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For Wall Street Billionaires, This Election Is About One Thing

Plutocrats like Jamie Dimon would have you believe they’re leaning toward Trump because of inflation or immigration or antisemitism, but they’re all full of it.

President Trump greets JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and other guests
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Trump greets JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and other guests at a policy forum at the White House in 2017

Donald Trump wants voters to stay incensed about inflation, even though President Joe Biden has brought inflation down to 3.4 percent from a peak of 9.1 percent. “The American people CANNOT afford [Biden’s] inflation nightmare,” Trump, who is by far the more inflation-friendly candidate, said earlier this month on Truth Social. But inflation isn’t what this election is about—not for the billionaire donor class, anyway. It’s about keeping rich people’s taxes low. That’s the largely unspoken reason why respectable CNBC talking heads like JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon, billionaire investor Nelson Peltz, private equity macher Stephen Schwarzman, and hedge fund tycoon Kenneth Griffin are holding their noses and rallying around Trump.

After the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Dimon said, “I strongly condemn the violence in our nation’s capital,” and “our elected leaders [i.e., Trump] have a responsibility to call for an end to the violence” and “accept the results.” Peltz likewise condemned Trump’s “efforts to overturn the election results” and said he was sorry he voted for Trump in 2020. Schwarzman called the January 6 insurrection “an affront to the democratic values we hold dear as Americans” and said two years later that he would not support Trump. Griffin was less fastidious about Trump’s election shenanigans, and in 2022 he contributed generously to election deniers. But after the midterms he called Trump a “three-time loser” for blowing in rapid succession his own reelection, two Georgia Senate races, and (compared to expectations) the midterms. As recently as March, Griffin said privately that he wouldn’t back Trump.

All four sing a different tune today.

In January, Dimon advised Democrats to go easy on Trump. “He grew the economy,” Dimon said. “Trade, tax reform worked. He was right about some of China.” In Dimon’s 2023 letter to shareholders, he made specious dire warnings about inflation, ignoring the obvious reality (of which he can’t be unaware) that, compared to Trump, Biden is a raging inflation hawk. It’s Trump, not Biden, who complains that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is “too interest-rate happy,” and it’s Trump who plans to devalue the dollar and slap a 10 percent tax on imports, both of which would increase inflation. Griffin likewise complains that Biden doesn’t get that “you need to break the back of inflation.” He now says, “If President Trump returns to the White House you’ll see a global perception of a stronger America,” and pledges to back Trump financially if he chooses a plausible running mate.

Peltz says he’s now supporting Trump because of the immigration crisis—never mind that Trump persuaded congressional Republicans, for purely partisan reasons, to drop a bipartisan immigration bill that Biden was prepared to sign. Schwarzman says he’s backing Trump to combat “the dramatic rise of antisemitism.” That’s the most disingenuous alibi of all. It’s like backing Jack the Ripper to combat a dramatic rise in East London murders. Trump ran an antisemitic ad in 2016; that same year Trump recycled a white supremacist image showing a Jewish star atop a pile of money; Trump equivocated in 2017 about neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville; Trump dined in 2022 with the Holocaust denier and white supremacist Nick Fuentes, who’s demanded that Jews leave the country; and just last week Trump’s campaign posted a graphic that alluded to the “creation of a unified reich.” Biden, by contrast, has created the first-ever national strategy to counter antisemitism. Yes, Biden has protested Israel’s slaughter of civilians in Gaza, but so ineffectually that Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blithely ignores him.

Dimon, Peltz, Schwarzman, Griffin, and others like them are drifting back to Trump for only one reason: They want to keep the tax cuts that Trump gave them in 2017, which are all due to expire in December 2025.

Biden’s plan is to let the tax cuts expire. At any rate, that’s what he’s been saying lately. In fact, Biden intends to keep the tax cuts for people earning less than $400,000, which will increase the budget deficit by $1.5 to $2.5 trillion over 10 years. Trump intends to keep the tax cuts for everybody, which will increase the budget deficit by $4 trillion over the same period. If the donor class were really concerned about inflation, it would oppose Trump’s plan on the grounds that a $4 trillion deficit increase is much more inflationary than a $2.5 trillion deficit increase. But they’re silent on this point. Biden would likely seek to reduce the cost of keeping some of Trump’s tax cuts by imposing new taxes on inherited wealth, by increasing the Medicare tax on high incomes, and by taxing carried interest. But don’t expect these gentlemen to thank Biden for such budget-mindedness.

Not even Trump appears to buy the specious reasons that respectable plutocrats give for supporting his candidacy. In The Washington Post on Tuesday, Josh Dawsey reported that Trump said the quiet part out loud at a recent meeting at the Pierre Hotel while shaking down this crowd for $25 million contributions to his super PACs. Trump bluntly told them that if Biden is elected their taxes will go up in 2026. (Actually, make that two quiet parts, since it’s against the law for Trump to solicit on behalf of his super PACs.) “He’s not going to renew them,” Trump said of the 2017 tax cuts, “which means your taxes are going to go up by four times.” Actually, they’ll go up by less than that, but let’s don’t quibble. Trump was forcing his audience to acknowledge that they will support him in 2024 not because they think a second Trump term will be good for the republic—most know it won’t be—but because he will make them richer.

Why does Trump deprive these reluctant supporters of their illusions? Partly, I suppose, because he’s a vulgar man who can’t avoid degrading anybody he associates with. But partly too, I would guess, because he senses these donors want to keep feeling morally superior to him even after they give him their support and campaign cash. He’s felt their contempt all his life, and now he wants to see them crawl. They’ll do it too.