Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Me and Big Al....I didn't see THAT coming!

I've never been a big Al Franken fan.  I love Saturday Night Live, but I never much enjoyed the skits he was in when he was a SNL regular/writer.  

Then he went on to become part of the ill-fated Air America liberal radio network, which cemented him in my mind as a far-out left winger.  And anyone who knows me knows I don't like far-out ANY wingers.

Since 2009 he's been SENATOR Al Franken of Minnesnowta.

Imagine my shock when I learned that he and I agree on something.  On the Senate Judiciary Committee he's become their main anti-trust advocate.  Right now he's all hot and bothered by the proposed $45B buyout of Time Warner Cable by Comcast.  Sic 'em Big Al!

The business interests in our country have for years been obsessed with mergers.  Through their eyes it's a way to eliminate competition, become more efficient (fewer marketing departments, fewer accounting departments, etc), and MAKE MORE MONEY.  Never mind those who will lose their jobs, or the consumers who will have less choices and have to pay more.

Combined, the new Comcast would be a cable TV and internet access behemoth.  (They already own NBC and all their subsidiaries, and Universal Studios.)  For consumers in many areas a merger would leave them no choice but to sign up with Comcast.

See where this is going?  Look at the banks:  Today just six mega-banks control the majority of the US banking industry.  Outraged by all their fees, all the ways they get into your pocket, all while producing those cute little "We're looking out for you" commercials?  *gag!*

And look at the airline industry:  Delta and Northwest are now one, United and Continental are now one, Southwest and Air Tran are now one, America West and US Air are now one, and now they've merged with American to become the biggest airline in the world.  Fees for bags?  Pay extra for a Coke?  Are in-flight pay toilets next?  Good for their bottom line for sure, but not for yours!

How come when the conservatives are making a push for de-regulation (which I more often than not agree with) they tout the increased competition it will bring to the marketplace (yea!), but when their corporate campaign contributor masters want to eliminate competition via mergers, they just obediently fall into line and vote "AYE"?   

And we just let it happen, time after time.  Do we consumers get some perverse satisfaction in getting screwed?

I believe the people should control industry.  We should dictate what products and services we want, and industry should compete to give it to us.  But these days more and more industries are dictating to us what we can have, and our job is to just stand there and open our wallets.

It seems we've long forgotten the legacy of "The Great Trust Buster", Teddy Roosevelt. *sigh*



  1. I think in this case the merger is largely because cable is a fading industry. More and more people are dumping cable and just relying on Netflix, Hulu, etc to get their TV programs. I have Comcast and generally it's fine. The only thing that bugged me was when they blackmailed Netflix into paying them more in fees by slowing down connection times. The problem with this merger then is it probably would give Comcast even more leverage against Netflix or other similar companies, something that can backfire on them because I sure don't want some greedy bureaucrats getting between me and my "House of Cards."

    1. $45 BILLION bucks is sure a lot to pay for a "fading" industry, Pat. Why not wait a couple of years at pick it up for $20B?

  2. I had serious misgivings when Franken ran for the senate but I must say I've been pleasantly surprised. Al seems to be taking the job quite seriously and doesn't capitalize on his celebrity status.

  3. Some background on Al. He only ran for the Senate, because his best friend Paul Wellstone who was the Senator was killed in an airplane crash. The seat then went to a Tea-Party extremist to fill in the interim. The Senator's family encouraged Al to run. Even his win was contested. Al graduated from Harvard.

    Nancy R.

  4. I think there is competition in the cable industry through Direct TV and Dish. Sometimes without a merger, both companies wither on the vine much like was happening with Sirius and XM satellite radio. Still, there clearly needs to be a watchdog to sort out the responsible mergers from the competition rip offs. Al Franken is a very smart, very clever man. I am not fond of his politics, but I do appreciate his enthusiasm and the fact that his views are genuine and not knee jerk. He is a politician for the right reasons, and it is good to have someone like him to stir stuff up.

    As a comedian I always thought he was funny as hell. As a politician I seldom agree with him, but I sure would not want to debate or match wits with him.

  5. I cut the cable cord years ago. I now get my tv from Directv. Had DISH before but I like this one better. And I notice they have the Weather Channel back on board.

  6. I know a few people who have Comcast, and they all complain about their customer service. Consumer Reports rated them at the bottom...so yes, we are watching, too, if this deal will go through or not.

    Cable TV may be a fading industry, but internet access isn't. I'd hate to have a monopoly that might be able to restrict internet speed or raise rates for the high user.