Paul Ryan
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Last week it became clear that the Democrats have been right all along when to comes to what would happen as a result of the Republican tax cuts. While Speaker Paul Ryan was bragging that a secretary would be getting a whopping $1.50 more per week in her paycheck, the New York Times reported that stock buybacks were reaching record levels as a result of the tax cuts.

Almost 100 American corporations have trumpeted such plans in the past month. American companies have announced more than $178 billion in planned buybacks — the largest amount unveiled in a single quarter, according to Birinyi Associates, a market research firm.

Such purchases reduce a company’s total number of outstanding shares, giving each remaining share a slightly bigger piece of the profit pie…

Those so-called buybacks are good for shareholders, including the senior executives who tend to be big owners of their companies’ stock. A company purchasing its own shares is a time-tested way to bolster its stock price.

But the purchases can come at the expense of investments in things like hiring, research and development and building new plants — the sort of investments that directly help the overall economy. The buybacks are also most likely to worsen economic inequality because the benefits of stocks purchases flow disproportionately to the richest Americans.

Yesterday we learned that, according to the Wall Street Journal, it’s even worse than we thought.

The U.S. corporate tax cuts and incentives for investment and repatriation of foreign cash are meant to help growth and wages, and many companies, from AT&T to WalMart, have announced pay increases for low-wage workers.

However, the cost of these moves likely pales in comparison to the hundreds of billions being spent in the hunt for growth and higher returns. Mergers and acquisitions announced by U.S. acquirers so far in 2018 are running at the highest dollar volume since the first two months of 2000, according to Dealogic. Thomson Reuters, which publishes slightly different numbers, puts it at the highest since the start of 2007…

This corporate shopping spree adds to the cash flowing back to investors via buybacks, which exceeded $200 billion in the three months to the end of February this year, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

Corporations aren’t just spending their tax cuts on stock buybacks. They’re investing at almost record levels on mergers and acquisitions, which increases what they’re making on buybacks. Isn’t that special?

Let’s take all this one step further though. Mergers and acquisitions are the building blocks of monopolies, something the Washington Monthly has been warning about for years as perhaps the single biggest contributor to stagnant wages and income inequality.

We can all complain that Democrats didn’t do enough to tackle the monopolization of our economy when they had majorities in Congress and a president in the White House. But now we see what the Republican position is. They aren’t just ignoring the issue, they’re feeding it with their corporate tax cuts and expect the rest of us to be happy with an extra buck fifty a week.

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