Regulators might be tempted to agree with Comcast that its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion in stock poses no threat to competition and would actually benefit consumers by giving the company more resources to invest in new services. But government officials should not accept that argument without conducting a thorough investigation into what effect a merger between the country’s two largest cable companies would have on the media and the Internet.Jon Healy at The Los Angeles Times:
Comcast’s chief executive, Brian Roberts, on Thursday said that his company and Time Warner Cable do not operate in the same ZIP codes. But the issue with cable mergers is not that they reduce or eliminate head-to-head competition for subscribers, because most cities have just one cable provider. This deal is important because it would give Comcast greater power over media companies like CBS and Disney and Internet services like Netflix and Amazon. And that would ultimately give it more control over American consumers.
Yes, cable rates have climbed almost as fast as health insurance premiums. But there's a good reason for cable operators to raise their rates at least some amount every year: the rising cost of programming.More on the day's top stories below the fold.
With the cable industry slowly shedding subscribers and struggling to sign up young adults, Comcast has to be careful about how high its pay-TV prices go. In fact, one of the main rationales for the deal -- and the force driving some in the fragmented cable industry to call for radical consolidation -- is the need for more leverage when negotiating with broadcasters and popular cable networks over how much to pay for their programming. By holding down those fees, they should be able to hold down cable rates as well.
Jay Bookman at The Atlanta Journal Constitution examines the latest attempt at a House Republican policy agenda:
Writing in National Review, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lays out a House Republican "policy agenda" for responding to the major long-term economic challenges facing the country. But after reading it, I have one question:Pat Garofalo at US News & World Report looks at the controversy over Republican interference in a union election:
Where's the beef?
[...] Cantor attempts to disguise a mere description of the problem as a solution to the problem, and the ploy is transparent. The funny thing is, if you read the comments in response, even the conservative readership of the National Review recognizes the utter lack of content.
[T]he lead anti-union crusader has been U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the former mayor of Chattanooga. In addition to lambasting the UAW, Corker has said – in contradiction to the company’s public announcements – that Volkswagen will reward workers with a new product to build if they decide not to unionize. "I've had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga," said Corker. As Reuters reported, labor law experts believe Corker’s statement could very well be an illegal attempt to intimidate workers.Eugene Robinson examines the continued Republican attempt to get ride of the ACA, which is definitely here to stay:
All in all, this is a lot of GOP meddling with a private business. "In my 20 years on the hill, I've never seen such a massive intrusion into the affairs of a private company," said Tennessee Democratic state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh. Indeed, usually it's Republicans decrying any attempt by government to regulate the unionization process. So what on Earth is going on?
Well, a plant unionized by the UAW in Tennessee could potentially deal a blow to the right-wing narrative that anti-union companies in so-called “right to work” states are better for economic growth and job creation by providing a real-time counterpoint. If unions make inroads into foreign-owned auto plants in the South, the right-wing effort to claim that unions are something that ails business will be undermined. (Since Tennessee is right to work, employees in Chattanooga could still opt out of supporting the union even if the plant unionizes.)
Cumulatively, 3.3 million people had chosen insurance plans through the state and federal exchanges by the end of January. That is fewer than the administration had originally hoped but well above the predictions of critics who believed — or hoped — that the program would never succeed. The Congressional Budget Office projects that 6 million people will have chosen plans through Obamacare when the initial enrollment period ends March 31, down from a pre-launch estimate of 7 million. Not bad at all.Finally, Paul Krugman, as always, makes sense on the issue:
The numbers are even more encouraging when you look more closely. The proportion of young people — from 18 and 34 — who chose insurance plans through the exchanges increased slightly to 27 percent, compared with an average of 24 percent in previous months. This is important because premiums would have to rise if not enough young, healthy people enrolled.
On the whole, working Americans are better at appreciating their own worth than either the wealthy or conservative politicians are at showing them even minimal respect. Still, tens of millions of Americans know from experience that hard work isn’t enough to provide financial security or a decent education for their children, and many either couldn’t get health insurance or were desperately afraid of losing jobs that came with insurance until the Affordable Care Act kicked in last month. In the face of that kind of everyday struggle, talk about the dignity of work rings hollow.
So what would give working Americans more dignity in their lives, despite huge income disparities? How about assuring them that the essentials — health care, opportunity for their children, a minimal income — will be there even if their boss fires them or their jobs are shipped overseas?