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Opinion: Biden administration takes an overdue first step to foster competition and help consumers

The Washington Post | Bill Baer | Jul 10, 2021

competition is natural - Opinion: Biden administration takes an overdue first step to foster competition and help consumers

Bill Baer served as the assistant attorney general for antitrust under President Barack Obama and the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition under President Bill Clinton. He is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.

When the president talks about competition — as he did in Friday’s executive order — most people think about the antitrust lawsuits brought against Google and Facebook by the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and many state attorneys general. Those challenges to dominant tech platforms take us in a good direction. The Justice Department and the FTC have ample power to challenge anticompetitive mergers and behaviors in the tech sector and more traditional markets.

See:  Biden Administration Issues Executive Order “Promoting Competition” Including Consumer Data Ownership and Banking.

But litigation takes a long time to produce uncertain results. There are many other tools in the competition toolbox. President Biden is right to issue an executive order making sure we use them all to benefit consumers and small business.

Why should a minimum wage retail worker be restricted from working for a competitor where she could earn a higher wage? The Federal Trade Commission should adopt a rule banning these ridiculous non-compete clauses that inhibit worker mobility. Why can’t we stimulate airline fare competition by providing low-cost foreign and domestic airlines better access to U.S. markets? The Transportation Department has the authority to do just that — and much more, such as requiring full disclosure of hidden baggage and cancellation fees when we book a flight.

Why do those of us living in rural or small-town America have only one costly option for Internet service? The FCC can ensure we have alternatives. Railroads often provide farmers with the only way to get goods to market. How is it that so many railroads face no competition on their routes? The little-known Surface Transportation Board has the authority to prevent the kind of price gouging by railroads that cheat farmers of a fair price. Why, until just this last May, were the hard of hearing not allowed to buy hearing aids online or at a pharmacy without a prescription? Because the Trump FDA refused to use its authority to allow the devices to be sold over the counter.

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The list goes on. Though we live in an age of innovation and venture capital for start-ups has never been more plentiful, key sectors of our economy remain uncompetitive. Without competition, companies can charge consumers more and pay workers less. The federal government has considerable, largely underused power to ensure that we as consumers and workers benefit from competitive markets. And that is what Biden’s executive order on competition seeks to achieve. It identifies some 72 initiatives that federal agencies with authority over banking, agriculture, transportation, shipping and health care, to name just a few, can take to further free market competition, help workers and consumers thrive, and make our lives better.

The Biden initiative, as you might expect, faces opposition. Monopolists won’t easily surrender their profits. But the sad reality of the United States’ free enterprise system is that in far too many sectors, competition has declined or disappeared, and private firms are often free to act like unregulated utilities. They enjoy all the benefits of state-sanctioned enterprises and none of the government oversight.


NCFA Jan 2018 resize - Opinion: Biden administration takes an overdue first step to foster competition and help consumers The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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