Tag Archives: cable industry

This Isn’t Capitalism

There’s a lot of hostility to capitalism in contemporary discourse–on this blog, among Sanders’ supporters and elsewhere. All too  often, however, the problem with that public debate is that we’re not “doing” actual capitalism.

A recent article from the New York Times reported on an “inside baseball” effort to overturn a consumer-friendly regulation promulgated by the F.C.C. It is an all-too-common story–members of Congress who portray themselves as defenders of market economics, but whose actions are those of corporatists, not capitalists.

Last month, 60 lawmakers signed a letter objecting to an F.C.C. regulation that would open the market for cable television set-top boxes. The agency proposed reforming the rules so that consumers can pick any television device to receive cable and online video, rather  than being forced to “lease” the boxes from their cable providers.

The competition would be great for consumers, but it would cut into the industry’s $19.5 billion in annual set-top-box rental fees.

So why, do you suppose, are these defenders of market economics, these critics of socialism, so upset by a regulation that actually frees up private enterprise and encourages free market transactions?

The Times article provides a clue:

Cable industry lobbyists also helped gather the 60 signatures on the set-top-box letter; nearly all of the lawmakers who signed count cable and telecom companies as top campaign donors, according to federal disclosures. The behind-the-scenes activity by cable companies and their industry groups is part of the biggest lobbying push. The trigger? A string of proposed regulations by the F.C.C. …  The target of much of the cable industry’s ire is Tom Wheeler, chairman of the F.C.C. Wheeler has also been joined by President Obama, who endorsed the set-top-box proposal in April.

It isn’t only set-top boxes. Cable industry lobbyists also object to proposals that would be more protective of consumer privacy–that would restrain the practice of selling personal information to companies engaging in targeted advertising, among other things. But the effort to overturn the set-box regulation speaks volumes (no pun intended) on the hypocrisy of our “free market” politicians.

The problem is, very few Americans who truly do have a dog in this fight will ever hear about this particular effort to protect the bottom line of cable companies, or the other obscure and technical wheeling and dealing that protects the perquisites of the powerful at the expense of the powerless.

After all, it’s just a few dollars more each month to lease that box….

Who was it who said “a few million here, a few million there–pretty soon, you’re talking real money…”?