Photo by Rithika Gopalakrishnan on Unsplash
Last week, two of America’s biggest grocery stores, Kroger and Albertsons, announced they had struck a mega deal to merge into one. The two corporate chains control a huge share of the grocery market, as they both own dozens of regional chains across the country.
Retailers hope the nearly $25 billion deal will help them compete with other mega-corporations like Walmart and Amazon, which control increasingly huge market shares. If approved by federal regulators, the Kroger-Albertsons deal would further cement an economy dominated by a handful of massive corporations.
The merger would likely lead to higher prices, provoking a period of hardship for consumers. This often happens when mergers in concentrated markets reduce competition and facilitate monopolistic pricing strategies that hurt customers and small businesses.
Over the past 30 years, the number of independent grocery stores has declined by 30% and other industries have seen a similar trend. Family-owned stores have disappeared as tycoons such as CVS, Walmart and Starbucks dominate their respective industries.
Federal antitrust laws have been twisted and obscured to let these companies slide. While social media and tech giants have illustrated the dangers of letting massive greed machines control huge aspects of consumers’ lives, little has been done to stop them.
Amazon accounts for almost 40% of the e-commerce market, while Google has 90% of the global search engine market – these statistics are exemplary of the enormous power of big tech. If Amazon thinks your product competes with something they sell, they won’t show it; if Google doesn’t like your website, it can hide your results. In addition to forcing us into submission, big tech tracks and profits from our data, whether we consent to it or not.
In 2015, three companies, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, owned more than 70% of all cell towers in the United States, forcing consumers to pay huge bills that fund their excessive profits. What type of phone will the consumer buy? Probably an iPhone, Apple controlling 50% of the US cell phone market.
Over the past decade, Disney has acquired dozens of other media companies. Along with ABC, ESPN and FOX, Disney controls huge swathes of television, in addition to owning two of the biggest streaming services, Disney+ and Hulu.
Maybe you’d rather read than watch – you can buy your book from the world’s largest bookseller: Amazon. Or read on your Kindle… or iPad. Do you prefer to listen? Apple, Amazon and Google own three of the top five music streaming platforms.
Americans are so trapped by a select few companies, that there is virtually no real choice. Without competition, there is no incentive to lower prices.
For too long, regulators and Congress have stood idly by in this consolidation of power by these mega-corporations. Both those on the left and those on the right have acknowledged this, but still little action has been taken.
Progressive Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted last week: “At a time when food prices are skyrocketing due to corporate greed, it would be an absolute disaster to allow Kroger, the [second] largest grocery store in America, to merge with Albertsons, the [fourth] largest grocery store in America. The Biden administration must reject this deal.
Utah Republican Mike Lee agreed, adding in a statement, “Utahans, like all Americans, are suffering from soaring food prices…I will do whatever is in my power to ensure that our antitrust laws are rigorously enforced to protect consumers from anti-competitive mergers that could further exacerbate the financial strain we already feel.
Breaking up big business is not a partisan issue. Monopolistic practices corner consumers and destroy the economy. Rejecting the Kroger-Albertsons deal could be a turning point in showing corporate lords they have no right to intimidate and take advantage of American consumers.