In his recent letter to JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) shareholders, CEO Jamie Dimon said that while America's economy continues to grow, it's not nearly reaching its full potential. He pointed out 11 factors that could be holding back growth, and in this Industry Focus: Financials clip, host Jason Moser and Fool.com contributor Matt Frankel, CFP, discuss which items on the list stood out to them the most.
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This video was recorded on April 8, 2019.
Jason Moser: We wanted to get in today, talking a little bit about the JPMorgan Chase shareholder letter. Jamie Dimon publishes this letter every year. We talk to investors all the time about things to read. We always love reading shareholder letters from the CEOs of our favorite companies because they are educational, enlightening. You always learn something from them. I think Warren Buffett's probably the most obvious suspect there. You also have letters from Markel, JP Morgan, Amazon, and others. A lot of great material out there.
Matt, you put together an article here on Jamie Dimon's most recent letter. It seemed like the theme of the letter was what is holding back economic growth here domestically. You wrote an article that keyed in on that. Tell me, what were some of your takeaways?
Matt Frankel: He listed 11 different things that are holding back growth. And Jamie Dimon knows a thing or two about economics, so when he writes a letter like that, I take it pretty seriously.
Moser: [laughs] One or two, yeah.
Frankel: It's really hard to argue with some of it. The big thing that stood out to me was education. He said our education system is really, for lack of a better word, failing the U.S. population. We're not doing a good job at educating people to the available jobs. I read headlines on CNBC every other day about how there's six-figure jobs that they just don't have enough talent for. These are vocational-type of jobs. A lot of people don't what a good electrician makes. It's a pretty good living.
When I was in school back in the '80s and '90s -- aging myself a little bit here; Jason remembers this, too -- it was standard to take things like wood shop, auto shop, things like that. That exists less than less these days. I was a high school teacher up until a few years ago, so I know this very well. They cut all the vocational programs out. The old wood shop was being used as a history classroom in the school I taught at. Are we training people to be historians? No. We need vocational education. We need to collaborate with businesses. This is a big point of Dimon's. We need to have schools and businesses work together so we're educating people to the jobs that are available. Makes sense, right?
Frankel: But we're not doing that. [laughs] And no one no one really knows why. It's something that used to be a big priority of ours. But over the past couple of decades, it's been the push, every kid needs to go to college, every kid needs to go to college. Some of the best jobs don't require a college degree. They just need to be taught how to do these things. And we're just not doing it.
Moser: Yeah, that's a real good point, Matt. For whatever reason, it just seems like it's all about college, and not about all of those different types of careers that are out there that may not necessarily require a college degree these days. What else struck you from the letter?
Frankel: There's a bunch of common-sense things that he brought up. Infrastructure has been huge, not just in the political spectrum, but just in general. People are frustrated that roads and bridges are collapsing all over the place. The inability to get something done in less than 10 years in the permitting process. Dimon's quote, I have it right here, is that "it took eight years to get a man on the moon. Now it could take decades to get the permits to build a new bridge." It's true. It took eight years to get a man on the moon in the '60s. So that's definitely a problem.
He also mentioned litigation. this is a stat that really stood out to me. In the U.S., litigation expenses as a percentage of GDP are 150% higher than the average developed nation. So much of our time and money and is just tied up in legal costs. He said we need to do some real legal reform to find a way to get rid of frivolous litigation, which is a big problem. If you've seen some of the advertisements for lawyers, you probably know what I'm talking about?
Frankel: It's just wasteful. Immigration policies are another one he pointed out. Forty percent of the students who come to the U.S. and obtain advanced degrees have no legal way to stay here. We're effectively exporting the knowledge that we're teaching people.
Moser: Yeah, it seems to be completely the opposite of what we should be doing. [laughs] I'm with you. The one that stood out to me was that capricious and wasteful litigation system. We grew up watching The Simpsons. Back in the day, Lionel Hutz was a joke. That was the attorney who would sue you for anything. But it does feel like we've gotten to this point now where that's the norm. Anybody can basically come up and sue you for anything. And then you're stuck having to go through this awful system without any guarantee that you're not going to be damaged in one way or another, either reputationally, or financially, or both, even if you didn't do anything wrong to begin with. So, yeah, I tend to agree. It seems like our litigation system has gotten way out of hand. I don't know exactly how we fix that, but there's no question something has to be done.
Frankel: It's definitely a problem. All these are clearly identifiable problems, and the solutions aren't that clear.
Moser: Yeah. We're going to tweet out the link to your article on the Industry Focus Twitter feed. Listeners, you can follow us on Twitter @MFIndustryFocus. You'll see Matt's article out there later this afternoon. He goes a little bit more into all 11 points there in regard to this letter, and what's holding economic growth back. Very well written, Matt! I enjoyed reading it myself. Good job there!