John Murante is Nebraska's State Treasurer. He's spoken publicly about how Blackrock and others are not just attacking the energy industry, but attacking our food producers as well
I recently talked with John, on my podcast "Meeting of Minds" and he talked about how politicized investing hurts farmers, and also empowers tyrants, and how it functions as a kind of secular religion. Below are a few highlights from that discussion, lightly edited for clarity and length.
This is part 2. You can read part 1 here.
Jerry: It's kind of a religion. It's a Malthusian religion. It's apocalyptic. All religions have some kind of end of the world scenario, right? So does this one. It has Gaia worship, it has its own dietary code. It's really strange.
Of course, they don't live by it. They might make a living, like a lot of these people, they're talking their book, because they put enormous money into vegetarian meat companies. They keep trying to push this down on top of us. This "sustainability agenda." Which is so deeply anti-human. It's anti-human to see us as the problem on earth, rather than earth being here for our benefit, which is more the Judeo-Christian worldview.
People are obviously revolting against it, and they can revolt against it all they want, but if BlackRock or Vanguard are voting their shares, and lobbying these companies, until we as shareholders reassert our rights and actually use our power, we can be as mad as we want, but it won't matter if we don't do something. Something like what you're doing, something with teeth, where you say: we are you customers. You are not going to do this to us any more, or we won't be your customers any more.
John: That's right. I think your analysis that, especially at the high end, they really don't believe in any of this stuff, right? Like if you really believe that climate change is going to cause the oceans to raise by 10 feet, you wouldn't be buying beachfront property, which is what President Obama did.
Jerry: You wouldn't have a private island. You wouldn't be at Martha's Vineyard.
John: Exactly correct. The catastrophizing, though, is psychologically dangerous. There's a reason why young liberals have been identified as having the highest group of incidence of mental health problems.
We just had a young college professor last year in Nebraska who testified that she really doesn't care about the return on her retirement account, because she's not going to live to see retirement age anyway. So what difference does it make how the state of Nebraska would invest her portfolio? She really, in her heart of hearts, believes that it was more important to make sure that her portfolio is not invested in any sort of oil and gas, to make sure it wasn't contributing to climate change, and her rationale was that she wasn't going to live long enough to ever see retirement anyway. That's just demoralizing. It's catastrophizing. It's not even based in reality, but that's what folks are saying, and it's really it's really tragic
Jerry: And it's psychological child abuse. It is causing a mental health crisis. It's shocking how many young people have believed in the most histrionic, hyperbolic predictions. I guess they didn't live through the other predictions that never came true.
Fear is a great motivator. But I think what they hadn't counted on was shareholders starting to stand up. I think about my friend, Justin Danhof, who's been doing this for like 10 years. Tom Strobhar's been doing this for 25 years. But they've been mostly alone. We weren't showing up, but the other side was. And then at one point conservatives and even center-life people, people who don't want corporations involved in this stuff, woke up and saw that these places had been ideologically captured. It wasn't a situation where we went out, played the game, and lost. It's a situation of decades of us not showing up for a single game. All those losses were by forfeit. So the other side got used to that, and they got so far out over their skis that they started pushing things that are so beyond the pale. Like abortion, in the name of risk management. Or complete decarbonization.
They didn't count on the blowback we're kind of seeing from the broad middle of the country at the shareholder level.
John: I think that's right. As conservatives there's always been a reticence, in our DNA, against market regulation and ensuring that the government's not interfering with how corporations operate, and those are good values. But State Treasurers are not market regulators. We don't have the ability to come in and tell any asset manager or financial institution how they need to run their business. We are market participants. We're here as the elected representatives of our constituents and we are solely interested in their best financial interests. And that's it. We're not engaging in politics. Before this ESG stuff you never heard any sort of shareholder proposals by Republican State Treasurers for corporate boards take 'conservative' policy positions. That just never happened. It was the left that went too far and started doing that.
So we started saying they "we can't do business with with entities that are going to take the deposits of the taxpayers of our states, and weaponize them against our constituents and industries. It's antithetical to our duties under the Constitution to always act in the best interest of our constituents.
Jerry Bowyer is financial economist, president of Bowyer Research, and author of “The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics.”