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“Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall/ 99 bottles of beer/ Take one down, pass it around… only one bottle of beer on the wall.”
The biggest beer conglomerate, Anheuser-Busch InBev, intends to gulp down the second biggest, SABMiller, leaving us with only one behemoth of brewing. The two mega-stouts of mass-marketing beer have agreed to a $104 billion dollar merger deal.
Both giants are creatures of the global merger-mania that has consumed the industry in the past decade. Anheuser-Busch was a St. Louis company built on the Budweiser brand, but it was taken over in 2008 by a Brazilian consortium that had previously merged with a huge European brewing conglomerate. So plain ol’ “Bud” is now AB InBev, headquartered in Belgium, and producing Corona, Stella Artois, Modelo, and a host of other brands.
Miller was a Milwaukee company until a similar series of mergers put it in the hands of a consortium controlled by a South American family dynasty and Altria, the tobacco giant that makes Marlboro cigarettes. Now headquartered in London and named SABMiller, its roster of brews include Peroni, Pilsner, Urquell, and Grolsch, plus it has joint ownership in the brands of the Canadian-based conglomerate, Molson Coors.
These two sultans of suds say that the ABInBevSABMiller conglomeration of conglomerates is necessary for “future growth.” Hogswill. For consumers and beer industry workers, the deal is about shrinkage. The new colossus would control 70 percent of all US beer sales and a whopping 30 percent of the entire world’s beer sales! It will not hesitate to use this monopolistic muscle to shrink consumer choice by squeezing independent breweries out of bars and retail outlets, and the merged entity is already planning to cut thousands of jobs.
That’s an awfully bitter beer.
What do fat-cat campaign donors get for their money?
Oh, great – just what America’s inane, Big Money politics needed: Yet another campaign consultant.
Already, candidates are walled off from people, reality, and any honesty about themselves by a battalion of highly-specialized consultants controlling everything from issues to hairstyle. But now comes a whole new category of staff to add to the menagerie: “Donor maintenance manager.”
We can thank the Supreme Court for this. Its malevolent Citizens United decision has produced an insidious platinum class of mega-donors and corporate superPACs, each pumping $500,000, $5 million, $50 million – or even more – into campaigns. These elites are not silent donors, but boisterous, very special interests who’re playing in the new, court-created political money game for their own gain. Having paid to play, they feel entitled to tell candidates what to say and do, what to support and oppose. A Jeb Bush insider confirms that mega-donors bluntly tell the candidate: “I just invested in you. Now I need to have my say; you need to answer to me.”
Thus, campaigns are assigning donor maintenance managers to be personal concierges to meet every need and whim of these special ones. This subservience institutionalizes the plutocratic corruption of our democratic elections, allowing a handful of uber-rich interests to buy positions of overbearing influence directly inside campaigns.
Donors at the million-dollar-and-up level are expecting much more than a tote bag for their “generous gifts.” Of course, candidates piously proclaim, “I’m not for sale.” But politicians are just the delivery service. The actual products being bought through the Supreme Court’s Money-O-Rama political bazaar are our government’s policies, tax breaks, and other goodies – as well as the integrity of America’s democratic process.
“Big Donors Increasingly Give Campaigns Not Just Checks but Also Their 2 Cents,” The New York Times, September 30, 2015.
How much “free speech” can you buy?
In today’s so-called “democratic” election process, Big Money doesn’t talk, it roars – usually drowning out the people’s voice.
Bizarrely, the Supreme Court decreed in its 2010 Citizens United ruling that money is a form of “free speech.” Thus, declared the learned justices, people and corporations are henceforth allowed to spend unlimited sums of their money to “speak” in election campaigns. But wait – if political speech is measured by money, then by definition speech is not free. It can be bought, thereby giving the most speech to the few with the most money. That’s plutocracy, not democracy.
Sure enough, in the first six months of this presidential election cycle, more than half of the record-setting $300 million given to the various candidates came from only 358 mega-rich families and the corporations they control. The top 158 of them totaled $176 million in political spending, meaning that, on average, each one of them bought more than a million dollars worth of “free” speech.
Nearly all of their money is backing Republican presidential hopefuls who promise: (1) to cut taxes on the rich; (2) cut regulations that protect us from corporate pollution and other abuses of the common good; and (3) to cut Social Security, food stamps, and other safety-net programs that we un-rich people need. The great majority of Americans adamantly oppose all of those cuts – but none of us has a million bucks we can spend to buy an equivalent amount of political speech.
It’s not just some good public programs that are endangered by the Court’s ridiculous ruling, but democracy itself. That’s why a new poll by Bloomberg Politics found that 78 percent of the American people – including 80 percent of Republicans – want to overturn Citizens United. To help, go to www.FreeSpeechForPeople.org.
“2016 Outside Spending, by Super PAC,” www.opensecrets.org, 2015.
“Bernie Sanders’s Army of Small Donors,” The New York Times,” October 4, 2015
“Bernie Sanders Dominates With Small Donors While the GOP Rakes in the Dark Money,” www.thenation.com, October 16, 2015.