Congress has legitimate, huge issues on its plate this lame duck session.
Addressing the so-called big tech and anti-trust issues of the day, such as the order by which Amazon lists its low-priced offerings and the type of competition the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) should face, are unnecessary and dangerous distractions.
The major issues that should be addressed include government funding, which is set to expire December 3. A potential crippling national rail strike looms which might merit Congressional intervention. Events in Ukraine and China, among other places, may also require lawmakers’ attention. And the fentanyl crisis continues to ravage America.
And yet, some are intent with using limited Congressional time to advocate for inconsequential and discredited legislation that goes after “Big Tech.”
At the top of the legislative wish list is the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, albeit with next to zero due diligence. Introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the measure is a bipartisan effort to mess with the free market.
AICOA would penalize large information technology companies, those with market capitalizations of more than $550 billion, if they use their online platforms to advantage their products. So, while Walmart, Target, and large foreign merchants like Alibaba can stay the course, America’s four biggest tech companies – Amazon, Apple, Google (Alphabet), and Microsoft – would face restrictions.
AICOA is also missing something big: actual market victims of Big Tech. Savvy consumers know that if the best deal does not appear in the first page of search results, which it often does, spending a few seconds to scroll through other pages will often lead to a great deal.
And while some businesses have come forward petitioning for the legislation, many others have found creative ways to work with Big Tech companies, resulting in a win-win-win for them, the tech companies, and most importantly American consumers. That is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is opposed to AICOA, and many other small business associations take a similar stand.
One sign of the legislation’s absurdity is that it so longer applies to one of its intended targets: Facebook, or Meta. Its market cap has plummeted since the legislation was introduced and is now under $300 billion, nearly 50 percent below the legislation’s threshold.
Facebook offers clear and compelling evidence that big tech companies face competition in heated market environments. There is no need for Members of Congress to try and manage that any more than there is for them to try and regulate Facebook’s video development plans pertaining to the Metaverse.
The Biden Administration, meanwhile, is desperate to try and score an anti-trust and anti-Big Tech win. On October 18, The Wall Street Journal took the Biden Justice Department to task for its long losing streak on antitrust suits calling it “a worse season than the Washington Nationals.”
So rabid has the Department of Justice been that it has launched an antitrust inquiry into men’s professional golf because of the emergence of a Saudi-backed league. The United States Golf Association, Augusta National Golf Club, and the PGA of America now are somehow a threat to the U.S. economy.
Talk about being out of touch!
Furthermore, America’s Big Tech companies have contributed mightily to keeping inflation in check. Many of their services, including Google searches and Facebook use, are free. Tech companies also bring new entrants to markets while inherently adding reach and transparency.
America does not need Big Tech legislation from Congress. It needs Congress to focus on bigger things, stand down on this issue, and to exercise common sense.