President Barack Obama appears to have made something of a mid-course correction to his approach on Wall Street pay.
After making a stab at populism by beating up Wall Street bankers for their exorbitant paydays, he's apparently not so bent out of shape about their big payouts anymore.
As Bloomberg News reports:
President Barack Obama said he doesn't "begrudge" the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay.
The president, speaking in an interview, said in response to a question that while $17 million is "an extraordinary amount of money" for Main Street, "there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don't get to the World Series either, so I'm shocked by that as well."
"I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen," Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. "I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system."
Hmmm, wonder if the president's kinder, softer line on Wall Street pay has anything to do with a new reality about which the New York Times recently reported:
WASHINGTON -- If the Democratic Party has a stronghold on Wall Street, it is JPMorgan Chase.
Its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, is a friend of President Obama's from Chicago, a frequent White House guest and a big Democratic donor. Its vice chairman, William M. Daley, a former Clinton administration cabinet official and Obama transition adviser, comes from Chicago's Democratic dynasty.
But this year Chase's political action committee is sending the Democrats a pointed message. While it has contributed to some individual Democrats and state organizations, it has rebuffed solicitations from the national Democratic House and Senate campaign committees. Instead, it gave $30,000 to their Republican counterparts.
The shift reflects the hard political edge to the industry's campaign to thwart Mr. Obama's proposals for tighter financial regulations.
Just two years after Mr. Obama helped his party pull in record Wall Street contributions -- $89 million from the securities and investment business, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics -- some of his biggest supporters, like Mr. Dimon, have become the industry's chief lobbyists against his regulatory agenda.
Republicans are rushing to capitalize on what they call Wall Street's "buyer's remorse" with the Democrats. And industry executives and lobbyists are warning Democrats that if Mr. Obama keeps attacking Wall Street "fat cats," they may fight back by withholding their cash.
"If the president doesn't become a little more balanced and centrist in his approach, then he will likely lose that support," said Kelly S. King, the chairman and chief executive of BB&T. Mr. King is a board member of the Financial Services Roundtable, which lobbies for the biggest banks, and last month he helped represent the industry at a private dinner at the Treasury Department.
Back in January when the president, at a White House event meant to highlight his call for a new fee on banks to recapture government bailout money, issued his tough "We-want-our-money-back" message to Wall Street, I wondered what kind of reception he'd get from Wall Street.
As I said then:
All this makes one wonder how the conversations are going to go when the president starts calling Wall Street executives to raise money for his re-election.
That Wall Street is voting with its political donations for Republicans is something of an answer.