The day began with a middle of the night earthquake here in Los Angeles. It was the least turbulent part of the day. We open with some grim news on today's BradCast before moving on to some shockingly encouraging news out of....wait for it....Congress of all places! [Audio link to full show is posted at end of summary.]
First up today, former Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain succumbed to the coronavirus. As co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, the 74-year old Cain attended Donald Trump's controversial mask-free rally in Tulsa on June 20. By July 2nd he was hospitalized with COVID-19 and now dead a month later. He wasn't the only high profile Republican to pass away from the coronavirus today. Bill Montgomery also died. He was the 80-year old co-founder of the rightwing "student group" (yes, a GOP student group founded by an 80-year old!) called Turning Point USA. The organization hosted Trump's second, similarly mask-free rally after Tulsa in Phoenix. Despite claims by both Cain and Montgomery's group that hydroxychloroquine was "100% effective" in treating coronavirus, turns out, as the FDA has emphasized, it isn't.
Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis was finally laid to rest on Thursday in Atlanta, where he was eulogized by three former Presidents. Trump did not attend after also failing to pay his respects while Lewis lay in state at the U.S. Capitol earlier this week. President Obama, however, offered stirring remarks in memoriam, calling for the expansion of voting rights which Lewis spent a lifetime --- and no small amount of blood --- fighting for.
The former President's remarks came shortly after our current President feebly suggested on Twitter that the November election should be delayed "until people can properly, securely and safely vote," charging that "2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history" due to the use of mail-in ballots needed to counteract the dangers of in-person voting during the pandemic that Trump utterly failed to control. That controversial call for delaying the election --- immediately and universally rejected by Republicans and Democrats alike --- was largely to a) further propagandize Trump's supporters into believing the November election results will be illegitimate and, more immediately, b) distract from the horrific economy news released by the federal government just minutes before Trump's tweet.
The news he was hoping to distract from: The U.S. economy plunged a staggering, unprecedented, annualized 32.9% in the second quarter of this year. By way of comparison, it took three years before the economy fell 30% during the Great Depression. This has happened in months, as another 1.4 million workers filed for new unemployment claims last week. It was the 19th week in a row of record-shattering 1 million plus applicants, leaving some 30 million Americans now jobless, as Republicans in Congress have failed to extend the expanded unemployment payments from he CARES Act. Those benefits have expired as of this week, and neither Congressional Republicans nor the White House appear to have an acceptable plan to replace them. House Democrats passed their own $3 trillion HEROES Act several months ago to continue those payments and much more critical relief to workers, states and cities, hospitals, homeowners, the U.S. Post Office and many others through the end of the year. Republicans appear to be in stultifying disarray.
But there is some good news today and, believe it or not, it comes out of Congress! The U.S. House Antitrust Subcommittee on Wednesday held a five-hour hearing on Big Tech monopolies, featuring the CEOs of Amazon (Jeff Bezos), Apple (Tim Cook), Google (Sundar Pichai) and Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg) as witnesses. All of them were grilled by Democrats and, yes, even Republicans alike for years of runaway, anti-competitive business practices. Progressive Matt Stoller's coverage of the hearing at The Guardian was headlined "Congress forced Silicon Valley to answer for its misdeeds. It was a glorious sight." Our guest today, DAVID DAYEN, author, investigative financial journalist and Executive Editor of the progressive American Prospect, filed a piece with the exhuberant hed: "The Triumphant Return of Congress," following up his 175-tweet live thread from his Wednesday coverage.
Dayen tells me today that it was "probably the most consequential hearing on corporate power in decades," where one CEO after another was called on the carpet to answer for years of crushing, anti-competitive practices in their sectors. He reports that the "members of that subcommittee," headed up by Democratic Chair David Cicilline of Rhode Island, "knew exactly what they wanted to talk about. They knew who they wanted to target. This is the culmination of a year-long investigation and these members had an incredible amount of knowledge about the harms that these four large corporations have been causing through the exertion of their power."
"They really extracted confessions from Bezos and Zuckerberg and others about the practices they engage in which really are illegal," he says. The hearing couldn't have been better timed for Dayen, coming just a week or so after the publication of his new book Monoplized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power documenting the breathtaking reach of unchecked corporate mergers and consolidation over the past four decades. He explains on today's show, as he does in the book, how century old anti-trust laws were turned on their head during the Reagan Administration, when a theory promoting the idea that monopolies are actually good for consumers was advanced by one Robert Bork. The theory would eventually prove untrue by its own standards. It was not good for consumers and, Dayen describes, failed to take into account the damage that anti-competitive practices actually wrought on small business, employees and the supply chain itself --- leading directly to some of the dangerous consequences and ridiculous shortages we've seen during the COVID crisis in everything from toilet paper to critical medical supplies and personal protective equipment.
"This hearing was a complete indictment of the Federal Trade Commission and the anti-trust division of the Justice Department, who had access to all this information that the subcommittee had. They had all of these documents. They had all of the ability to conduct an investigation. In fact, it's their job to do so," Dayen observes. "They did not do that, and waved through merger after merger after merger, and the people who had that authority, under Democratic administrations and Republican administrations, who were responsible for this failure should not be listened to again, and they should not hold power again."
Dayen is hopeful that Wednesday's hearing may actually spur action --- grant permission, if you will --- to the FTC and DOJ to start upholding those unenforced anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws and regulations that remain on the books. "The only way that gets done is that the momentum from this hearing is built, where a popular movement to understand and work against the power of monopolies is what is going to carry us forward. It has in the past. That's how we got these laws in the first place, because people demanded the political system respond, and it's how we're going to get them now."
I should note here that I make a personal cameo appearance in Dayen's new book (beginning on page 85, if you must know) discussing my own personal experience with the anti-competitive monopoly practices in the media industry, and how the unchecked "sale" of our public airwaves to a handful of mega-media corporations has led directly to all of the various disasters --- political, economic, societal and, yes, medical --- that are now rending apart our very republic.
Dayen, whose indispensable daily "Unsanitized" column at The American Prospect chronicles the continuing eroding state of our national battle with the global coronavirus pandemic and its ever-worsening toll on our economy, closes by bringing us up to date on the disastrous Republican effort to craft a new emergency relief bill in Congress, as expanded unemployment benefits expire and the U.S. Postal Service faces implosion just months away from the largest vote-by-mail election in the nation's history...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)