President Biden’s Antitrust Order: Biden has signed a new executive order geared towards cracking down on anticompetitive practices in numerous sectors. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: President Biden’s Antitrust Order
On Friday, President Joe Biden signed a new executive order geared towards cracking down on anticompetitive practices in Big Tech, labor, and numerous other sectors. According to CNBC, “The sweeping order includes 72 actions and recommendations that involve more than a dozen federal agencies, [and] is intended to re-shape the thinking around corporate consolidation and antitrust laws.” For example, one item on the agenda is making it easier for Canadian providers and generic-drug makers to compete with pharmaceutical companies in the US. Another seeks to allow Americans to buy hearing aids without a prescription, something former President Donald Trump signed into law but still hasn’t happened yet. And lastly, among others, the order would make airline companies refund money when the in-flight Wi-Fi doesn’t function or they lose bags. Here’s what both sides are saying about Biden’s efforts to rein in Big Business, with a focus on words and actions from our representatives rather than political outlets.
On The Right
Republicans are traditionally more “pro-business.” This is a vague term because not all Democrats are expressly “anti-business.” Rather, it’s a nod to Republican sentiment towards fewer regulations, lower taxes, and creating an environment in which corporations can flourish. There are pros: America gave the world the iPhone and Prime shipping. The cons, however, are worth considering when companies like Amazon create a marketplace, mine the data for top-selling items, and then launch their own products at a lower price point. How are small businesses supposed to compete with that? Those are the types of questions some Republicans are asking. Take a look.
“Rep Ken Buck is the New Face of Republican Antitrust” Makena Kelly, The Verge: “After nearly two years of investigations into Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, the House Judiciary Committee pushed through a package of six bills last month that would force these companies to unwind anti-competitive mergers and make the data they obtain on users more portable, in an effort to spur greater competition in the market. The package was surprising in its size and scope, but even more surprising — it was bipartisan. Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, the top Republican on the antitrust subcommittee, played a large role in building that coalition, which has put him at the leading edge of Republican tech policy.” Buck told Kelly: “Big Tech wants to run the clock. If they can get to the end of this Congress and if Republicans are in charge who don’t like these bills, these bills will never hit the floor.” … “Updating laws that are more than 100 years old is really important. … The lightbulb hadn’t even been invented when the Sherman Act was passed in 1888. To think that you can click on a computer screen and get something delivered the next day is completely different. The laws have to be updated in order for law enforcement to be effective. It’s a constitutional issue.”
“Josh Hawley proposes ban to curb growth of biggest US tech companies” Musadiq Bidar and Jack Turman, CBS: “Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri unveiled legislation [in April] aimed at strengthening antitrust laws and curbing the growing political power of America’s biggest companies. The legislation, which Hawley called ‘Trust-Busting For the 21st Century Act,’ bans all mergers and acquisitions by companies with a market capitalization of over $100 billion, empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prohibit ‘digital dominant firms’ from buying out potential competitors, and forces companies that lose antitrust lawsuits to forfeit profits from monopolistic conduct. … Nearly 150 companies, including large corporations like Apple and Amazon, as well as others like Pfizer, Nike, Costco and McDonalds have a market cap of over $100 billion. All of them would be impacted by Hawley’s bill and prohibited from merging with or acquiring smaller competitors. … ‘I think the fact that we’re seeing less and less true competition across industry, fewer new business starts, declining small businesses, that ought to be a concern to every Republican who believes in robust, free competition,’ Hawley said.
On The Left
Democrats are traditionally more “pro-worker” than Republicans. Again, this is somewhat of a vague term because not all Republicans are “anti-labor.” Rather, in general, Democrats support higher taxes, labor unions, and more regulations. There are two representatives, specifically, who have adopted the 21st century antitrust mantle and worn it as a badge of honor.
“Amy Klobuchar on Breaking Up Giant Corporations” Liaquat Ahamed, New York Times: “Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, chair of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, has emerged as one of the most vocal critics in Congress of the power of big tech. … As a good Minnesotan, Klobuchar traces the roots of antitrust to the Midwest, when farmers rebelled at the end of the 19th century against the exploitative practices of the railroads. … By restricting competition the trusts not only hurt consumers and workers and damaged the functioning of the capitalist system, they also came to be seen as a threat to American democracy itself. … With the recent change in the political mood about big tech, we do seem to be entering a new era of more activist antitrust policy. … [Klobuchar] recommends dusting off the existing legislation on the books, more vigorously enforcing it, adding more resources to the federal agencies charged with applying antitrust laws, and toughening the standards for approving mergers.”
“Warren, Ocasio-Cortez to Introduce Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act”Elizabeth Warren: In April 2020, “Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) announced plans to introduce the Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act to impose a moratorium on risky mergers and acquisitions — and stop large corporations from exploiting the pandemic to engage in harmful mergers and strengthen the federal government’s ability to respond effectively to future crises. … The moratorium includes all mergers and acquisitions that involve: Companies with over $100 million in revenue or financial institutions with over $100 million in market capitalization; Private equity companies, hedge funds, or companies that are majority-owned by a private equity company or hedge fund; Companies with an exclusive patent that impacts the crisis, like personal protective equipment; and Transactions that must otherwise be reported to the FTC under current law.” Related Reading: How Elizabeth Warren Came Up with a Plan to Break Up Big Tech.
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According to a poll conducted by Morning Consult and commissioned by tech-funded advocacy group Chamber of Progress, “Voters favor tech regulation but are less supportive of measures they perceive to hamper their favorite services,” Lauren Feiner reports for CNBC. 53% of voters favor at least some tech regulation, but “overall survey respondents didn’t rank tech regulation high on their list of concerns for Congress. Of a list of priorities including the economy, public health, climate change, and infrastructure, 44% of respondents ranked technology company regulations as last on the list of what Congress should address.”
When you think about the “political spectrum,” it’s typically envisioned as a horizontal line: Democrats on the left and uber progressives on the far left. Republicans on the right and hardcore conservatives on the far right. Sometimes this spectrum extends so far that it bends on itself and the two opposite sides touch one another. Imagine Bernie Bros grabbing a beer with Trump supporters, for example. Josh Hawley is known on the left as one of the senators who led efforts to challenge the 2020 election results. Meanwhile, the right has branded Elizabeth Warren as a socialist and even a communist. Strangely enough, if these two were stuck in an airport for six hours after missing a connecting flight, they could probably have a nice drink with each other while they discuss their mutual desire to rein in Big Business. Keep an eye on this as it’s a trend worth watching.
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