06 August 2013


For those of a certain age, "Concentration" is a game show from the 1960's hosted by Hugh Downs. One solved a rebus puzzle by picking covered bits which matched. And so on. Concentration, in this context, reflected the ability to remember which thing, and its twin, lived where on a 30 part board.

Well, how times change. Today's news brings us multiple examples of concentration.

First, Bezos buying the Washington Post. Of course, Bezos has accumulated billions while Amazon hasn't produced reliable profits for its shareholders, ever. And, of course:
...he brings with him a sort of libertarian bent, having supported gay marriage in the state of Washington and fought higher income taxes on wealthy people.

Liberal-ish when it doesn't affect him directly, but rabid when it does. As if his brain is worth billions. Not. Another Murdoch. Woodstein would never have happened with this clown running the show. One might wonder how long it will be until Bezos' minions are steering the editorial? Months, weeks? Soon enough.
As Amazon has grown, so too has the volume of criticism of the company. It controls at least a quarter of the book business, more than any company in the past. Critics say that concentration is unhealthy.

Ya think he might use his new pulpit to roll back sales tax, and protect his impending monopoly position? Amazon doesn't make money, to speak of (occasional teeny profits are blown out by more common huge losses). The goal, quite clearly, is to gain monopoly rents. And make Bezos yet richer. Ain't free enterprise fun?

Next, up: banksters. One of the pillars of financial reform (the term makes me gag for its cynicism) was that banksters weren't supposed to get paid if their deals went south. So, our captive "regulators" look the other way.
Filings for 2011, the most recent available, show that only 40 percent of compensation was deferred for employees at Citigroup's global markets operations in London. The figure was 43 percent for Morgan Stanley's London operations and 44 percent for JPMorgan's. Bank of America deferred 49 percent of London employees' pay.

Barclays, in contrast, deferred 70 percent of its regulated employees' compensation across the whole firm in 2011. Credit Suisse deferred 60 percent.

For the TBTF entities, it's "heads I win, tails you lose". Risk? Not for them.

Last, we have Joe Nocera, who's been on the rag for the NCAA (but carrying water for BP; there's a disagreeing Letter to the Editor today as well). What he's on about today is the possibility, apparently increasing, that college football and basketball will bifurcate. I hadn't been aware that matters had gone so far down the road.
Of course, there is another reason the big five want to go their own way. They wouldn't have to share their wealth with the college sports also-rans. Right now, the major conferences are scheduled to get 75 percent of the 12-year, $5.6 billion deal college football signed with ESPN. Why settle for 75 percent when you can get the whole thing?

On the one hand, paid minor leaguers for the X largest schools, and old fashioned student-athletes for the rest. Again, on the one hand, removing the hypocrisy can be viewed as a step forward. On the other hand, allowing universities (some proportion of which are state sponsored) to push the cynic meter to 12 might not be such a good thing. Moreover, I've never seen convincing data that backs up the assertion that football and basketball "support" the lesser sports. These big schools spend tens of millions (or Nike does, in the case of U. of Oregon) on facilities and salaries. Where can one find a forensic accountant?

Congress might start to wonder why college sports enjoys "educational" tax deductions not available to other businesses. In the new revenue-maximizing superdivision, the players themselves might finally start wondering about the fairness with which they're treated.

Winner-take-all (aka, laissez faire) soon yields insurrection of the losers. The winners then turn to the Fascist State to protect their ill-gotten gains. Football or books or bank loans.

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