Who would have guessed GameStop was going to be the most prominent stock to start 2021?
Not Amazon.com, Apple, Facebook or Tesla — but the video game retailer owns the early spotlight on Wall Street and our economic system.
A surge in GameStop’s stock was prompted by small-time traders on Reddit working against Wall Street short sellers of the stock. Short sellers bet on the stock going down. But the social media traders started buying GameStop shares, propelling the stock higher.
The same scenario started playing out with AMC Entertainment (the parent of AMC Theatres) before brokerage houses and trading apps shut down trading of the stocks and the social media surges.
Wall Street’s shutdown of Reddit’s Wall Street Bets traders raises questions.
Why shut down grassroots, small-time traders? Many rightfully point to the fact other coordinated efforts — by Wall Street institutions, big-fish traders, fund managers and short sellers — go unchecked. It looks like the system favors the powerful.
But when Reddit traders do the same, they get shut down. Most of us are rooting for the Reddit traders. They are social media’s Main Street versus Wall Street.
The richest of the rich — including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft founder Bill Gates — have magnified their wealth during the pandemic. Stocks markets were up even as so many jobs, small businesses and restaurants had been decimated and destroyed by COVID shutdowns.
We’ve seen the same dichotomy politically.
It took months for Congress to pass a new COVID relief package — and when they did the best they could come with for Americans hit by the pandemic was $600.
That is in the contemporary and historical backdrop of federal tax cuts, tax shelters and other perks for the powerful and wealthy.
We are glad to see President Biden pushing for another $1,400 in direct stimulus help. But we do want to see Biden and Democrats get moving on the additional stimulus money and help for small businesses.
The same goes for Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic assembly leaders in Annapolis. They need to get moving fast on new state COVID help for Marylanders and small businesses.
The pandemic has lifted a lot of veils about our institutions and many of their imbalances and inequities.
Wall Street’s reaction to GameStop is not alone. Economic, opportunity and criminal justice disparities are evident across the country and here on the Shore.
There is greater awareness of the biases and aggressive business practices of social media giants. All forms of media are under rightful scrutiny for bias and accuracy.
Intended or not, COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns have destroyed restaurants and small businesses while letting big-box stores and others stay open and further expanding Amazon’s market share.
COVID admonitions on gatherings and rallies have also often been geared toward one unfavored political camp but not those with politically correct status.
Despite our political disunion, most Americans want a fair shake and equal opportunity for success, jobs and to have their voices heard. That also includes stock trades.
The rise of the GameStop traders illuminates that quest for some fairness when it comes to our systems and institutions.
It also exposes some of the systematic favoritism and inequities in our economy, politics and communities.
Those are worth addressing.
Otherwise, there will be even more distrust facing Wall Street, Washington and Silicon Valley.