Feminism is inextricably linked to economic inequality – but Democrats don’t see it | Arwa Mahdawi
Nancy Pelosi: Queen of Stones
Here’s a tricky philosophical dilemma for you: If you’re a politician who shapes policy and is privy to inside information that will impact the stock market, should you and your immediate family be able to trade individual stocks?
For most people, the answer to this question is “hell no”. Allowing lawmakers to buy and sell individual stocks raises obvious conflict-of-interest issues: America may be divided on many things, but the country is incredibly unified on this. A recent poll found that 76% of voters think members of Congress and their spouses have an “unfair advantage” in the stock market – just 5% of respondents approved of members trading stocks.
Were those 5% of respondents related to politicians, I wonder? Because the people of Capitol Hill really seem to like playing the market. Early in the pandemic, there were multiple scandals over expedient stock trading by Republican and Democratic lawmakers. In one of the most egregious examples, Senator Richard Burr and his brother-in-law sold $1.6 million worth of stocks in February 2020 a week before the market collapsed; Burr’s brother-in-law reportedly sold his holdings a minute after he hung up on the phone with the senator. There were the usual internal investigations into all of these trades, but no one faced any meaningful consequences. Eventually, the issue faded from the headlines.
Now, however, political actions are back in the spotlight. On Wednesday, two Democratic senators (Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Mark Kelly of Arizona) introduced the Congressional Stock Trading Ban Act, which would prevent congressional lawmakers and their immediate families from picking stocks. Seeing that this would clearly go down well with the public, Republicans immediately got into action. Josh Hawley announced a competing proposal to limit stock trading just hours later. On Friday, it was reported that Ted Cruz may introduce his own legislation. “Hawley and Cruz want to outdo each other,” a source told On The Money. “They don’t want to let the other person own the problem…they would never join the other senator’s bill because it would mean they couldn’t be the star.”
Hawley and Cruz aren’t exactly known for championing progressive issues: why are they so keen to be the face of it? Most likely, I think, because they don’t think the legislation will really go anywhere, but defending it will make them look good. And also, of course, because it gives them a perfect opportunity to hit speaker Nancy Pelosi who, along with her husband Paul Pelosi, is extremely active and successful in the market. Some young TikTokers have even started watching his financial disclosures for stock advice. Pelosi, known as Queen of Stonks, has become something of a meme.
Oddly enough, Pelosi (who is one of the wealthiest people in Congress) doesn’t like the idea of limiting his stock market activities. “We are a free market economy. They should be able to participate in it,” Pelosi told Insider when asked about the issue last year. She conveniently ignored the fact that there are plenty of ways for politicians to participate in the stock market without raising such ridiculous conflict of interest issues. They can invest passively in mutual funds or place their assets in a blind trust. Let’s be very clear here: for most people, actively trading individual stocks rather than passively investing in index funds is a great way to lose money. There are countless studies on this. If you have a habit of picking great stocks, you’re either very lucky or you may have information that other people don’t have access to.
Last week, in an interview with The Guardian, Bernie Sanders lamented that Democrats had turned their backs on the working class, leading Republicans to increasingly win support from working people. Pelosi’s attitude toward stock trading is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Ossoff and Kelly’s bill to ban stock trading from Congress is very good – and very overdue. But here’s what I’m afraid will happen now: Republicans will deflect the issue and keep messaging Pelosi’s multimillion-dollar stock trades. They will portray her and the Democrats as out-of-touch elitists. Which of course many of them are. Democrats will lose even more support from working people – which they will most likely blame on progressives.
Patriarchy Week is a newsletter about feminism: some readers might wonder why I’m writing about stocks this week. Here’s the problem: gender inequality is inextricably linked to economic inequality. Feminism isn’t about standing up for women like Pelosi just because they’re in positions of power: it’s about fighting for a more equal society. It’s a shame the Democrats don’t seem to realize that.
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Brandon Scott Price, a former Kentucky prison guard convicted of sexually assaulting an inmate, recently learned his one-year sentence would be probationary (meaning no jail time) if he joined the military American. “You get a huge break,” the male judge said. Price may have a little trouble enlisting, however, as an Army spokesperson said you’re ineligible to enlist if you’re convicted of a sex offense. Which seems reasonable since the military already has a huge sexual assault problem: female servicemen would be more likely to be sexually assaulted by a co-worker than shot by an enemy combatant during wartime.
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The week in the patriarchy
Last month, a Canadian couple ordered a blender they were looking forward to making smoothies with. When the package arrived, their three cats started purring and have been holding him captive for a month now. Their kitchen has become a war zone and people everywhere, desperate for a few good meows, are heavily invested in the stalemate.