Republicans these days are using “woke” as an all-purpose attack. They want to politicize everything that’s in the headlines for even a moment, seizing political advantage from every day’s news cycle, and when they don’t have anything specific to go on, or don’t understand what’s going on? Blame “woke”!
The failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) is a case in point. “They were one of the most woke banks,” House Oversight and Accountability Chair James Comer said on Fox News. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also went on Fox News and proclaimed, “I mean, this bank, they’re so concerned with DEI and politics and all kinds of stuff. I think that really diverted from them focusing on their core mission.” Former Home Depot CEO Bernie Marcus joined the chorus of Republicans calling Silicon Valley Bank a “woke bank.” And yes, that was on Fox News as well.
”Woke bank” is standing in for any analysis of what happened at SVB or what should happen in the wake of its failure or in the banking industry more generally. Because explaining the issues behind the bank’s collapse would take work and not necessarily fit the Republican narrative, and they’re sure not going to blame Republican regulatory rollbacks.
RELATED STORY: Why Silicon Valley Bank failed, and why that doesn't mean mean another banking crisis is coming
SVB had a boilerplate corporatespeak statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and an executive who did work on LGBTQ issues and claimed to favor sustainability and climate initiatives. That must be why it failed, rather than an investment strategy that was a poor fit with rising interest rates and a lot of uninsured depositors who were motivated to try to withdraw their money as soon as questions about the bank’s investment strategy became public.
But SVB’s failure is not just about poor management of one bank. Deregulation of regional banks like SVB played a role—a 2018 law signed by Donald Trump got SVB off the hook for little things like stress testing and reporting its liquidity. SVB’s CEO was among those lobbying for this regulatory rollback.
Over the weekend, state regulators shut down Signature Bank in New York—no word yet on if that will turn out to also have been a “woke bank” or if it won’t get enough attention for Republicans to bother. Depositors at both banks will get their money, even those whose deposits were not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In a joint statement, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, and FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg announced that decision, describing “decisive actions to protect the U.S. economy by strengthening public confidence in our banking system.”
While depositors will get their money, the bank shareholders and executives are not being bailed out and taxpayers will not be on the hook. “Shareholders and certain unsecured debtholders will not be protected,” Yellen, Powell, and Gruenberg said. “Senior management has also been removed. Any losses to the Deposit Insurance Fund to support uninsured depositors will be recovered by a special assessment on banks, as required by law.”
“I am pleased that they reached a prompt solution that protects American workers and small businesses, and keeps our financial system safe. The solution also ensures that taxpayer dollars are not put at risk,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
He added: ”I am firmly committed to holding those responsible for this mess fully accountable and to continuing our efforts to strengthen oversight and regulation of larger banks so that we are not in this position again.”
Here we go again: Wall Street billionaires demanding public bailouts of failed banks
Progressives have had tremendous success passing all sorts of reforms at the ballot box in recent years, including measures that have expanded Medicaid, increased the minimum wage, and created independent redistricting commissions. How have Republicans responded? By making it harder to qualify measures for the ballot.
Daily Kos Elections' own Stephen Wolf joins us on this week's episode of The Downballot for a deep dive on the GOP's war on ballot initiatives, which includes burdensome signature requirements that disproportionately impact liberals; ramping up the threshold for passage for citizen-backed measures but not those referred by legislatures; and simply repealing voter-passed laws Republicans don't like. But Republican power is not unfettered, and Stephen explains how progressives can fight back by defeating efforts to curtail ballot measures—many of which voters themselves would first have to approve.