you know, utilities and hospitals and things like the companies and stuff like that. It’s actually more of a free market system. They let their companies live or die and stuff like that. What they have is a very healthy, well-run social system, social safety nets and education system. Those things we should model against them, we should say you can have in that world the best of both.

Jon: But Jamie, that’s exactly my point. My point is that most of the people that are advocating for changes in the legislative policies and the monetary policies are advocating for a stronger social safety net, but it’s portrayed as socialism. I don’t think – the socialism that politicians use as a cudgel against workers is not the one that you’re describing, it is the one from Sweden, but it’s referred to as the other one that you’re describing, which is Venezuelan style, state owned, production facilities of oil or whatever it is, like you say, the other commodities and the other assets. But that’s the bait and switch, I think. Is it not?

Jamie: Well, no. Then, then we totally agree.

Jon: No, I know that we agree.

Jamie: Sweden is a free enterprise market system, which is very well regulated with good policies that takes care of a lot of its people.

Jon: First of all, the headline to me is “Jamie Dimon comes out in favor of Swedish style social democracy.”

[JAMIE LAUGHS]

Jon: Which will be… that’s a fantastic change, but that’s not the conversation we have in this country and you’ll see that if somebody advocates for a higher minimum wage, that’s called socialism. If somebody advocates for health care, that’s socialism. It’s used as a cudgel. And so they’re not talking about fixing a system, they’re using volatile language to keep us from reforming capitalism.

Jamie: Yeah, so you may be surprised, but you know, the Business Roundtable, which you know, changed it’s, what it looks at, is that we have to take care of customers, employees, communities in addition to shareholders, uh actually wants minimum wages to go up. You know, we want to fix the inner city schools. We want to have proper immigration systems. We actually have a lot of policies that would improve the safety net around health care.You know, and the system needs a lot of work to make it work for everybody.

Jon: But then, Jamie, I so here’s where I think we get into the difficulty, which is, that the Business Roundtable, signs on to all kinds of socially responsible kinds of, I don’t know, preset whatever you want to call them, when given the chance to advocate for policies that would make that possible, almost always fight against them, even for you guys. 2017, everybody lobbied for that corporate tax cut. Well, the social policies that you’re talking about that the Business Roundtable would supposedly support, cost money. And any kind of push to raise a corporate tax rate is fought tooth and nail by yourself, JPMorgan, the Business Roundtable. The biggest obstacle is actually corporations like yours, the Business Roundtable corporations. Those seem like the biggest obstacles for us to actually implement the kind of changes that you yourself are supporting.

Jamie: It’s, you know, here we have a disagreement here, so we –

[JON LAUGHS]

Jon: Oh my god. That makes a great podcast!

Jamie: – Yeah, exactly. We need a competitive tax rate. And if you don’t have a competitive, I don’t want to get into all the detail, you will actually hurt –

Jon: I think we’re going to have to.

Jamie: – America’s jobs and marriage woes, stuff like that. I personally, okay, have talked about higher taxes on the rich, I’m okay with that. We should tax carried interest, which only goes to a handful of people. There are a lot of tax breaks that should be gotten rid of. The rich are going to pay more. I’m not arguing that, but so the business community, when you look at business tax and talking about long term American competitiveness, that is an issue. And if you don’t believe me, go to some of these other countries where what they’ve done is they dramatically damaged their their businesses ability to compete through a whole bunch of different things and therefore, the citizens of that country on average are worse off. That is a bad idea.

Jon: But that sounds like extortion. That sounds like you got a nice standard of living there, would be a shame if something happens to it. Like what you’re saying is we won’t be competitive. Here’s where I think it breaks down: the corporations in America get the benefit of the infrastructure that our tax policies pay for, right? But they have none of the accountability. So you get all the benefits of it and then you get to say, but if we’re not competitive with the Cayman Islands or Ireland, you know, capital has the advantage of being able to flow to the lowest point but labor doesn’t. Labor is stuck where it is. So, if corporations have all the advantages of personhood and citizenship, but none of the accountability and responsibilities because we can’t hurt our competitiveness, then how do you hold corporations accountable other than having them write Business Roundtable documents saying we’re going to be better corporate citizens? When? When are you going to be better corporate citizens, you’re the ones that hold the power in the country, no? So when you keep saying we should be doing this, shouldn’t you be leading that effort, not fighting it?

Jamie: So again, if you sat here and came to this company and you look –

Jon: Are you hiring me? Am I being offered a job?

Jamie: – I think you’re wonderful –

[JON LAUGHS]

Jamie: – You’re probably too expensive for us. But if you came here and said, “How would you and take responsibility?” So the responsibility we take, I have to run a healthy, vibrant company to take care of my customers and my employees.

Jon: Mm hmm.

Jamie: And I live and breathe that every single day.

Jon: Sure.

Jamie: And how do we do that? We have to innovate. We have to grow. But we also take care of our people. Our minimum wages at this company are eighteen dollars an hour. Everyone gets medical, everyone gets dental. Everyone gets a whole bunch of different things. They all get training, they get advancement. We have a wonderful work environment. Then we make huge investments in racial equality, you know, hiring Black citizens. I mean we hired 2,000 ex-felons this year. So at the ground level, if you look at what we do, you’d say, “my God, they do a tremendous amount of things to help.” At the national level, okay we get involved, and by the way, we have laws, OSHA, workers comp, which we have to abide by.

Jon: I understand.

Jaime: At the national level, we get involved in policies and put a lot of money and capability on our people to help with affordable housing, with mortgages for lower income people, with branch lower income people, it’s billions of dollars of capital. So the company does an awful lot, and then when it comes to tax policy, we are, we get involved, very detailed stuff. And I want a better social safety net. Okay, I think it needs to be paid for. I think you will have a better country if that pay for comes out of the pockets of wealthier people, than hurting American competitiveness. And you’ll hurt American competitiveness with certain tax policies, which, well, the devil’s in the detail but if you’re driving capital overseas, you’re going to drive jobs overseas. And we saw an awful lot of that take place and it was a mistake. It was hidden by the fact that, you know, America is so strong sometimes that you don’t, don’t see it.

Jon: I understand everything you’re saying, but let me put it a different way. Corporations have dual citizenship. And so you’re asking for American policy that bails them out when they’re failing, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, that lowers their corporate tax rate to the point where we can’t generate the kind of revenue we need for a social safety net, that doesn’t allow for wages to grow properly because they’ll just send them to Vietnam and China and everywhere else. So they get the ability to do all of those things, but they have no responsibility or accountability to their other citizenship which is America. Now I understand you have a fiduciary responsibility to your shareholders, but that immediately places you into a category where if the government doesn’t hold you to account, you’ll run roughshod and we’ve seen it happen so many times, Jamie. I said a lot. But tell me, tell me if it’s wrong.

Jamie: You know when we, when you tell the American public, you know that the problems it was immigration or trade or China or new technologies. There’s a little bit of truth to that, but that isn’t what caused a lot of our problems. And so you got to better diagnose the problem properly if you want to have the right solution and a cure for the problem.

Jon: So what am I diagnosing wrong?

Jamie: Well, the whole thing.

Jamie: The part of the problem –

[JON LAUGHS]

Jamie: – Is if you look at why we’ve grown badly for the last and most of the last 20 years, by the way, if you go and of course, there are companies that do bad things or institutions, the bad things, people do bad things. Lots of people do bad things and they should all be punished for that. But if you diagnose –

Jon: But they’re not. I mean, you keep saying we should fix it and they should be punished, but we don’t fix it, and they’re not punished.

Jamie: – In a lot of cases, in a lot, again, you have to be specific. A lot of cases, they were punished. People went to jail –

Jon: – With a fine. One person in 2008. One person.

Jamie: – There were hundreds.

Jon: No.

Jamie: And people lost their money and they lost their job. I’m not talking about 2008, I’m talking about in general, like if you look at the Fortune 500 over the last 50 years, half of them are gone.

Jon: But Jamie, you know that the government has no real power.

Jamie: But that’s not the diagnosis of the problem.

Jon: Okay, let me hear the problem.

Jamie: There are terrible things that happen, there. You know, I love the United States military that does that mean there’s not a bad military officer out there somewhere. But the diagnosis of the real problem is we’ve done a terrible job building infrastructure. We’ve done a terrible job in inner city schools. We’ve done a terrible job with health care, even though we have the best health care in the world; best doctors; best pharma; best this, but 18 percent of GDP, too much obesity. We don’t teach nutrition and health care in our inner city schools. You know, we’ve done a terrible job in all of these things, which in almost all cases have hurt the lower paid Americans. COVID, you know, usually in a big recession, you know, the income losses are across the income spectrum, but COVID was all in the bottom 20 or 30 percent. It was all people making less than fifteen dollars an hour. And when their kids went home, I acknowledge they didn’t have the computers or, you know, their basement offices and stuff like that and the teachers from the inner city schools. That stuff is terrible and it needs to be fixed. That is why, okay, and if we diagnose the problem badly, we’re going to have, we will end up like big parts of Europe and for the American public, you know, again, you got to dig, dig deeper in this. The GDP per person in this country is 30 or 40 percent higher than in Europe, where we’ve been growing faster for 20 years and stuff like that. Europe doesn’t have our innovation. It’s a beautiful place to visit. But if you want lower GDP per person, lower growth, have bad policies, you know. And so that does not mean I don’t want a proper safety net. It doesn’t mean I’m not willing to pay higher taxes.

Jon: But that costs money.

Jamie: Yes, but look, I’m telling you, our tax system is in the middle of the competitiveness. It is not at the lowest end. That just is not true. Yes, there are examples of companies who get away with stuff they shouldn’t get away with. That’s totally true. But I’m saying, if you want a healthier system, tax me more money but don’t have an uncompetitive tax system.

Jon: I’m diagnosing it differently than you, because what you’re saying is, “yes, we need all those things, but the way to pay for it is to tax rich people.”

Jamie: Yes.

Jon: I don’t know that you can generate that kind of money. What I’m saying is forget about the moral argument, which I think we probably agree on. I’m going to make an efficiency argument then with you. Your job is to provide liquidity to the economy and to efficiently distribute capital throughout our system. You know, you’ve got trillions in dollars every day that moves in and out and JPMorgan is there worldwide to move those kinds of liquidities around in an efficient way, right? My problem with our economy is the people at the government policy level only hear from corporate leaders like yourself who make a compelling argument that our GDP and all those things, but the truth of our country is the growth of our country has been felt by the top and not by the middle or by the bottom. And here’s the efficiency argument, so when Trump came in, I guess it was, what was it, 2017 that he did the tax proposals? I guess that was 2017, right?

Jamie: Yeah, I believe so, yeah.

Jon: So he dropped the corporate tax rate from, what was it, 36 percent to 20 percent or 36 percent to 21 percent, something along those lines. And he did a $1.5 trillion tax cut, right? And he deregulated a lot of industries.

Jamie: Mm hmm.

Jon: That was a financial package. That was probably five trillion for the economy, would it be worth that when you deregulate? And I’m diagnosing the problem, not that we have failing schools and this and that. It’s that we allocate too many assets at the corporate level and the investment level and not enough on the demand side. And that when you gave $1200 to individuals, you saw growth pop. I just think it’s more efficient and we’d have a system more like we had when the middle class was built in the 50s, I just think it’s out of balance and the balance isn’t – I think you’re saying we’re having a problem because our schools are failing and our cities are failing and our infrastructure is failing. And I’m saying we have a failing school system and failing infrastructure because of our corporate policy.

Jamie: Mm hmm.

Jon: Does that make sense?

Jamie: Yeah but you’re wrong.

[JON LAUGHS]

Jon: What? That’s it.

Jamie: The, when the tax law and by, were in the middle of the pack of tax code in for all these developed nations.

Jon: But it’s not just tax code, it’s Fed policy.

Jamie: I understand. I understand.

Jon: Right.

Jamie: But I’m saying we saw and it’s hard to tease out, like, what did this cause and people use all this false information. They used a lot, they used data to support they already thought. Trillions of dollars came back to the United States, capital investments went up here, jobs went up and unemployment –

Jon: Not by much, Jamie.

Jamie: – Unemployment was the lowest it’s ever been in the United States of America. When that happened, the Black community had the lowest unemployment they’ve ever had in America and the highest wage increases.

Jon: Jamie, you understand, though, that if you –

Jamie: Some of that stuff worked –

Jon: Yeah.

Jamie: – Long term, like long term growth, long term growth is all based upon capital expenditures and technology and investment.

Jon: Right.

Jamie: It’s not based upon consumption, okay? So when I’m talking about capital investment and long term growth, I totally agree with you giving people money, helped them. It helped consumption and that helps the economy.

Jon: But it wasn’t efficient when the money came back to the country, that repatriation that you talk about. More of it went to stock buybacks than to R&D. That’s just, I mean, that’s just a fact.

Jamie: That’s that’s that is not factual. Stock buybacks is just redistributing capital.

Jon: To shareholders.

Jamie: Stock buybacks go up or down. It goes to the owners of the company who include veterans and teachers, retirees and governments and pension plans –

Jon: Very little.

Jamie: – Who then reallocate the capital. They then reinvest in something, it doesn’t just disappear.

Jon: But it’s not as efficient. It’s just not as efficient as giving it directly to them.

Jamie: But I agree with that. There are two different things that you want to do them both well. Not – you don’t want to do one of them well.

Jon: But what I’m saying is we do one of them really well and we do the other really poorly and that has to be rebalanced. We do one of them really well. The Fed policy of zero percent interest, you cannot argue that hasn’t driven equities through the roof.

Jamie: Of course.

Jon: You’ve got Fed chairs. Right, but the stock market isn’t the economy, and the stock market leaves out 50 to 60 percent of American families.

Jamie: I agree with that, but that’s not – that doesn’t determine policy.

Jon: No, but what I’m saying is if our policy artificially inflates equities, right? There’s a price to pay for that, and the price to pay for that is paid for at the middle class and lower levels and that if you –

Jamie: Jon –

Jon: – No?

Jamie: – You’re just too simplistic.

Jon: Okay. I think that’s fair. That is, that’s fair.

Jamie: What if we had policies that drove down the stock prices? You think that that’s going to make America a better place? So why don’t we do that? Just drive down stock prices and that won’t help the poor people.

Jon: But you’re saying that’s a false choice. I’m saying it would help the poor people. If so, let’s say the government policy, right? Instead of the Fed pumping money, quantitative easing or buying bonds or doing all those things, let’s say that the Fed pumped money into wages. Right? Just didn’t, forget about punitive measures of taxing, things like that.

Jamie: The government did, the government did with COVID relief which I applaud.

Jon: Exactly.

Jamie: Yes.

Jon: And that’s my whole point that that was a much more efficient use of capital than the way that we’ve practiced monetary policy over the last 20 years.

Jamie: Ok that’s not capital, giving people money to spend. Capital is the money you that you make hard investments in stuff like that. But I agree that that was a good thing to do, it had positive benefits. It doesn’t mean we should have ineffective corporate tax policy. It doesn’t mean we should do stupid things for American growth, that we shouldn’t applaud investment and innovation. I agree with your point. We need to do more to help those people and change these things and that we need to collect the taxes to pay for it. I would just say I’d rather do it on the wealthy individual side than on an ineffective corporate side, but I don’t want to defend any bad corporate action.

Jon: But this isn’t about bad corporate action. I’m not talking about bad actors. I’m talking about a system where the access to policy is made by people at the top levels. Look, poor people have terrible lobbyists. And my whole argument is, if we don’t have a free market system, which we’ve already accepted from the beginning of the conversation, that means that we are accepting government intervention into a market that they are manipulating the levers of the market. Correct? That’s not wrong.

Jamie: You know, the Fed is doing what it’s doing because it wants to help growth and employment things like that, they’re not doing it to help the bank.

Jon: No, no, no, I understand that, but I’m saying it’s a — it would be a better, more efficient use of that capital. Look, when I talked to Janet Yellen and she was saying, you know, the Fed, you know, we were in a crisis and the Fed opens the zero discount window and they pump money in. And I was saying, right, but the people who are losing their houses are also in a crisis. And we can’t do everything and I think we should use more money at the demand side to help the people. Like in 2008, why did we bail out AIG and all those other places when we could have just made those mortgages, taking them from being underwater to at sea level, and we would have fixed the toxic derivative problem as well? It’s really just an argument, Jamie, about priorities. We’re basically looking at a patient and only because, you know a lot more about it, you’re diagnosing it with the complexities, but I do think there’s something to the argument that I’m making. It may not be as complex and it may not have the experience, but sometimes that’s helpful because when you get very ensconced in a system, you begin to think of the status quo as the natural order of things.

Jamie: Mm hmm.

Jon: And I don’t think I don’t think our status quo is natural, and I’m just advocating that we create a new status quo by reallocating assets in a slightly different way.

Jamie: Yeah. So both are true. You know, and you need to do both. We’ve had catastrophic failure. So the Fed didn’t bail out AIG for the AIG shareholders. It kind of wiped them out. They didn’t bail out AIG to help this one or that one. They might — it might have helped a couple of financial companies by bailing out AIG. They did it to save America from disaster. That was necessary. They also did a lot of stuff and could have easily done more, which I agree with you to, to help people who suffered through that. Both are true.

Jon: Then why do only one? And why bail out AIG and not anybody else like that at the demand side?

Jamie: If I remember correctly, the AIG shareholder lost everything, almost everything. So it was, it was — they saved AIG, so all the people they did business with, including consumers, weren’t hurt and stuff like that. I do think it may have helped, you know, one or two a couple of financial companies survive. That may be true, but that was stopping the plane from crashing. There were people in that plane called the American citizen, okay?

Jon: But the American citizens’ planes — their houses — were still on fire. And they didn’t stop that.

Jamie: And absolutely that there were policies that were trying to fix that and do that, and you needed to do both. Don’t let the plane crash, but then go help the people who needed the help. I fully agree with that.

Jon: But Jamie, you are in a position to change that. You clearly, you guys lobbied to get the corporate tax cut. Why aren’t you lobbying them equally as vociferously? Why aren’t you out there pounding the pavement for the infrastructure bill?

Jamie: Jon, you’re relating everything — We are. You’re relating everything to corporate taxes, which I just think is a false argument.

Jon: Corporate taxes, subsidies, and Fed policy are what I am relating to.

Jamie: Fed policy, you can debate that all day long. The Fed is doing that to help you –

[JON LAUGHS]

Jamie: – You can do that. That will have pros and cons for everybody. And they’re not doing that for corporations, okay? They’re doing that to keep a healthy American economy and to provide wherewithal. The government is doing a lot to help everybody, which I completely applaud. But you’re – you can’t say that corporate taxes are why we failed in inner city schools. You can’t say that corporate tax is why we failed in infrastructure. You can’t say that corporate taxes – that to me, that you could say it, but that’s not accurate. And and you can’t say corporate taxes —

Jon: I think it’s a part of it.

Jamie: — and that the government should be able to do whatever it wants.

Jon: I don’t. I don’t think the government should be able to do whatever it wants.

Jamie: That’s why we have the constitution. When, when the founding fathers –

Jon: I agree with that.

Jamie: – Yeah. You’re pointing out a lot of things, but I agree with you. I just don’t agree with what you say is the solution, though. We should —

Jon: So what is your, so let me let me hear your solution then, because that will be helpful.

Jamie: We should all raise our hands in inner city schools and say, “what went wrong?” All of us. Okay, so, we, you need the companies – We need to hire some of those people and train those people and make sure they get jobs. They get all stuff like that. But so should, so should everyone else involved in the school system: local government, all the people people like that. Let’s acknowledge the problem, sit down, work together, and have a solution. In infrastructure I, we are totally supportive of the infrastructure bill in all way shape and form.

Jon: So how would you pay for it? How would you pay for it?

Jamie: I would have a competitive tax system. Corporate tax system and stuff like that. And I would get rid of all the — there are tax breaks or venture for carried interest, for private equity, for real estate, for venture capital. There are, I would raise the capital gains a little bit. I would raise the wealth in the taxi. I would. There are tax breaks for if I remember correctly for golf courses and race cars and sugar and cotton and corn. And so, and you talk about this swamp, you know, it’s that’s true. And I do think the government, you know, people. I think everyone should pay their taxes. You know, I think if people don’t pay their taxes deliberately and falsify things they should go to jail –

Jon: But there’s –

Jamie: – There’s so many things to do better.

Jon: Right.

Jamie: And, and you know if corporate taxes have to go up a little bit, so be it. I want a healthier America. I totally agree with that –

Jon: – I understand that but, those things –

Jamie: Again, the devil’s in the detail –

Jon: – don’t happen.

Jamie: The devil’s in the detail and the detail really matters. And you’re making an argument, which is very simplistic: but okay, let’s just raise this one and everything will be fine –

Jon: No, no, no, no, no. That’s honestly, that’s not my argument.

Jamie: Okay.

Jon: It really isn’t. My argument is broader than yours, but my argument is not just raise the corporate tax rate. It’s really not. What it is, all of our economic policy, whether it comes to Fed policy, whether it comes to monetary policy, whether it comes to legislative policy, whether it comes to tax policy has all been shifted to favor the investor class at the expense of the worker and of labor. Organized labor has lost a tremendous amount of power. So, since we don’t live in a free market and all the government interventions go in one direction or mostly go in one direction, it unbalances the system. And I’m suggesting that a rebalancing of the system by focusing on infrastructure, a fairer investor policy, fairer you know — why is it that, you know, labor and workers haven’t seen their wages grow? It’s because corporations left to their own devices will, as they should, only be looking out for their profit. That’s just —

Jamie: And I totally disagree.

Jon: – I think that’s how they —

Jamie: Ironically, short term profiteering and stuff like that is the worst thing a company can do. And maybe and again, some facts that some of these quote biggest companies in America are the highest paying companies in America, and they all give medical care. They all treat their people really well. There are, I think, 30 million companies in America, you know, and I applaud small business, which has been —

Jon: Should they share in the profits? Like when Wal-Mart makes billions of dollars, should their workers share in that? Should they also get profit sharing? Should they also benefit when the company benefits, especially since the company benefits from American infrastructure and from the taxpayer subsidizing their workforce with social safety programs? So should that be the case?

Jamie: I don’t want to talk about any one particular company, but —

Jon: I’m using them as an example.

Jamie: – A lot of companies do do that. They have profit sharing plans and they’ve got training plans and they have an opportunity for people.

Jon: Generally at the white collar level. You know, unless they have a really strong union.

Jamie: Again, it’s a that’s a huge — that’s just hugely not true that, you know, people make fun of these starter jobs. You know, whether I mean, my whole life, I’ve heard people make fun of burger flippers and stuff like that. Jobs bring dignity. Jobs are, you know, is that first rung in the ladder. My guess is that that’s half the people —

Jon: That’s not making fun of jobs.

Jamie: – Half the people that run McDonald’s start as a burger flipper. It was McDonald’s who trained them who gave them opportunity. And I think it’s a mistake to just diminish the role that these companies played. Just like the U.S. military does the best job in the world, in my opinion, of taking kids out of inner cities and giving them haircuts and train them how a team works. So the bigger companies provide a tremendous amount of that quite deliberately.

Jon: I’d be hard pressed to say that Walmart, Burger King and those corporations don’t exploit their workers. And you know, you may say that they’re great corporate citizens. I’m in no way talking about the dignity of those jobs. What I’m saying is don’t look at them as starter jobs, look at them as jobs. And those people work there. Look there’s a reason why fast food is always at the forefront of minimum wage arguments, because if they could shift those jobs overseas, they would. But they can’t because it’s a service business, so they have to be located in the communities. And even when we talk about education and fixing those things, we have an entrenched perpetual poverty problem in this country and a stagnation problem and I’m suggesting that rebalancing the way that we benefit things at the investor level, which I think we do. You’ve listed a bunch of reasons and a bunch of ways that we do it. What I’m saying is, the political will to do that is very difficult to accomplish when you have corporate interests at the highest level, when the big money is in their ear. You know, the big money is not talking about the things you’re talking about. They pay lip service to it. But when push comes to shove, they will lobby against changing any balance of that power. Power does not seed itself, it has to be rebalanced.

Jamie: If you –

[JAMIE LAUGHS]

Jamie: – We obviously have a disagreement, the bigger company and going back, the bigger companies have higher wages, not lower wages and medical and job opportunities. And that’s a good thing. They don’t, they don’t — it’s the smaller ones who can’t afford to do that. And again, I’m not diminishing anyone.

Jon: No question. I agree with you there. And we should make it easier for those companies.

Jamie: We both agree that minimum wages should go up.

Jon: Yes.

Jamie: We both agree there should be more medical coverage and stuff like that.

Jon: Yes.

Jamie: And I think we can both agree that we spent a lot of money inefficiently too. Like with –

Jon: Boy, yes.

Jamie: – What?

Jon: Yes, I’m with you.

Jamie: Ok and where we disagree is this balancing of power where, but the voter votes in people, that is a democracy and those people who served, the government, make some of these big decisions and we just salute them when they do. We don’t make those big decisions, you know? I can’t tell the American public what to vote or what to say, stuff like that. And so I the power —

Jon: You do lobby, you do lobby, though at the highest level.

Jamie: – Yes and a lot of things. And for a lot of things, you would agree with.

Jon: Okay.

Jamie: Some of you and some you don’t agree with.

Jon: Okay.

Jamie: But that’s not how power gets distributed in the United States of America. It’s distributed by the voter, whether we like that vote or not. And so you want to change power but don’t like who gets elected. You know, but the American public decides that, and then their representatives decide it. It’s a messy process. It’s a good process. I agree it’s gotten polluted by a bunch of different things. It just needs to be fixed, you know?

Jon: But how would you do that?

Jamie: Again, I’m a very analytical. I analyze the problems and I go about fixing them and explain to people, and we can’t, and oversimplifying them is a disease.

Jon: Mm hmm, okay.

Jamie: You know, I think that when we make it oversimplified and binary and then we use facts to justify what we already think, you will end up with bad policy, which we’ve had now for 20 or 30 years. And I think that’s been the most damage to the country. And then you can point out there are things that didn’t work. You’re right, trade hurt certain people. There’s a thing in Washington called Trade Adjustment Assistance –

Jon: Mm-Hmm.

Jamie: – Supposed to help people who had lost jobs from trade, and it didn’t work. It should have worked.

Jon: Mm-Hmm.

Jamie: We just have to get better at really detailed policy. Bob Gates wrote a book called “The Symphony of Power” that, you know, it’s not just military; it’s aid, it’s diplomacy, it’s respecting other people. And the fact that their different and we need to use that “Symphony of Power” and that’s what we need here is a symphony of growth, a symphony of what works for America and help acknowledge the problems and would go about fixing them. And then, yes, have a tax system that doesn’t damage that, that pays for it and then we can debate how who should pay what. But I agree with all of those things. We’re disagreeing on a few points.

Jon: Right.

Jamie: Which I think I’m right about –

[JON LAUGHS]

Jamie: – I know more about. I think I know more about it than you do. Yeah, but I’ve seen the damage –

Jon: What? Let me tell you something. I’ve been in this business for 30 seconds.

Jamie: Yeah, I’ve seen the damage done by stupid decision making.

Jon: Right.

Jamie: Listen, I’m told Democrat or Republican, I really mean it. I don’t care that much about Democrat or Republican or – What are the things that actually work and don’t work? And how are you going to do it? I would emulate some of the things being done overseas, like the apprenticeship program in Germany and Switzerland.

Jon: Right.

Jamie: Okay, the unemployment a young, youth 17 to 25 is like three percent. In France, it’s 20 percent. That is the effect of policy. Okay, so in France, and I think President Macron is doing a great job, but in France, those things done in the name of good have destroyed generations of young working people. That’s what they did.

Jon: So what is the policy that they did that you believe destroyed it? Like, what was it that they did?

Jamie: They created, in the name of good, they said, you can’t, basically you can’t fire people. So in France, and they don’t have an apprenticeship program like they have in Switzerland and Germany. So in France, a lot of people, the younger kids, they are hired to contractor jobs where something like that so that they know – businesses can’t afford to have a lifetime employment of people because then they get crippled and they fail. And so in Switzerland and Germany, working with local business, and you can go to every little town there pretty much, and local businesses set up training classes and apprenticeships in 10th grade, 11th grade and 12th grade. These kids actually work at a company one day a week then two days a week then three days there. They’re paid for. They all get out, making sixty-five thousand dollars a year. They can still go to college afterwards, or they can move up the professional vocational track, which is think it can be complex engineering, ad that policy works. They have infrastructure policy in Singapore that works. Ours don’t work, ours don’t work because of a whole bunch of different things. But, so my point is we can, you can, we can yell, scream all we want, if we don’t fix the actual policy, you are going to relegate this country to some of the same stupid stuff they have in other countries around the world and that’s what we’ve been doing. And, you know, so people just yell and scream at its corporate taxes, their wealthy, their — that’s not going to fix the problem.

Jon: Yeah, it’s I think you’re oversimplifying my argument in a way that diminishes it that I don’t think is fair. And I understand that you say I’m not yelling and screaming about fixing –

Jamie: I know.

Jon: – Corporate policy, or any of those things.

Jamie: You’re not.

Jon: But the point of what I’m trying to say is, when the entire swamp, as you put it, is tilted towards the investor class all I’m suggesting is a demand side economy that values labor more than it values it today. And values capital a little bit less would be a healthier economy that – you know, George P. Bush once said the only thing standing between this country and socialism is Donald Trump. And I think the only thing standing between this country and socialism is meaningful reform of capitalism. Because the gross inequalities are not the function of a free market system, they’re the function of a system that has overly exaggerated the value of investment and capital, and we have a grossly unequal system. And I don’t think you disagree with that. And all I’m suggesting is smarter policy towards demand side economics that we saw in like after COVID seemed to be a more efficient use of that money. And we have to rebalance it.

Jamie: And a lot of that, I agree with you. I mean, like we said, but again, I just wanted this, you know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The reason that France passed the most laws, and this has happened around the world, was to rebalance in favor of labor. That’s why they did it.

Jon: But doing it wrong isn’t a reason not to do it.

Jamie: You – now we really, now we totally agree.

Jon: Right, because you could say you know, the 2008 deregulating the markets and allowing derivatives may have been to help GDP and all that, but it almost sank the world economy. Like you say the problem with France is now they’ve got high unemployment and those good intentions went wrong. Well, our good intentions towards investment nearly broke the world. And so where’s the penalty? Where’s the shift on that then, because we really haven’t shifted that much.

Jamie: Well, so that is, bad things happening isn’t a reason to have bad policy.

Jon: I know, but you just you just used that as your example. You said France has good intentions, but they instituted a bad policy.

Jamie: This may surprise you –

Jon: Yeah.

Jamie: – There were a lot of things that went wrong in the 08-09 crisis –

Jon: – Right. And I’m sure there’s a lot of things that went wrong in France.

Jamie: – I actually supported most of the Dodd-Frank stuff. Not all of it, but most of it. I supported what Dodd and Frank themselves did, there was a lot of other stuff that people added that I wasn’t that supportive of –

Jon: Right.

Jamie: – But actually, that actually did some of what you wanted to do, which is rebalance heavy regulations, resolution recovery, more capital liquidity, more safety assess.

Jon: Right.

Jamie: But didn’t do, so I may surprise you. I support most of that stuff. Didn’t mean I support all of it.

Jon: Why do you think the government ever when they give that money, why don’t they put stipulations on it? Like a certain percentage of this has to go to small businesses? Like would that be something you would support?

Jamie: If it was properly designed or something like that. Believe it or not, there is some of that that took place and, you know, and you’re looking backwards is you could spend a lot of time with that could have, should have, would have.

Jon: Right. You got to learn stuff from it, right?

Jamie: Exactly.

Jon: Right.

Jamie: I’m going to write a book about it one day –

[JON LAUGHS]

Jamie: – And you’ll be bored silly.

Jon: It better be on tape. Jamie what-

Jamie: Exactly, it’ll be a podcast.

Jon: Like so with all these things that you would do so, so you clearly have a complex understanding of it. So getting beyond the sort of the more platitudinous like we need to fix our, you know, what happened to the cities was the result of decades and decades of intentional policy. You know, whether it was Robert Moses building out the highway systems and pulling, you know, the vibrant economies of those neighborhoods apart and helping white flight, or whether it was zoning regulations that didn’t allow for corporations to invest in those neighborhoods. How do you rectify years and years of entrenched policy that created these conditions that you very rightly point out are dragging the country?

Jamie: Again, I just. There, I think it is true. First of all, the country’s done unbelievably well over 100 years, so I don’t buy the notion that’s all bad I think people are making—

Jon: I’m not saying it’s all bad. It’s no, nobody’s saying that. What they’re saying is –

Jamie: – But I think there’s been more and more we’ve that opportunity has gone down a little bit that parts of society been left behind. I think that’s true. And I want to fix it as a citizen.

Jon: And it’s and it’s stagnated. It —

Jamie: JP Morgan spends a lot of time and effort. We’ve got this 30 billion dollar racial equity, the things we’re doing.

Jon: But that’s not a system. That’s just one. What can we do in the system?

Jamie: No, this is we’re trying to change mortgage requirements and whole bunch of stuff that would actually be permanent improvements with sustained permanent improvements to stuff like that. I was in D.C. yesterday working with some of the regulators and issues I think could actually make the system work better for lower income people and stuff like that. And so, you know, we look at there’s a lot we agree on. There’s some we don’t, and one day we should sit down and spend more time in detail on it. And um —

Jon: How frustrating is it to talk to, you know, when you talk to somebody that is coming at it from a more emotional place, which I think I would say I am, I think I understand it at a base level. Is that eye roll-y? Is it really frustrating, or do you think there’s something to be learned from maybe a rawer analysis of something?

Jamie: No, obviously, and I’ve always thought that, you know, we had these – Not only do we have the 08 crisis and COVID, which are poor people mourn, murders of Black people in the streets and video, but we’ve had 20 or 30 years of anemic growth. And I think when you look at all of that is perfectly legitimate for the American public to blame the elite; the elite political leaders and business. Like what did they do wrong? And they say not nothing. But I didn’t. But it hurt me, and I totally agree with that. But that is not a solution. That is an analysis of why they’re angry. They deserve to be angry and we need to fix it.

Jon: But I am, I am offering a solution, I think.

Jamie: But the American public is also, you know, we elect, you know, a President Obama and a President Trump. And there are solutions. They are, those solutions are embedded in collaboration and using your brains and thinking it through, looking at best practices. They’re not in trying to support one side versus the other. That, does not work. And again, you can look at that all around the world as almost never worked with the history books. And so to me, just, you know, we try to work with everyone, civic society. We’re building a big new headquarters here. It’s all unions. Call them up. We work really well with all the unions and building that building. We try, we’re trying to be part of a healthy civic society government. We are heavily regulated. I’m not against that.

Jon: Do you think you’re, do you think the reality of corporate America matches the rhetoric of corporate America?

Jamie: But Jon, that’s not fair. That’s like saying, does the reality of the world support with what people, commentators, and opinion editors and reporters write? No, because there are tons of different people with different points of view. So —

Jon: No, no, no, I’m not suggesting it’s I’m not suggesting it’s a monolith. But I think you could argue that the preponderance of rhetoric from corporate America is we want to be responsible citizens. And a lot of the reality is they fight against some policy changes that could maybe make that a reality.

Jamie: Yeah. But first of all, they’re not monolithic. And I think —

Jon: True.

Jamie: — a lot of them do a great job and some are terrible and, and that’s that’s called society.

[JON LAUGHS]

Jamie: And some don’t agree at all. Some are libertarian and they think that, “you know what? You can do what you want. I’ll do what I want. If the twain meet so be it. But don’t, I don’t want to government in my life at all.”

Jon: Right.

Jamie: And so, that’s called democracy.

Jon: Do you think our economy is the healthiest it’s ever been today? Or was there a time that you thought it was a more balanced economy or a healthier economy?

Jamie: You know it’s, that’s a really hard question to answer.

Jon: Okay.

Jamie: I think that the last 20 years we’ve had kind of anemic growth and we’ve left behind too many people. I think before that it was kind of, you look at these kind of more volatile and —

Jon: Why do you think the growth has been anemic?

Jamie: I’ve already mentioned that; health care, infrastructure, uh certain tax policy, certain regulatory policies, education. I could go on and on and on. I wrote about it in a chairman’s letter. I wrote, I think there are 11 or 12. Our mortgage policy held back. Literally the people who write mortgage policy have written in a way that hurts smaller mortgages and lower income individuals. That’s what we did, all in the name of good, but that’s what we did. Okay, and so I can go —

Jon: You’re talking about the sub, the subprime mortgages and things like that.

Jamie: – No, no. I’m talking about, yeah, we overreacted to some of that. And then we did all these things that make the cost of mortgages higher, which actually is fine for, you know, wealthy people, but it actually makes them less affordable to, for the two hundred fifty thousand dollars home.

Jon: What about a bureaucratic moonshot? What about a way to simplify all these processes and streamline them so that the the bar of entry is lower for smaller businesses and for people? Don’t you think in this country we should make it so that the penalty of trying something, entrepreneurship and all that, is less? And wouldn’t that be something that could stimulate again growth in a way that would be —

Jamie: Totally, I totally agree. I mean, this one of the things again — this country, you know, I travel the world. This country applauds entrepreneurs and doesn’t punish people for the rest of their lives for failure. And so I also don’t want to punish people for the rest of their lives because they committed a crime when they were young man or young woman or something like that. You go to other countries that you may you fail, that you’re done in society. And so we’ve gotten worse here. We used to be the best at that and now we’ve gotten worse. You know, now we punish people even more for failure, but I totally agree with you. You know, the America giving people a second chance is one of the great things about America. That’s why a lot of people came in the first place.

Jon: I really appreciate you having the patience and I think it’s important to keep the conversation going.

Jamie: It’s important to talk and to listen. So thank you.

Jon: Thank you, sir. Much. Appreciated.

[MUSIC CUE]

Jon: That was our podcast. That was a conversation with Jamie Dimon. I hope to continue that conversation on a future episode. Please tune in to the television show where we discuss socialism, the scourge of helping people –

Jay: Ew gross. Oh my goodness –

Jon: Gross!

Jay: – I’m going to throw up.

Jon: Exactly. Bring a barf bag because it’s going to get Spinny. And also, by the way, you can always go, Jay, and I know you know this because you’re the one who told me, we have a web site at theproblem.com.

Jay: You got it right.

Jon: Did I did get that right, right? Backslash. And then a newsletter and then I believe we have also boxed lunches to go yo can get.

Jon: We are out of soppressata, but we still have some –

Jon: Soppressata, listen to you.

Jay: – I know my Italian meats. I went to undergrad.

[JON LAUGHS]

Jon: Oh, if that’s not the pull quote from this episode, Jay Jurden: “I know my Italian meats.” Done. Done!

[OUTRO MUSIC]

Jon: The Problem with Jon Stewart podcast is an Apple TV+ podcast produced by Busboy Productions.

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