Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
Any time now, government economists will decide whether America Online's (AOL's) $165-billion proposed take-over of Time Warner is likely to be good or bad for consumers. If good, the government will sign off. If bad, there'll be negotiations with AOL and Time Warner until an agreement can be reached on what the new company would have to do to answer economic objections. The inquiry will be quiet and businesslike, occurring in colorless offices and occasionally in meeting rooms filled not only with economists but also with government lawyers and the counsel and investment bankers representing AOL and Time Warner.
If they were true profit-maximizers--textbook illustrations of rational self-interest--American corporations and their top executives would be flooding Al Gore's campaign with money, and not George W.'s. Rather than gamble on an unknown W., they'd bet on a proven Al Gore.
Typically in times of war, the public is asked to hold back and forebear from purchasing so there's enough productive capacity left to meet the military's needs. If they don't do it voluntarily, government imposes rationing. Not this time. Even as we wage war on terrorism, our political and business leaders are asking Americans to go out to the malls and buy more. It's our patriot duty, they say. `We mustn't let the terrorists intimidate us from continuing our spending binge.'
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- With last week's reversal of his campaign pledge to limit power plants' emissions of carbon dioxide, a key contributor to global warming, President Bush surrendered to coal companies and utilities dependent on coal. He had little choice. It's payback time, and every industry and trade association is busily cashing in.