This picture is but a drop in the ocean of corporate consolidation. When you read about an increase of M&A (mergers and acquisitions) it is usually an indication that rich people (using the corporations they own and the politicians they buy) have just stolen a great deal of money from you, legally (because the rich/corporations write the laws) and/or illegally (because they break the laws they don’t write). The past decade or so has been (yet another) one of these times.
The consolidation of money/power has surpassed that of the Gilded Age. Inequality has never been greater in human history. The rich have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it. When you see stock buy-backs, art and property selling for record amounts, and billions “invested” in silicon valley vaporware, you see this in action.
The tendency to monopoly power is built into capitalism. Apologists for capitalism will say that is why we need good regulation, but another tendency built into the logic of capitalism is profit at any (so-called “external”) cost. That means there will be a constant effort to destroy regulatory bodies or “capture” them. The u.s. government is now one big object lesson in that process. Study international trade agreements if you want to see how capitalism in the form of corporate control does the job of crafting regulatory bodies and agreements that make corporations richer and poison, immiserate, and kill the rest of us.
Part of the corporate capture of government involves the rich buying politicians. They always came cheap. One of the most popular legal bribes comes in the form of the paid speech. Not coincidentally, it’s usually the first thing a president or any high government official does as soon as they leave office. They can’t wait to get to the payoff trough. Often it’s a speech to goldman sachs or an oil company, but only the high profile politicians get the $200,000/speech payoffs. The rest can usually be purchased with petty cash. Of course, a million here and million there is petty cash to corporations.
This consolidation of capital under capitalism has led us to multiple crises coming together at once – and the creation of new crises as well. Voting will not get us out of it. Liberal tinkering around the edges will not save us. Getting radical (changing the system at the root) is the only way forward. We will have to do it by organizing ourselves, unifying, and creating another system that is not based on the exploitation of the earth and everything living on it. Socialism or barbarism was a pithy way to describe the choice. We can argue about what to label a new way of living and structuring life on planet earth, but it can’t be the neoliberal corporate capitalist system we have now, and we all have to be involved in organizing ourselves and unifying to become a force powerful enough to challenge the capitalists ruining the chance for continued human life on this planet.
Whatever group or organization you join (or start), work to make it as (small d) democratic as possible and work toward making connections with other groups. When groups can come together and unify internationally, we will have the beginning of chance to challenge the power of the capitalist class. It sounds fantastical and crazy – and as things exist today, it seems impossible – but it is the only way to get off the path that leads directly to mass extinction. The choice seemed obvious when it was phrased as socialism or barbarism. That was another time. And because “we” chose barbarism (and capitalists made war against socialism), now the choice is socialism or the extinction of the human species. Again, if you don’t like the word socialism, call it something else, or think of something else. The point is that we all have to act. We start by joining with others to help struggling people, not as a charity, but in shared struggle. That is the way forward. As you help others, with others, you will help yourself, in ways you can’t even imagine.