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How Woke Corporations Are Ruining America

How Woke Corporations Are Ruining America

Episode #53  |  September 16th, 2021
Listen Now

In This Episode:

Woke corporations are rapidly taking over America. 

From the false altruism of ESG and beyond, the defining con of 21st-century capitalism is for these companies to pretend they don’t care about profit publically so that they can indeed make more of a profit privately.

This trend in full-scale corporate hypocrisy undermines citizens’ trust in our national institutions and even rots the very core of our nation’s democracy. 

Will these new company initiatives actually help consumers or is it all to make a quick buck and push a crazy liberal agenda? 

In this episode, Trish talks with entrepreneur and bestselling author, Vivek Ramaswamy. 

Is the relationship between the government and big business more alarming than ever?

Ramaswamy says,

It’s worse than it’s ever been, and the reason is that it is dressed up in the veneer of progressivism.

Plus, Trish asks about social media censorship and the financial ramifications of the Afghanistan debacle.        

Have a question or topic you want to hear in a future podcast episode? Send us an e-mail at trishreganfeedback.com.

Guests:

Vivek Ramaswamy

Entrepreneur & Author of Woke Inc.
Vivek Ramaswamy is a successful entrepreneur who has founded multiple successful enterprises. A first-generation American, he is the founder and Executive Chairman of Roivant Sciences, a new type of biopharmaceutical company focused on the application of technology to drug development.  He founded Roivant in 2014 and led the largest biotech IPOs of 2015 and 2016, eventually culminating in successful clinical trials in multiple disease areas that led to FDA-approved products.

Transcript:

Trish Regan:               Most Americans are still going about life, investing, retirement planning, as though nothing unusual has happened to our financial system. And few seem to realize the repercussions of the trillions, and trillions, and trillions of dollars that has all been pumped into the U.S. financial system, just in the last 18 months alone. Well, this is a wake-up call.

I mean, people are recognizing this. You have at least four billionaires that have stated publicly, Americans aren’t paying enough attention to this development. And now a friend of this show, a former Goldman Sachs banker, says sooner than most people think millions of Americans will potentially be pushed down out of the middle class, out of private retirement, out of a decent life based on independence and privacy into what he calls a collectivist nightmare… “called financial lockdown.”

So find out how to protect yourself, how to protect your family, how to protect your money. You can get a free copy of his new report in it. He’ll show you the four steps that he recommends you take immediately. Go to retirementwarning2021.com to get your free copy. Again, Retirement Warning 2021 for a free copy of his new report.

 

I told you inflation was coming, and my gosh, have you seen the latest numbers on the Producer Price Index… 8.3%? That’s how much wholesale prices just went up compared to this time last year for the month of August. This comes on the heels of 7.8% of an increase in July which was already a record. I mean, so it’s like we just keep breaking records on the inflation front.

I mean, this is wild. It’s really wild to me, but you know what? It’s exactly what I had warned of because when you are in an environment such as we are now, where there is no political will whatsoever to be responsible with your finances, where there is no will on behalf of either the administration or our central bank to stop printing money, then you print.

I mean, trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars. Let’s hope that the adult in the room, Senator Joe Manchin, can kind of put a stop to this. I mean, he said, look, “One and a half trillion is as far as I want to go. They want three and a half trillion on top of the already trillion they’ve got.”

And by the way, this is all for infrastructure, right? Infrastructure, quote unquote. But Joe Manchin brings up a very logical point, which is that how exactly is $400 billion for senior home care infrastructure? I mean, the administration will tell you, you just need to rethink what the term infrastructure really means.

I mean, they would say that social infrastructure is the wave of the future. Interestingly, there’s not a lot of money in there for future preparedness for another pandemic, which I find interesting. Nor is there any significant amount of money for something that I’ve talked about repeatedly on this program and I’ve written about in American Consequences – americanconsequences.com?

By the way, go there, sign up for the newsletter, goes out every day in some of the best writing that you will find on the economy and on international relations and on politics is all there, absolutely free.

I write for them every single month. I’m the publisher of American Consequences. So that’s my spiel to make sure that you do sign up for it. But really, I mean, when you think of all this money that has been spent, that will be spent, and you look at the budget that they’re putting forward, none of it’s going to the grid, right?

The grid, which actually really could take us down in a very big way. We are vulnerable. We have all these exposures right now and our government, instead of being two steps ahead, is two steps behind. I’m sorry, but the Afghanistan example is just a perfect example of how messed up this bureaucracy really is.

I mean, nobody’s really thinking straight. I don’t disagree with wanting to get out of Afghanistan. Absolutely. We don’t want to be spending our time, our money, our resources, our lives fighting a forever war. But simultaneously, let’s not forget. We just marked the anniversary of 9/11.

Let’s not forget what happened on that day. I’ll never forget it. I had just moved from that area a couple of months before. We had just moved out to the West Coast – we actually used to live down in Battery Park City, right there near that American Express Lehman Brothers building, which was, of course, right next door to the Twin Towers.

And I used to look out at the Twin Towers and I used to think, gosh, I wonder if we’d be vulnerable again because don’t forget, they’d tried this before. They’d tried this before with a bomb.

It’s horrible to think that 20 years after that tragic day that we are right back where we started. I’ll never forget. I was live on the air in San Francisco doing the business report at 5:50 in the morning, West Coast time.

Of course, that would’ve been 8:50 on the East Coast. And the producer said, “Listen, we need to bail out of this story because there’s been something that’s happened in New York.” And we didn’t know what it was, but we wound up going to the New York local coverage there, and sure enough, it was beyond our wildest imagination.

And it was just a horrible time, a horrific time, friends that were in the building that we couldn’t find. I didn’t have anybody that I was extremely close to that I lost, thank goodness.

But I had friends who lost people that they were extremely close to. And it’s all coming back now, and I’ve told you, I’ve been so upset by the Afghanistan story. I’ve cried actually multiple times. I don’t think I have cried since 9/11 because of a news story.

And part of that is my frustration with how this is being done and the exposure and the vulnerability that we will have, and that we are leaving future generations as a result of poor planning in our exit out of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, we’re taking all these refugees in here. It’s very unclear how they have been vetted. The Texas AG, Ken Paxton, making this point that we have no idea, and for whatever reason, the federal government is not telling the states – Texas, of which is one that’s taking so many refugees in.

Texas has not been told what the criteria actually is. So again, just incompetence. I mean, I think that’s sort of the word of the day here, incompetence. And whether you’re talking about what’s happening in a foreign relations level or what’s happening on an economic level, we clearly have our issues.

And I feel like it’s not getting any better, neither side, by the way. It’s not like we can blame this entirely on Joe Biden.

For goodness sakes, I mean, you have both sides that have become so polarized, in a way that is not healthy and will use, by the way, both sides will use every tool they can to keep printing money to make it look like things are good, but things are not good when real wages are going down.

The mainstream media doesn’t tell you that real wages, they fell 1.2% year over year. We just got that data out with the labor department and the jobs report last week. And you know what? Nobody talks about that.

If you’re reading the mainstream media wages are going up. Well, yeah, they’re going up except when you adjust for inflation.

I mean consumer prices will get a read this Friday on the Consumer Price Index, but judging by the Producer Price Index, 8.3%, that number’s going to be higher because while they pass those costs onto the consumers, right? Producer prices go up and usually the CPI index follows.

And so if everything costs more, then guess what? Yeah, your wages, they may be going up a little bit, but does it matter? Does it matter when everything costs more? No, because actually, it turns out real wages, nobody wants to talk about real wages. I do. They’ve gone down 1.2%.

Anyway, that’s my two cents for the day but I do want to get now to a wonderful guest that we’re bringing on the show because he’s come out with a terrific new book that I think really crystallizes so much of our problem right now, America’s elites have basically taken over the system for their own benefit.

You look at corporate culture right now, and corporate culture has become so woke, right? And you say to yourself as a capitalist, I say to myself, “Well, what are they doing, right?” Because really shouldn’t have much of a political stake.

They really ought to just be dedicated to the bottom line and making money and expanding market share. But instead, they’ve gotten themselves into a real political disaster and all these companies, they’ve all got an opinion on, about something.

Well, I’m so happy to have with me today, an author who’s speaking out on this very issue, an author who cares about this and wants to make sure that we as Americans recognize what’s really going on.

I am so happy to have here with me today, the author of a brand-new book called Woke, Inc. He’s calling out all the politics that have gotten into business right now. We have Vivek Ramaswamy. Vivek, welcome to the show. Good to have you here.

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     Glad to be on. Thanks for having me.

 

Trish Regan:               So you have just an incredible background. I just want to start by saying this because you’re not just a talking head, nothing wrong with those, but you are the real deal because you’ve worked both in business.

Well, actually, I believe you started a multi-billion dollar biotech company, so you have a lot of experience in business, you have a lot of experience outside the normal journalist world, but you’re also a bestselling author. Just tell us a little bit about you, and Vivek, how you got your start.

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     Yeah, sure. Happy to. I mean, I’ve been fortunate to live the full arc of the American dream in this country. My parents came here in the late ’70s and early ’80s with not a lot of money but in search of an education.

And they grew up and they came to Cincinnati, Ohio, and I asked my dad, “Why would you come of all places to Cincinnati, Ohio from India?” And he said his older sister was in Fort Wayne, Indiana and he wanted the closest job he could find that was near her… was a GE in Ohio.

And so I asked, “Why did your sister come halfway across the world to Fort Wayne, Indiana?” And we joke around that it is the only U.S. state with the word India contained in the name of the state.

So that’s just a side family joke. But in any case, we grew up in southwest Ohio, went to Harvard for college, studied molecular biology. I was a lab guy, kind of one of the geeky guys in the lab for much of the time, ended up getting into biotech investing in New York City at a hedge fund after I graduated.

I did that for seven years, spent three of those years at the same time in law school at Yale, where I had an itch to study while on political philosophy, I had been such a science guy before that I never really had fully scratched that itch.

I happened to meet my wife. That was my most tangible accomplishment that came out of law school, but she was my next-door neighbor while she was in med school.

But after I came back to New York, I realized that I was actually frustrated with a lot of the inefficiencies in Big Pharma that I couldn’t address as an investor. And so I left my job as an investor to found a biotech company that thankfully has gone on to enjoy some level of success.

We’ve developed a number of drugs, a couple of which are FDA approved today. It’s a successful story in the biotech industry. If you’re familiar with biotech you know, Roivant, the company that I founded, but I set down this January to focus on my next project for what I really think is important to address.

And this time it’s not biological cancer, but I think it’s a cultural cancer that’s infecting each of the institutions one at a time. And I talk about the way in which I think it’s infected our private sector.

And that’s what I write about in Woke, Inc, which is the relationship between capitalism and democracy is one today in which each is infecting the other. And I think the right answer is to separate capitalism from democracy to restore a true sense of American identity.

And that’s very abstract as I described it there, we can get into more detail, but in a nutshell, that’s what my focus has been over the course of this year. And it’s been a lot of fun rolling out the book. I never imagined that it would have the success that it’s had.

 

Trish Regan:               Yeah, it’s a terrific book. I encourage people to read it. You’ve got some really great things in there, and I want to talk about one of your chapters, which it resonates with me, especially given this sort of environment that we’re in, where every company has to have some kind of ESG investing purpose.

I know fund managers who say, “This is crazy. I’ve turned into an ESG fund and I’m supposed to be an energy fund,” or something. And it’s difficult and it’s happening all over the world.

So whether are investing in companies in Europe or in here, there’s all these ESG requirements, and given that BlackRock kind of controls all of this, right? And it’s such a priority for them. In fact, the guy who used to run the ESG department and is now head of the National Council of Economic Advisors. So, very sort of incestuous world.

There’s a real push for ESG. But before we get to that, let’s back up for a second, because one of the points that you make that I think is pretty poignant is that they’re not doing this within a vacuum. They’re not doing this for altruistic reasons.

There’s a capitalist motivation that frankly, I think in your view, really shouldn’t exist. I mean, they’re kind of doing this, would you say, to make more money.

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     Yeah. Look, I think the defining trick of 21st-century capitalism is that you pretend like you care about something other than profit and power precisely to gain more of each.

And that’s not just an act of hypocrisy. I think it is undermining public trust in our institutions. I think it’s undermining the integrity of American democracy because it demands that a small group of elite CEOs and investors, people like Larry Fink who most Americans have never heard of – definitely will never hear from… insulates himself from the accountability of public debate – are deciding behind closed doors the right answers to questions that we in America ought to adjudicate through free speech, open debate in the public square… through our democracy at large.

And that new trend is I think, dividing our politics to a breaking point. It is fueling a crisis of pent-up public frustrations that may spill over in ways that become increasingly unhealthy for our society as a whole, which is, I think, ironically, the biggest negative externality of all to borrow the language of the stakeholder capitalism movement.

And I think that that is a big part of what I set out to reveal in the book is what I think of as the defining scam of our time. One that I think does rob everyday Americans of their money to be sure.

I think part of the reason BlackRock and others like them have gotten into this game is to be able to charge an extra fee from dressing up their funds in the veneer of progressivism and be able to charge money for doing it.

But I think it’s even worse than that, because this is a scam that robs you, not just of your money, but I think America’s citizenry of their voice and their identity too. And I think that’s the most dangerous part of it of all.

 

Trish Regan:               You actually refer to it as a bubble. I mean, do you mean a bubble in the traditional sense, financial sense, that at some point we’re going to wake up and we’re going to realize this ESG stuff was a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     I do. So there’s a chapter in the book which I think is called the “ESG Asset Bubble”, where I make the case that I believe we’re in the early stages of entering an ESG linked asset bubble, but the only thing scarier than entering that bubble may be the fact that I’m wrong about it, and the reason why I’m wrong. And I’ll tell you about both sides of that argument.

So the reason I think that from purely financial sense, we’re entering the early stages of an ESG asset bubble is akin to the reasons why we entered a housing bubble that culminated in the 2008 financial crisis.

And believe me, I had a front-row seat to watch that. I took a job at a hedge fund in New York City in the fall of 2007. It was a prominent hedge fund. It was mentioned in Michael Lewis’ book, The Big Short.

Ultimately, I had seen that play out with a front row seat and the lesson I think we ought to have taken away from the ’08 financial crisis is when you have social policies governing government-driven capital allocation.

As we saw in the pre-2008-era government policy saying that we had to foster home ownership in the United States as a social goal. What that did is it distorted capital allocation towards home loans, homeownership, and the securities that then bundled those home loans.

And that created an asset bubble that hurt the very people it was supposed to help in the first place. Well, now I see the equivalent happening in the government policy that favors the so-called ESG agenda, which is really just a code word… environmental social governance to refer to.

I think a progressive policy agenda where companies flout certain values on issues ranging from climate change to anti-racism where today companies that say the right things, according to that new progressive dogma, are able to attract capital from sources like BlackRock.

And the devious part about it is the people of this country who have their funds invested in mutual fund complexes like BlackRock have no idea how their shares, the shares that they own, that you own every day, that are owned by you but are held physically by a custodian like that at BlackRock.

They’re being voted in ways that would make your blood boil. If you actually knew the demands that were being made on companies based on the shares that you actually own yet, that’s exactly what’s happening.

And because more and more institutional capital institutional investors are adhering to this dogma, there’s more and more money flowing into this ESG-linked investing.

And so folks like BlackRock and Larry Fink point to the so-called “outperformance” of ESG linked companies as a way of justifying the fact that they’re earning higher returns than normal value investors.

Well, that’s the logic of a Ponzi scheme because if the asset prices are going up only because there’s more money flowing in that only works so long as more money is actually flowing in, but is fundamentally untethered from the actual value of those underlying assets, just like we saw the money flowing into home loans in the pre-2008 era.

And so I worry, and I make good database argument in the book for this, looking at a lot of the arguments for why people say that ESG stocks have outperformed, questioning some of those suppositions, arguing that even if some of those suppositions were true, a lot of it is driven by funds flow rather than fundamental value.

And I make that argument in the book of people who are interested in that can read the book. But the way I end that chapter, though, is I think on a scarier note that, you know what?

If I’m wrong, and there’s a chance I might be wrong about this, it’s actually going to be because the ESG-linked fund managers have the last laugh in the end, because they’re able to capture government itself to make sure that the companies that they’re investing in are given a competitive advantage.

I can see BlackRock has mastered the art of placing its alumni in the Biden administration, and at the Biden administration… enacts regulatory protective, competitively protective statutes that protect the kinds of companies that adhere to the so-called ESG dogma.

Maybe they will be actually more competitive in the end, but it’s not because the market made it so. It’s because the capture of government made it so, which I think maybe is the scariest answer of all.

 

Trish Regan:               It’s such a fascinating thesis and I think you’re spot-on. I mean, again, just to go back to anecdotally having talked to fund managers who say, this is crazy, it’s like, no matter what fund you’re in, it’s like you have to run kind of like this ESG thing.

It’s one of the reasons why actually, you should talk to Tom Carter over at the American Conservative Values Fund. It was started by Ridgeline Research, and they just came out with a fund and it’s pretty brand new. It’s just been out a couple of months, but their whole idea is to be the anti-sort of ESG fund or at least try and give everyday people a seat at the table because the Ponzi element is extremely interesting to me.

I do think that all this money starts chasing the same thing, but there’s also the social aspect of this where now there’s kind of a group mentality deciding, or rather not even group, not big enough, right?

It’s sort of the select few that are deciding this social blueprint, and so some people are saying, “OK, well, we need to have an alternative to that,” but it’s tricky because you’re not going to get that institutional money.

And the institutional money is what really kind of is going to dictate a lot of things at the end of the day. Look, all that said, let me play devil’s advocate for a moment and say what if you’re Larry and you really do, and I think he really does.

I’ve known him a long time. I think he really does believe in wanting to be able to help business lead a change and sort of business and government together, right? Being able to do good things.

I think about Vivek, my own experience having reported on the ethanol boom years ago, back in Brazil. I mean, this was when we were still under the Bush administration, and they wanted to get the U.S. to become energy independent.

And guess what, Brazil already was, thanks to their sugar cane ethanol that they really prioritized so much so that they said, “OK, every single gas station in Brazil has to have one ethanol pump.” And they had rules and regulations saying cars need to offer this alternative.

And it actually kind of worked. They wanted to wean themselves off of oil and they did. And so that was an example of the government being able to give a little tiny push to say, “OK, we want to help this industry. We want to incubate this industry.”

If you don’t have really any incentives from government and business together to help the fledgling and I don’t know, the EV industry, that’s a good example along then how does it get there?

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     Yeah look, I think that there’s a debate to be had about the proper role of government in creating the incentives for private enterprise to do the things that private enterprise may not otherwise do in a truly untouched free market.

OK. I think we can discuss that. You kind of have to talk about it for a long time. You might have certain areas that focus on the tragedy of the commons. You might suffer from certain areas like even ultra-basic early-stage scientific research, that if it weren’t funded by the NIH, could there be arguments that you would never make discoveries that were too high risk for anyone to take on the government has to play a role.

These kinds of conversations have come up for a long time. That’s not a new conversation. I think the new conversation is whether Big Business should take it upon itself, in the name of fixing social injustice, to be able to take on social causes that have nothing to do with their business because of the new demands of stakeholder capitalism, where in some ways they have internalized what you are describing as the proper role of government, internalizing that into the decision making of Big Buisness itself.

And that’s actually appealing on the face of it to a lot of classical conservatives who may say that “Actually, if given the choice between government stepping to solve these problems and businesses voluntarily stepping up to solve these problems, I’d rather take businesses voluntarily stepping up than the government mandating it, isn’t that a better model?”

And I think that there’s some appeal to that. I think part of what I lay out in the book though, is an examination that I think should be equally appealing both from the right and from the left, to be able to recognize that we cannot trust to corporate leaders with that kind of stewardship because at the end of the day, they’re ultimately still built as vehicles to just advance their self-interest in ways that this becomes really a vehicle for competing while appearing to do justice in the process.

And so I, the case I’m making in the book is not actually related to the classical liberal/conservative debates about more or less government regulation. I may have views on that. I am classically a conservative on that debate most times over, but that’s not what this book is about.

This book is about the separate debate about whether capitalism should itself internalize that power and that decision-making authority unto itself. You see that nowhere more so than social media companies today, voluntarily trying to determine what does and doesn’t constitute misinformation or hate speech as defined by Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.

And what ends up then happening is a new layer of dishonesty where actually what ends up happening is that though these claim to be private companies deciding what does and shouldn’t show up online.

In fact, they’re behind closed doors working with the government to hear what the government wants to censor, what the government doesn’t like to see online, what the government considers misinformation or hate speech on topics ranging from COVID to political opposition that the prevailing part of the United States finds objectionable.

And so what you have then is through the back door government, being able to use private companies to be able to do what they cannot do directly under the constitution.

And I think that’s one of the things that I point out in the book is this new model of so-called stakeholder capitalism of business leaders appearing to internalize these social costs into their decision making are really just doing the bidding of government.

So often in coordination with government in ways that defy the constitution to do something through the back door that the government couldn’t directly do through the front door. For example, the First Amendment says the government can’t censor certain content on the internet.

Great. What the government will do is then threaten private companies to say that if you don’t take this down, we’re going to regulate you, break you up, but also we’re going to give you the special form of immunity called Section 230 immunity to go out and do it.

That’s exactly what we’re seeing in the case of Big Tech’s censorship today. Talk about the climate agenda. There’s the Green New Deal that Democrats wanted to pass. Well, wouldn’t make it through Congress. So what are they doing?

They get John Kerry, who’s the new climate czar, to be able to lean on big banks, to be able to say, “Hey, if you do X, Y, or Z, then we’re going to treat you more favorably.” That’s effectively the only leverage that he would have to be able to get them to sign a climate pledge to not lend to any projects that the government doesn’t want to see proceed.

And I think that that’s an evasion of sort of the constitutional system of checks and balances that we set up in this country. You saw it after the ’08 financial crisis where a bunch of big banks settled with the Obama administration for tens of billions of dollars.

But actually what ended up happening is very little of that money got paid to the public [inaudible] because what happened instead was the administration wanted to fund certain nonprofits that Congress didn’t want to fund.

And what they did is they used the DOJ to siphon some of those settlement dollars from the banks to the nonprofits that otherwise didn’t get funded. But the banks, in return, got a discount on the total amount of money that they actually had to pay, which ought to make your blood boil, because the American public was actually left holding the bag, and yet government actors are able to use private companies as pawns to do what they otherwise couldn’t do through the front door.

And so I think that’s really different than the Danish example you cited because that’s at least transparent, it’s in the open, it’s government setting policy through the front door to potentially set up incentives for private companies to do what they otherwise couldn’t do, and we ought to have that debate.

Sometimes I may be on the more conservative end of being skeptical of most of those arrangements, but we ought to approach those pragmatically and with an open mind and debate it in the public square.

But what I’m not OK with is being able to pretend that like actually businesses have somehow voluntarily taken up that mandate on their own when in fact they’re using that to just receive more favorable regulatory treatment relative that are competitors from the government and the government in turn using those private companies to do indirectly, what it cannot directly do under our constitutional norms. That’s what I’m taking aim at on the book.

 

Trish Regan:               Well, and look, Jen Psaki actually said just recently in a press conference that they had told Facebook what they considered misinformation and I mean it was an alarming statement. And in fact, we can play it right now. Let’s do that.

 

Jen Psaki:                   We’ve increased disinformation research and tracking within the Surgeon General’s office. We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that’s spread disinformation.

We’re working with doctors and medical professionals to connected medical experts who are popular with their audiences with accurate information and boost trusted content. So we’re helping get trusted content out there.

 

Trish Regan:               So in other words, the White House thinks that it can control, I suspect. I mean, this is exactly part of your theory. Let me ask you this Vivek, would you say that crony capitalism today is worse than it was sort of years ago?

I mean, has it just become when you look at sort of the history of business and you look at the history of this country and you acknowledge, right, because Big Business has always sort of had the ear of government and vice versa. Is it worse today than it’s ever been?

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     I think it is worse than it has ever been. And the reason is that it is dressed up in the veneer of progressivism. So in the old days of crony capitalism, the way it works is you hire lobbyists, you make campaign contributions, you place your alumni in seats of power, but you get what you want out of it. You get competitive favors from the government. That’s crony capitalism.

That’s what we saw in the bailouts after the 2008 financial crisis, but you don’t come out of it smelling like a rose. And the problem with today’s version of crony capitalism is that companies are tithing in a new currency through the gesturing, through the virtue signaling that they embody, they’re able to win favors from a newly ascendant progressive wing of the Democratic Party in ways that actually escape public note.

But it’s because it is dressed up in the veneer of progressivism itself. And so when you have Goldman Sachs go to the mountain tops of Davos, as the CEO did last year and declare that they will not take a company public in the United States if it doesn’t meet Goldman standards for board diversity, and they mean race and gender, not ideological diversity.

You notice that that happens exactly at the same time that Elizabeth Warren is at the front-runner of the Democratic primary. Now their old method for an old-school crony capitalism was again, campaign contributions was placing their alumni seats of power as they did with Hank Paulson in the seat of the U.S. Treasury Secretary who favored Goldman Sachs when it came to deciding who got to get bailouts. That worked just fine.

But in crony capitalism 2.0, you point that wouldn’t work with someone like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders were the front-runners at the time. So you have ties in a new currency by of bending your knee to the new temple of identity politics. And it works. They’re able to win favors.

In return, when John Kerry visits upon them and decides to make them a signatory of the climate pledge that he wants the banks to sign up to. But banks on Wall Street are not charitable institutions and the questions we ought to ask is what are they getting in return for behaviors that reflect their virtue signaling in the act that they advance under this new banner of stakeholder capitalism?

I always think part of crony capitalism 2.0, doesn’t just involve government being bribed by companies. It involves companies being bribed by the government to evade constitutional constraints in some of the ways that I talked to up earlier too.

So bottom-line answer to your question is yes. I think crony capitalism is not only alive and well, it is far more pervasive than it has ever been in the United States and it’s more pervasive because it’s escaping public notice under its “do good” smoke screen.

 

Trish Regan:               It feels like it’s getting worse. I don’t even know. I mean, Facebook, just the fact you’re saying all this right now, if we posted on Facebook, Facebook will be like, “Whoa”. I mean, I have a funny story about – I referred to Facebook as a monopoly.

I shouldn’t even say those two words together because that may trigger something and forgive me, no Google, Google, and then Google the very next day demonetized a whole slew of ads going all the way back for like a year. I’m like, “wait a second.”

So they have a lot of algorithms you see that listen and watch and if you’re not sort of touting the party line, you’re running certain risks. So I guess, let me preface again, this question, does it get worse with the knowledge of that going on?

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     I think it absolutely does is the short answer. I mean, I think you, you put your finger on a number of important pulses there, but I think that it’s not just that these companies exercise too much power in the marketplace of products, it’s that they are now able to use their market power in the market for products to get more power in the marketplace of ideas.

And I think that’s actually the most dangerous kind of monopoly of all where antitrust law, I think analysis fix for that because antitrust law is all about policing the use of market power to beget more market powering and gorge people on prices. That’s not exactly what’s happening. [Inaudible] is that they will readily point to the fact that many of their products are available for low prices are often for free. That’s not the issue.

The real abuse is the abuse of power in the market to be able to flex their muscle in the marketplace of ideas. And that makes me some of the most powerful companies in human history where the United States system said, “We don’t want the Dutch East India Company in the United States.”

The Dutch East India Company wielded state-like power. They had their own military, they had their own currency. They had their own hospitals and philanthropic institutions fulfilled the public needs.

The U.S. mission was to say that we don’t want the Dutch East India Company here in the United States. We want companies that have their shareholders by making products and selling those products for profit and staying in their lane, not just to maximize value for shareholders as United States might’ve wanted, but to protect democracy from corporate overreach.

And that’s what America was supposed to be all about. And today what we see is actually now Facebook and Twitter and Google able to do what the Dutch East India Company could have never dreamed of. Not only making its own currency, which by the way, Facebook wants to do with its cryptocurrency, but more importantly, to be able to determine the bounds of acceptable debate in public and civic body as a democracy.

That’s something that even the Dutch East India Company could have never dreamed of. I think we have the Dutch East India Company on steroids in modern Silicon Valley, and we see it in plain sight, but we miss the point because the very people who would’ve normally criticized that type of abuse and that type of betrayal of democracy, people who self-identify as being on the left are duped into submission because these companies happen to at least on the surface be pushing the values that those on the left agree with today.

And I think that’s another one of the dangers I write about in the book is that once corporations become vehicles to advance a progressive agenda, they actually become vehicles to advance any agenda.

And nobody has mastered that art more than autocratic dictatorships abroad, which are especially governed in regions where these companies also like to do business. China is at the top of that list that represents not only a single greatest threat to the United States, but I think the single greatest threat to Western idealism itself is the way in which China and the Chinese Communist Party has co-opted Western corporations to become Trojan horses that undermine Western societies from within by criticizing the United States while staying silent and not saying a peep about social justice in China.

That’s actually creating a moral quibble between the United States and China that I think further erodes American democracy and the American democratic ideal twice over on the global stage.

 

Trish Regan:               Yeah. Well, it’s an excellent point. Quickly before I let you go, just tell me your thoughts on Afghanistan. I believe I read an op-ed by you citing sort of once again the powers of woke capitalism and how wrong that is even in how we’ve exited from Afghanistan. What are your thoughts?

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     Yeah, sure. So my thoughts are that, even though it seems like there are seemingly disconnected phenomena today ranging from the rise of China to the disastrous exit to Afghanistan, to our cultural weakness here at home to the problems that we face in our schools and our military, I think these are more deeply linked.

They are all symptoms of a more common American sickness, and that is the loss of American fortitude itself as we have sacrificed the pursuit of excellence in favor of self-criticism instead.

And the point I made about Afghanistan in particular is that there is exactly one way that we could have averted this catastrophe in a reliable way. And that was for President Biden to have issued a credible threat to the Taliban, that if they come anywhere near Kabul, we were going to retaliate with total annihilation, total decimation, nothing off the table for what we would be willing to do.

He didn’t issue that threat. Even if he did issue that threat, the Taliban would have known that he could not make good on it because as the commander in chief of the United States, he’s obsessed with self-criticism of the United States, which prevents him from having the moral standing to use extraordinary force precisely when we need it most.

And I think one America’s willingness, grounded, and ideal to use extraordinary force is precisely what creates the conditions for us to not have to use it in the end. And instead, equivalent to what famous Winston Churchill quote to Neville Chamberlain, where he said you had to choose between dishonor and war, you chose dishonor, you will have war.

I think there’s a parallel lesson for President Biden, where through the choice between exhibiting strength and weakness, he chose weakness and he gave strength to the enemy as a consequence.

And I think that that’s the moment that we suffer today is weakening ourselves from within. We should not fool ourselves that at our cultural fragility at home will beget fragility on the global stage. We saw it with respect to Afghanistan in recent weeks.

I feel we’re going to see it in the coming months or years on the moment that China invades Taiwan, mark my words, the same problem will plague us. And speaking of world capitalism, I want to look and keep an eye out for those companies like Disney and Nike and the NBA that consistently criticize the United States.

You can mark my words today, I will predict that those companies will not say a peep. They may even praise China as they do it.

 

Trish Regan:               But is that again, it’s all for capitalistic reasons. It’s to their advantage to praise China, it’s to their advantage to criticize the United States.

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     That’s right. And there’s a corporate America has turned its back on America. I mean, even if you look at the Afghanistan analogy, it’s at least ironic that the Taliban continued to tweet on Twitter as it consummated in real time, a military coup while the 45th president of the United States, whatever you think of him is permanently banned from that platform.

It at least bears an ironic observation the way in which corporate America has actually played a role in either inadvertently or inadvertently empowering our enemies to do their bidding for them.

 

Trish Regan:               Wow. Well, this has been fascinating. I can see why the book is a bestseller. People should go out and read this today, Woke, Inc. It’s a lot to take in. I think that you absolutely are spot-on, though, in your thesis and you articulate it so well.

I guess my just like final thought is, is there anything that people can do or should do? How do you sort of protect against this or has the train just left the station and we’re sort of just sitting here? I mean, is there any way to sort of get the country back?

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     Yeah, well, I think there is. That’s a big part of why I wrote the book. I’m not going to be able to do that in two minutes for you at the end of this, but that’s why I wrote a book and that’s really, the second half of the book is all about.

But what I will say is that the category of solutions, some are policy solutions, some are legal solutions under existing law that can be pursued through our courts. But I think the most important solutions, especially only the cultural solutions. And I think that begins with the next generation.

I think it begins with reviving civic education and service, reviving primary education, reviving a shared sense of the ideals that bind us together as Americans across our thinly diverse, fractious group characteristics that is ultimately where the answer rests, but that is easier said than done. But I do lay out some of the ways in the book that I think we can get it done in the decade ahead.

 

Trish Regan:               OK. The book is Woke, Inc. Vivek Ramaswamy, thank you so much. Really, really important stuff.

 

Vivek Ramaswamy:     My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

 

Trish Regan:               Wow. I mean just a phenomenal discussion and I think that Vivek really gets his point out there in a powerful way. I mean, this is sort of what we keep talking about, right? Where it feels like every day America is sort of getting lost and getting lost to whether it’s the kind of crony capitalism that’s also getting now a progressive view. It’s really pretty wild.

 

And then to think, what is our future? What is our future really as a nation in light of that? It’s one of the reasons why you have to protect yourself. You have to protect your financial future. So just a reminder to go check out Retirement Warning 2021.

This again is by Doc, and he did a really good job laying out the concerns, retirementwarning2021.com, check it out and take care of yourself in this environment. I think that we all need to think about what the reality might be and plan accordingly.

Anyway, thank you again for listening. You can get more at americanconsequences.com. You can get more from me every day on my daily podcast, the Trish Regan Show, trishintel.com.

You can sign up there, and I will see you again as we continue this conversation to make sure that we have great things ahead for our country right here on American Consequences. I’ll see you next week.

 

Recorded Voice:         Thank you for listening to this episode of American Consequences. Want more Trish? Read her weekly articles, Thursdays in our magazine at americanconsequences.com, and subscribe for free to get all of our daily articles and the monthly magazine. We’d love to hear from you too.

Send Trish a note, [email protected] This broadcast is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered personalized investment advice. Trading stocks and all other financial instruments involves risk.

You should not make any investment decision based solely on what you hear. Trish Regan’s American Consequences is produced by Stansberry Research and American Consequences and is copyrighted by the Stansberry Radio Network.

 

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