First of all, I applaud Stephanie Ruhle for even having this segment. We don't often get a spirited public discussion about something that has so distorted economic equality in this country. Matt Stoller, who is a fellow at the Open Markets Institute, was on plugging his new book, "Goliath: The Hundred Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy."
"Andrew Yang talked about corporations and sort of reining in their power. Here's what he had to say," Ruhle said.
WARREN: I'm not willing to give up and let a handful of monopolists dominate our economy and our democracy. It's time to fight back.
"Does Yang have a point? Are the current antitrust laws just outdated?"
"No, of course not. It's ridiculous," Matt Stoller said.
"You know, we've known about stealing and theft and monopolization for a thousand years. Just enforce the laws we have on the books, you know, don't try to pretend like, you know, the concentration of power that exists in the hands of the few is just some natural thing that's happening because of technology. No, we make choices about the rules of our markets, and that's very clear. Andrew Yang is just avoiding power so he can tell a story that's favorable to the powerful people that are backing him. It's ridiculous, it's annoying, it's stupid.
"It's like the same thing -- he's saying oh, we're going to automate all of the trucking. Well you know what, I've seen press releases about automated trucks since 2011, and I want to know why all the robots want to live in China and Mexico. We've seen all this con artistry over and over -- "
"Hold on a second. To say automation isn't real, look at the steel industry, okay? Hold on - we're putting out the same amount of steel as 30 years ago with half the employees. So come on, now, Matt," Ruhle said.
"No, we've had automation since the 1790s. Productivity -- we should see -- if the robots were really that big a deal, we should see massive productivity growth -- and we don't. We see productivity slowdowns, and that's because you've seen declines in capital investment. The argument here is nonsense. I've seen this argument before. I go into it in "Goliath" in the 1920s and '30s, they made the same arguments to justify monopoly and banking power. It's a con. Don't fall for it. We need to understand our history. This is the power of money talking. And on that stage, you had -- no, it really is. That's what's going on here," Stoller said.
"Hold on a second, we need to understand our history, but we also need to understand the future. If you look at where corporate America is spending -- where did they take the tax cut money? It's on R&D. It is on automation. I'm not saying we're living in the Jetsons world and a robot is handing you your hamburger. Laverne and Shirley are surely not getting their jobs back at the bottle factory," Ruhle said.
"That is just not true. That's why interest rates are so low. They're sticking it into safe assets, AKA government bonds. You see negative interest rates all over the world. This is because corporations aren't spending on R&D -- because there's no competition.
"Look, the reality is, we have to talk about what's going on in our economy, and that's power. It's monopoly power. In 'Goliath,' I go over this. We've had this problem for 100 years. We've had these debates for 100 years. We need to start having these debates again. The Democrats are doing that. I'm glad Andrew Yang was up there to present what I think is a completely dishonest narrative, but it's a narrative that we have to deal with because a lot of people believe it," Stoller said.
"We have to look at power. Power is the issue. Monopoly power in markets like peanut butter, in search engines, in Facebook. I mean, these are not companies that, you know -- Google -- syringes! It's all over the place. Google and Facebook are monopolies because they bought lots of other companies, not because, you know, they invented cool things in a garage. It's nonsense. Let's start going to the boardroom where the power is. That's what Democrats were talking about last night."
That's right. Even if raises had kept up with the cost of living (they haven't), consumer economic power is depleted by the constant demands of monopolies. You can't buy Microsoft Office, you have to rent it. You don't get to buy the ink for an HP printer, you have to make monthly payments in perpetuity or your printer won't work. Look at the knots we tie ourselves into, trying to get away from the cable industry!
(Not to mention how they pervert that power to gain even more. I'm reading Christopher Wylie's "Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America." Facebook is the major bad player in this story, but certainly not the only one.)
Break them up. It's good for America, good for democracy, and good for everyone's financial health.