August 26, 2011 by wcobserver
Political commentary by Coralie Koonce
So-called Conservatives are very good at inventing story-lines, names, and slogans. They provide simple explanations for those who prefer simple answers. Nowhere is this truer than with economic issues.
For instance, a common notion is that families and businesses and local governments must balance their budgets, so why not the Feds? However, most homeowners do have mortgages. Many people pay for a new car over several years or have a student loan. Businesses borrow to start up, expand, or replace equipment. Local governments float a bond to pay for the new sewage plant or ballpark.
It seems our whole economy is based on borrowing and paying interest to investors. That’s what Wall Street is all about—playing complex games with loaned money.
The one thing the Feds do that ordinary folks and local governments don’t do is to wage war. And in fact it is largely wars and military build-ups that have increased the national debt throughout our history. If I thought a balanced budget amendment would end war and dismantle our military empire of 900 + foreign bases, I’d consider it. But the military-industrial complex is far too powerful to let that happen.
The debt ceiling has been raised 89 times in the 70 years since it was legislated into existence. That averages out to more than once a year. So what is the point? I’m sure that Congress in 1939 did not intend the debt ceiling to be used for political extortion.
One phrase that deserves a closer look is “free market.” Markets are not nearly as competitive as they should be because of the constant and perhaps inevitable growth of monopolies and shared monopolies.
For instance, GM and Ford together produce almost one-third of the world’s cars. Four appliance firms produce 98% of washing machines. Five Wall Street banks control 97% of the derivatives market. Four companies trade 40% of the world’s coffee. Home Depot and Lowe’s account for nearly half of all sales of hardware and building supplies.
Monsanto has a monopoly in soybean and corn traits. The company controls a remarkable 98 percent of the U.S. soybean market. Monsanto also owns 79 percent of the corn market and 60 percent of the corn and soy germplasm in the United States. Agribusiness giant Cargill, the largest privately owned firm in America, controls a share of at least 25% in most of its markets and is the largest or second largest player. In the U.S. meatpacking industry, 4 firms produce over 85% of beef.
There are only 4 major railroads in the U.S.
ESPN is the only 24 hour network devoted to all things sports. The network broadcasts in over 200 countries. Google has over 65% of the search market. Its closest competitors own just 17% of the market. Microsoft has 90% of the operating system market. In 1999, MCI WorldCom, the second largest U.S. long distance telecommunications company, announced it would acquire Sprint, the third largest U.S. long distance company, in the biggest corporate takeover in history, valued at $129 billion in cash, stock and debt.
By 2000, only six enormous corporations controlled about 90% of all U.S. media holdings: Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, Viacom, and GE’s NBC. In 1983, there were 50 major media firms.
The top ten chain stores get almost 30% of what Americans spend in stores. Stacy Mitchell in Big Box Swindle says chains are driving the contraction of U.S. manufacturing, sending jobs overseas to low-wage countries, notably China.
This economic concentration is a very good reason to do business as much as you can with locally-owned stores, restaurants, and manufacturers. Let’s preserve the truly independent and competitive parts of our economy. And look beyond the shiny words and slogans for the real truth.
Ms Koonce formerly lived in Winslow, now lives in Fayetteville. She holds two degrees from the University of Arkansas and recently published a series of 3 books about critical thinking and human survival: Models, Myths and Muddles; Swimming in a Sea of Ideology; and Thinking Toward Survival.