Americans are scrambling, adapting, and persevering to celebrate Christmas and other holidays ten months into the pandemic. And the celebrations will go on because of American grit and technology, which will make this season safer and even more joyous.
Yet a growing chorus of politicians on the left and right, in Europe and America, has been bashing America’s pre-eminent technology companies – Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook. The companies have come under attack for various business practices, but the prescription and core messaging are the same: punish these companies and break them up through anti-trust lawsuits.
Many elected officials and powerful central bureaucrats do not like that these companies are big and successful. In fact, the companies have this stature because of the needs they have met and continue to meet.
If America did not have the services of our large technology companies, we would hear calls for the government to invest tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to provide the services they offer. And during the pandemic, those would have been “crash” programs.
Exhibit A is Amazon.
Imagine how many tens of thousands of people – and perhaps many more – would have become sick from COVID and died without home delivery of retail products, particularly now that the pandemic is raging in colder weather. Few activities today are as dangerous as shopping in a crowded indoor store at the mall.
And there is more. Exhausted healthcare workers can get needed rest by ordering products on-line, instead of spending hours searching for products in-person.
Small businesses facing hard times can reach a national audience through Amazon. One can see this practically every week on the popular television program Shark Tank, which rarely has an episode where a company does not discuss its success on Amazon or is not advised by a potential investor to be there.
Amazon has also created 400,000 jobs globally since the pandemic began – good paying, quality jobs.
In April 2019, CEO Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon’s entry level wage would be $15 an hour – and he challenged Walmart, Target, and Costco to do the same. Working full-time, or 2,000 hours a year, Amazon’s entry-level wage is $30,000, not far behind the U.S. median wage of $35,977. With overtime pay, which Amazon has raised during the pandemic because of its need for more help, first year Amazon workers can blow past the U.S. median wage.
Facebook has also provided important social benefits to America during the pandemic. Its platform has been widely used by faith institutions to offer livestream services as an alternative to in-person worship . Those who cannot attend places of worship due to health concerns can also view services remotely. And Facebook is still free.
The quality of Apple phones and other smart phones enables many people to work from home while children use other technology. Worries about a busy signal or someone else being on the phone are now largely in the past.
Google provides thousands of libraries at every computer user’s disposal, facilitating timely research and information. Its advertising platforms enable many small and medium businesses to reach prospective customers in targeted and efficient ways.
The benefits that Big Tech companies provide are also reflected in their dramatic run in the stock market, which have helped millions of investors. Indeed, the compelling benefits of tech companies have been tested and passed the crucible of the pandemic. They will continue to be important in the future.
Whatever their motivation in attacking tech companies, politicians should re-think their efforts and realize the potential catastrophe they could cause. At risk is the engine of America’s economy, which has propelled us through the pandemic.
Past antitrust government attacks against Microsoft and IBM had no legal basis and hobbled the companies while providing no benefits to the American people. Repeating that mistake today, when the stakes are much higher, is not a risk the U.S. economy – or the America people – should have to face.