Thursday, April 24, 2014

Robert Reich: Giant Wealth Concentration Threatens Democracy

Robert Reich writes that the pending Comcast acquisition of Time-Warner represents "the same giant concentrations of wealth and economic power that endangered democracy a century ago." That danger led to antitrust laws that are now being cast aside. Reich argues that such deregulation is bad for both consumers and democracy:

In many respects America is back to the same giant concentrations of wealth and economic power that endangered democracy a century ago. The floodgates of big money have been opened even wider in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in “Citizen’s United vs. FEC” and its recent “McCutcheon” decision.

Seen in this light, Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time-Warner for $45 billion is especially troublesome — and not just because it may be bad for consumers. Comcast is the nation’s biggest provider of cable television and high-speed Internet service; Time Warner is the second biggest.

...Internet service providers in America are already too concentrated, which is why Americans pay more for Internet access than the citizens of almost any other advanced nation.

But Washington should also examine a larger question beyond whether the deal is good or bad for consumers: Is it good for our democracy?

...When any large corporation wields this degree of political influence it drowns out the voices of the rest of us, including small businesses. The danger is greater when such power is wielded by media giants because they can potentially control the marketplace of ideas on which a democracy is based.

...Remember, this is occurring in America’s new gilded age — similar to the first one in which a young Teddy Roosevelt castigated the “malefactors of great wealth, who were “equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil.”

...In this new gilded age, we should remind ourselves of a central guiding purpose of America’s original antitrust law, and use it no less boldly.

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