The most straightforward example of corporate purchase of academic economic research in their favor that ProPublica found was Dennis Carlton:
Dennis Carlton, a self-effacing economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and one of Compass Lexecon’s experts on the AT&T-Time Warner merger, charges at least $1,350 an hour. In his career, he has made about $100 million, including equity stakes and non-compete payments, ProPublica estimates. Carlton has written reports or testified in favor of dozens of mergers, including those between AT&T-SBC Communications and Comcast-Time Warner, and three airline deals: United-Continental, Southwest-Airtran, and American-US Airways.
This is the elitism that is the source of America’s growing populism, with academic class gorging themselves on corporate-funded and government subsidized hit-peice publications that justify decisions that benefit that same academic, political, banker, and corporate class. The politicians making the most noise about this are hugely popular: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Ron Paul, and Donald Trump come immediately to mind. ProPublica continue:
In addition, politicians such as U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren have criticized big mergers for giving a handful of companies too much clout. President-elect Trump said in October that his administration would not approve the AT&T-Time Warner merger “because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
The merge has the same affect as trade deals: while it’s true that a broad view of the economy shows that there’s more capital in the system, it disproportionally benefits the rich and punishes the poor. Democrats and Republicans alike have been increasingly cozy with ex-corporate interest “independent” lobbyists which later become politicians themselves before getting hired by a corporation again. Obama in 2008 had a populist message, and moving to 2016 he’s become everything people didn’t vote for: bigger trade deals and bigger mergers and acquisitions:
A late Obama administration push to scrutinize major deals notwithstanding, the government over the past several decades has pulled back on merger enforcement.
The rest of the article explores how Apple’s iBooks price fixing scandal and the AT&T/Time Warner deal are examples of being technically advantageous to the United States on grounds that while the customers face a bigger burden, the corporation can take advantage of efficiencies to deliver more value to shareholders. And if this difference is net positive, they argue, it is a good merger. But this is false because empowering the people at the base of the economy with competition for cost and features is better for more people and has broader positive economic effects. When consumers have more money, they can afford more, take a chance at starting a business, have a kid, and many more positive outcomes. But when a very narrow group of executives, politicians, and academics funnel more money into their accounts by taking advantage of efficiencies in economics of scale, they’re actually delivering capital to where it is least needed. ProPublica conclude:
Today, AT&T’s much grander takeover of Time Warner will be an early test case for president-elect Trump, who feuded during the campaign with CNN, a Time Warner property.
If Trump blocks the deal, I hope it’s the first in a series of good decisions; if he allows the deal, he’ll have completely repudiated his claim that he’ll “drain the swamp.” Ideally, the populist liberals and conservatives in all the branches of government can unify to fight this establishment corporatism.