President Joe Biden's new competition executive order moves the Democratic Party further to the left and expands the role of the government in an attempt to help consumers save money and time in dealings with corporations.
The executive order, “Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” includes 72 initiatives by more than a dozen federal agencies to tackle unfair corporate behavior in the economy, which supporters and critics both say will require the government to exert more power.
“This order represents a big ideological shift in the Democratic Party, which many of us wouldn’t have expected just six months ago,” said Sarah Miller, the executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, a liberal think tank focused on antitrust issues.
“It puts incredibly strong policy and rhetoric behind making markets more fair and puts that at the center of their economic agenda. It’s a significant realignment in how Democrats look at the role of governance within the economy,” she added.
Miller said the transformation within the Democratic Party to tackle structural problems in the economy using antitrust has been caused by the monopolistic behavior of dominant corporations, such as the Big Tech companies of Silicon Valley, along with the antitrust enforcement failures of the federal government under both parties.
A summary of the executive order cites a report from the American Economic Liberties Project claiming monopolization by corporations costs the median American household $5,000 per year.
Many of the initiatives will go after the Big Tech and telecommunications companies with tactics such as lowering the cost of internet by increasing competition and transparency among broadband providers; restricting Big Tech companies, such as Apple or Microsoft, from acquiring smaller competitors that could threaten them; barring unfair behavior by Big Tech platforms, such as Amazon and Google, in online marketplaces; and making it easier for users to repair their own gadgets by barring tech companies from imposing restrictions on outside repairs.
The order also pushes to restore the controversial net neutrality rules of the Obama era, which former President Donald Trump rolled back. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should treat all data on the internet the same and not discriminate or charge differently based on where it’s coming from or to whom it’s going.
Congressional Democrats support flexing the federal government’s regulatory muscles to help consumers from unfair corporate behavior, particularly by the tech giants.
“President Biden sent a strong message today that its time for federal watchdogs to step up and protect consumers against anti-competitive practices, privacy violations, and outrageous fees,” Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, told the Washington Examiner.
“I'm particularly encouraged that the order targets companies abusing Americans' personal data, in line with my Mind Your Own Business Act, and that the administration is working to restore strong net neutrality protections and combat anti-consumer repair regulations,” he added.
However, some business groups and conservatives say the order could result in government overreach.
“My warning is every time you hand more power to the government, the likelihood of consumers winning at the end decreases,” said conservative Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at NetChoice, an advocacy group representing tech companies.
Szabo gave the example of President Theodore Roosevelt breaking up and regulating the Big Oil companies, such as Standard Oil, in the early 1900s, which he said ultimately resulted in higher prices for consumers.
He said Biden is trying to do the same thing with Big Tech companies using his executive order, arguing it would backfire.
“Everything has costs and benefits. Would you accept cheaper but less reliable internet that this order could result in? These trade-offs are not explained or discussed in the order,” Szabo said.
Liberals say if the government doesn’t take swift action to hold the Big Tech companies and other corporations accountable, the corporations themselves will decide how markets are shaped and how well the economy functions.
“Would you prefer Mark Zuckerberg and other CEOs shape tech policy or our Democratically elected congress? I don’t want think anyone wants trillion-dollar companies deciding policies for us all,” said Miller from the American Economic Liberties Project.
“There are plenty of Republicans who want to stand up to tech monopolists who buy up competitors, hurt innovation, cheat consumers and instead create open markets and more innovation,” she added.
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