ANALYSIS: Our New Monopoly Era

Does it feel like you have fewer and fewer choices of companies providing essential services?  It’s not your imagination.  Consolidation of most all major services in the U.S. has been growing over the last 25 years.   In 2017, the U.S. set a new record for corporate consolidation.  Less than 5% percent of merger requests over the past 10 years that were blocked or modified by US antitrust authorities. But as companies continue to buy out their rivals, the consequences of widespread monopolization are becoming clear: start-ups aren’t starting up; competition between companies in some sectors is rare; and profits are flowing to the tiniest, richest sliver of the country.   The drop in start-up firms in the U.S. has been over 50% since 1978.  And there’s few signs of improvement anytime soon.

Internet Access:  In San Diego County,  customers have only two realistic choices for high speed internet.  Cox and AT&T in the southern portion of the county.  Spectrum and AT&T in the north.   And that’s about it.  There’s literally no price competition either:  AT&T is offering a fiber product that is blazingly fast, but expensive.   Spectrum is offering lower speeds at slightly lower prices.   Until 5G becomes a reality, those companies are pretty much the only game in town for most residential customers.

Search Engines:  It’s all about Google, at this stage of the Internet development. It holds a near-monopoly in Internet search. Every second, there are over 40,000 searches processed by Google, and according to Statista, Alphabet’s U.S. search market share is an eye-popping 63.5%.   We recommend Duck,Duck,Go to people looking for alternatives.   It offers more privacy, but can’t compete with the breadth of Google’s service. Google’s sales were $110.9 billion last year, up 23% year over year.  So there’s big money in searches — but no one can compete.

Rideshare:  In San Diego County, it’s pretty much limited to Lyft and Uber.   There are some smaller competitors who are trying to get a foothold, but they’ve not come close to competing with the big duopoly.   We’ve uncovered some clever alternatives that you might want to try, though.

Airlines:  American, United, Delta, and Southwest control over 80 percent of the US aviation market.  United and Delta don’t really serve much of the San Diego market, leaving a duopoly that largely controls flights for San Diego residents.

Online Gaming:  The market for video game consoles is dominated by three players: Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.  Amazon recently indicated its interest in offering games, but the selections are currently sparse.

Railroads:   Amtrak is pretty much the only game in town for passenger service.   And for transport, there are four rail companies that dominate the railroad industry:  2 in the East and 2 in the West.    As per Motley Fool,  Norfolk Southern and CSX Corporation control the Eastern U.S.  Burlington Northern and Union Pacific dominate the West Coast. These four railroads recorded over $60 billion in combined profit-friendly revenue in 2017.

Your Bank Account:  As your savings dwindle, consider the following:  three men control more wealth ($248 billion) than 50% of all Americans.  That’s right.  Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett claim more assets than half of our residents.   Even worse, the richest 0.1 percent of American families own as much wealth as the lower 90 percent of all American families combined.

Axios adds some others:

  • Three companies control about 80% of mobile telecoms.
  • Three have 95% of credit cards.
  • Four companies control 66% of U.S. hogs slaughtered in 2015, 85% of the steer, and half the chickens
  • Four companies control 85% of U.S. corn seed sales, up from 60% in 2000.

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