The collapse this weekend of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), a financial institution known for catering to the tech industry, has somehow become the latest issue to be dragged into the culture war.
While many blame the bank’s downfall on lax regulation and recent hikes in interest rates, some conservatives argued that its demise was due to the fact that it was “woke.”
The bank, which had over $200 Billion in assets, was the largest bank to collapse since the 2008 financial crisis.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, helped ignite the debate after attributing SVB’s failure to its supposed far-left politics.
“They were one of the most woke banks…” Comer said during an interview on Fox News.
Other right-wing figures, including Donald Trump Jr., pointed to the company’s policies regarding the LGBTQ community as yet another reason for the bank’s sudden collapse.
“SVB is what happens when you push a leftist/woke ideology and have that take precedent over common sense business practices,” he tweeted. “This won’t be the last failure of this nature so long as people are rewarded for pushing this bs.”
Trump Jr., alongside a number of other right-wing users, placed the blame at the feet of a U.K. employee at SVB who worked in financial risk management. They took screenshots of bullet points on her bio that discussed diversity and LGBTQ-related issues she was proud to have worked on, with conservatives seemingly arguing that spending time on those matters prevented the bank from being solvent.
A screenshot of the employee describing herself as a “queer person of color” was widely circulated as well.
The co-founder of the hardware store Home Depot, Bernie Marcus, even went viral for blaming the bank’s politics on its financial woes.
“I think that the system, that the administration has pushed many of these banks into [being] more concerned about global warming than they do about shareholder return,” Marcus said on Fox News. “And these banks are badly run because everybody is focused on diversity and all of the woke issues and not concentrating on the one thing they should, which is, shareholder returns.”
Despite Marcus’ claim, the bank did seem to be focused on returns, paying out bonuses right before the collapse.
Yet progressives argued that deregulation was the real culprit. As noted by journalist Ken Klippenstein, GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was just one of several conservative politicians to be linked to weakened regulations regarding major banks.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez- (D-N.Y.) also pointed to deregulation efforts by SVB and others when discussing the bank’s current state.
“The regulators were there until SVB lobbied Congress to remove the guardrails that prevent this kind of crisis in the first place,” she tweeted. “Warnings were everywhere. SVB, like many gamblers before them, knew what they were doing. Let the FDIC open the books & see what it’s working with.”
“Don’t believe the propbankganda,” one progressive Twitter user wrote. “Republicans & Centrist Dems, backed by $3 Billion in Wall St lobbying, voted in 2018 to rollback banking regulations put in place after the last bank collapse. Silicon Valley Bank didn’t go ‘woke.’ Wall St got greedy and conservatives got paid.”
Not all Republicans and Democrats, however, were divided on the issue. Some conservative lawmakers ignored the woke talking points and instead focused on demanding that SVB not receive a taxpayer-funded bailout, while some left-wing politicians remained largely quiet given their involvement in supporting deregulation.
Ultimately, the U.S. Treasury Department opted to step in to provide financial backing, much to the chagrin of many online.
“Government bailouts for venture capitalists while the same government cuts food stamps, does the largest disenrollment from medicaid ever, and sits on its hands during a national housing crisis,” another tweeted.