Explaining the con that is private equity

Emily Stewart's private equity explainer for Vox is a great explainer on how the PE con works: buy up businesses, load them with debt, sell off their assets, slash their costs, then walk away as the house burns, leaving society to put out the fire — all while enjoying special tax status on your gains.

Private equity firms should be abolished

In his latest BIG newsletter, Matt Stoller (previously) relates the key moments in the history of private equity, from its roots in the notorious "leveraged buyouts" of the 1980s, and explains exactly how the PE con works: successful, productive business are acquired through debt financing, drained of their cash and assets, and then killed, leaving workers unemployed and with their pension funds looted, and with the business's creditors out in the cold.

The case for breaking up Disney

Disney has always been a problematic company, from its crypto-minstrelsy (and not-so-crypto-minstrelsy) to its perpetual copyright extensions to its censorship activities to its gender stereotyping to its anti-union work and so on, but, as anti-monopoly activist Matt Stoller (previously) writes, under CEO Bob Iger the company has changed into an entirely different kind of corporate menace: a monopolist committed to crushing competition, rather than an entertainment company that — whatever its other sins — was ferociously committed to making movies, TV shows, theme parks, art and toys.

Wework, Uber, Lyft, Netflix, Bird, Amazon: late-stage capitalism is all about money-losing predatory pricing aimed at creating monopolies

Wework is definitely a piece of work, a money-hemorrhaging bezzle whose recently ousted founder siphoned a reported $700m out of the company while self-dealing and presiding over a series of bizarre missteps (from serving tequila shots and hosting a dance party with Darryl from Run DMC at the same meeting where he announced mass layoffs to banning his employees from expensing meals containing meat while getting caught eating meat himself).

Trustbusting is now a bipartisan issue

Ronald Reagan may be sainted by the right, but 2018 was the year conservatives broke with his slavish, simpleminded adherence to the Chicago School antitrust theory that says that governments should only regulate monopolies when they give rise to higher consumer prices — it's also the year the right realized that extreme market concentration in the tech sector could lead to a future in which conspiracy theorists, Nazis, "white identity enthusiasts," and crank misogynists might find themselves with nowhere to talk and be heard by others.

All the economists who told the FTC we shouldn't break up Big Tech are paid by Big Tech

From the Open Markets Institute's Mat Stoller and Austin Frederick, who analyzed the FTC's panel, "The Current Economic Understanding of Multi-Sided Platforms," in which economic experts told the regulator that Big Tech's monopoly power just isn't a problem: "every single economist testifying on the issue of corporate concentration derived income, directly or indirectly, from large corporations. — Read the rest

"Work ethic": Minutes from 2011 meeting reveal Federal Reserve bankers making fun of unemployed Americans

The Federal Reserve Board, charged with maximizing employment in America, sets interest rates and takes other measures to achieve this goal; because of public records laws, we get to look in on their deliberations five years after the fact. A recently released transcript, dating from the depths of America's unemployment crisis in 2011, reveals that Board members selected by American business (as opposed to those members appointed by the President) mocking unemployed Americans as being uneducated, addicted to drugs, and having a poor "work ethic."

Trump and Brexit are retaliation for neoliberalism and corruption

Glenn Greenwald frames what I've been trying to articulate: as neoliberalism and its handmaiden, corruption, have swept the globe, making the rich richer, the poor poorer, and everyone in the middle more precarious; as elites demonized and dismissed the left-behinds who said something was wrong; as the social instability of inequality has been countered with increasingly invasive domestic "war on terror" policing, millions of people are ready to revolt, and will support anyone who promises no more business as usual.

Congress was giving spies a pass back in 1975, too


If you are outraged by American spies getting a free pass from their political masters (and you really should be), remember that this is an age-old tradition. Matt Stoller revisits the 1975 Congressional hearings in which radical Congresswoman Bella Abzug grilled CIA director William Colby over the CIA's records of the membership rolls of peaceful, domestic protest groups, only to have Arizona Congressman Sam Steiger suck up to the spook-in-chief, expressing concern that anti-American terrorists could destroy the CIA by sending it too many Freedom of Information Act requests.

Economic recovery in the US actually made 99% of Americans poorer, top 1% captured 121% of gains

"Striking it Richer," a paper by Emmanuel Saez (an economist at UC Berkeley) looks at the way that the dividends of the slow US "economic recovery" have been distributed. Saez finds that 121% of the economic gains since 2009 have been captured by the richest 1% of Americans — in other words, despite economic growth, the poorest 99% of Americans actually got poorer through the "recovery." — Read the rest