Nelson Lichtenstein | Biden’s Executive Order Restores U.S. Antitrust – The New York Times

Mr. Lichtenstein is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he directs the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy.

“On Friday, President Biden signed a sweeping executive order intended to curb corporate dominance, enhance business competition and give consumers and workers more choices and power. The order features 72 initiatives ranging widely in subject matter — net neutrality and cheaper hearing aids, more scrutiny of Big Tech and a crackdown on the high fees charged by ocean shippers.

The president called his order a return to the “antitrust traditions” of the Roosevelt presidencies early in the last century. This may have surprised some listeners, since the order offers no immediate call for the breakup of Facebook or Amazon — none of the trustbusting that is antitrust’s signature idea.

But Mr. Biden’s executive order does something even more important than trustbusting. It returns the United States to the great antimonopoly tradition that has animated social and economic reform almost since the nation’s founding. This tradition worries less about technocratic questions such as whether concentrations of corporate power will lead to lower consumer prices and more about broader social and political concerns about the destructive effects that big business can have on our nation.”

The Amazon That Customers Don’t See – The New York Times

“LAST SEPTEMBER, Ann Castillo saw an email from Amazon that made no sense. Her husband had worked for the company for five years, most recently at the supersize warehouse on Staten Island that served as the retailer’s critical pipeline to New York City. Now it wanted him back on the night shift.

“We notified your manager and H.R. about your return to work on Oct. 1, 2020,” the message said.

Ms. Castillo was incredulous. While working mandatory overtime in the spring, her 42-year-old husband, Alberto, had been among the first wave of employees at the site to test positive for the coronavirus. Ravaged by fevers and infections, he suffered extensive brain damage. On tests of responsiveness, Ms. Castillo said, “his score was almost nothing.” “

David Lindsay: An excellent aritcle. I hope you read it all, and join me in my boycott of Amazon and Jeff Bezos, What a space flying monster.

Opinion | This Peeler Did Not Need to Be Wrapped in So Much Plastic – The New York Times

Pamela L. Geller and 

Drs. Geller and Parmeter are associate professors at the University of Miami.

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Credit…Illustration by Nicholas Konrad/The New York Times; photograph by Getty Images

“The year 2020 may have been heartbreaking for most humans, but it was a good one for Jeff Bezos and Amazon. His company’s worldwide sales grew 38 percent from 2019, and Amazon sold more than 1.5 billion products during the 2020 holiday season alone.

Did you need a book, disposable surgical mask, beauty product, or garden hose? Amazon was probably your online marketplace. If you wanted to purchase a Nicolas Cage pillowcase or a harness with leash for your chicken, Amazon had your back (They’re #17 and #39 on a 2019 Good Housekeeping list of the 40 ‘weirdest” products available on the website “that people actually love.”) From pandemic misery came consumer comfort and corporate profit.

And plastic. Lots and lots of plastic.

In 2019, Amazon used an estimated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging, according to the nonprofit environmental group Oceana. The group also estimated that up to 22 million pounds of Amazon’s plastic packaging waste ended up as trash in freshwater and marine ecosystems around the world. These numbers are likely to rise in 2021.” . . .

Mark Pryor | F.D.R. Took Down Giants. Biden Can, Too. – The New York Times

Mr. Pryor, a lawyer, is a Democrat who was a U.S. senator from Arkansas from 2003 to 2014.

Credit…George Wylesol

“During his nomination hearing, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he would “vigorously” enforce U.S. antitrust law. As the Biden administration actively considers who will lead that enforcement effort as the head of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, they should look to the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt for inspiration.

Often overlooked in comparison to other aspects of his presidency, President Roosevelt’s push to revive languishing antitrust enforcement helped set the United States back on the right track, creating job and wealth opportunities for Americans at one of the lowest points in the nation’s history.

The reinvigoration of antitrust enforcement helped usher in an era of entrepreneurship and small-business growth. The United States was able to assert itself as a global economic leader, establishing a model of corporate decentralization that would be adopted by democratic nations across the world. But reinvigorating antitrust did not come without substantial opposition from business interests as well as judicial and enforcement bodies that lost their way. Indeed, Roosevelt’s plans were only as strong as the people he appointed to turn his vision of an open market economy into reality.” . . .

How Amazon Crushes Unions – The New York Times

“RICHMOND, Va. — Five years ago, Amazon was compelled to post a “notice to employees” on the break-room walls of a warehouse in east-central Virginia.

The notice was printed simply, in just two colors, and crammed with words. But for any worker who bothered to look closely, it was a remarkable declaration. Amazon listed 22 forms of behavior it said it would disavow, each beginning in capital letters: “WE WILL NOT.”

“We will not threaten you with the loss of your job” if you are a union supporter, Amazon wrote, according to a photo of the notice reviewed by The New York Times. “We will not interrogate you” about the union or “engage in surveillance of you” while you participate in union activities. “We will not threaten you with unspecified reprisals” because you are a union supporter. We will not threaten to “get” union supporters.”

Amazon posted the list after the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers accused it of doing those very things during a two-year-long push to unionize 30 facilities technicians at the warehouse in Chester, just south of Richmond. While Amazon did not admit to violations of labor laws, the company promised in a settlement with federal regulators to tell workers that it would rigorously obey the rules in the future.

Opinion | Amazon and the Breaking of Baltimore – The New York Times

” . . . At its peak in 1958, the Beth Steel plant on the Point employed some 30,000; in its final years at the turn of this century — even as imports, domestic “mini-mills” and feckless management threatened its existence — veteran workers were still making at least $35 per hour, with excellent union benefits. The work was strenuous and frequently dangerous, but also purposeful and well-paid enough that many people spent their whole career there.

Since the plant closed in 2012, the Point has been wiped clear of virtually all traces of it. Starting in 2017, a new sort of work filled the void: logistics. The Point’s new owners leased land to first one and then a second Amazon fulfillment center, as well as warehouses for Under Armour, FedEx, Home Depot and Floor & Décor.

The work at Amazon was physically taxing in its own right, and was far more socially isolating than the foxhole camaraderie that had characterized Beth Steel, which helped explain why turnover was so much higher at the warehouse than during the steel years.

“It was a family thing — they looked out for one another,” said Bill Bodani Jr. of his time at Beth Steel, where he lasted three decades despite several workplace accidents. By the time he left in 2003 he, too, was drawing $35 an hour.

Over a decade later he went back to work at the Point, driving a forklift at Amazon. His pay was around $15 an hour. He lasted only three years with the company, after clashing with a supervisor over his bathroom breaks and his encouragement of labor organizing among the younger workers.” . . .

Thomas Friedman | Made in the U.S.A.: Socialism for the Rich. Capitalism for the Rest. – The New York Times

“. . . There has been so much focus in recent years on the downsides of rapid globalization and “neoliberal free-market groupthink” — influencing both Democrats and Republicans — that we’ve ignored another, more powerful consensus that has taken hold on both parties: That we are in a new era of permanently low interest rates, so deficits don’t matter as long as you can service them, and so the role of government in developed countries can keep expanding — which it has with steadily larger bailouts, persistent deficit spending, mounting government debts and increasingly easy money out of Central Banks to finance it all.

This new consensus has a name: “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest,” argues Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, author of “The Ten Rules of Successful Nations” and one of my favorite contrarian economic thinkers.

“Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest” — a variation on a theme popularized in the 1960s — happens, Sharma explained in a phone interview, when government intervention does more to stimulate the financial markets than the real economy. So, America’s richest 10 percent, who own more than 80 percent of U.S. stocks, have seen their wealth more than triple in 30 years, while the bottom 50 percent, relying on their day jobs in real markets to survive, had zero gains. Meanwhile, mediocre productivity in the real economy has limited opportunity, choice and income gains for the poor and middle class alike.” . . .

NYT Editorial | Visa Is Doing What Big American Companies Do to ‘Protect This Business’ – The New York Times

By 

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Credit…Illustration by Nicholas Konrad/The New York Times; photograph by Getty Images

“Visa dominates the lucrative business of processing debit card transactions. Merchants must choose between paying the financial services company’s fees or forgoing sales to the millions of Americans who carry cards emblazoned with Visa’s logo.

A San Francisco technology start-up named Plaid threatened that dominance. The company planned to debut a rival service next year that would charge half as much as Visa.

So Visa did what big American companies have learned to do: It agreed to buy the smaller company, pledging a king’s ransom to eliminate the threat of competition.

Last month, the Justice Department sued to block the deal as a violation of antitrust law. The intervention is necessary to protect the interests of merchants and consumers, and the health of the broader economy. The federal government has been far too permissive in allowing large companies to swallow potential rivals, particularly in the rapidly evolving technology sector.”

ThriftBooks is not just an Amazon seller anymore | Retail Dive

Secondhand booksellers are ideal when it comes to discovery for anyone who’s willing to browse the aisles (and maybe the piles on the floor) and take a chance with what’s there. If you do find something, you can have it for a fraction of its original cost — especially if you don’t mind the note penned by the original owner’s Aunt Martha, wishing him happy birthday in black ink.But it’s hard to go to a used bookstore with a particular title in mind because inventory is dependent on the quirks of its sources, including people who’ve just watched Marie Kondo’s Netflix show, or who are moving or renovating houses, or whose children have outgrown their copies of Dr. Seuss or Harry Potter.

Source: ThriftBooks is not just an Amazon seller anymore | Retail Dive

Opinion | With the Google Lawsuit, the Long Antitrust Winter Is Over – By Tim Wu – The tim New York Times

By 

Mr. Wu is the author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.”

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“The true significance of the federal antitrust lawsuit filed against Google on Tuesday cannot be captured by any narrow debate about legal doctrine or what the case will mean for the company. This is a big case, filed during an important time, and it merits a commensurately broad understanding. The complaint marks the return of the U.S. government to a role that many of us long feared it had abandoned: disciplining the country’s largest and most powerful monopolies.

President Theodore Roosevelt best explained the role played by antitrust law after his Justice Department filed suit in 1902 against the Northern Securities Company, formed by J.P. Morgan and others. Roosevelt wrote to a friend that “the absolutely vital question” was whether “the government has the power to control the trusts.” As he had said earlier in a speech, the “immense power” of aggregated wealth “can be met only by the still greater power of the people as a whole.”

Can the power of the people prevail over the power of Google and other business giants? As in the days of Theodore Roosevelt, the power of today’s biggest private companies rivals that of the government, and they arguably have more influence over how we live.

Historically, the reaction to unfettered private power has often taken one of two forms. One is passive acceptance, in the hope that the private sector will do what is best for the public. That is unfettered capitalism. The other form is an aggressive attempt to nationalize (or at least heavily regulate) powerful companies, with the aim of converting them, in effect, into public servants. That is socialism.