Too big to fail companies are not limited to the financial sector. Entire swaths of the economy are dominated by large corporate entities encountering very little competition. Three forces drive voter rage.
1. Private Sector Misfeasance
Corporate consolidations coupled with heavy legislative lobbying at state and federal level force workers to do more for effectively less. The minimum wage is not adjusted for cost of living while employers feel no competitive pressure to increase wages.
Truck drivers, much like other U.S. workers, chose to become effectively serfs. Once long ago, I was a card-carrying member of the Teamsters Union. Back then truckers generally drove the proper speed; had very good pay and much respect.
Then the government forced deregulation and allowed unions to be literally crushed. If workers refuse to join together, they will hang separately which is precisely what happened. Once the government allowed a race to the bottom in wages and safety regulations, nearly every company was forced to join the race to bottom wages and high corporate profits for survival.
Republicans and conservatives in Congress allowed corporations to force policy changes on individual states removing any chance of safe and sane laws. What works on the high plains with straight roads and little traffic does not work in crowded, older, urban areas with narrow roads and high volume traffic.
2. Stagnant or reduced wages and pensions — fear
Yes, Donald Trump feeds the monsters of hate and division. However, his real success is built upon worker outrage. Conservatives and others see their dreams of retirement fade away as the years pile up and their savings dwindle. Bitter indeed is the worker who bought the anti-union rhetoric and toiled in the factories and workshops of Middle America believing that their ship would come in — too many ships, not enough ocean.
Many Americans are facing pensions that may be a meager social security check and little else. Their children, many of whom believed conservative elites that college was not needed, now see younger, better educated people grabbing the high paying jobs. Of course, those same Republican and conservative elites sent their children to the finest colleges available.
3. Higher state and local taxes coupled with artificially higher private sector costs
Industry “consolidations” enable entire sectors of the economy to increase profits while decreasing wages and benefits.
Loan industries, from so called payday loans to education loans, are seen to be rapacious. Working class people are essentially saddled with debt for most of their lives. Senator Bob Casey, sponsoring the “In the Red Act” legislation to address college affordability, provided this information:
Low-income graduates (those who received a Pell Grant while in school) borrow at far higher rates–and in higher amounts–than their middle- and upper-income counterparts at both two- and four-year institutions, regardless of the type of institution attended and despite receiving thousands of dollars in grant aid.
A full 84 percent of graduates who received Pell Grants graduate with debt, compared to less than half (46%) of non-Pell recipients. This shift places an unequal burden on communities that have historically been denied an opportunity to gain and leverage wealth.
Being lower income is expensive but not just for education.
Both cable and telephone conglomerates effectively stifle competition and divide markets between them. An example in my region, Verizon Fios is not available in the entire market area while cable companies reign nearly supreme. The result is a less economically competitive business environment. Local economies become competitively disadvantaged through “less than highest speed” internet; communications companies maintain high profitability. Politicians are silent in the face of deliberate inaction by corporations.
U.S. airline companies and their partners appear to have eliminated real competition in both U.S. and foreign markets. The result is high profits but even higher costs and worse service for their customers while employees’ wages and benefits are crushed — they have nowhere else to go. The passengers are often in the same situation.
In the absence of either unions or a government maintaining a level playing field, we reap a nation of serfs. It is not just trucking but nearly every industrial sector from retail to aviation where quality suffers yet profits soar. Why Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders? Why not? If government will not respond — shake it hard. This is why Trump and Sanders are getting so much attention.
Wage equity is not enough. Competition, government regulation and/or a combination of both is necessary to restore the US economy and pride. The trouble with laissez faire capitalism is it fails faster than communism, ending in oligopoly. Here we are. What happens next?