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Sherman and Clayton Must be Rolling Over in their Graves

Robin Alexander

Posted on February 13, 2019 14:14

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When I was in the latter years of elementary school, back when girls wore knee-high socks and penny loafers, I distinctly remember learning about antitrust legislation. Gary Mergl was throwing spit-balls and I had a crush on Lenny Silverman, but suddenly “monopoly” wasn’t just a game my older cousins played while the grown-ups drank Rob Roys in the living room.

Let’s review for the quiz on Friday:

·       The Sherman Act of 1890 was primarily meant to guard against price-fixing cartels and thereby protect fair market competition, as well as protect consumers from price-gouging.

·       The Clayton Act of 1914 sought to beef up Sherman’s legislation. You see, after the Sherman Act passed those wily captains of capitalism figured out that mergers would do the trick just as well as the cartels used to. So regulating mergers and acquisitions is a big part of this one.

·       In between those two pieces of legislation, trust-buster Teddy Roosevelt became president. His “Square Deal” promoted a philosophy of fairness for both the average citizen and the businessman. Fancy that. (Not only was he a Republican, he was considered a Progressive – two words that went together back then).

Get ready to laugh, but at the time, Mrs. Ciafalo’s lessons gave me a feeling that the government was looking out for us; y’know doing the right thing. (I guess that’s why they call it indoctrination). I don’t blame you Mrs. Ciafalo, just the textbook the school authorized.

So, here we are a century later. For years I’ve been confounded at the constant news of mergers. Was I the only one sitting in that class who took it seriously? Where are you Lenny Silverman?

Then today I open The Latest to find that T-Mobile and Sprint want to merge. Are you kidding me? They will be telling Congress that the proposed merger will not hurt competition or raise prices.

It’s the only way, they claim, they can challenge rival companies AT&T and Verizon.

Capitalism, they drummed into our heads, is all about competition which breeds innovation and guarantees fair prices. It’s a win-win, they told us. And that’s why “America is the best country in the world.” (I guess that’s why they call it propaganda).

Let's look at the communications industry over the years:

·       1998: Bell Atlantic bought GTE

·       1997: Worldcom bought MCI Communications

·       2001: AOL bought Netscape

·       2006: AT&T bought BellSouth Corp

·       2006: Verizon bought Worldcom

·       2012: T Mobile bought MetroPCS

·       2013: Verizon Communications bought Verizon Wireless

·       2015: AT&T bought DirecTV

·       2015: Verizon bought AOL

·       2018: Comcast bought Sky

·       2018: AT&T bought Time Warner

Based on this list, 14 companies are now four: Comcast, AT&T, T Mobile and Verizon. Sprint is a 15th company, but if this goes through 15 companies will have become four.

I just want to shout red light, green light one two three. STOP!

I don’t want to go back to knee-highs and penny loafers, and I truly wish Lenny Silverman well wherever he is, with whatever he’s doing. But I’d like to recapture just a shred of the decency Mrs. Ciafalo told us we have.

Robin Alexander

Posted on February 13, 2019 14:14


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