In today’s divided Washington there is one thing the Left and Right agree about: that some companies have grown too powerful. Even conservatives were disgusted by the way states recently showered perks on Amazon in the hope of winning the right to host its new headquarters. “The richest man in the world just got $2bn in taxpayer subsidies,” said Tucker Carlson of Fox News. “How does that work?”
Monopolies are rife across the US economy. Facebook and Google control 63% of online ad revenue; two companies produce 78% of America’s corn seeds; one assembles 61% of its syringes. Lawmakers are increasingly calling for Congress to intervene, whether by making mergers harder to complete, tightening oversight, or directly breaking up firms – as it did in the 1930s, with the banks and electric utilities. Critics say direct intervention is too drastic, but in practice it could just mean reversing mergers that “shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place”, such as Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp. The conditions are ripe for Congress to be more assertive against corporate concentration. The benefits for the public if it did so would be “profound”. (Matt Stoller, The New Republic, New York and The Week, 14 Jan 2019).
So corrupted has Washington and congress become that these monopolies proliferate. They are a blight on what is supposed to be a competitive economy and, and, because they all encourage predatory pricing (why else do they do it?) they are leeches on the pockets of men and women in the street. We are never privy to discussion in smoke-filled, darkened rooms, where company executives promise goodies to politicians if they wave through unwelcome and unnecessary takeovers and mergers and acquisitions, but that they happen there is little doubt. It is anti-democratic and both political parties should summon up the courage to say “NO!.