During the first half of an oversight hearing in the House Judiciary Committee today, a bipartisan set of congressmembers voiced their support for Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, and the FTC’s work to protect working families and honest businesses. In response, the American Economic Liberties Project released the following statement.
“I want to thank Jim Jordan for holding a hearing showing that he’s in the minority in Congress on taking on monopolies,” said Faiz Shakir, Interim Executive Director of the American Economic Liberties Project. “Today’s hearing instead showed that there’s a strong bipartisan majority that stands with the bold and necessary direction being charted by Chair Lina Khan. Contrary to Jordan’s assertion this morning that tech mergers are ‘good,’ it was especially heartening to see so many of his colleagues recognize the threat that consolidated digital markets pose to our economy, privacy, and the very core of our democracy.”
While the hearing was billed as a chance for Rep. Jim Jordan to attack Chair Lina Khan, instead we saw a majority of the committee emphatically endorse the FTC’s work — from reining in drug pricing middlemen, empowering independent grocers and small businesses, banning restrictive noncompete agreements, and more — to protect consumers and fair competition. There is a clear consensus that consolidation issues across the American economy are hurting consumers, workers, and small businesses, and that the FTC should be empowered to address them.
“You have done what few before you have dared to do.” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) speaking to Chair Khan’s enforcement of our antitrust laws. “Few before you have had the courage to take on big corporations that use their endless lobbying money to hurt Americans with more fees, less transparency, and higher costs. You’re taking on Big Tech and the monopoly powers that allow them to use our data and snuff out small business competitors.”
“Do you know how much it costs to buy Congress? Well Big Tech does,” said Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), speaking to Big Tech’s efforts to block legislation that would empower antitrust enforcers. “They spent $250 million against the bills that passed out of this committee last Congress…You’re well aware of the need to update the antitrust laws concerning the new economy that we are facing.”
“Thank you for the refreshing and aggressive approach you’re taking to ensure competition. In my view, we have reached a dangerous point in this country where there has been a tremendous amount of concentration of corporate power at the expense of working families…I want to ask you in particular about consolidation across the large grocery chains,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaking to the harms of recent mergers in the grocery space. “This has the potential of not only an adverse effect on price, but also an adverse impact in the form of job losses, creation of food deserts and communities.”
Speaking to the many abuses of data and consumer privacy violations revealed in recent FTC lawsuit filed against Amazon’s Ring doorbell, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said, “What is happening at Ring?! I thought that when people got Ring, it was to enhance their personal security. Not to have their 87 year old relative be sexually propositioned, their children to be slurred at, and then be told that they were going to be killed if they didn’t pay Bitcoin ransom. So thank you for that effort.”
“A robust antitrust framework supports small businesses by helping to ensure that they are not intimidated into conciliation and empowers the American people by allowing them freedom of choice in the marketplace. A robust antitrust framework strengthens American workers against monopolistic workers to lower their wages and limit their benefits,” said Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), applauding Chair Khan’s leadership. Thank you so much for being here at the helm of the FTC. You have actually been a champion of enforcing America’s antitrust and competition laws for years — and America’s economy is much stronger for it.”
“One of the things I’ve been contacted about is that small independent grocers feel like there are monopolistic practices being used against them.” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY). “What have you found and are you going to be able to help these folks complaining that they can’t get products, or that there’s discriminatory pricing?”
“Pharmacy benefit managers have the power to raise prices and are part of the reason that consumers pay 20% more for generic drugs,” Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) explained as she discussed the FTC’s efforts to investigate drug pricing middlemen. “On behalf of consumers and seniors and kids out there, thank you for your work and the work of your entire team.”
“Given that the three large PBMs currently control 80% of the market, I’m interested in how consolidation within the PBM industry affects patient access and costs,” said Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC). “In addition to PBM consolidation, the largest drug plan sponsors also own their own PBMs. So we’re seeing a great deal of vertical integration as well…We know that patients don’t see a lot of PBMs discounts at the pharmacy counter.”
Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) discussed the dangers of robocalls and urged collaboration with the agency to address them. “They are sophisticated, they’re scary, people are getting in trouble because of them. In everything from social security to buying timeshares, it is a really big problem…I would love to work whomever to do something about that issue.”
“We’re also seeing this troubling national trend in which private equity firms have embarked on a buying spree to scoop up smaller healthcare groups,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) in reference to how broader healthcare and hospital consolidation hurts patients. “We’re really concerned about this trend of reducing access to healthcare and then raising prices.”
“Let me be clear, there is nothing unethical about standing up for workers, consumers, and small businesses,” said Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO). “But what’s unethical is being apologists for the corporate greed fleecing our communities. What’s unethical is claiming to care about workers and then selling them out. That’s the real ethics scandal here…The bottom line is corporate monopolies are a recipe for social destruction.”
For a full list of the FTC’s accomplishments under the leadership of Chair Khan, learn more here.
Learn more about Economic Liberties here.
The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.