Monopoly and Deceit

A good short piece here from the Times edit board on why corporations like Sprint and others are helping Trump lie about creating jobs. Simple: he can provide regulatory help on things like mergers and a lot more. If going along with his ruse helps, it’s a great deal. In the case of Sprint, he can help them (or at least they hope he can and will) waive through their merger with T-Mobile which will probably lead to quite a few job losses.

The real question in my mind is how and why these companies willing to invest so little in the fiction. The 5,000 jobs Trump took credit for Sprint creating had actually been announced more than a year earlier.

You’d think they might actually invent a few jobs just to make Trump’s boast plausible, given the potential windfall they expect to get from it. Perhaps more importantly, given Trump’s pride over ‘deal making’ you’d think he might actually demand some real jobs for the help. That might actually be crony capitalism vaguely in the public interest. Or at least with some number of workers getting a piece of the action. But apparently not.

More substantively, one of the questions I’m most interested in, looking forward to the coming years and decades is tied to anti-trust – the non-enforcement of which is the goodie Trump is giving out in this case. My renewed interest picked up last year from two very different sources. One was some very hi-falutin theorizing coming out the Obama and (would-be) Clinton administrations about the role that corporate concentration (monopolism or near monopolism) might be playing in the rise of wealth and income inequality. The other comes from a totally different direction – ideologically, temperamentally, thematically. It’s a piece my old friend Matt Stoller wrote more than a year ago which touches on a wide range of issues but centers on the political and economic role of monopolies as core to our politico-economic ills.

There is a lot that intuitively makes sense to me about this – both because of what are probably just ingrained assumptions I have but also what I see playing out (and you probably do too) in front of me in, for instance, the telecom industry. Politically, it’s always made sense to me. Too great concentrations of corporate power threaten democracy. But do the economics make sense?

The challenge for me is that I don’t have enough grasp of the economics to decide whether the increasing monopolism of American capitalism is concretely causing rising inequality or the various other collateral effects of plutocracy or whether it’s just making my cable suck because the cable provider has little or no competition. And if this is one of our root problems, are the laws we currently have the ones we should be using to combat it? Or do we need new strategies and new laws? Trying to get a handle on this is one of my goals for this new year.