Over the past several decades, a handful of corporations have absorbed and destroyed all opposition--big and small--and slowly come to play a role in every aspect of Americans’ lives. That’s the central argument of journalist David Dayen’s latest book,Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power. On this week’s installment of Scheer Intelligence, the American Prospect editor joins host Robert Scheer to discuss how corporations peddle the idea that consumers have the “freedom” to buy whatever they want in order to distract the public as their rights are increasingly eroded.
“We have the illusion of choice in America,” says the Monopolized author. “Corporate branding exercises and marketing teaches us that we can choose this, that or the other thing, but they're all really coming from the same place. And what that does is it anesthetizes you, really, to this reality of having an economy that is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, and the implications of that, and the harms of that for society at large.
“Not just for us as consumers,” Dayen continues, “not just because we pay more because there are fewer choices, but for us as citizens. [...] This is a problem for us as workers, this is a problem for us as members of a community, where communities are being left behind by the concentration of power in certain markets that extract value from communities that used to have local stores and local businesses. It hurts us as citizens because economic power converts into political power, and democracy becomes a farce that's controlled by corporate America.”
Scheer highlights how Dayen’s book gets to the heart of the fact that regardless of who is president or which political party is in power, the real power remains in the hands of people like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet. The billionaires not only profit from the destruction of labor rights, but wield extraordinary influence in a democracy that has been in and of itself monopolized by the wealthiest Americans. In response Dayen argues that not only did the bipartisan deregulation essentially break the U.S. government’s social contract with its citizens, but actually led to the election of Trump, a demagogue who was able to seize upon legitimate discontents in order to rise to power. Dayen warns, however, that solely getting rid of Trump, who Scheer calls the “armpit of monopoly capitalism,” will not solve the problem.
“We can't rely on the people who got us into this position on a bipartisan basis to help fix [the problem of monopolies],” concludes the journalist. “So I really think that it is going to have to come from the people. We're going to have the same problems if Joe Biden gets into office. [...] And if we don't handle this problem in a future Democratic administration, what we'll get is a competent Trump. We'll get someone that actually knows how to work the system a little better. And that would be nothing short of a disaster.”
Listen to the full conversation between Scheer and Dayen as the two discuss how governmental deregulation allows corporations to regulate themselves and the rest of us, and explore several specific examples of the many ways corporations have taken over American life.