State employees, do you know what the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) does with your money?
My guess is probably not. None of us do. Most of us haven’t cared where investors put our money as long as those investments produce good results.
But in 2023, we’re starting to ask questions, both from a moral and financial standpoint.
The problem is that corporate America is no longer concerned primarily with making money. Corporate America took a left turn after the 2008 recession, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy writes in “Woke, Inc.,” when the political left branded Wall Street as the reason for the market collapse. Never mind that the government forcing lenders to give housing loans to those who couldn’t repay them was a huge part of the problem. Corporate America was afraid that the wrath of Occupy Wall Street would destroy it.
So it struck a deal. In order to “shield itself from the harsh glare [of] the financial crisis,” Wall Street entered a marriage with wokeness. Wokeness needed money, and Wall Street needed a leftist hero to save it from a leftist enemy.
It took a while for the effects of this deal to materialize. As the great economist Milton Friedman once said, trying to steer the economy is like trying to steer the Titanic with a rubber band. But now corporate America is quite woke.
What investors have done with people’s money is one of the worst side effects of this shift. When people set aside a sizeable amount of their paycheck and entrust it to their investors, some want to make sure they have enough to buy a house on the beach and sip margaritas all day. But many middle-class Americans don’t want to live such a lavish lifestyle. They just want to make sure that they will have enough money to maintain their lifestyle from retirement to death.
But to woke investors, something else matters more: supporting woke causes.
As my friends at the Alabama Policy Institute have discussed, a huge factor in today’s investment decisions is ESG, which stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. Meeting these three criteria comes at the expense of making money. But woke investors don’t seem to care.
Where is the money going? Often to leftist causes, such as Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ and environmental-related issues. Alabama’s high-professing Christian and conservative population would probably object to their money going towards such causes that demonize the police, oppose their values, and kill jobs.
BlackRock, the country’s largest investor—which manages an estimated $10 trillion—is notorious for supporting woke causes. Several Republican Attorneys General, including Alabama’s Steve Marshall, are demanding answers, and some states are pulling their pension funds from BlackRock. It is unclear whether Alabama pensions are invested in BlackRock, but our state has been relatively quiet in opposing woke investments compared to other states.
The Alabama Center for Law and Liberty is sending RSA an open records request to find out whether Alabamians are unwittingly supporting causes like Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign, and Black Lives Matter through BlackRock. The answers we receive to our inquiry will likely yield follow-up questions requiring further open records request.
RSA is a giant, and BlackRock a titan, so it will take time and money to get to the bottom of what these entities are doing with our investments. If you wish to support our efforts, you can give a tax-deductible donation here. If our investigation concludes that RSA has been investing Alabamians’ money in BlackRock, then woke investors may be civilly liable for breach of fiduciary duty, and pensioners may be entitled to compensation.
In any event, if we discover that Alabamian money is funding abortion, gay rights, and business-crushing environmentalism, we could succeed in getting RSA to put Alabamians’ money where it belongs: in investment firms that will ensure that Alabamians can enjoy retirement instead of robbing them of their hard-earned money to support more wokeness.
Matt Clark is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, a conservative nonprofit law firm that fights for limited government, free markets, and strong families in the courts. His column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.
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