MetroFocus: July 30, 2020

SPECIAL REPORT: WEALTH, POWER AND THE PURSUIT OF LIBERTY

Falling wages. The racial wealth divide. Suicide among dairy farmers and taxi drivers. And even the collapse of local newspapers. What is the one thing these issues all have in common? Zephyr Teachout says they’re all either the direct or indirect result of the increasing unchecked power of America’s monopoly corporations; corporations like Facebook and Google that have resulted in a greater concentration of wealth and power and turned these companies into political entities that often have more influence than the actual government. Tonight, the professor, attorney and expert on corruption and anti-trust, shares how we can recover our freedom from these giants in her new book “Break ‘Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom From Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money.”

TRANSCRIPT

I'M RAFAEL P. ROMAN.

FALLING WAGES, THE COLLAPSE OF NEWSPAPERS, THE RACIAL WEALTH DIVIDE, DAIRY FARMER AND TAXI DRIVER SUICIDES, WHAT'S THE ONE THING THEY HAVE IN COMMON?

ACCORDING TO OUR NEXT GUEST, THE AUTHOR OF THE NEW BOOK 'BREAK THEM UP, RECOVERING OUR FREEDOM FROM BIG AG, BIG TECH AND BIG MONEY, WHAT THEY HAVE IN COMMON IS THAT THE THE RESULT OF INCREASING UNCHECKED POWER OF AMERICA'S MONOPOLY CORPORATIONS.

HE'S A FORMER UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF LAW, AN EXPERT IN ANTI-TRUST, AND A FREQUENT CANDIDATE OF PUBLIC OFFICE, MOST RECENTLY THE OFFICE OF NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL.

SHE JOINS US NOW.

SO GOOD TO HAVE YOU.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

I ONLY GOT THE CHANCE TO READ THE BOOK DIGITALLY SO I DON'T HAVE IT WITH ME.

I WONDER IF YOU WOULD SHOW OUR AUDIENCE WHAT THE BOOK LOOKS LIKE, COMING OUT THIS WEEK.

HERE YOU GO, THANK YOU.

PLEASE ORDER IT.

ANY WAY YOU CAN, ONLINE OR FROM YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE.

IT IS AN IMPORTANT BOOK.

SO LET ME START WITH A BASIC QUESTION.

WHAT IS A MONOPOLY?

HOW DO YOU DEFINE IT?

A MONOPOLY IS A COMPANY THAT HAS STARTED TO TAKE ON SOME OF THE FEATURES OF GOVERNMENT.

THAT IT DOMINATES IN A MARKETPLACE INSTEAD OF BEING INSIDE, OR IT CAN SET PRICES WITHOUT REALLY HAVING TO NEGOTIATE WITH ANYBODY.

THINK ABOUT THE MONOPOLIES THAT YOU PROBABLY REGULARLY CONFRONT, LIKE BIG PHARMA COMPANIES WHOSE PRICES GET RAISED RADICALLY, JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN.

THEY SO DOMINATE THAT THEY DON'T ACTUALLY HAVE TO NEGOTIATE WITH YOU AS A PURCHASER OR NEGOTIATE WITH WORKERS.

SO NAME NAMES.

WHAT ARE SOME OTHER COMPANIES THAT FIT THIS DESCRIPTION?

YEAH.

WELL, I THINK ONE OF THE BIG MISCONCEPTIONS WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE WAY, FIRST OF ALL, IS THERE'S TWO MISCONCEPTIONS.

ONE IS THAT IF YOU ARE NOT AN ECONOMIST OR LAW PROFESSOR, YOU DON'T HAVE ANY BUSINESS CALLING SOMETHING A MONOPOLY.

THERE'S A WAY IN WHICH PEOPLE HAVE STARTED TO THINK OF IT AS A HYPERTECHNICAL THING.

I DON'T KNOW IF I DARE CALL SOMETHING A MONOPOLY.

THIS IS A TECHNICAL QUESTION FOR LAWYERS AND JUDGES TO FIGURE OUT.

AND ONE OF THE THINGS I WANT TO DO IN THIS BOOK IS RECOVER A LONG AMERICAN TRADITION OF USING A MONOPOLY IN A POLITICAL SENSE.

WHEN YOU THINK OF MONOPOLY YOU PROBABLY THINK OF MAYBE STANDARD OIL, WHICH HAD 65% OF THE MARKET WHEN IT WAS BROKEN UP, AND NOWADAYS WHAT ARE THE MODERN STANDARD OILS?

WELL, GOOGLE.

FACEBOOK.

AMAZON.

APPLE.

THOSE ARE ALL REALLY TOP OF MIND THIS WEEK.

BECAUSE OF THE MAJOR ANTI-TRUST HEARINGS WITH THE CEOs OF THOSE FOUR MONOPOLIES COMING TO TESTIFY.

BUT YOU ALSO LOOK IN THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR, LOOK AT BAYER, WHICH NOW OWNS MONSANTO, OR JOHN DEERE WHICH DOMINATES A SUBSTANTIAL PART OF THE MARKET.

IN THE BANKING SECTOR WE HAVE JUST A HANDFUL OF BIG BANKS WHICH REALLY CONTROL THE BANKING INDUSTRY.

AND ONCE YOU START LOOKING YOU START SEEING THEM EVERYWHERE.

EXACTLY.

THERE'S JUST BEEN RADICAL CONSOLIDATION ACROSS THE BOARD.

YOU CALL WHAT THE MONOPOLY COMPANIES ARE DOING THE CHICKENIZATION OF THE AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS.

IT SOUNDS FUNNY BUT IT REALLY IS NOT, NOT IN ANY WAY.

COULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT THAT MEANS?

YEAH, CHICKENIZATION IS A TURM, UNSURPRISINGLY, THAT COMES FROM THE MEAT INDUSTRY.

AND A HANDFUL OF COMPANIES THINK TYSON, PURDUE, PILGRIMS.

THESE MONOPOLIES SIT AT THE CENTER OF THE CHICKEN DISTRIBUTION MARKET AND CONTROL EVERYTHING.

IF YOU'RE A CHICKEN FARMER AND YOU WANT TO SELL YOUR CHICKENS, YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH ONE OF THESE GIANTS AND THEY TEND TO BE REGIONALLY DIVIDED UP.

SO MAYBE YOU'RE IN A TY SONS REGION.

YOU BASICALLY HAVE TO GO THROUGH TYSONS TO GET YOUR CHICKEN TO THE SUPERMARKET.

WELL TYSONS SITS IN THIS POSITION AND USES ITS POWER AS A DISTRIBUTOR TO EXERCISE THIS OUTSIZED POWER OVER YOU AS A FARMER.

SO TYSONS HAS BOUGHT UP FEED COMPANIES.

AND CONTROLLING SEED CHICKEN EGGS, ALL ASPECTS OF CHICKEN PRODUCTION AND IT USES THIS POWER, TO SAY, OKAY, YOU'RE A CHICKEN FARMER.

YOU WANT TO GET YOUR CHICKENS TO MARKET.

YOU HAVE TO USE THE SEED THAT WE OWN.

YOU HAVE TO USE OUR CONSULTANTS TO TELL YOU HOW TO DESIGN YOUR CHICKEN HOUSE.

YOU HAVE TO USE THE LIGHTING SYSTEMS THAT WE TELL YOU TO USE.

YOU HAVE TO USE THE WATERING SYSTEMS.

THERE'S TOTAL CONTROL.

SO THE CHICKEN FARMER LOOKS LIKE AN INDEPENDENT BUSINESS PERSON.

AND THEY TOOK OUT THE MILLION DOLLAR LOAN FOR THEIR OWN CHICKEN HOUSE BUT, IN FACT, THEY'RE NOT INDEPENDENT.

IT'S MUCH DEEPER AND DARKER THAN THAT.

BECAUSE IT TURNS OUT THAT TYSON WILL THEN ALSO REQUIRE YOU TO SIGN A CONTRACT THAT SAYS YOU CAN'T TALK TO OTHER CHICKEN FARMERS.

AND YOU MAY GET PAID DIFFERENT AMOUNTS THAN OTHER CHICKEN FARMERS IN THE SAME REGION, YOU'LL NEVER KNOW ABOUT THAT.

IN FACT, YOU'LL GET PAID DIFFERENT AMOUNTS EVERY MONTH, AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT REALLY DEVELOPS WITHIN CHICKEN FARMING, BUT I SAY THIS HAPPENS ACROSS INDUSTRIES, IS THAT THE FARMERS THEN BECOME IRRATIONALLY PARANOID ABOUT THE ACTIONS OF TYSON.

AM I HAVING A BAD MONTH BECAUSE I SPOKE UP?

AND OBJECTED TO WHAT TYSON WAS DOING OR AM I HAVING A BAD MONTH JUST BECAUSE OF CHANCE?

I CAN'T TALK TO MY NEIGHBORS TO FIND OUT ABOUT THEIR TREATMENT.

SO THEY FEEL LIKE THEY'RE TOTALLY ISOLATED AND SUBJECT TO A RULING REGIME.

AND THERE'S BEEN SOME WONDERFUL REPORTING, SOME OF YOU MAY HAVE SEEN A JOHN OLIVER COVERED THIS, ABOUT WAYS IN WHICH CHICKEN FARMERS WHO SPOKE UP ABOUT THE PROBLEMS IN THIS REGIME ACTUALLY DID GET PUNISHED BY GETTING WORSE TREATMENT AND EVENTUALLY HAD TO LEAVE THE INDUSTRY.

IT'S CALLED CHICKENIZATION BECAUSE IN THE BEEF AND PORK INDUSTRY THEY STARTED ADOPTING THE SAME METHODS, BASICALLY CENTRALIZED DISTRIBUTORS USING THEIR POSITION OF POWER IN A QUASI FUTILE WAY, SUCKING OUT ALL THE VALUE, GATHERING LOTS OF DATA, EXPERIMENTING ON THE SUPPLIERS AND THE SUPPLIERS BEING ISOLATED.

SO I ENCOURAGE PEOPLE THEN TO SAY, OKAY, WELL HOW IS THAT REALLY DIFFERENT THAN SOMEBODY WHO'S SELLING ON AMAZON?

WHO'S BASICALLY LIKE THE CHICKEN FARMER TO TYSON IS THAT SELLER TO AMAZON.

AMAZON CAN MAKE OR BREAK A SELLER OF CONSUMER GOODS AND DEMANDS CONTRACTS THAT ALLOW THEM TO SPY INTO THE BUSINESSES OF THE SELLERS.

IT FEELS OUT OF CONTROL.

IS DESPERATELY, AGAIN, RATIONALLY PARANOID.

DID I END UP HIGHER IN AMAZON SEARCH RESULTS THIS MONTH BECAUSE OF SOMETHING I DID OR IS IT JUST RANDOM?

MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE FEELING LIKE THEY ARE INSIDE THESE FUTILE REGIMES AND THEY LOOK LIKE THEY'RE FREE BUT THEY ACTUALLY AREN'T.

RIGHT, RIGHT.

UBER DRIVERS COULD FIT THAT DESCRIPTION AS WELL.

ABSOLUTELY.

AND THERE'S REALLY GREAT RESEARCH -- THERE'S SO MUCH MORE WE DON'T KNOW.

BUT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I'M INTERESTED IN, AND WE DO KNOW ABOUT UBER, IS THE WAYS IN WHICH COMPANIES ACTUALLY EXPERIMENT ON THEIR SUPPLIERS.

AND SO UBER DRIVERS ARE EXPERIMENTED ON.

AND NOT REALLY TREATED WITH THE DIGNITY THAT WE THINK PEOPLE DESERVE.

AND THAT -- THERE'S SOMETHING REALLY TROUBLING ABOUT BEING THE SUBJECT OF AN EXPERIMENT INSTEAD OF HAVING POWER OVER YOUR OWN LIFE.

NO POWER EVEN TO SPEAK TO A FELLOW WORKER.

YES, EXACTLY.

OR TO GET TOGETHER TO JOIN FORCES.

IN ANY EVENT, IN THE BOOK YOU BREAK DOWN SPECIFIC D-- ON THE INSTITUTIONS THAT MAKE DEMOCRACY POSSIBLE.

ONE OF THEM IS THE FREE PRESS.

NOW WE'VE DONE A NUMBER OF SEGMENTS ON THE DEMISE OF INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM, PARTICULARLY LOCAL INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM.

AND THE CONSENSUS AMONG OUR GUESTS, I THINK IS THAT IT'S THE INEVITABLE RESULT IN THE ADVANCE OF TECHNOLOGY.

YOU SAY IT IS NOT.

YOU SAY SPECIFIC DECISIONS THAT ARE MADE BY AMAZON, FOR EXAMPLE, DON'T HAVE TO BE MADE.

EXPLAIN.

YEAH.

I THINK THERE'S SOMETHING REALLY DANGEROUS ABOUT TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM.

PEOPLE TEND TO BE TECH NO UTOPIANS OR TECHNODYSTOPIANS.

BUT THEY SHARE A VIEW THAT THIS TECHNOLOGY FORCES US TO GO IN THIS DIRECTION INSTEAD OF UNDERSTANDING THAT TECHNOLOGY IS A TOOL WE CAN USE IN WAYS THAT WE WANT TO.

SO THE PARTICULAR HARM THAT I TALK ABOUT IN NEWSPAPER BUSINESSES.

I KNOW YOU HAVE COVERED THIS, AND I DON'T THINK I NEED TO DWELL ON THE DEMOCRATIC DANGER OF NOT HAVING LOCAL NEWS.

IS THE WAY IN WHICH FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE IN PARTICULAR SERVE AS ALMOST LIKE BRIDGE TROLLS.

THERE'S ABSOLUTE CHOKE POINTS.

IF YOU ARE -- WE'RE TALKING ABOUT CHICKEN FARMERS EARLIER.

IF YOU ARE A LOCAL NEWSPAPER, IF YOU'RE THE -- TO REACH PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO READ YOU NEED TO GO THROUGH FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE.

BUT WHAT IS REALLY I THINK DARK ABOUT WHAT FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE ARE DOING IS THEY'RE ACTUALLY MAKING MONEY OFF THE WORK THAT JOURNALISTS ARE DOING, ESSENTIALLY SUCKING THE RESOURCES DRY.

SO STEPPING BACK FOR A SECOND, FOR MOST WORKING CLASS AND LOCAL JOURNALISM, THE KEY SOURCE OF REVENUE HAS BEEN ADS NEXT TO THE JOURNALISM.

SO I'M GOING TO BE A JOURNALIST WHO GOES AND FINDS OUT WHAT THE POLICE ARE DOING AND THE LOCAL CARPET STORE IS GOING TO SELL -- IS GOING TO SELL ADS NEXT TO THAT STORY.

AND SINCE PEOPLE REALLY WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE POLICE ARE DOING THEY'RE GOING TO SEE THE ADS FOR THE LOCAL CARPET STORE.

WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW IS THAT THOSE SAME ADS HAVE ALL MI MIGRATED -- WHEN I SAY 100%, BUT 99% OF NEW DIGITAL AD DOLLARS WENT TO GOOGLE AND FACEBOOK LAST YEAR.

THERE'S THIS HUGE SHIFT OF MONEY THAT USED TO FLOW TO LOCAL JOURNALISTS NOW FLOWING TO FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE.

BUT THEY'RE ACTUALLY -- IF YOU SHARE A HEADLINE ABOUT WHAT LOCAL COPS ARE DOING, FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE ARE PLACING AN AD NEXT TO THAT HEADLINE.

SO THE RESEARCH DONE BY THE JOURNALISTS, THE JOURNALISTS AREN'T GETTING THE MONEY, THE LOCAL PAPER ISN'T GETTING THE MONEY, FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE ARE GETTING THE MONEY.

THEY ARE THESE CHECK POINTS.

THE CHICKEN FARMERS AS JOURNALISTS.

THEY'RE PUTTING IT ON THEIR PLATFORM AND STEALING THEIR ADS.

YES, YEAH.

AND WE DON'T HAVE TO ALLOW THAT.

WE CAN BASICALLY SAY -- I MEAN, IT'S SOMETHING I'VE BEEN PUSHING FOR FOR SOME TIME IS SAY, LET'S JUST BE HONEST ABOUT WHAT FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE ARE, THEY'RE THE CENTER OF OUR COMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE AND WE SHOULDN'T ALLOW COMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE TO BE FUNDED WITH TARGETED ADS.

WE CAN HAVE THEM BE FUNDED WITH PAYING FOR SERVICES.

PAY $1 A MONTH TO FACEBOOK, PAY FOR THE SEARCH SERVICES.

INSTEAD OF SIPHONING THAT MONEY AWAY AND COMPETING, WE THINK ABOUT THEM AS SOCIAL MEDIA, BUT THEY'RE DIGITAL AD SELLERS.

SO THEY'RE DIRECTLY COMPETING WITH THE NEWS ORGANIZATIONS THAT DEPEND ON THEM.

AND I SEE THIS AS AN EMERGENCY.

WE'LL TALK ABOUT THE STEPS TO TAKE AT THE END OF OUR CONVERSATION.

BUT LET'S KEEP GOING TO THE THINGS THAT -- THE EFFECTS THEY'RE HAVING IN DIFFERENT SECTORS.

A BIG ONE THAT YOU COVER IN THE BOOK IS THE EFFECT THAT THEY'RE HAVING ON THE JUSTICE SYSTEM.

HOW THEY ARE REPLACING THE DEMOCRATIC OPEN JUSTICE SYSTEM THAT WE HAVE IN THIS COUNTRY WITH PRIVATE POWER, A PRIVATE COURT SYSTEM, SO TO SPEAK.

AND WHAT THOSE EFFECTS ARE.

TALK ABOUT THAT.

THIS IS BASICALLY ARBITRATION.

SO YOU MAY HAVE ARBITRATION -- BEFORE THOUGHT ABOUT ARBITRATION BUT WHAT I ARGUE IN THE BOOK IS WE SHOULD SHIFT THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT ARBITRATION.

ARBITRATION SOUNDS NICE.

IT SOUNDS LIKE, OH, SOMETHING TWO PEOPLE IN A SILLY FIGHT SHOULD GO AND JUST GET ALONG.

BUT IT'S ACTUALLY QUITE A SINISTER TOOL WHEN IN THE HANDS OF BIG CORPORATIONS.

AND IT'S -- ARBITRATION IS A PRIVATE COURT SYSTEM THAT PEOPLE ARE FORCED INTO WHEN THEY CONTRACTUALLY AGREE -- IF I'M GOING TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU, ALL OUR CLAIMS AREN'T GOING TO GO TO COURT.

THEY'RE GOING TO GO TO THIS PRIVATE COURT SYSTEM.

SO THE THEORETICAL JUSTIFICATION FOR USING ARBITRATION IS MAYBE I WORK FOR YOU, AND I SIGNED A CONTRACT.

AND WHEN I SIGNED THE CONTRACT AS YOUR EMPLOYEE, I SAID, OH, YEAH, I AGREE THAT IF WE HAVE A FIGHT WE'LL GO TO THIS PRIVATE COURT SYSTEM.

IN PRACTICE, MOST ARBITRATION CONTRACTS ARE NOT TRULY VOLUNTARY.

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A CELL PHONE RIGHT NOW, WORKING WITH ANY OF THE MAJOR CELL PHONE COMPANIES, THERE'S AN ARBITRATION CLAUSE THAT SAYS IF YOU WANT TO USE THE CELL PHONE YOU HAVE TO MAKE -- YOU HAVE TO PROMISE THAT EVERYTHING WILL BE RESOLVED BY THIS PRIVATE COURT.

NOW, AT FIRST IT MIGHT LOOK LIKE THESE COURTS RESEMBLE PUBLIC COURTS BUT EXTRAORDINARILY THE JUDGES ARE PAID BY THE PARTIES, AND IN PRACTICE THE JUDGES ARE PAID BY THE BIG CORPORATIONS.

SO YOU HAVE REPEAT LAYERS, OF THE BIG CORPORATIONS WHO PAY THE JUDGES.

THEY'RE NOT PUBLIC.

THEY ARE NOT BOUND BY RULES OF EVIDENCE.

THERE'S NO RIGHT OF APPEAL.

AND IN PRACTICE WHAT THIS MEANS IS THAT PEOPLE DON'T EVEN BOTHER GOING TO COURT.

AND ONE WAY TO UNDERSTAND THIS, THROUGHOUT THE BOOK I ARGUED THAT WE HAVE TO SEE THESE MONOPOLIES AS A FORM OF GOVERNMENT AND THIS FORM OF GOVERNMENT AS YOU WONDERFULLY EXPLAIN BRINGS ALONG ITS OWN FORM OF JUDICIARY, AS EVERY FORM OF GOVERNMENT HAS A JUDICIAL SYSTEM.

BUT THE REAL STEPPING BACK WHAT WE REALLY SEE IS THAT ARBITRATION WAS A RESPONSE TO THE INCREDIBLE SUCCESS OF THESE GREAT CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS.

THAT GAVE WORKERS POWER.

THAT GAVE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES THE RIGHT TO -- THAT GAVE PEOPLE THE RIGHT TO SUE ON AGE -- FOR AGE DISCRIMINATION, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION OR SEX DISCRIMINATION.

AND INSTEAD OF OVERTURNING THOSE LAWS, WHAT THE BIG CORPORATIONS DID IS SAY, OH, NO, NO, WE'LL ENFORCE THOSE LAWS BUT WE'LL ENFORCE THEM IN ARBITRATION.

AND BY THE WAY, IT'S NOT GOING TO BE WORTH YOUR TIME.

SO IT EFFECTIVELY OVERTURNED THESE EXTRAORDINARY CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS BY CREATING A FORUM IN WHICH FEW PEOPLE COULD RECOVER ENOUGH TO MAKE IT WORTH GOING THERE.

IT BASICALLY ERASES LAWS WHILE NOT HAVING TO SAY THAT YOU'RE ANTI-CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS.

IT AFFECTS WORKERS AND CONSUMERS AS WELL.

WE JUST SIGNED IT BECAUSE WHO'S GOING TO -- YOU KNOW, WHO'S GOING TO TAKE ON AMAZON ON YOUR OWN?

CAN YOU IMAGINE?

WHOEVER YOU ARE, EVEN IF YOU'RE FEELING LIKE YOU'RE PRETTY POWERFUL IN YOUR WORLD, CAN YOU IMAGINE YOU JUST GOT THE JOB OF YOUR DREAMS AND MAYBE YOU'RE 24, HAVE $200 IN SAVINGS AND THE JOB OF YOUR DREAMS IS A FAST FOOD JOB, AT LEAST YOU'RE GETTING PAID BECAUSE IT'S A TOUGH JOB MARKET, OR MAYBE THE JOB OF YOUR DREAMS IS YOU'RE JUST GETTING HIRED BY, I DON'T KNOW, A LAW FIRM YOU WANT TO GET HIRED BY AND THEN THEY GIVE YOU A CONTRACT AND YOU SAY, OH, I LOVE THIS JOB.

BUT I'M NOT GOING TO SIGN THIS CONTRACT BECAUSE LATER WHEN YOU DISCRIMINATE AGAINST ME I WANT TO BE ABLE TO BRING YOU TO COURT.

YEAH, YEAH.

NOBODY DOES THAT.

IN ANY EVENT, THE COMPETING EMPLOYER HAS EXACTLY THE SAME CONTRACT.

EXACTLY, EXACTLY.

THIS IS SOMETHING THAT I BRING UP IN THIS BOOK THAT HASN'T BEEN COVERED AS MUCH IS THAT MONOPOLY AND ARBITRATION ARE CONNECTED.

IF YOU HAVE A REALLY OPEN MARKETPLACE, YOU SAY I'M NOT GOING TO GO TO McDONALD'S WITH THIS ARBITRATION -- I'M GOING TO BURG BURGER KING.

BUT THEY ALL HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME ONE.

THEY KNOW IT.

MOVING ON FAST, YOU ACCUSE THE MONOPOLIES OF EXACERBATING AND SUSTAINING SYSTEMIC RACISM IN THE COUNTRY YET I'M SURE THAT IF YOU TALK TO THE PUBLIC RELATIONS DEPARTMENTS OF A LOT OF THESE BIG CORPORATIONS, THEY'LL SAY, HEY, WE ARE THE BIGGEST FINANCIAL BACKERS OF ORGANIZATIONS, FOR EXAMPLE, LIKE BLACK LIVES MATTER, WE'VE GIVEN THEM MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, ESPECIALLY LATELY, AND OVER THE DECADES WE HAVE BEEN FINANCIAL SUPPORTERS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT OVERALL.

HOW CAN YOU ACCUSE US OF EXACERBATING SYSTEMIC RACISM?

WHAT'S YOUR ANSWER?

YEAH.

IT'S, I THINK, ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT AREAS OF STUDY AT THIS MOMENT IS LOOKING AT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CORPORATE POWER, MONOPOLY POWER, AND RACIAL POWER AND EQUALITY AND RACIAL FINANCIAL INEQUALITY.

AND SO I TALK ABOUT A FEW DIFFERENT WAYS.

ONE IS THAT CONCENTRATION TENDS TO BE CONCENTRATION THAT LEADS TO FAR MORE -- MORE CONCENTRATION MEANS MORE WHITE PEOPLE IN POWER, BASICALLY.

ABOUT ONE IN FIVE BUSINESSES IN GENERAL ARE RUN BY PEOPLE OF COLOR.

BUT ONCE YOU GET TO THE FORTUNE 500 IT'S A TINY, TINY PERCENTAGE.

WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE FINANCIAL SECTOR, THE AMOUNT OF -- IT'S LIKE 1% OF PEOPLE WHO ARE VERY INVOLVED IN MANAGING BIG FUNDS.

ARE PEOPLE OF COLOR.

SO THE FARTHER UP YOU GO, THE MORE YOU CONCENTRATE, THE MORE YOU BASICALLY LEECH OUT A POWER SYSTEM.

ONE OF THE THINGS I TALK ABOUT IS LOOKING AT THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND HOW ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL BLACK BUSINESSES WERE IN SUPPORTING INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT FIGHTS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS.

FUNERAL HOMES.

BLACK-OWNED CAR BUSINESSES.

BLACK-OWNED PHARMACIES.

ALL PLAYED AN ESSENTIAL ROLE IN BEING A POWER BASE FOR CONFRONTING THE WHITE POWER ESTABLISHMENT.

BUT THERE ARE OTHER WAYS AS WELL.

I MEAN, IF YOU LOOK AT WHO FUNDED, WHEN YOU DIG BENEATH THE SURFACE AND WHO FUNDED VOTER SUPPRESSION LAWS IN NORTH CAROLINA AND OTHER STATES.

IT TURNS OUT GOOGLE, AT&T, PFIZER, THEY'RE ALL UP THERE FUNDING ALEC, WHICH THEN SUPPORTED THE SUPPRESSION DRIVES.

MANY OF THOSE COMPANIES HAVE SINCE PULLED OUT OF THAT BECAUSE OF THOSE PROTESTS BUT THERE'S AN ONGOING ALLIANCE BETWEEN BIG CORPORATIONS AND LEGISLATORS WHO BASICALLY WANT TO STRIP PEOPLE OF POWER.

AND IN SOME WAYS, YOU KNOW, IT'S -- THEY'RE NOT SITTING THERE SAYING, LIKE, I'M THE HEAD OF GOOGLE AND I WANT TO SUPPRESS THE VOTE.

BUT I'M THE HEAD OF GOOGLE AND I WANT TO MAKE SURE WE DON'T HAVE TO PAY MUCH IN TAXES AND IF ONE OF THE SIDE EFFECTS IS THE VOTE GETS SUPPRESSED, SO BE IT.

OF COURSE WITH BIG TECH THERE'S A LOT OF ATTENTION RIGHT NOW ON THE WAY ALGORITHMS EXACERBATE RACIAL BIAS.

OKAY.

SO TO MOVE ALONG REALLY FAST BECAUSE WE'RE ACTUALLY SHORT ON TIME, BELIEVE IT OR NOT.

CLEARLY, MONOPOLIES AFFECT WAGES, RIGHT, BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, THEY ESSENTIALLY CONTROL THE LABOR MARKET.

AND YOU WOULD THINK, URINE, THAT THE WAGE MYSTERY WHERE, YOU KNOW, THE LABOR MARKET TIGHTENS UP YOU WOULD THINK THAT WAGES GO UP BUT THEY DON'T BECAUSE IN THE MONOPOLY, BASICALLY, A FEW GOOD EMPLOYERS CONTROL THE WAGES.

THAT'S UNDERSTANDABLE.

WHY DO UNIONS NOT ONLY STAY QUIET ABOUT THIS, BUT SOMETIMES SUPPORT A LOT OF THESE MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS THAT CREATE THESE SUPER MONOPOLIES?

EXPLAIN THAT.

THIS IS ONE OF THE PUZZLES THAT I DUG INTO IN THE BOOK.

THERE'S REALLY POWERFUL NEW RESEARCH THAT SHOWS THAT IN CONCENTRATED MARKETS PEOPLE'S WAGES ARE AS MUCH AS $14,000 LESS BECAUSE OF CONSOLIDATION IN THE MARKETPLACE, PER YEAR.

I MEAN, THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE -- THESE ARE BASICALLY COMPANY TOWN WRIT LARGE WHERE THEY'RE REALLY SUCKING WORKERS DRY.

AND SO THE QUESTION IS WHY HAVEN'T UNIONS BEEN LEAVING THE FIGHT?

I THINK THERE'S A LOT OF REASONS.

SOME OF IT HAS AN UNDERSTANDABLE FEELING OF IMPOTENCE, THERE'S A MERGER, CAN WE REALLY STOP IT.

SOME OF IT HAS TO DO WITH HISTORY.

FOR A LONG TIME COMPANIES DID TREAT WORKERS BETTER.

THERE WAS A SENSE, LIKE, WELL, WE CAN ACTUALLY ORGANIZE A BIG -- A BIG SHOP AS CHEAP -- AS COSTS AS MUCH TO ORGANIZE A BIG SHOP AS IT COSTS TO ORGANIZE A SMALL SHOP.

WHY DON'T WE JUST ORGANIZE THE BIG SHOP?

LET'S NEGOTIATE BIG UNION, BIG COMPANY.

BUT THERE'S AN AGATHA CHRISTIE, MOMENT, THEN THERE WERE NONE.

WE THINK YOUR WAGES SHOULD BE $20 INSTEAD OF $45 AN HOUR.

I THINK THAT UNIONS HAVE MORE POWER THAN THEY REALIZE IN THIS MOMENT AND THEY'VE USED MERGER FIGHTS TO EXTRACT SHORT-TERM BENEFITS BUT THE LONG-TERM COST, USUALLY IT'S A FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT OR SOMETHING, FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS AT LEAST WE'LL GET THESE BENEFITS IF WE DON'T OPPOSE THE MERGER BUT THE LONG-TERM COST IS THEY'RE REALLY LOSING POWER.

STARTED TO SHIFT BUT I'M REALLY HOPING THAT UNION LEADERSHIP CAN REALLY BE AT THE FOREFRONT OF, YOU KNOW, STRENGTHENING WORKER POWER, WEAKENING CORPORATE POWER.

IN THE LAST FOUR MINUTES WE HAVE LEFT LET'S TALK ABOUT WHAT IS TO BE DONE.

YOU MAKE A COMPELLING CASE IN THE BOOK ABOUT HOW MONOPOLIES ARE, IN FACT, RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DESTRUCTION OR THE DEMISE OF DEMOCRACY, SOCIAL JUSTICE, EQUALITY, FREEDOM, ECONOMIC FAIRNESS, AT LEAST THEY'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

HOW COME, THEREFORE, THEY HAVEN'T BEEN IN THE TOP OF THE AGENDA, THE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT, AND UNTIL VERY RECENTLY?

YEAH.

I MEAN, THIS IS -- UNTIL 1980, AS PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD THAT PRIVATE POWER WAS A GENUINE PRODUCT CONCENTRATED POWER WAS A GENUINE DEMOCRATIC THREAT, REAGAN BROUGHT IN THIS REVOLUTION, BUT THEN -- AND REALLY GUTTED ANTI-TRUST LAW BUT NEITHER CLINTON NOR ANY SUBSEQUENT PRESIDENT REALLY REVERSED THAT.

I GO INTO THE REASONS IN THE BOOK.

I HOPE YOU READ IT.

I KNOW WE HAVE LIMITED TIME.

BUT I THINK THAT THERE'S A GROWING RECOGNITION RIGHT NOW, THAT THEY'RE A SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM AND THE BIG BARRIER TO PEOPLE'S ACTION IS JUST A FEELING OF IT'S TOO BIG, IT'S TOO BIG A PROBLEM.

WE CAN'T DO ANYTHING.

AND THERE'S A TENDENCY TO LOOK AT SHORT-TERM SOLUTIONS, LIKE LET'S PROTEST PFIZER'S POLICIES INSTEAD OF PFIZER'S EXISTENCE.

AND I THINK THAT LIKE LABOR UNIONS, WE CAN -- WE MAKE A POWER ERROR IF WE FOCUS ONLY ON THE POLICIES AND NOT ON THE NEGOTIATING PARTIES.

AND I SUGGEST THAT -- THINK ABOUT YOURSELF.

YOU MAY THINK, OH, I KNOW HOW BAD CORPORATE MONOPOLIES ARE BUT YOU MAY HAVE WRITTEN YOUR LAWMAKERS ABOUT ALL KINDS OF DIFFERENT POLICIES.

WHEN'S THE LAST TIME YOU WROTE THEM TO SAY BREAK UP BIG COMPANIES?

WHEN'S THE LAST TIME YOU PICKED A CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE BASED ON THEIR ANTI-TRUST POLICY.

WE HAVE TO RETURN IT TO THE CENTER OF POLITICS INSTEAD OF, LIKE TECHNOLOGY, SORT OF INEVITABLE, TERRIBLE FACT THAT -- WELL, WE HAVE TO LIVE WITH SO LONG AS WE HAVE MARKETS.

AND THAT'S JUST A DEEP LIE.

YOU CAN HAVE MARKETS THAT ARE DECENTRALIZED.

AND YOU CAN HAVE A STRONG NATIONAL PROGRAMS AND STILL BE ENGAGED IN BREAKING UP THESE REALLY TOXIC MONOPOLIES.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THE ARGUMENT THAT TO BREAK UP THE MONOPOLIES YOU HAVE TO GIVE GOVERNMENT EXTRA POWER AND THAT THAT IN ITSELF IS A PROBLEM BECAUSE THEY HAVE, YOU KNOW, A MONOPOLY OF THE FORCES OF REPRESSION.

I MEAN, YOU KNOW, MONOPOLIES MAY BE BAD BUT THE STATE CAN PUT YOU IN JAIL, CAN SEND THE COPS AFTER YOU.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THOSE WHO ARE AFRAID OF GOVERNMENT MONOPOLIES INCREASING?

WE HAVE GOVERNMENT MONOPOLIES NOW.

THERE'S NO NON-GOVERNMENT WORLD --

WOULD IT BE STRONGER IN ORDER TO BREAK DOWN THE MONOPOLIES --

THE QUESTION IS WHAT FORM OF GOVERNMENT DO YOU WANT?

DO YOU WANT MARK ZUCKERBERG DICTATING PRIVACY POLICY, I THINK THE ANSWER IS NO.

IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THE FTC'S PRIVACY POLICY YOU HAVE RECOURSE, YOU HAVE WAYS TO COMPLAIN.

THEY'RE BUILT INTO THE STRUCTURES OF DEMOCRACY.

WITH MONOPOLY GOVERNMENT YOU BASICALLY HAVE NOTHING YOU CAN DO WHEN MARK ZUCKERBERG HAS A WHIMSICAL DAY AND DECIDES TO RELEASE -- TO TRANSFORM YOUR PRIVACY RULES.

SO IT IS NOT THAT ANY FORM OF GOVERNMENT IS PERFECT.

BUT I AM A BELIEVER IN THE -- IN THE NEED FOR CONTINUING TO ASPIRE FOR DEMOCRATIC SELF- GOVERNANCE WHERE ARE PEOPLE HAVE POWER OVER THEIR OWN LIVES.

YOU END THE BOOK WITH AN EPILOGUE.

A LIFE OF A YOUNG WOMAN, 2040, MONOPOLIES HAVE BEEN BROKEN UP, HOW REALISTIC IS IT THAT ALL THESE CORPORATIONS ARE NOT SO HUGE.

15 SECONDS.

CRUCIBLE MOMENT IN OUR DEMOCRACY AND I THINK WE HAVE THESE MULTIPLE PATHS OPEN TO US BUT THERE'S SO MUCH EXCITING MOVEMENT, POWER NOW, WE CAN DO IT.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, SHERYL AND PHILIP MILLSTEEN, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ AND THE ROBERT AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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