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The New Robber Barons

Cottage Hospital and Sansum Clinic, Santa Barbara, California’s two largest health care providers, gave up on their proposed merger because of regulatory delays and a lack of clarity from the Federal Trade Commission, the government agency that protects us from uncompetitive trade practices and monopolies. Cottage is now our only remaining hospital and Sansum is our largest medical clinic. Both are large, state-of-the-art providers.

After almost four years, Cottage and Sansum called off their attempt to create cost savings from a more efficient organization. In a fast-changing health care world, the uncertainty of their status made it difficult for them to plan for the future.

It is likely that the FTC believes that these kinds of vertical mergers in the health care system will give the resulting organization “monopolistic” pricing power because a lack of competition which will lead to higher costs for consumers of health care services.

That may be correct, but it is not what is driving up health care costs and the problems with our health care system.

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From Glut To Prosperity: The Revival of Retail

How can State Street be revived? In my last article on State Street’s retail glut, I pointed out that there are 30+ retail vacancies in the downtown State Street corridor and that Santa Barbara is following a national trend in retailing. That is, there is too much retail space, online sales are challenging retail stores, and generational spending and shopping habits have changed.

The revival of State Street lies with the City, property owners, and retailers. They have to adjust to a changed environment. This is not a transitory phenomenon; we are witnessing one of the rare times in history when there are major shifts in human economic behavior. Shopping and life-style patterns have changed and to ignore them is to see the permanent decline of State Street.

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