One aging Millennial’s perspective on the GameStop stock drama.
Millennials are often derided as “lazy”, “disinterested”, “entitled”, and “financially illiterate”, among other things. The entire generation is often collectively spoken of as some sort of blight on Western civilization because they are considered by some to be less productive and contribute less to society than elder generations.
Coming of age around the turn of the millennium, I listened silently as some of the most powerful voices in America spoke the word “Millennial” with venomous disdain. That’s me, I would think, they hate me. I hadn’t done anything with my life yet, and that was “the problem”. I wasn’t shipped off to war at 18. I hadn’t invented some marvelous device to revolutionize modern life. And worst of all, I was poor. So, so poor.
While I was living under the roof of my single mother, I watched powerlessly as she repeatedly lost jobs due to the digitization of the print industry. She struggled more and held more weight on her shoulders than I ever thought possible for a person to bear without breaking. I was beholding a spectacle of heroism.
Then 2008 came: Wall Street played roulette with the American economy and lost.
But did they accept the loss and slink out of the casino with their tails between their legs? Hell no! They pulled themselves up their bootstraps and cried to the government to save them, like respectable members of society do. And the government did save them, to the tune of $700 billion that would go on to be taken directly from honest American taxpayers … from my mother.
My mother held a bachelor’s degree and was a talented project manager who struggled to stay relevant in an evolving industry that was growing increasingly disinterested in training or hiring “older” workers. She took a job at Target as a cashier for far less income than required to keep us afloat. Already verging on financial ruin when Wall Street’s bailout came, I remember my mother spent more time crying than not. She cried in the morning, she cried at night, and she cried at work. We repeatedly came within inches of losing our house, our car, and everything else.
To this day, I cannot fathom how she managed to pull us back from that abyss. But I will remember and be thankful for everything she did for me until the day I die.
I was young and helpless during the aftermath of the bailout, so I sought solace in anything I could. I needed an escape from the crushing despair I felt every single day, and I found what I needed at the time in video games. At last, here was a world where I could actually do something, where I actually had some power, where I wasn’t constantly staring down the barrel of lifelong agonizing destitution. If that makes me weak in someone else’s eyes, so be it.
Whenever I escaped into video games, I always gravitated towards playing a “good guy”: I helped the weak, I didn’t kill for fun, I sought justice, and I persevered through all forms of adversity. I roleplayed as the person I wanted to become: strong, brave, and relentlessly kind. In a way, it was like practicing for real life.
All this occurred during the rising popularity of video games, so I made many trips to my local GameStop. I loved browsing around and chatting with the employees, even when I couldn’t afford to buy anything. You could say that I formed a kind of relationship with GameStop itself. Here was a place I could go to escape the agony of my “real” life; a place filled with friendly faces and fantastical realms of hope waiting to be explored lining every wall.
I am not at all ashamed to say that I love GameStop for being there for me in exactly the way I needed, whenever I needed it.
It’s now 2021. My mother now has a stable job after converting to digital project management, and I’ve been an adult for awhile. I am only now starting to understand what financial security really is, after a lifetime of obliviousness of the peace it brings. I spent years working incredibly hard in the service industry and as an athletic performance coach. I’ve spent some amount of time living and working in almost every corner of America, from Philadelphia to Alaska. I have experienced more ways of living in the past 10 years than most people will in their entire lives.
I’ve witnessed America, and it reminds me of my childhood: desperate, disillusioned, angry, but at its heart, good beyond belief.
I want for others what was denied me as a child and for many years after that: financial breathing room. I can’t express how liberating it is to finally feel like I have the freedom to spend one day without some bank or tax collector making sure they get their due. I finally know what hope and opportunity feel like, and I wish others could know the same feeling.
But we can’t have that, now can we?
Reenter Wall Street hedge funds, those Machiavellian oligarchs with an insatiable vice for gambling.
I was a late adopter of the GameStop “movement”, but I’ve spent some time dedicated to putting together the pieces of the past. To oversimplify for the sake of brevity, my understanding is that certain hedge funds were caught with their pants down by a group of Redditors who now stand to make a fortune at the expense of these exposed hedge funds. The hedge funds were engaging in the respectable and sophisticated practice of predatory short selling: deliberately trying to destroy the stock prices of certain companies so that they could profit from those companies’ bankruptcy.
One of those companies happens to be GameStop, and coincidentily, GameStop happens to be the primary target of the hedge funds’ attack. That being the case, GameStop naturally became the focal point for the battle between Wall Street and the Redditors.
Make no mistake, to call this a “battle” is an extraordinary understatement. Without getting bogged down by specifics, suffice to say the hedge funds stand to lose everything they have to the Redditors, so both sides are playing to win.
The incredible part about the whole situation is that Redditors not only stand an exceptionally good chance of winning, but in reality have already won.
Eventually, the hedge funds will be forced to pay their debts to GameStop shareholders, and, because of their insatiable desire to make as much money as possible, they multiplied that debt exponentially by repeatedly doubling down on their initial short sell. Because these hedge funds were so obsessed with turning a profit, they repeatedly redoubled their efforts to manipulate the stock price into going down, all at increasingly greater risk to themselves each time.
The volatility of the stock’s value is not the key factor here; it’s the fortitude of the shareholders. Shareholders like me. So long as shareholders continue to hold on to their shares, or buy more, the short selling hedge funds will have no choice but to pay their dues to the very people they have been trying so desperately to cheat.
I am proud to say that I am a GameStop shareholder with a long-term interest in the company. For the first time in my life, Wall Street owes me money. I have a unique opportunity to hold them accountable for the atrocities I lived through as a child and adolescent; the atrocities they’ve been committing on a much larger scale for longer than I’ve been alive.
Imagine my surprise to discover that I am not alone. After sifting through thousands of Reddit posts, I realized a great deal of people have suffered similarly at the hands of corporate greed. Many of those people are even more invested in GameStop and holding the hedge funds accountable than I am, both personally and financially. Many have staked their life savings on it for a plethora of different personal reasons.
The common thread that ties them all together? Buying and holding shares of GameStop stock because the stock has become a symbol of hope and opportunity.
The hedge funds’ repeated attempts at short-selling and manipulating shareholders into selling their holdings have only strengthened our collective resolve. We’ve seen the mainstream media lambast shareholders as greedy, selfish, losers, and at one point, even terrorists.
Let me repeat that narrative for emphasis: “poor people are destructively selfish for buying and holding stock in a company that certain multi-billion-dollar hedge funds have a vested in interest in destroying for personal gain”. Let that sink in.
We shareholders had to watch as billionaires took to the airwaves to cry foul over losing money on a bet, claiming they were just “trying to make a living”. What about all the lives they’ve destroyed over the years? Do they not deserve to “try to make a living” as well?
We watched as mainstream news outlets supported those billionaires’ right to dominate the American economy and the broader world of finance.
We watched as Robinhood, the brokerage app that built its reputation on making investing approachable for normal people, acted in the interest of the hedge funds by banning and severely limiting their users’ ability to purchase GameStop stock. Conveniently for the hedge funds, Robinhood placed no limits on users that wanted to sell their stock.
Coincidentally, Robinhood makes most of its money by selling user flow data to their corporate investors so those investors can use that data to inform their own investment strategies. Hypothetically, if Robinhood sees a large portion of its users are buying stock in, say, GameStop, Robinhood proceeds to sell that information to their corporate investors so that they can calibrate their investment strategies in the most profitable way possible.
Now imagine, hypothetically of course, that Robinhood’s corporate investors stood to lose a lot of money if people purchased stock in GameStop. How would Robinhood react? Which investors would they support and what means would they use to do so? I feel compelled to remind you, dear reader, that Robinhood recently banned then subsequently placed severe limits on buying, but not selling, stock in Gamestop. Right around the time that Robinhood’s corporate investors stood to lose a lot of money if more people bought and held stock in GameStop.
A company called Robinhood quite literally steals from the poor to give to the rich. The irony is so palpable that one can’t help but be impressed at the audacity of the founder’s idea to name this project “Robinhood”.
We continued to watch as Apple and Google deleted hundreds of thousands of negative reviews for Robinhood, including those made by verified users with active holdings in the app. We watched as the whole of corporate America united against GameStop shareholders.
And what did we do as we watched all of this unfold in real time? We bought more stock, of course. Because we like the stock, we love the stock, and we intend to hold the stock.
We will not be fooled into thinking that we’re doing anything wrong or that we are going to lose all of our money. We’re supposed to invest for our futures, aren’t we? Well, if securing our financial futures happens to also bankrupt some grotesquely wealthy hucksters and charlatans, you’ll have to forgive me for not shedding a tear on Wall Street’s behalf or recalibrating my investment strategy because they want me to.
Right now, America’s lower class is using as tools of liberation the very chains that shackled them into poverty.
After years of watching corporate greed subjugate and destroy America’s underprivileged population, a great deal of people from around the entire world, rich and poor, old and young, black and white, unified under the banner of the downtrodden and abused. And that absolutely terrifies the abusers, so much that they were willing to break dozens of laws to divide, conquer, and suppress their opponents.
They used mainstream media, social media, cyber-attacks, market manipulation, and even the government to protect their right to rule. And I’m expected to believe that Millennials are entitled? That poor people in general are entitled?
When Wall Street thinks so highly of its place in our world that they believe themselves beyond reproach and impervious to facing the consequences of their actions. The government bailed Wall Street out in 2008 when their gamble backfired and proceeded to make the taxpayers foot the bill for the $700 billion bailout. The government will likely do the same again. But don’t allow them to convince you for one second that Wall Street deserves your sympathy more than the people they have taken advantage of for their entire lives.
I, and many other Millennials who have known nothing but financial hardship caused by Wall Street and the U.S. government, are playing the game according to the rules set by Wall Street, and we’re winning. Do not stand for Wall Street changing the rules they themselves made in the middle of the game, and do not stand for anyone trying to convince you that they deserve to win.
Millennials deserve a future; Generation Z deserves a future. But first, we must seize this opportunity for freedom ourselves. Because we all know that nothing comes free in the land of freedom and opportunity, especially not freedom or opportunity.
A final question, before I leave you to your thoughts:
After Wall Street has been held accountable for their actions by a rising generation of young Americans, who will be their next target? Average citizens? Or the government that excused, condoned, and outright funded the very behavior that led us to this historic singularity in the first place?