"The cost of a thing is the amount of life which is required to be exchanged for it."
- Henry David Thoreau
By Thoreau's definition, America is precious beyond words to describe.
But what did the precious lives of fathers, sons, and brothers really buy?
OUR BANKING SYSTEM:
Last week’s settlement between the Justice Department and five giant banks reveals the appalling weakness
not only of modern antitrust but of our democracy so many died to preserve.
The banks had engaged in the biggest price-fixing conspiracy in modern history.
Their self-described “cartel” used an exclusive electronic chat room and coded language
to manipulate the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency exchange market that went on for years.
But there will be no trial, no executive will go to jail, and the banks can continue to gamble in the same currency markets.
Giant corporations are taking over the economy – and they’re busily weakening antitrust enforcement.
The result has been higher prices for the many, and higher profits for the few.
Wall Street’s five largest banks now account for 44 percent of America’s banking assets – up from about 25 percent before the crash of 2008.
But politicians don’t dare bust them up because Wall Street pays part of their campaign expenses.
Americans pay far more for their medications than any other country's citizens --
although Americans take fewer medications.
A big reason is the power of pharmaceutical companies to keep their patents going way beyond the twenty years they’re supposed to run.
Drug companies pay the makers of generic drugs to delay cheaper versions.
Such “pay-for-delay” agreements are illegal in other advanced economies, but antitrust enforcement hasn’t laid a finger on them in America.
This costs you and me $3.5 billion a year!
CONSIDER OUR HEALTH INSURANCE
Decades ago health insurers wangled from Congress an exemption to the antitrust laws
that allowed them to fix prices, allocate markets, and collude over the terms of coverage,
on the assumption they’d be regulated by state insurance commissioners.
But America’s giant insurers outgrew state regulation ... hence the health insurance nightmare we now face.
Why does the United States have the highest broadband prices among advanced nations and the slowest speeds?
Because more than 80% of Americans have no choice but to rely on their local cable company for high capacity wired data connections to the Internet.
Have you wondered why your airline ticket prices have remained so high even though the cost of jet fuel has plummeted 40 percent?
Because U.S. airlines have consolidated into a handful of giant carriers that divide up routes and collude on fares.
Why does food cost so much?
Because the four largest food companies control
82% of beef packing,
85% of soybean processing,
63% of pork packing, and
53% of chicken processing.
Google’s search engine is so dominant “google” has become a verb.
Three years ago the staff of the Federal Trade Commission recommended suing Google
for “conduct that has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation.”
The commissioners decided against the lawsuit, perhaps because Google is also the biggest lobbyist in Washington.
And what of the racial hatreds simmering beneath the surface of local police forces,
the dumbing down of our culture,
and a thousand other festering cancers within our society?
It’s getting ever more difficult to differentiate between the bad guys and the good guys in our government these days.
IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR AMERICA?
Yes, of course.
Corruption has always been with us and will always reign in the halls of power.
The hope is within each of us ... to be the change we wish to see in the world.
We honor the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers by standing in the breech for those hurting we see.
We cannot save the world, but we can transform our little corner of it with daily acts of kindness and compassion.
HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY EVERYONE!