If you are a Trekker, the episode called "The Tholian Web" was the ninth episode of the third season of the original Star Trek series. It was written by Judy Burns and Chet Richards and directed by Herb Wallerstein. It was first broadcast on November 15, 1968. In the episode, Captain Kirk is caught between dimensions while the crew of the Enterprise works to retrieve him. At this same time, the Tholians are weaving a destructive energy web around the Enterprise, and it goes very slowly. However, if it gets completed, then there is literally no escape. The ship and all its crew are toast (at least that is what my impression of the web was).
Fast forward to modern 2022, and if you look hard enough, you can see the Tholian web that is encasing everyone and everything. It's called private equity. In an expose on Mother Jones (you can find it HERE), the reporter goes on to talk about private equity, and the destructive path it has weaved through the entire infrastructure of the United States. It's a thoroughly depressing read, because there's literally nothing we can do about it. The problem is too big. People don't have enough power to fight back against it, and the problem is so big that I'd argue that most people will never comprehend how private equity is strangling you and your family.
Here are some facts from the article:
1) Private Equity just in the last decade has taken control of more than 80 retailers, leading to the loss of 1.3 million jobs.
2) Private equity incursions into real estate has driven the cost of housing to astronomical levels. Frankly put, your children are doomed to be serfs in this country working paycheck to paycheck.
3) Private equity has bought up for-profit colleges, driving down graduation rates while increasing student debt.
4) Private equity has swallowed the healthcare sector, including hospitals, dermatologists, opthalmologists, veterinarians, hospice care, and nursing homes in order to squeeze every ounce of profit out of these places.
5) They also buy up politicians, but you know that already.
One example in the article that I read that was particularly telling was the story of a Brooklyn apartment. Its tenants paid around $3,500 a month, and the place was in good shape. A private equity firm financed by a Texas education teacher pension fund purchased the apartment, kicked out the residents, doubled the rent to $7,000 a month, and the people back in Texas were oblivious and happy that their "investment" was netting them profits to pay for retirements. They were told by the private equity firm that they had saved a Brooklyn apartment that was falling apart. The truth was that the apartments were nice brownstones with a big chandelier in the lobby, and they knew they could charge a ton more for it. That's what capitalism is: charging the highest price that the market will bear. It disregards ethics or morality...all goods should go to the highest bidder.
Another example was the story of a man who had built a company that made very good car parts. He took pride in his company, and wanted it to prosper because it had become the backbone of his community. Private Equity bought his company, chopped wages in half, sought to squeeze profit, cut corners, and the business faltered. Then they broke the company apart, making money off of the dissolution of the equipment and the sale of its assets. All the investors got a payday and all the employees got royally screwed over.
Folks, I see this kind of thing all over the place in my job. I'm in and out of nursing homes caring for patients who have nothing...their entire life savings have gone to their end-of-life care. They live in one bedroom units usually split down the middle and they eat maybe $5.00 in food a day that is prepared cafeteria style by workers who make $12 per hour. Yet these places charge $8,000 a month. I know some of the executives in charge of these places and they have salaries equal to $40,000 a month. That's $480,000 a year, and they do nothing but plan their next vacation or their next car purchase. They brag about how much money their "policies" are making for the investors. This is wrong. I can't spell it out any other way.
Private Equity and rapacious capitalism are dooming everything. It's a Tholian Web that started long ago. The first lines weren't that threatening. The first incursions were easy to overlook. It slowly bought up this and that and then this other thing down the road from where you live. And bit by bit, Americans and the Middle Class failed to see it happening. Either that, or the situation was just too complicated to argue against. Anyone that spoke up gets shouted down by quick-minded greedy business people who do whatever it takes to convince you that private equity is not the boogeyman. And it was never "all bad" which is one way to keep committing evil. You let some good trickle down. It's an emotions game. If you can make a person feel good for a day, then you can get away with a lot. I don't think there is a solution to it now...a solution to our "Tholian web" aside from a complete collapse of civilization into war. So this whole post is just me venting, because I feel so helpless to do anything other than hope that I won't become a slave to private equity, spooning gruel into my mouth and being thankful that the beatings were light today.
Here's the future that private equity has created for us: 1) climate crisis, 2) scarcity, 3) a gilded age of severe income inequality, 4) people dying earlier than their life expectancy, 5) everything is shoddily built, 6) modern day indentured servitude, 7) the rise of narcissism and selfishness, 8) mass incivility, 9) rampant greed with grifters everywhere, and 10) the fall of democracy. I probably could go on, but I'm not going to. It's bad enough already.