Early in the last century, steps were taken to ensure that a few companies did not control the bulk of any industry's production or any other concentration of control over production, shipping, or retail, but in recent years, elected officials have seemed to see monopoly as rather benign.

In the current economy, the general public has not made monopoly a major issue, even though it has cost the average citizen much of a household's income and monopoly has hit lower-income families particularly hard. Today's loud fear-mongering about inflation could be traced to a new kind of monopoly, even though the old form continues to prey on poor Americans, along with all wage-working citizens.

There is concentration in ownership of the meat industry, along with the food industry, in general. A handful of corporations control the majority of meat production. A few giant corporations are in control of milk production, distribution, and sales, even though there are some local companies still in operation in various regions. There is concentration in virtually every aspect of the U.S. economy and the consumers, citizens, are paying: higher prices, shrinking supplies, and fewer choices.

Not many industries or businesses can escape this concentration of ownership and control. In the “news business,” for example, billionaires now own the means of communication, whether it be newspapers, magazines, radio, or television or cable. The rich own it all and, whether they say what they want their outlets to broadcast or print, the editors and managers know what they want their readers and listeners and viewers to see and hear.

In newspapers, for example, when a hedge fund buys a paper, reporting staff is reduced, local news is one of the first things to go and then they go for the plant: the building, the equipment, and all of the things that give life to a news-gathering and news-disseminating operation. The people involved and all of the years of experience and history they have in their heads are gone. Hedge funds and their predatory officers care little or nothing for the people, either the news people or the viewers or readers.

It has been said repeatedly in one form or another that news stories are the first draft of history and the founders believed (or, at least some of them) that the only thing that allows a democracy to thrive and survive is the education of its citizenry. Hedge funders and monopolizers care nothing for any of that, because their interest is in accumulating the greatest profit possible in the shortest amount of time. Often, that means that the news outlet is turned over for its monetary value as quickly as a “flipped” house that has just been renovated.

Monopoly seems to have taken a new turn. Writing in the Harvard Business Review in 2019, Jacob Greenspon refers to it as “horizontal shareholding.” He sees it as a different form of monopoly and one that escapes detection for most people as a form of monopoly. Here's what he said about it three years ago: “For example, there is substantial common ownership among U.S. airlines. Between 2013 and 2015, the seven shareholders who controlled 60 percent of United Airlines also controlled 28 percent of Delta, 27 percent of JetBlue, and 23 percent of Southwest. Together, these airlines have over half the domestic market share. Theory and evidence suggests that horizontal shareholding harms competition, consumers, and the economy.”

Most of us don't think of the plundering of the U.S. economy in that manner. We're still looking for the robber baron or big corporation that has cornered the production and supply of our latest electronic contraption, but Greenspon's horizontal shareholding is rather clever in that, no matter which way the economic wind blows in the airline (or any other) industry, these folks make money. It's just the people at the end of this chain that are the losers.

That's why back a hundred years ago, Teddy Roosevelt became known as “the trustbuster,” because he was instrumental in the attempt to keep the economy from falling into fewer and fewer hands. Like now. Today, it's just happening in another way. You can be sure that the airline industry is not the only industry that is seeing horizontal shareholding. It's pretty much the way the rich and Corporate America are doing business. The American people are the losers in this monumental manipulation. The demise of trust-busters in the U.S. has happened over a long period. As a people, Americans have ignored that danger at their own peril, same as they did with the concept of usury.

Throughout most of recorded history, civilizations have tried to curb usury, the lending of money and charging more money for the loan. Some nations have set limits on what can be charged for the use of the lender's money, but those limits only seem to work sometimes. The three Abrahamic religions, in general, frowned on loans for interest. For Christians, loaning money at interest was a sin. Rulers of some of the most powerful empires knew usury as wrong and tried to limit it. We see how little success they have had, when we look at the payday lenders and check-cashing storefront businesses that thrive in poorer neighborhoods across the U.S.

Monopolies exist to funnel the wealth of the people into very few coffers and the beneficiaries are the rich and Corporate America. With dwindling sources of factual information, the loss of local reporting and much of national reporting, it is right to ask, as reporter and economics writer, the late William Greider, titled one of his books, “Who Will Tell the People?”

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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