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Sen. Jeff Merkley puts the wood to Jamie Dimon in the Senate Banking Committee hearing

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There have been a number of stories about Jamie Dimon's recent appearance before the Senate Banking Committee.

Most of them, including Matt Taibbi's, comment on the shameful and ignorant performance of almost every senator in the room — especially, but not exclusively, the Republicans.

(Side note — I have an imaginary political cartoon in mind. It shows smooth-haired Dimon at the table testifying, a pair of feet and senatorial hindquarters sticking out from under the table in front of him, and senators leaving the questioning dias to stand in line, waiting their turn. Beside them is a machine like you see at Baskin-Robbins — "Take a number.")

But enough of this foolishness. Buried in Taibbi's article detailing the corrupt and the feckless, is the following, about Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a man of whom much good can be said.

I want to highlight the good when it occurs. Taibbi (my emphasis and reparagraphing):
136:17 Finally, someone restores order.

Oregon's [Sen. Jeff] Merkley leads off his questions by asking Dimon if his company would have gone out of business in 2008 without TARP and other forms of federal assistance, including monies from the AIG bailout.

Dimon snaps: "You are misinformed, and that misinformation is causing a lot of the problems we're having today." He then trots out the well-worn rhetorical line ... "[The Fed] said, 'Please use these facilities [take our money], because it makes it easier for other people'" ...

"And we were not bailed out by AIG," he snaps, feverishly jotting notes in between sharp phrases. "We would have had a direct loss of about a billion or two billion dollars if AIG went down. And we would have been okay."

"Well, then," Merkley begins to say, "you have a difference of opinion with many analysts of the situation who thought the AIG bailout did benefit you enormously. And I'm not going to argue –"

"They're wrong," snaps Dimon, who wants to finish his point, and tries to talk over Merkley’s question."They're factually wrong. They're –"

Merkley, God bless him, points at Dimon and says, "Sir, this is not your hearing. You’re here to answer questions. And I only have five minutes." ... It’s taken over two hours for someone to explain to Dimon that this is the floor of the senate, not a cocktail reception at Davos. That he's a witness here, not the boss.
After more from Taibbi about Merkley and Dimon, we find this:
You can either be a commercial bank, with all the federal support that entails, or you can be a high-risk gambler. But you shouldn't be allowed to be both. ... The real answer, from Jamie Dimon’s point of view, is simple – there’s no way he could have a $350 billion hedge fund if he didn’t have mountains of federally-insured money to play with, and a steady stream of low-interest loans from the Fed.

Merkley points this out: "How many companies on the planet have been offered half a trillion dollars in low-interest loans? Not many," he says. "But the basic concept of the Volcker rule is that banks are in the lending business, not the hedge fund business. Would you agree?"

Dimon, taking his time with this dangerous question, answers: "We’re not in the hedge fund business."

This is an obvious lie ... "That sounds like operating a hedge fund," says Merkley, "and doing so at your direction, with government-insured deposits."
Again, there's more, but this will get you started.

One man — and if Taibbi is right, just one — was prepared, smart, aggressive, and on-point.

This post is about that one man. We appreciate your doing your actual job, Sen. Merkley. A lonely nation thanks you.

Diogenes looking for an honest man
I really am, you know; looking for an honest man.


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