Hobby Lobby’s Critics Have No Idea How Investments Work
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Hobby Lobby’s Critics Have No Idea How Investments Work

Hobby Lobby offers its employees the ability to invest their money in mutual funds … some of which include makers of contraception! Fox News’ Rick Ungar describes this as “the most stunning example of hypocrisy in my lifetime.” Over at Commonweal, where ignorance about capitalism is a mandatory condition of employment, Grant Gallicho writes:

Hobby Lobby makes significant matching contributions to the 401(k)–nearly $4 million in 2012, according to the company’s 2013 disclosure to the Department of Labor. In other words, Hobby Lobby invests millions in companies that manufacture the very products they want to be exempt from covering in their employee health plans–products they believe cause abortions. As Redden notes, other holdings in Hobby Lobby’s mutual funds include companies that make drugs used to induce abortion, drugs administered during abortion procedures, and insurers that cover surgical abortions.

This raises an obvious question: If the Greens are so committed to the belief that they cannot in good conscience pay health-insurance premiums that might result in employees using products that could prevent the implantation of fertilized eggs, then why are they OK with spending millions annually on companies that manufacture drugs that will certainly cause abortions?

I realize that those on the left are always on the lookout for hypocrisy at all levels, but do Ungar, Redden, and Gallicho realize that they have just indicted any Christian with an index fund, or offering its employees the chance to invest their own dollars in one, as being necessarily a hypocrite if even one company within the fund does anything immoral? Or are Ungar, Redden, and Gallicho all just that incompetent about how 401(k) plans work – namely, that the investments and decisions within them are made by employees, not employers. The menu of choices is provided not by the employer but by the administrator of the plan, offering a wide range of mutual funds – which are most commonly indexes invested in the breadth of the market.

As Ryan Ellis notes:

Plan administrators contract with select mutual fund companies to provide basic investment products diversified by sector, asset class, duration, risk, etc.  This is the primary goal of diversification of fund choices, not socially-conscious investing.  Besides, it’s the employees who call the shots.  They may not share the same values as the Hobby Lobby owners, and might have a very different idea of what a “socially responsible” fund would invest in…

What does Mother Jones’ or Mercury Public Affairs’ 401(k) plan look like?  Those are the employers of Redden and Ungar, respectively.  Surely those 401(k) plans invest in stocks of oil and gas companies, defense contractors, private equity firms, and other evil conservative power bastions.  Have Redden and/or Ungar done a forensic investigation of the mutual funds they are invested in?  Should I call them hypocrites for daring to invest in a 401(k) which invests in a mutual fund which invests in a multinational company which happens to own an oil company?  If not, consider that the Hobby Lobby employers have one more degree of separation even from Redden and Ungar.  Our two intrepid reporters affirmatively chose to invest in merchants of death when they picked out their 401(k) choices.  All Hobby Lobby is doing is providing the platform for employees to make those same choices themselves in partnership with plan administrators.

Hobby Lobby isn’t looking to restrict employee activity – any more than it’s trying to restrict the legal availability of contraception! This is as ludicrous as claiming that Hobby Lobby is hypocritical if a single Hobby Lobby employee uses his paycheck to go to a strip club or buy cocaine. How dare they pay him with money which can be exchanged for immoral goods and services! Would Ungar, Redden, and Gallicho be in favor of Hobby Lobby restricting employee retirement choices? Are they saying that merely by offering a 401(k) benefit at all, Hobby Lobby has compromised itself in accordance with where its employees send their dollars, and surrendered its right to have moral objections to any legal requirement placed upon them?

The secular left needs to think bigger than just driving Christians out of the ability to practice their faith as business owners or allow their employees to invest in the stock market. They should start by noting it’s impossible for those who claim to be “pro-life” to live and work in certain states without being a hypocrite. Since the Hyde Amendment applies only to federal funds, states like New York, New Jersey, and California use state taxpayer dollars – a not insignificant amount of them – to pay directly for abortions. What this effectively means is that any of Ungar’s colleagues at Fox News who live in New York are thorough hypocrites if they pay their taxes. And yet they continue to do so! It is almost as if they are willing to render unto Caesar, even as they fight in courts and in the public square to change Caesar’s policies. Heck, Hobby Lobby itself even pays taxes in these states, where it does business! How stunning that these people are even allowed to be Americans, a country which was built by slaveowners and racists.

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Photo Nicholas Eckhart
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