The Second Gilded Age is Coming + GAMESTONK!


Alex Pivaral, Writer

The United States was the first country to be a democratic republic since Rome. But what if I told you that our democracy is in danger of becoming a corporatocracy and you should be worried about it.

Corporatocracy is a political system that is governed or controlled by corporations. An example of this is in the movie “WALL-E.” In the movie, before humans left Earth, there was a huge corporation that controlled the world government called “Buy N Large,” which changed human society with their consumerism. Buy N Large was once a small yogurt business called Buy Yogurt, which later acquired Large Industries (a men’s suits company). The company later monopolizes every industry and later controlled every country in the world. This leads to less freedom by making voting useless since the CEO of Buy N Large is in charge of the government unless the board of directors votes him out. Also, whatever you buy, you don’t have the freedom to buy, you’re forced to buy only one brand; Buy N Large.

During the Gilded Age (in history, not the HBO show) there were four businessmen who were in power in the United States during the second industrial revolution. In the information of the video “The Age When Capitalism Went Too Far”, These businessmen who were in power were Cornelis Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller; they are known as the robber barons. These men were in control of the economy by monopolizing it. Standard Oil is an example of a monopoly in the Gilded Age that owns 100% of the oil industry. Whenever a new company brings competition to Standard oil, they try to buy them, if they refuse, Standard Oil would lower its price and the competition would go out of business. According to The Gilded Age, Big businesses rose to power and became monarchs in the government while the presidents proved to be rather ineffective in passing bills.

According to Britannica, there were laws that help make monopolies illegal like the Sherman Act. During the end of the gilded age, Teddy Roosevelt became president when the previous president died when he was Vice President, then other progressives rose in the Congress which began the Progressive Era (which is also the end of the gilded age). During the Progressive Era, the Sherman Act was the first legislation enacted by the US Congress (1890) to curb concentrations of power that interfere with trade, and reduce economic competition and was named after Ohio senator John Sherman. During those times large monopolies like Standard Oil became too big, the Sherman Act steps in and breaks up these monopolies.

Today, some corporations are becoming artificial monopolies in the gilded age like Disney and Amazon. In 2017, Disney bought 21’st century Fox which made their media empire bigger, this will help them become more powerful which will probably become a monopoly by Anti-Trust standards. According to CNBC, “Disney represents 38% of the total U.S. film market”, “Disney’s closest competitor, Warner Bros. Accounted for 13.8%”. Sure it may not sound a lot but other studios are starting to do the same thing like NBCUniversal. According to Hollywood ReporterComcast’s NBCUniversal made things official on Thursday, announcing a $3.87 billion deal to acquire entertainment mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation.” Amazon has become more than an online store, our smart home system, grocery store, tech, streaming device, websites, and even has its own space company “Blue Origin”, sounds familiar ( The Axiom in the movie Wall-E).

Now, most of our government is relying on big corporations for lobbyists to pass a law that the corporations favored instead of the people. All political campaigns relied on donations, and the ones who made these donations were from corporations that gave them funds to pass a particular law so they can donate to them again next election. What led up to it is on January 21, 2010, Citizen United won their case over the FEC in the supreme court. Sounds like a good thing, right. Actually, it’s a case created by corporations that they can fund politicians due to free speech. So according to The Story of Stuff Project, “Five members of the supreme court decided that it’s unconstitutional to put any limits on how much money corporations can spend influencing elections.” So with that power, corporations can spend whatever they want in their preferred presidential campaign. Most politicians don’t care about these things because they benefited from them, so all they need to do is to make sure they make their donors happy by making laws that appeal to the donors.

Not only the corporations benefiting themselves from it but also the government did it all by themselves. What created this whole entire mess was created by Ronald Reagan in 1982 when he cut taxes for the rich. When Ronald Reagan was president, He believed in trickle-down economics. Trickle-down economics is when the taxes are cut for the rich and so the rich and it will trickle down the middle and lower classes (which obviously did not happen). What Ronald Reagan did to keep his promise was to cut trust-busting and soften merger laws, which turns the republican party into the first party to accept monopolies. Eventually, Bill Clinton decided that he should use the same formula for the Democratic party with a progressive twist. According to Seattle Times, “He walked away early from some big ones, such as his vow to cut middle-class taxes.”

The problem is that our government no longer has control over corporations. Companies like Boeing have an opportunity to get welfare due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Boeing is one of the companies that give lobbyists to politicians Open Secrets have a whole list of politicians that they donate. According to Common Dreams, “ The airline industry demanded a massive bailout of nearly $60 billion in taxpayer dollars, and ended up securing $50 billion – half in loans, half in direct grants that don’t need to be paid back.” But yet a lot of small businesses didn’t get welfare and had to suffer to get their business shut down due to the pandemic. According to VoxSince March, when much of the country imposed lockdown measures to keep the novel coronavirus at bay, small businesses have taken a hit.” This shows how mega-corporations can have much power in the economy and manage to take down their smaller competitors. 

In a study in Cambridge University, “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.” This shows that corporations have the power to send lobbyists to donate to politicians. Also, companies like Alphabet (The parent company of Google) were accused of bribing politicians to win Sherman antitrust lawsuits just to continue being a monopoly with no consequences. According to BloombergThe multistate investigation of Alphabet Inc.’s Google is at risk of splintering further after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the probe, was accused by his senior aides of potential crimes, including bribery.”

So far our future is looking dark. We have a corporate war between liberal companies and conservative companies that rat each other out for being monopolies. Meanwhile, most of us are having problems that these companies refuse to fix like climate change so we could all suffer their mess. But there could still be hope for us, having the knowledge of the problem we have with our true political system. We can help try to fix the major problem with policies that actually help the lower class. We can all work together to reinforce the Sherman antitrust by spreading the message about what is wrong with our true economic system which will help stop it from becoming our dystopia. Just like what Dr. Suess had said “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”


The Fight Against Corporate Greed

On January 26, 2021, Gamestop’s stock had increased dramatically by a subreddit known as r/WallStreetBets because they were upset that Melvin Capital (one of the elite companies that control the stock market) was hurting Gamestop’s business and wanted average citizens to fight back. The subreddit was considering them for the good to demand policies that would help the working and middle class. What this means for this article, shows that people are finally realizing that we have a toxic economic system that affects lower classes. A stock investing app called Robinhood limits the stocks for its customers to protect Melvin Capital; the company which short sells (it’s like betting except that you believe that something bad will happen to it) Gamestop. This shows that Wall Street is really worried that if the people learn how to manipulate the market, the Reagan revolution will die out and it would probably bring in the second progressive era that they fear will come. Do you hear the people buy?