Reddit post gets students thinking about corporate ownership

A few huge corporations control almost everything we buy, read, view and use. How much choice do we really have?

An image was placed on Reddit on April 25, 2012, called “The Illusion of Choice.” This graphic showed how 10 companies control the output of almost every good available.

Some of the companies and their subsidiaries may be surprising. Nestle, for example, is famous for its chocolate and candy, such as Kit Kat and Butterfinger, but also has control of clothing and beauty products.

According to L’Oreal’s 2013 annual report, Nestle owns 23 percent of the company. In turn, L’Oreal owns clothing companies Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren and cosmetic companies Garnier and Maybelline.

If the products we buy are controlled by the same few corporations then how much choice do we really have? The choice between Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Kit Kat is only a choice of which Nestle product to choose.

“It’s scary to think that those CEOs can control everything we buy,” said WSU student Tara Wardel. “It kind of makes you want to buy local stuff so you know where it’s coming from.”

Not every student feels threatened by this information.

“It just makes sense that successful companies will buy other companies. It happens all the time,” said WSU student Adam Christensen.

If our goods seem to be controlled by too few people then our media is even more consolidated. Six companies control 90 percent of all American media.

These companies are Comcast Corp., News Corp., The Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc., Time Warner Inc. and CBS Corp.

Whether you are watching the gratuitous nudity of “Cold Mountain,” the constant profanity of “Clerks,” the 54 deaths by samurai sword in “Kill Bill Vol. 1” or Elsa singing “Let It Go” in “Frozen,” you are viewing a Disney product.

Our news outlets are so heavily controlled that 178 million unique users read Time Warner news every month. News Corp owns the top newspaper on three continents, including The Wall Street Journal.

“It makes you think that you’re just being told what to think by a pretty small group of people,” said WSU student Jay Garner. “It’s like the illuminati, but for real.”

Where our money is spent is not as consolidated as where our money is kept. In the last 20 years, 37 banks have consolidated into four. These banks are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.

According to the Federal Reserve, 10 banks hold 54 percent of the nation’s total financial assets. This number is up from 20 percent in 1990.

Fewer and fewer companies are controlling multiple marketplaces. Some may argue that this is a natural progression toward efficiency while others may picture images from “1984” by George Orwell. Either way this type of consolidation is happening and isn’t slowing down.