Traditional Values Under Threat in U.S. Congress: E.S.G. Plans Under Attack!

by Duane Nichols on March 9, 2023

Many investors say “ESG Is Here To Stay”

Conservative values cast aside, Congress wages war on ‘woke’

Opinion Editorial of the Morgantown Dominion Post, March 9, 2023

While we’ve been largely focused on what’s been happening in Charleston lately, we’ve also had our eye on Washington, D.C., and the culture war backlash happening there. Last week, Congress passed a joint resolution “disapproving” a Department of Labor rule that allows investment firms to take into consideration environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. The resolution, if signed into law, would reverse the rule and forbid investment firms from using non-monetary factors when crafting portfolios for investors — even if it’s what investors want.

The House of Representatives passed the resolution on a party-line vote. In the Senate, Sens. Joe Manchin and John Tester (D-Mont.) joined with Republicans to approve the disapproval. (In an interview with Fox News about his support of the resolution, Manchin said, “E.S.G.s by itself could just kill our economy.” We assume he means the fossil fuel industry, from which he personally benefits.)

The resolution will go to President Joe Biden, who will have to decide whether or not to veto the bill. We hope he does. Because when it comes to ESG investing, also called sustainable investing, Congress has crossed the line with its resolution.

There are certainly cases where government interference in the market is warranted — like when monopolies kill competition and drive up prices, or when companies shirk their responsibilities to protect consumers.

The Department of Labor rule does not mandate that investment firms offer ESG, nor does it give any government-funded incentive for doing so — it merely gives financial institutions the ability to offer something that consumers increasingly want.

Even within investment firms, not every client has to participate. The vast majority — including big-name firms like Charles Schwab and Fisher Investments — offer optional ESG portfolios, traditional portfolios that give zero consideration to ESG or the ability to select a combination of ESG and regular investments.

In other words, Congress’ resolution is actually limiting the free market. Individual investors increasingly want to know that their money is doing “good” and supporting companies that reflect their own personal values. Congress is essentially taking away investors’ say in what’s being done with their dollars, because conservatives view ESG as a form of “woke-ism” forcing progressive values onto Wall Street, rather than the market responding to consumer demand. It boggles the mind how quickly conservatives abandon their small-government, free-market values in their endless pursuit of culture wars.

If the government were to step in, it should only be to standardize the definition of ESG. What factors and benchmarks are considered ESG vary widely. In general, though, ESG considers things like companies’ environmental impact or green initiatives; diversity policies or human rights records; and political contributions or history of lawsuits. Some critics have raised the issue of “greenwashing” — companies claiming to be environmentally friendly or socially responsible — that make companies look more attractive for ESG investing than they actually are.

Sometimes government regulation of the financial industry is necessary — but this is not one of those times.

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