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Hullabaloo


Friday, May 16, 2014

 
Comcast buys themselves a Majority Leader, tries to become rent seeker extraordinaire

by David Atkins

The blatant corruption is starting to get really old:

Comcast has been shelling out large sums of cash to Republican leaders in Congress, and the company’s efforts may be paying off.

The nation’s top political leaders rarely give much attention to the wonky regulatory battles of the tech industry. But embattled Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) took time off from budgets and immigration reform to threaten the Federal Communication Commission over its proposal to strengthen net neutrality.

Following the Republican leader, all of the Republican party’s top brass (the majority leader, the whip, and GOP conference chair) signed on to a strongly worded letter (.pdf) to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Wheeler has hinted that he would reclassify Internet broadband as a utility, giving him more power to regulate Internet service providers, such as Comcast, who want to be able to charge more money for faster service.

It’s difficult to say how much money influences policy, especially if a politician personally opposes their donors. But fighting net neutrality fits squarely within the anti-regulation ethos of Republicans, so it’s easier for big donors to get their pet issue some attention.

According to OpenSecrets, Comcast gave about four times more money to Boehner than net neutrality supporter Google ($74,000 vs. $20,000). Indeed, Comcast is the third biggest donor to Boehner’s re-election campaign so far.
The article goes on to point out that Nancy Pelosi has received the reverse ratio of donations, receiving much more from Google than from Comcast--but she hasn't come out full throated for net neutrality, either.

I've come under fire from some readers for using the term "rent seeking". They feel people don't know what it means well enough. I try to explain that the phrase means using ownership of something to charge exorbitant prices people cannot do anything about, and that no other phrase can really do the concept justice.

ISPs attempting to rid themselves of pesky net neutrality in order to charge a toll for higher speeds online is a classic example of rent seeking. Comcast didn't do anything to earn the right to charge those prices. The taxpayers funded most of the infrastructure of the Internet. Comcast is simply one of the companies that made it to the top of the heap when we foolishly privatized the profits of the internet investment We the People made. Now they want to strip net neutrality regulations in order to charge a toll for no good reason at all.

Rent seeking is at the heart of much of the economic malaise we suffer from. Exorbitant and pervasive rent-seeking is a byproduct of the misguided move to worship asset ownership instead of working wages.

Using our utterly corrupt money-is-speech election donation system to buy rules to allow greater rent seeking is the epitome of economic evil in politics. And Comcast and John Boehner are right in the middle of it.


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