Revolt of the fat cats

Photo: Gary Locke

 

You’ve likely noticed that once-solid, dependable companies have taken very public, very partisan, very unpopular positions, all of which seem to fit with the political agenda of the far Left. What too rarely gets mentioned is the reason for that shift, the overarching corporate investment strategy that is ideological activism masquerading as public service – bringing disastrous business decisions with it.

By Washington Examiner – Scott Shepard

Aug 18, 2022

Recent examples of the trend have ranged from the hundreds of companies that initially came out in opposition to Georgia’s election integrity law to Google’s announcement that it would pay for employees to move to states with fully permissive abortion laws (but not for employees to move on other policy-based grounds) to the leak of Disney’s “not-at-all-secret gay agenda” in children’s content and its full-throated opposition to, and lying about, a Florida law that simply stopped primary school teachers from leading classroom discussions to very young children about sexuality and radical gender theory.

Likewise, when most of the media discuss terms like “ESG” and “stakeholder capitalism,” they are represented as unadulteratedly good things. According to its proponents, ESG, which stands for “environmental, social, and [corporate] governance,” is a movement by nonpartisan do-gooders to help businesses become better neighbors and citizens in lovely, noncontroversial ways. Stakeholder capitalism has been sold as an effort to ensure that corporations care about everyone and everything, not just the firms’ business, actual financial constituents, and long-term viability.

ESG and stakeholder capitalism are not forces of good. Rather, they are the camouflage for the forces that have led to the hard-left politicization of so much of corporate América and that threaten the strength of our economy and the fabric of our civil society.

While some proponents of ESG investing and activism pursue niche interests, the primary goals of these actors are to tie companies to two fundamental commitments. The first is, in the name of “equity,” to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, and orientation (against whites, men, and straight people) in hiring, promotion, salary, and otherwise. The second is, in the name of environmental stewardship and concern for the climate, to stop emitting carbon in their activities not as technological and financial considerations might allow, but according to schedules dictated by biased and corrupt U.N. and private organizations. Not incidentally, these are the same two “whole-of-government” goals of the Biden administration.

These true believers are complemented by grifters: investment houses that offer ESG-labeled funds that differ little from normal index-tracking products, except that in the past few years they’ve been a little heavy in technology (despite high energy usage) and light in energy (despite the fact that Western corporations create the cleanest reliable energy in the world). Though essentially indistinguishable from tracking funds, ESG-labeled funds are an excuse for investment houses to charge far, far larger fees to gullible investors.

The ESG agenda is enforced and maintained by the leading investment houses and the too-big-to-fail banks. Firms like BlackRock claim their commitment to ESG is “not about politics” and “not woke.” But just like the left-wing activists and the current administration, BlackRock defines ESG’s overriding goals only as equity-based discrimination and radical, politics-driven decarbonization. These investment houses then use the influence derived from the investments they manage – influence that by right and under law should run to BlackRock’s investors, not its executives – to force all publicly traded companies to move in the direction of their ruinous personal policy preferences.

Too-big-to-fail banks such as Bank of América join this revolt of the corporate titans by refusing to lend to companies and even whole industries that don’t fall in with the twin policy pillars of ESG. This has resulted in, among many other things, denying capital to the carbon energy industries of the West at exactly the time when the free world desperately needs affordable, reliable energy, which must mean carbon-based (or nuclear) energy, both to regain fully functioning economies after two egregious years of lockdowns and to be able to stand up to the renascent global threats of Russia and China.

It is unlikely that Russia would have invaded Ukraine were Western Europe still producing its own reliable power instead of having taken a failed flier on “renewable” (read: still dirty and wholly unreliable) energy. And it is very likely indeed that were the ESG-enforcing titans to get their way here, the United States would find itself significantly impoverished while also beholden to state-suppliers of reliable energy: those beyond the ESG-enforcers ministrations, many of whom are some of the world’s worst actors.

Which is to say, the more this woke investing movement succeeds, the greater the power Russia and China have over our Western allies.

It’s already happening. The Biden administration’s “whole-of-government” plan to foist political decarbonization schedules on the U.S. has pushed the country out of net-exporter status and back to net-importer. And while the administration has pretended that this natural response to its regulatory activities is somehow the industry’s fault, it has done nothing to reverse the regulatory burdens it has enacted or the uncertainties it has introduced. Rather, President Joe Biden has wandered the globe to beg Saudi Arabia and even Venezuela to produce the energy that he has made it increasingly impossible for U.S. corporations to produce.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and his fellow woke bankers do all of this from the immensely privileged position of being too-big-to-fail banks. Such firms are permitted to keep their profits, making their CEOs billionaires, while they push their losses onto taxpayers. In other words, we’re the ultimate guarantors of their efforts to dictate to us how we ought to live our lives.

That, then, is the real ESG – corporate titans working hand in glove with left-wing politicians to advance the far Left’s two core goals: equity-based discrimination and decarbonization at a rate that can destroy an economy. These twin efforts are assisted by also adopting the scam doctrine of stakeholder capitalism. As noted above, this doctrine has been sold by its proponents and their old-media allies as just giving a voice to everyone and everything, including the environment. But that, too, is a fraud.

What stakeholder capitalism really boils down to is CEOs putting their personal policy preferences in the mouths of compliant stakeholder groups, or looking for the stakeholder groups that are already making those demands, and then glomming onto those demands. It’s the same fraud as ESG, working to the same purpose, by similar means.

For far too long, all of this went effectively unchecked. To be sure, some groups, such as the Free Enterprise Project of the National Center for Public Policy Research, which I direct, have been ringing the fire bell in the night, warning the public that the Left’s efforts to take over all of the commanding heights of American civic life had reached our corporations – after having already conquered higher education, Hollywood, the civil service, the traditional news industry, and so much more.

Read More: Washington Examiner – Revolt of the fat cats

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