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Winning and Losing in One-Click America

Ralph welcomes journalist, Alec MacGillis, author of “Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America” about how Amazon continues to suck the life out of Main Street and what can be done about it. And the director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, Dr. Michael Carome, gives us the latest on our approach to the Covid pandemic. Plus, we answer a listener about how to avoid flying on Boeing’s 737 Max.

Alec MacGillis is a journalist who covers politics and government for ProPublica. He is the author of The Cynic, a biography of Senator Mitch McConnell, and Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America.

When I asked [Nick Hanauer] why Amazon wasn’t considering putting its second headquarters in a part of the country that could really use it. In a city like St. Louis or Baltimore or Cleveland that could really use that kind of boost. And in one fell swoop the company could just do a lot to rebalance the landscape of opportunity and prosperity in the country… He laughed in my face, essentially, and said ‘You do not understand Jeff Bezos at all, do you?’”

Alec MacGillis, author of Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America

On Jeff Bezos saying that we need to go to the moon, because we’ll run out of energy on earth: “Well, of course, [Jeff Bezos] has extraterrestrial business along with Elon Musk. But it’s totally childish to make a comment like that, when certainly the sun is not going to leave the Earth. And wind is not going to leave the earth.”

Ralph Nader

“His (Jeff Bezos’s) obsession with space travel, which goes all the way back to his childhood, is also an important facet of him. It speaks to… he’s untethered from the mundanities that the rest of us worry about. He sees himself as separate from that.”

Alec MacGillis, author of Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America

“I spotted Amazon rising a long time ago. And I was really amazed at how many signals Amazon gave to its competitors and opponents that were ignored… It was quite clear what Amazon’s strategy was going to be, right off in the mid 1990s.”

Ralph Nader

Dr. Michael Carome is an expert on issues of drug and medical device safety, FDA oversight, and healthcare policy. He is the director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.

“The amount of money– $25-30 billion is what we believe the US should make available to make vaccines for the entire world– is a drop in the bucket. We are faced with an international public health catastrophe that is getting worse by the day. And what we need is to not have the monopoly of the vaccine makers stand in the way of the ability of countries to manufacture vaccines for their populations.”

Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 374 Transcript (Right click to download)

4 Comments

  1. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    When I was younger and had less responsibilities I used to be a high priest of the Cult of Consumer Responsibility myself. I believed that if I just micromanaged every single decision I made with my money, if I could show myself as a shining beacon of virtue and convince others to do the same, the tyrannical, anti-social behavior of the Amazons and the Wal-Marts of the world could be disciplined by the magical powers of market competition.

    But this aspect of market competition is mostly a myth. The goal of any private capitalist enterprise is to ELIMINATE competition. Once you become big enough, you can undercut anyone trying to enter your turf until you run them out of business. And once the competition is gone, what choice is the consumer left with? Is a person working three jobs to make ends meet every week really expected to have not only the money to choose right but the -time and energy- to do their research and choose ethically on every purchase decision they make? I see now that this was a fantasy. The problem is systemic. Shaming the consumer is the worst kind of analysis because it is fundamentally ideological in nature and never leads to a real solution. Michael Hudson in his book J is for Junk Economics has a great line in the intro that sums this all up:
    “Lacking appropriate economic concepts to understand what is making people poorer, the ideology of personal responsibility leads people to blame themselves for not being able to avoid being trapped in a system of debt peonage.”

  2. Bruce K. says:

    On the subject of Amazon, I really love Amazon as a company, and I agree with Warren Buffett’s assessment of Jeff Bezos. That is not to say I do not agree with some of the criticisms leveled at Bezos and Amazon, but I have a real problem with some of the just stupid and braindead attacks from the extreme Left on Bezos.

    For example, the way we do corporations should be reviewed. I have a whole list of things that should be changed about corporations, as I bet does Ralph, and any other person who has read about or researched our corporate infrastructure history. I’d agree with the documentary The Corporation” that the incentives we have in place for most business in America can most appropriately be compared to a psychopath … as the movie said, the dominant institution in the Western world has psychopathic behavior. ( by the way the people who made that movie have a sequel coming out at some point )

    And of course there is a lot weight behind having people who make a lot of money being cast as the titans of our country and the best people to lead the government. In fact a case could well be made that they are the worst people to be leaders or even movers and shakers of society.

    My problem is that what the heck do people expect. As a corporate leader and titan Bezos has done an amazing job at creating a company that, within the confines of psychopathy and greed meets the needs of so many, so “innovatively”, and so well that there is really no equal.

    I love logging into Amazon and finding some new aspect of the website or rules that they have improved … and so far it is always an improvement. ( with the possible exception that they removed the conversation feature in product and media reviews and questions … I think that is a fumble ) They have a way to allow individuals to sell stuff under their own storefront, like EBay.com, but without all the auction confusion.

    Just the other day I found that the new updated Kindle App for iPhone will do text-to-speech, so instead of buying the Audiobook, I can buy the cheaper Kindle version and have my Phone, or my computer read it to me. Through Amazon Prime I can watch other channels such as HBO, or AMC, or other movie channels.

    I compare that with Apple, where I started with iMac’s over 10 years from PCs and they were great, but over the years every upgrade has seemed to deliberately gotten a little worse. iTunes podcasts seems to be broken and less functional in the new IOS. iMovie which used to be fantastic for video editing has consistently lost features and gotten harder and less ergonomic to use over time – and their prices go up.

    In contrast my Amazon Kindle is not quite as punchy or as sexy as my iPhone, but it is far more useful and costs about half, and the price point is declining, and it is not always looking to screw me over on every cable, or app or service I need. I would love to see what happens if and when Amazon challenges Apple in the Phone market. They tried it once with the Fire phone and then it disappeared off the market. i think Amazon’s way of meeting customer needs would knock Apple out in 3-5 years should they do that. Is that greed or good business?

    Why is there no context in these relentless attacks on Amazon and Bezos? I mean it put me as a defender of Amazon in a peculiar uncomfortable position of confusion, the same way the attacks on Israel without any context of what the other countries in their part of the world do.

    Richard Wolff, the podcasting celebrity socialist, makes Jeff Bezos the target of his hate, the symbol of capitalism and talk about him like he has however many billions of dollars right there in his pocket, flashing it around like a Russian Mafiosi. The man owns stock in his company … until he sells it is not realized money. How should he be taxed on that, or if we want to change the rules, how should all of these folks pay taxes on money that is in stock? That is a great discussion and could lead to some improvement, but these personal attacks on Bezos and others, but especially Bezos because he is so customer-centric and so relentlessly driven toward improvement. These discussions when they become personal undercut any possible change, because the people in the know just think those who make them are idiots and stop listening to them at all.

    There is huge room for improvement in the pay scales for Americans. That is one of the most important issues for the country. Why does that need to get sidetracked and make a joke of in favor of lame potshots about how greedy Jeff Bezos is? There is no one I see in the media making intelligent arguments for the Left, they are all arguments that are set-up for the right to dismiss the Left and call them names. There is a hierarchy here and no one wants to lose their grip and slip down, so at some point all of you people whose job it is to inform people don’t want them to get as smart and informed as you …. so, is that greed as well?

    Corporations all do the same thing, they are have the same rules and they all try to figure out how they can cut costs and taxes and gain monopolies. In the book “Evil Geniuses” Kurt Anderson talks about all the ways corporations have screwed the country, but also all the ways that people have screwed the financial system to take over these corporations and suck the money out of them. There is so much more going on in this country than Jeff Bezos greed, and I think lots of you talking heads know too, and yet the conversation never gets past Bezos or Gates or whatever greed. You guys are just as complicate as anyone else when you do this, you are not helping, and you are condescending and dumbing down the public.

    • Bruce K. says:

      Argh … the mother of all typo posts. Sorry about that! It was very early in the morning. English really is my first and only language. How sad. huh?

      complicate = complicit

      My point is there are a lot of things now that have gotten no attention and no change for about 40 years, and American society is, or has, fallen apart. Rather than making personal attacks against rich people, no matter how “richly” they deserve it, the way forward is to list the defects in the system, prove what is broken, consolidate that list, like a company would do in Six Sigma improvement, define stakeholders, look for input, find the must-haves, prioritize and move forward with a realistic plan that has some hope of institutional acceptance. We have no organized system, if our country were a body, we’d have stage 4 brain cancer.

      All I hear from you guys is noise, noise, noise. Moving from one subject doing the same stuff have been talked about or complained about for decades, then next week forgetting all of that and doing the same, and so on – guaranteed to lead to nothing. And that is exactly what has happened. And it is not just you, it is all the books, all the authors, all the talking heads … they are every bit as self-centered and greedy as Jeff Bezos … and they all have to be because that is how your survive in his dysfunctional system. Nowhere near enough people read the books or are exposed to the ideas, compared to herding the clueless and desperate through Fox News, and you it continues on.

      It’s not all Trump’s fault, or Bezos’s fault, it is incentives for uncivil actions that we have accepted and that have mutated our system into something totally broken and seemingly unfixable. Very odd since to me it seems like the number one purpose in human beings’ lives are to look for meaning and community, and we have just about beaten that out of our entire country – alone in the developed world.

    • thomashahn says:

      This is practically a love paen to Bezos. True, Bezo’s Amazon is only one manifestation of a gradual trend towards the general abasement of economic & civic life in the U.S.; but who better to focus on then Amazon? And yet you don’t respond directly to anything said during the program; instead, you babble on about how delightful it is logging on to Amazon, & how fucking wonderful it is getting a new kindle app so that a computer can read you a book. What are you, a child? Hopefully you are employed by some public relations firm so that i can discount you as just another cynical bastard.

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