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Oligopolies: Too Big To Shrink

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As regular readers know, one of the first things learned by beginning economics students is that monopolies and oligopolies are unmitigated evils in any free-market economy. They are (by definition) non-competitive and totally parasitic; and in the rare instances when one of these abominations is perceived to be a necessary evil, that inherently parasitic nature demands that they be securely restrained in a regulatory straitjacket.

Sadly, this appears to also be one of the first lessons forgotten by economics graduates, apparently moments after accepting their degrees. For what do we see in the global economy today? A world which is not only saturated with these mega-monstrosities, but where much, most, and in some cases all regulation has simply been put through a paper-shredder – and all with the complete blessing of the intellectual zombies in the economics community.

After a quarter-century of allowing these corporate oligopolies to rampage out of control, the carnage is plain to see. The worst revenue-crisis in the history of Western democracy threatens to bankrupt most if not all of these economies. Our tax-base continues to wither and die. We see on the one hand Big Business and the ultra-wealthy refusing to be taxed (while parasitically enriching themselves at the fastest rate in history). Meanwhile everyone else simply has nothing left to tax.

Forty, solid years of declining wages (in real dollars) combined with forty, solid years of rising structural unemployment has not only caused our poverty rates to more than double (and created millions of homeless), but has transformed most of our former middle-class into a brand-new class: the “working poor” – drones who exist merely to service the Corporate Oligarchs. The result of this forty-year slide in our standard of living is that it now takes two incomes in a household to provide the same standard of living as was formerly provided by one-income families a mere generation ago.

However, you would never know of this crisis by reading/viewing any of the outlets of the Oligarch-controlled, mainstream media. In the world of Big Media, our governments are being bankrupted by “too much spending”. The disconnect with the real world only intensifies when Big Media tells us what it thinks we “can afford” and what we “cannot afford”.

We can afford to spend $trillions invading nations halfway around the world. Apparently no price is too high when it comes to preserving the money-laundering profits of the Banking Oligarchs (the “War for Drugs” in Afghanistan), or hijacking the oil resources of other nations for the Oil Oligarchs (the “War for Oil” in Iraq).

We can afford to dole out $trillions more every year in corporate welfare (i.e. “subsidies”) for these deadbeat Oligarchs – who take about $10 in hand-outs for every $1 they pay in taxes. You “do the math” here, because no one in Big Media will ever do it for you.

We can afford to pay $trillions in interest every year to the bond parasites, interest on paper which these bankers literally conjured out of thin air (and at no cost to themselves). This is despite the fact that much of this debt, and the interest payments on it are a direct result of either fraud in the interest-rate swaps market or fraud in the credit default swaps market (by the same cabal of bankers).

At the same time, Big Media isn’t shy about telling us what we cannot afford. We cannot afford healthcare, education, aid to the poor, pensions, or any other basic government service – at least not in the same quantity/quality which our parents enjoyed only a generation earlier.

Even talk about lighting a match to $trillions in fraudulent bond-debt (or their own outrageous “bonuses”) and the Banking Oligarchs will howl in outrage about “the sanctity of contracts”. Yet when it comes to tearing-up the pension obligations, health benefits, or even wages of ordinary workers, “sanctity” is a word nowhere to be seen – at least nowhere in the world of Big Media.

Complain about the $trillions that have been squandered in the War for Drugs and the War for Oil over the past decade, and first Big Media tells us that it was all to “fight terrorism”. Today (at least if you’re an American) protest about the $trillions being squandered in the War for Drugs and the War for Oil and you are “a terrorist.”

Question the $trillions being wasted every year in corporate welfare, and this is where the propaganda of Big Media becomes especially loathsome. It was Big Media which sold “too big to fail” to the sheep: that we were somehow better off providing $15+ trillions in assorted hand-outs and “guarantees” to the Banking Oligarchs, so that they could continue their Empire of Fraud for at least a few years longer.

While this was the most blatant pimping which Big Media has done for its fellow Corporate Oligarchs, it is far from being  the only form of such pandering. Indeed, the more subtle (but equally important) way in which Big Media solicits $trillions for these corporate deadbeats has been so low-key that (until now) it hasn’t even had a name.

Let me introduce readers to “too big to shrink.”

Those who spend any time following the world of international trade know that there is a “war” going on: a war of subsidies. How is this war fought? One government (bought-and-paid-for by the Oligarchs) hands out a fat subsidy to one Corporate Oligarch. Then another government (also bought-and-paid-for by the Oligarchs) offers a bigger hand-out to a supposedly “competing” fellow Corporate Oligarch, and the “war” is on.

The Oligarchs have discovered that they can be much more effective parasites by remaining as oligopolies rather than becoming simple monopolies, because as oligopolies they can play this endless/infinite game of “subsidies blackmail”. If one government refuses to match (or exceed) the welfare anted-up by another government, the “competing” Oligarch throws a tantrum – and begins making threats to that government. Thus each group of political lackeys simply continue to raise the level of corporate welfare.

What is the threat these extortionists use for this endless game of escalating corporate welfare? If one group of political lackeys fails to match (or exceed) the corporate welfare handed out by another group of political lackeys to “their” Oligarch then that Oligarch will start laying off workers.

In our global economy now completely saturated by these oligopolies workers have become hostages: give me everything I want, or the workers “get it”. Through this game of corporate extortion these oligopolies (with the aid of the Corporate Media propaganda machine) have now all pronounced themselves “too big to shrink.”

The pretensions by both the political lackeys and the Corporate Oligarchs that they actually care about the jobs of the drones ( i.e. the Little People) would be comical if it weren’t so revoltingly hypocritical. It is the same Corporate Oligarchs who have been ruthlessly slashing employment (and wages) for these past several decades – all the while promising us that they were bringing us prosperity. In reality all they ever gave us was the Working Poor.

The politicians are even worse hypocrites. Our massive, structural unemployment problem (the worst in history) could be ended tomorrow if the Oligarchs pulling the strings of these puppets didn’t want massive unemployment as a means of permanently depressing wages for the Little People.

How? The same way that structural unemployment has been eliminated in our economies ever since the Dawn of the Industrial Revolution: through regularly shortening the work week. How did we go from working seven days a week, twelve hours a day (an 80+ hour week) to an official 40-hour work week? We certainly didn’t get there by extending the length of the work week – as was recently done by France’s Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy fans may recall that this is the same man-of-the-people who wants to force all of the unemployed to undergo “mandatory job-training”. So first Sarkozy lengthens the work week – to throw more ordinary workers out of work. Then he forces all of the unemployed to get more “job training”, so that in the rare instances when one of the Corporate Oligarchs actually creates a job (rather than just destroying them) that instead of there only being ten people lining-up hoping to get that job that there will be thirty or fifty people instead. The inevitable result of the combination of these two policies is to drive wages down even faster, even lower.

Note that the blackmail of these “too big to shrink” oligopolies goes well beyond endlessly soliciting more welfare. The corrupt lackeys in our government rarely utter a peep when even after all of this welfare, the Oligarchs again put a gun to the heads of their workers and say: “take our unilateral demands of wage/benefit/security cuts, or we’ll shut down, move somewhere else – and begin blood-sucking that government, and their workers.” As with all parasites, once they have blood-sucked the government and the workers for as much as they can get they simply abandon the dried-up husk and look for a new host.

When it comes to ridding ourselves of these corporate parasites, examples are all around us with respect to ending unhealthy dependencies – and they all involve some pain and sacrifice over the short-term so that we can recover over the longer term. Alcoholics go through withdrawal to conquer their addiction. However these Corporate Oligarchs are far worse than an addiction, as they have thoroughly entrenched themselves in our governments; in our societies; in our lives.

They are a cancer, and as with all cancers the alternatives are unpleasant: radiation treatment, chemotherapy, even surgery. Once diagnosed with cancer we willingly undergo this pain and sacrifice because we fully understand the explicit choice we have been given. Kill the cancer, or the cancer will kill us.

None of these oligopolies is (or was ever) “too big to shrink”, and it was even more absurd to suggest that any of them was “too big fail”. In fact, in any rational world only the parasites see themselves as too big to fail or shrink. In any rational world, there is only one rational response to parasites: extermination.

It is only after we have rid ourselves of the parasitic Oligarchs, and their $trillions for wars; $trillions in welfare; and $trillions in interest payments that we will ever have the possibility of returning to economic health. Alternately we can continue to wear the yokes of economic slavery which the Oligarchs have forged for us. The choice is clear.

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Jeff Nielson
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written by Jeff Nielson, March 20, 2012
The biggest hurt that could be placed upon the oligarchies would be a fair taxation system. Few understand that the corporations use GAAP accounting to pump up earnings and stock prices, but the Net Before Tax line is often a small fraction of this amount due to specifically granted loopholes The reason is that many corporations are more equal than others, the distinction being the amount of campaign contributions, free trips, Ukranian hookers, and campaign contributions bestowed upon pols who can influence policy. nfortunately, real tax reform will require a true revolution.


Apberusdisvet, as you know, our perverse taxation system is one of my OWN biggest "causes".

We have the LUDICROUS situation where the U.S. government goes around simultaneously boasting/whining that it has "one of the highest corporate tax rates".

What these liars NEVER mention however is that the totally corrupt U.S. tax code provides GIGANTIC tax loopholes for Corporate Oligarchs - so that none of them ever pay a fair tax rate.

Meanwhile, the U.S.'s "high tax rate" is only enforced against the CHUMPS: small businesses. Thus taxation serves as a form of HAND-OUTS for the Oligarchs, while simultaneously making it nearly IMPOSSIBLE for high-taxes small businesses to compete.

In other words, taxation is being used by the U.S. government to PROTECT its Corporate Oligarchs and kill-off small business.

Note that the U.S. tax system is so corrupt there is NO HOPE of ever reforming it. THOUSANDS of subsidies (tens of thousands?) which have been cobbled together over half a CENTURY would take many decades to ever be extricated from this convoluted bureaucracy.

Instead, there is a fast, simple, and totally effective means of FAIRLY taxing corporations: don't tax them AT ALL.

As I continue to remind people, all we have to do is implement a (flat) wealth tax and then we can (and must) eliminate all other forms of taxation - to avoid double-taxation.

In other words, there is ZERO need to tax corporate profits IF we tax all of the WEALTH which flows from these corporations into the POCKETS of fat-cat shareholders.

BURN the corrupt, insanely complicated tax code. Replace it with ONE, fair tax. And EVERYONE will live happily ever after...

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apberusdisvet
...
written by apberusdisvet, March 19, 2012
The biggest hurt that could be placed upon the oligarchies would be a fair taxation system. Few understand that the corporations use GAAP accounting to pump up earnings and stock prices, but the Net Before Tax line is often a small fraction of this amount due to specifically granted loopholes The reason is that many corporations are more equal than others, the distinction being the amount of campaign contributions, free trips, Ukranian hookers, and campaign contributions bestowed upon pols who can influence policy. nfortunately, real tax reform will require a true revolution.
Jeff Nielson
...
written by Jeff Nielson, March 19, 2012
All this talk of Oligarchs puts me in mind of that land seemingly beholden to its Oligarchs, that is Russia. Combined with our equally disastrous foray into that quagmire of empires called Afghanistan, we are shaping up to be the next great power turned basketcase. One difference: Putin actually seems to be able to put some fear into his Oligarchs (see jailing of Khodorkovsky), while over here they might as well be openly running the show.


Dalkrin, your comment immediately brings to mind the famous Santayana quote:

"Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."

It was the U.S. which more than any other nation ORCHESTRATED the fall of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent rise of the Oligarchs, so no nation should have been more aware of what caused that collapse than the U.S.

And yet we now see the U.S. DUPLICATING both the economic disintegration of its economy AND the rise of Oligarchs.

With respect to Putin, no, I would not agree that he keeps his Oligarchs on a tight leash. Rather, it's simply a matter of one of them occasionally falling out of FAVOR with Russia's fascist hierarchy - and then paying the inevitable price for no longer being "one of us."
Dalkrin
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written by Dalkrin, March 18, 2012
All this talk of Oligarchs puts me in mind of that land seemingly beholden to its Oligarchs, that is Russia. Combined with our equally disastrous foray into that quagmire of empires called Afghanistan, we are shaping up to be the next great power turned basketcase. One difference: Putin actually seems to be able to put some fear into his Oligarchs (see jailing of Khodorkovsky), while over here they might as well be openly running the show.
Jeff Nielson
...
written by Jeff Nielson, March 18, 2012
So on the one hand there is all of government aligned with the oligopolies you describe in this column and on the other hand is all the cannon fodder. Kind of hard to see how this changes peaceably frankly. Voting sure ain't going to do it so only an actual revolt by the peasants would seem to have any chance and with over 50% or so sucking at the government teat to live I don't see that happening in the near future. I do think it will change but absent some defining event that causes a sudden collapse of some sort I sure don't see it happening in the near future.

Here in the U.S. there is one presidential candidate, RP, of course, who actually understands what has and is happening and he clearly is not allowed to win - and won't. So one of the Republican clowns ends up running against Comrade Zero and maybe we exchange six for half a dozen. Quite an accomplishment. Tough ride ahead.


Sneed Hearn, that is a pretty fair appraisal of circumstances. Indeed I have said on our forum on a number of occasions that I can't help feeling fatalistic: that we must keep TRYING to wake the sheep up from their slumber in time for PEACEFUL reforms - and yet not expecting to succeed.

Yes, there is LITTLE hope in the U.S. electoral process - and things aren't much better in these other pseudo-democracies.
sneed
...
written by Sneed Hearn, March 18, 2012
So on the one hand there is all of government aligned with the oligopolies you describe in this column and on the other hand is all the cannon fodder. Kind of hard to see how this changes peaceably frankly. Voting sure ain't going to do it so only an actual revolt by the peasants would seem to have any chance and with over 50% or so sucking at the government teat to live I don't see that happening in the near future. I do think it will change but absent some defining event that causes a sudden collapse of some sort I sure don't see it happening in the near future.

Here in the U.S. there is one presidential candidate, RP, of course, who actually understands what has and is happening and he clearly is not allowed to win - and won't. So one of the Republican clowns ends up running against Comrade Zero and maybe we exchange six for half a dozen. Quite an accomplishment. Tough ride ahead.
Jeff Nielson
...
written by Jeff Nielson, March 18, 2012
I can’t add much but to point out how the oligarchs bastardize the concept of free competition to whip up support for deregulating everything. They equate “free markets” with “deregulated markets” and now we have every “right wing” (sorry to stereotype) media commentator frothing at the mouth about how we need to deregulate everything in order to regain our free competition. But all deregulation does is allow the oligopolies to manipulate the system to even greater degrees, to remove all remaining protection from the mafia the average person now enjoys. Free markets must be vigilantly regulated, or they will quickly be lost. Left, right and center, we are seeing centuries of regulations enacted to make the world a fairer place being gutted one after the other by our Lords...

The other sinister propaganda not well understood is how the oligarchs use the goal of economic growth to justify further theft from the populace. In a world of finite resources, it is absurd to believe that economic growth is a worthy goal that can continue much longer.


Two great themes in that comment Null. Yes, while I alluded to "regulations being put through a paper-shredder", one could easily write an entire commentary on this subject. Indeed, I HAVE previously written how deregulation killed the airline industry, and deregulation killed the trucking industry, etc., etc.

With respect to infinite growth in a finite system (LOL!), yet again we have the COMPLETE IDIOCY of the economics community on display. Their ridiculous dogma that you CAN have infinite growth in a finite system is no more plausible than a physicist proposing a perpetual-motion machine...

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Null
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written by Null, March 18, 2012
Wow, this article is such a great summary of everything you’ve been writing about for years, Jeff. I can’t add much but to point out how the oligarchs bastardize the concept of free competition to whip up support for deregulating everything. They equate “free markets” with “deregulated markets” and now we have every “right wing” (sorry to stereotype) media commentator frothing at the mouth about how we need to deregulate everything in order to regain our free competition. But all deregulation does is allow the oligopolies to manipulate the system to even greater degrees, to remove all remaining protection from the mafia the average person now enjoys. Free markets must be vigilantly regulated, or they will quickly be lost. Left, right and center, we are seeing centuries of regulations enacted to make the world a fairer place being gutted one after the other by our Lords. At least they cannot erase the Constitution from history, so once the Revolution occurs and the bankers receive what all bankers throughout history eventually get, then we will at least have a Constitutional framework to fall back on. (Maybe I’m just being too optimistic…)

The other sinister propaganda not well understood is how the oligarchs use the goal of economic growth to justify further theft from the populace. In a world of finite resources, it is absurd to believe that economic growth is a worthy goal that can continue much longer. As you point out, the average Westerner is now much poorer than 50 years ago. This, despite 100 years of technological innovation and tremendous increases in economic growth. What’s going on here? What is another round of economic growth going to achieve? Well, all of these advances that would tend to increase personal wealth have simply been stolen from the average person, and THAT’s why we need perpetual economic growth – to replace the wealth of the middle class that is continually stolen by the parasites.

“Economic growth” is a term which pushes all of our emotional and biologically adaptive buttons – we as a species are genetically programmed to grow, to struggle against the natural forces that historically held us in check, which we have now completely overrun. But if you look at the biological world, ALL growth inevitably ends, and is followed by death and rebirth. ANY biological growth which does not end is called cancer, and you addressed above how cancers must be dealt with… I suggest that we forever throw the words “economic growth” into the dustbin of history with all the other oligarch propaganda, and instead focus on what our future really depends on – "economic progress".

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