Stopping Mergers – Too Little, Too Late?

   The move by the federal government to block AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile, may signal an  attempt at regaining a bit of balance to the way America does business.  Something the feds were supposed to be doing all along — even through the go-go 80’s with the “whatever business wants is best for the country” Reagan Administration opening the door to what came to be called “merger madness.”  A madness, it turned out, that resulted in the loss of competition and jobs.

Think about it.  J.P. Morgan/Chase.  Disney/Pixar.  Exxon/Mobile.  Sears/K-Mart.  Sprint/Nextel.  Quaker/Snapple.  AOL/Time Warner.  Chevron/Texaco.  BP/Amoco and ARCO.  Conoco/Phillips.  GE/RCA.  Wells Fargo/Crocker Nat’l Bank.  Pfizer/Warner-Lambert.  Citicorp/Travelers Group.   Washington Mututal/Home Savings. Nations Bank/Bank of America.  AT&T Broadband/Comcast.  J.P. Morgan Chase/Bank One Corportion.   Procter & Gamble/Gillette.   GTE/Bell Atlantic.  Tribune/Times Mirror.  AT&T/TCI.   SBC/Ameritech.  And on, and on, and on…..

Oh, did I mention that Clear Channel Communications currently owns more than 800 radio stations?  And they don’t even make the list of the top six media giants that now control the ebb and flow of information in America, due to the devastation of federal regulations and the resulting cross-ownership and group ownership of media outlets.  Think that’s good for the collection and dissemination of honest information?  Or for job creation?

The only thing as sure as the continuation of the mad rush for mergers, was the certainty of “downsizing” after the takeovers were complete.  Difficult to say how many jobs were lost.  By one account 36,000 jobs went away in 2007 alone.

If you follow the process to its inevitable conclusion, we will eventually have three or four mega-corporations running the world.  Democracy will be an irrelevant afterthought.   Something that was tried and failed.  We’re headed that way here in the United States, where lobbyists for corporate concerns are stuffing the campaign war chests of members of the House and Senate.  In this world, you most often really do “get what you pay for,” and much of our House and Senate have been bought off .  With millions in legal bribes going out to people who are supposed to represent the many and not just the few, regulations on business have crumbled as the powerful and wealthy few have turned our former Democracy into its current state of Plutocracy.  If you believe otherwise, you are in denial.  Our banking system has already proven itself to be “too big to fail.”   The banking system is the tail and the nation is the dog — and the tail is truly wagging the dog.

Fears have been raised all along.  In 2007, after the Fed approved the merger of J.P. Morgan/Chase and Chicago-based  Bank One, Columbia Journalism Review quotes Matthew Lee, the executive director of Inner City Press-Community on the Move, as saying: “Combining these two portends badly for moderate-income consumers, communities of color and small businesses nationwide. After Bank One, how long until there’s only one bank?”

And here we are in 2011.  After 30 years of this madness, attempting to block AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile, may be too little, too late.  Probably so, considering the flap over a presidential address coming into conflict with the first game of the NFL season on tv.  Say what you will about America.  We do have our priorities.

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