Right-Sizing American Capitalism

Fundamentally rebuilding our democracy means engineering our corporations and markets to enable the freedom of the producer from the domination by the monopolist or financier (Democracy: A Journal of Ideas)

In 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2016, and 2018, Americans voted to change their political leadership. Clearly, Americans are unhappy with our political and economic elite.

It’s not hard to see why. Small business formation is down, income inequality is up. The heartland has been turned into a set of economic colonies whose wealth is moved to distant financiers. Our corporations, having been allowed to concentrate into monopolies, are now used against us to extract our wealth and constrain our liberties.

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This time, Amazon has gone too far

Jeff Bezos’s company is profiting and taxpayers are paying the price (New York Daily News)

For the last year, public officials across America and Canada have held an embarrassing beauty contest to entice Amazon to place its so-called “second headquarters” in their region. They have done this through subsidies and benefits, and the occasional public begging spectacle, like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo musing on changing his name to Amazon Cuomo.

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Should we break up the tech giants? Not if you ask the economists who take money from them

This week’s FTC hearings on the growing power of companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google only included economists who have taken money, directly and indirectly, from giant corporations that have a stake in the debate. (Fast Company)

Amid growing concern over the power of such behemoths as Amazon, Google, Facebook, and other tech giants, in recent months there’s been a bipartisan push for better enforcement of antitrust rules–with even President Trump saying in August that their size and influence could constitute a “very antitrust situation.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched its most wide-ranging study of corporate concentration in America in more than 20 years with a series of hearings being held around the country. Chairman Joseph Simons, a practical enforcement-minded leader, launched the hearings by expressing concern over the growing problem of monopoly, which is now found in nearly every sector of the economy. “I approach all of these issues with a very open mind,” said Simons, “very much willing to be influenced by what I see and hear.”

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If the U.S. Doesn’t Control Corporate Power, China Will

Laissez-faire economics has left firms bending the knee to Beijing. (Foreign Policy Magazine)

Last week, Bloomberg broke the news of a hack by the Chinese military of critical hardware assembled by an American company in China, affecting Apple, Amazon, and the U.S. Defense Department. While there is controversy over the story, no one doubts two key facts. Chinese hacking of Western corporations and governments is systemic, and China has a virtual monopoly over the manufacture of high-technology products, which it uses to its own advantage.

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Don’t thank Bezos for giving Amazon workers a much-needed raise

Jeff Bezos runs a powerful monopoly that causes him to exert huge power and control. We shouldn’t be praising him but tackling his power. (The Guardian)

Watching the cheering of Amazon warehouse workers after being told they were getting a raise of $15/hour, it would be easy to see the wage bump as a great victory for working people. Senator Bernie Sanders thanked Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, profusely, “What Mr Bezos has done today is not only enormously important for Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees, it could well be a shot heard around the world.” He encouraged companies like McDonald’s and Walmart to follow Amazon’s lead.
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The Bailouts for the Rich Are Why America Is So Screwed Right Now

Did they prevent a full-scale collapse? Yes. Was it necessary to do it the way we did? Not at all. (VICE)

In 1948, the architect of the post-war American suburb, William Levitt, explained the point of the housing finance system. “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a Communist,” he said. “He has too much to do.”

It’s worth reflecting on this quote on the ten-year anniversary of the financial crisis, because it speaks to how the architects of the bailouts shaped our culture. Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, and Hank Paulson, the three key men in charge, basically argue that the bailouts they executed between 2007 and 2009 were unfair, but necessary to preserve stability. It’s time to ask, though: just what stability did they preserve?
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Obama The Hamiltonian

Taking money from an investment bank in the form of a speaking fee is not immoral, it is eminently reasonable.(The Huffington Post)

When former President Barack Obama decided to take $400,000 from a Wall Street investment bank for the first paid speech of his post-presidential career, he accelerated an important debate within the political establishment.

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Facebook must be restructured. The FTC should take these nine steps now

If FTC commissioners truly are serious about making Facebook serve the interests of the American public, here is a set of actions they should take (The Guardian)

Since news broke that a data analysis firm with ties to the Trump campaign harvested personal information from tens of millions of Facebook users, much of the speculation has focused on whether the Federal Trade Commission will fine the corporation for violating a 2011 deal to protect user privacy.

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What is net neutrality? It protects us from corporate power

Net neutrality is a rule against censorship and manipulation. The vote to repeal it would do real damage to our democracy. (The Guardian)

This Thursday, Ajit Pai, Donald Trump’s choice to chair the Federal Communications Commission, will force a vote to repeal net neutrality protections for broadband providers. This is an important step backwards for our democracy. It will affect what consumers pay for broadband and what we can buy. More importantly, it will affect what we as citizens can say and to whom we can say it.
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Trump’s administration is right to block the AT&T and Time Warner merger

“…both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees were skeptical of the deal.” (The Washington Post)

In October 2016, the announcement that AT&T wanted to buy Time Warner helped bring some unity to a deeply divisive presidential race. The $85 billion deal aimed to combine the biggest telecom company in the country with some of the nation’s top news and entertainment producers, including HBO, TNT and CNN. Faced with the prospect of a media and data behemoth with unprecedented power over vital information, both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees were skeptical of the deal.
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