Trump and Senate Democrats Collude on Antitrust Laws

By Campbell, Tom | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), April 17, 2018 | Go to article overview

Trump and Senate Democrats Collude on Antitrust Laws


Campbell, Tom, Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


What do President Trump and Senate Democrats have in common? The surprising answer is: A willingness to break up businesses simply because they are large, and to change American antitrust law, if necessary, to do it.

Two recent examples show this disposition of the Trump administration. The Justice Department is presently in court to stop AT&T from acquiring Time Warner, despite the fact that the two companies have only minimal direct competition with each other. The government’s theory is the unlikely one that AT&T will choose to suffer a huge drop in the viewership of the movies and networks (like CNN) that Time Warner owns simply to keep that content away from competitors like Comcast and Verizon. More likely, the Trump administration is simply against AT&T getting any larger.

Similarly, Trump has criticized Amazon for destroying small retailers, and for making use of the U.S. Postal Service, which taxpayers subsidize (though Amazon’s postal rates are the same as for everyone). Trump’s hostility to Amazon is in spite of the fact that consumers seem to like the services it provides, both as a means of selling other companies’ good, and in promoting its own. Indeed, Amazon’s critics cite its ability to keep its prices low as its greatest weapon against the online retailers with which it competes. In reality, its sin appears to be merely its size.

In 1973, the chairman of the Senate Antitrust Committee, Sen. Phil Hart, D-Michigan, proposed a “no-fault monopoly” law. His law had candor, if not economic logic, on its side. Rather than finding economic harm to consumers caused by a company’s size alone, Hart proposed to break up companies simply because they had enjoyed a large percentage of a market for 10 years. Views like Hart’s have been advanced from time to time over the history of America’s antitrust laws. One variant appears in a bill sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, to stop a merger unless companies prove the good it will do, rather than the current requirement that the government must prove the harm the merger would likely cause. Another recent example is the Senate Democrats’ bill proposed last year that mergers should be stopped that “reduce wages” or “cut jobs” even if those mergers helped consumers by lowering prices. …

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