‘It is a cliff…we’re going 60 mph towards it’

The global economy is approaching the point of no return courtesy of mounting government debt, believes JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, and it will lead to a massive falling-out of markets and federal institutions.

Currently the American national debt stands at $34.14 trillion—about $100,000 for every person in the U.S.—with the debt ceiling currently suspended until 2025 courtesy of a deal passed in the summer of 2023.

And although some of the shorter-term economic signals are flashing green—inflation is coming down, the Fed may by eyeing rate cuts, and employment is staying stable—the boss of America’s biggest bank isn’t convinced there isn’t a major red flag up ahead.

Speaking on a panel alongside former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at the Bipartisan Policy Center last week, Dimon said the American government is facing a “hockey stick” effect when it comes to government debt.

He drew on the comparison of the 1980s for context, explaining that in 1982 unemployment was at around 10% while the stock market had sat stagnant for 15 to 20 years. Even with the Vietnam War, America’s debt-to-GDP ratio was around 35%, Dimon said, whereas today it sits at 100%.

“Back then the deficit during a recession—you do spend money in a recession—was 4% or 5%; today it’s 6.5% in a boom time,” Dimon continued.

He added: “If you look at that 100% debt to GDP by [2035] I think it’s going to be 130%, and it’s a hockey stick. That hockey stick doesn’t start yet but when it starts, markets around the world…there will be a rebellion.”

Dimon’s hockey stick scenario could occur as the American government faces higher charges to service increasing levels of debt, potentially in an economy that many are predicting will enter a slow or no-growth era.

This isn’t just bad news for the home of the brave. America’s ability to pay its debts is a concern for the nations around the world that own a $7.6 trillion chunk of the funds. The nations most exposed are Japan, which owned $1.1 trillion as of November 2023, China ($782 billion), the U.K. ($716 billion), Luxembourg ($371 billion), and Canada ($321 billion).

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Charging headfirst into a global fistfight with domestic and international markets is the “worst possible way to do it,” Dimon added, saying: “It is a cliff. We see the cliff. It’s about 10 years out.”

Ryan chimed in that the debt spiral is the “most predictable crisis we’ve ever had,” with Dimon agreeing.

‘This is about the security of the world’

The banking boss, who was paid $36 million for his work in 2023, added his warning goes beyond financial industry ramifications.

Throughout the past year Dimon has been sounding the alarm on increasing geopolitical tensions, namely the Israel-Hamas conflict and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This is about the security of the world,” 67-year-old Dimon added. “We need a stronger military, we need a stronger America. We need it now. So I put this as a risky thing for all of us.” On Dimon’s point, Republican politician Ryan later added he believes “in five years we’re going to be paying more in interest than we will be at the Pentagon.”

The event in Washington, D.C., spanned a wide range of topics, including the balance of equality, with Dimon admitting he’d tax the rich more in order to support the poor. He described the idea “as much of a no-brainer policy as I have ever seen.”

The businessman, who was lauded for his purchase of First Republic Bank last year following the regional banking crisis, made it clear he is in favor of the public and private sector working together more collaboratively on policy and decision making.

With private sector contracts supporting the military and private sector jobs making up 80% of America’s payroll, this makes sense, he added. But despite succession noise at JPMorgan ramping up following a reshuffle of top executives at the financial institution, Dimon took the chance to shut down rumors he may swap the boardroom for the Oval Office.

“I think government departments should tell the public, ‘You gave me $50 billion. I said I was going to do X, here’s what I did,” Dimon said, before Ryan pushed back, noting government doesn’t work that way.

“I’m staying at JPMorgan for now,” Dimon joked in response.

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