When the corporate economy is booming as it is now, mergers and acquisitions happen. Industries consolidate. The cable industry is consolidating. The media industry is consolidating. And now, even the poor people industry is consolidating.

Generally, mergers and acquisitions are great for the following classes of people: 1) bankers and other M&A advisors; 2) executives of the companies in question; 3) shareholders of the company being acquired, at least at first. Great for those people. On the other hand, mergers and acquisitions are generally not so good for employees of the companies in question (who tend to get laid off) or customers of the companies in question (who often see prices raised due to a competitive player being removed from the market). Regular shareholders often get screwed in the long run, too, when it becomes clear a deal was a bad idea.

So, M&A flourishes in boom times, enriching a small and powerful class at the expense of a much larger, less influential class. No one is immune. No one! Today, the big dollar store chain Dollar Tree announced that is paying $8.5 billion to buy the other big dollar store chain Family Dollar, in what the Wall Street Journal calls "an intensifying battle for America's poorest consumers." It is consolidation of the richest of the poorest. Family Dollar was doing poorly. It was not selling enough $1.25 two-liters of Dr. Pepper. Billionaire Carl Icahn will make a boatload on this deal. Analysts say this will enable the new Crap Dollar Behemoth to better compete with competing crap dollar behemoth Walmart, for the individual dollars of people who do not have very many dollars.

In one sense, this is just another acquisition, one multibillion-dollar retailer buying another. But this instance of consolidation will pull a few extra pennies not just from all the usual consumers, but from the sorts of consumers who have no choice but to shop at dollar stores. What do you think happened to 99 cent stores?


(All day I tried to put my finger on the right twist on this quintessential American business story. I sure as hell failed. Can you? Please try. Thank you. )

[Photo: AP]