In a recent post about the debt
crisis, NPR's Frank James wrote,"What Washington was worried about and
what many Americans have been haunted by has seemed out of synch in recent
Indeed, throughout weeks of political posturing about the
nation's debt ceiling, millions of Americans wondered when their
representatives would get around to talking about the elephant in the room —
people losing their jobs and an unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent.
Now, facing pressure from constituents, as well as the stock
market's tumble in response to the nation's lowered credit rating, members of
Congress are finally talking about getting people back to work and expanding
the work force as a way to stave off a double-dip recession.
Given this political environment, you'd think politicians
would want to keep far away from anything that smells of lost jobs.
But AT&T's merger with T-Mobile — which will likely give the pink slip to as many as 20,000 workers
— must smell like roses. There seems to be no other explanation for why some
members of Congress would embrace the deal.
Why, in this climate, would any member of Congress
support a deal that is safe bet to
put people out of work?
To answer that, it's worth taking a step back and looking at
how AT&T conducts business.
Earlier this year, AT&T — the second biggest wireless
company in the country — announced it was seeking to buy T-Mobile, the fourth
largest carrier. Thanks to its low prices, diverse selection of phones and
top-rated customer service, T-Mobile is popular with lower-income consumers,
younger users and people in urban areas where its service is often rated above its
competitors. Also, T-Mobile is the only national carrier besides AT&T
that uses GSM technology, the standard used in almost every other country in
In other words, T-Mobile represents something AT&T
loathes: competition. Scooping it up would give AT&T a formidable advantage
over Verizon, making AT&T the carrier with the most subscribers and the
only national GSM carrier.
AT&T knew that its desire to take over a direct
competitor would raise the eyebrows of regulators and Congress. That's why it's
spent millions to spread falsehoods about the deal.
Its lobbyists roam the halls of Washington telling policymakers that the merger
will lead to high-speed broadband buildout, more jobs, and the end to
AT&T's network congestion problems.
Meanwhile, AT&T contributes millions to members of Congress and to groups
like GLAAD and the National Education Association, who in turn come out
in favor of things like... AT&T's merger with T-Mobile. (GLAAD rescinded its endorsement earlier this summer after a
backlash from supporters.)
Many of these officials and organization heads may know that
AT&T is peddling, at best, half-truths. But AT&T has so completely
worked its way into the economic structure of electoral politics and issue
advocacy that many of its beneficiaries simply sign off on whatever the
Which brings us back to jobs. AT&T and the labor unions
that support this deal tell us that 20,000 new union jobs will be created if
the merger goes through. That sounds great, until you discover that T-Mobile
presently employs about 40,000 people. Do the simple math, and you realize that the
only merger benefits for many of those currently working for T-Mobile will be
As the FCC, the Justice Department, Congress, and state
officials continue to investigate AT&T's proposal, we must hang these job
losses around the necks of anyone who supports this deal. As our country risks
dipping into another recession — and despite all of the goodies AT&T lays
out on the table — a job-killing merger is the last thing anyone should want
to be associated with.