Sunday, May 29, 2022


A few hours before the Uvalde school massacre, The New York Times published this op-ed by Dr. Kim Lane Scheppele, professor of sociology and international affairs at Princeton, on the subject of Viktor Orban's Hungary and signs of Orbanism in America:
In Hungary under Mr. Orban, political payback is common. Mr. Orban first targeted the independent and opposition media by directing state-funded advertising to pro-government outlets. He has used state regulatory power to shift business from unfriendly hands to friendly ones, starting with a law that required tobacco sellers to be licensed by the state. (Many of those licenses were awarded to government supporters.) With tobacco as a model, Mr. Orban opened similar efforts in the banking, energy and telecom sectors. Owners whose businesses failed to support the governing party have been sidelined, while party loyalists gained.
Dr. Scheppele sees the clear signs of Orbanism in Republican-controlled parts of America:
Some red states are now catching on to the politics of payback. In 2018, Georgia’s Republican legislature approved a bill that stripped out a tax break that would have benefited Delta Air Lines after the company decided to end a promotional discount for National Rifle Association members. A Texas legislator recently threatened to introduce a bill that would prevent Citigroup from underwriting Texas municipal bonds unless it stopped its policy of paying the travel expenses of employees who seek abortions outside the state.

Probably the best-known recent efforts have come from Florida, where Republican lawmakers voted to revoke Disney’s special tax status after the company condemned Gov. Ron DeSantis’s education law (known by critics as “Don’t Say Gay”). This sounded familiar. Last summer, Mr. Orban passed a law banning the display of L.G.B.T.Q. content to minors.
Left unmentioned, however, was a law the Times tells us about today:
Four years ago, JPMorgan Chase joined some of the nation’s largest banks in publicly distancing itself from the firearm industry after a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., left 17 people dead....

The bank, along with Citigroup and other Wall Street firms, did not completely shut the door on gun companies.

In a letter sent to the Texas attorney general this month, JPMorgan, the nation’s largest bank, signaled its willingness to continue working with the firearm industry....

The letter ... was in response to a new law in Texas that bars state agencies from working with a firm that “discriminates” against companies or individuals in the gun industry....

The stakes are high for big banks. If a bank states that it is in compliance with the law and is found to be otherwise, it could face criminal prosecution. It could also be shut out of the state’s giant municipal bond market....

From 2015 to 2020, JPMorgan underwrote 138 Texas bond deals, raising $19 billion for the state and generating nearly $80 million in fees for the bank, according to Bloomberg data. But the bank has been shut out of working for the state since the law went into effect in September. This month, JPMorgan submitted a bid to underwrite a $3.4 billion bond issue for utilities, the largest in the state’s history. It would not be able to secure that contract until it is certified under the new law, known as S.B. 19.
That's Orbanism. And it's spreading.
The Texas law is the first of its kind in the country. Similar ones — described by gun industry lobbyists as FIND laws, or firearm industry nondiscriminatory legislation — are working their way through at least 10 statehouses, including in Oklahoma and West Virginia, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. This year, Wyoming passed a law that allows gun companies to sue banks and other firms that refuse to do business with them.
If corporations want to fight Orbanism in America, I suppose they can shift their contributions to the Democrats. But I imagine they don't really have a problem with it -- corporate support for LGBT rights or for greater regualtion of firearms is pure virtue signaling, and these companies are probably relieved when Republicans take the option away from them. And after all, Democrats might tax and regulate them more. Can't have that, right?

No comments: