Only in Washington D.C. would a record of failure and extreme recklessness translate to a 40 percent raise, especially as our nation hurtles toward a fiscal impasse and potential default. But that is precisely the request from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and its chair, Lina Khan.
Much like the Department of Transportation under Pete Buttigieg, Khan has turned an otherwise innocuous agency into a lightning rod for controversy. Most Americans would be hard-pressed to name past FTC chairs, and for good reason. Until recently, the agency had a reputation of working to uphold the laws established by Congress in a bipartisan fashion rather than impose its own political agenda. With a mandate of preventing unfair methods of competition, it was hardly headline-grabbing stuff.
Then Khan entered the picture, and everything changed. On her orders, the FTC has sent a chill to innovators and poured cold water on the economy writ large. One of her first actions was rolling back an Obama-era policy statement that limited FTC enforcement. Khan took steps to upend the “consumer welfare standard” that has served as the guiding principle for the FTC for the last four decades. Much like it sounds, the consumer welfare standard views actions of a business through the lens of impact on consumers. In Khan’s worldview, the FTC should take a “holistic approach” – a euphemism for more government intervention into the affairs of private sector companies.
In less than two years in office, Khan has attempted to impose her antitrust agenda by fiat, only to be rejected by both the legislative and judicial branch. She has driven out the last remaining Republican-appointee on the five-person commission, who called Khan’s tenure as one of “continuing lawlessness.” Employee morale has plummeted, from second to number 22 on the rankings of “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.”
These are just some of the consequences of appointing untested academics to the highest echelons of government bodies.
Khan has pressed on with her progressive antitrust agenda, despite it sputtering out elsewhere. In Congress, the most aggressive and destructive pieces of antitrust legislation, most notably the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, failed to move forward before the House changed hands. House Democrats’ top antitrust ideologue, U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI), is heading for the exits, and his caucus is struggling to find a replacement. On the Republican side, one of Khan’s few GOP allies, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), is still smarting from being passed over for the gavel of the antitrust subcommittee by Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, known for his skepticism over undue government regulation. Massie described his stance toward antitrust issues as not “in the direction that Lina Khan wants to take it.”
In the courts, a California district court dismissed Khan’s challenge of Meta's acquisition of Within Unlimited Inc., a virtual reality content maker, for lack of evidence. Khan ignored the recommendations of her staff in her rush to bring the case to court.
Khan has also been caught red-handed attempting to collude with European regulators’ efforts to impose regulations on American companies. At a time when our national economy is teetering on the brink, the incident offers a revealing insight into Khan’s priorities.
Christine Wilson, the last remaining Republican appointee on the five-person Commission, announced her resignation in spectacular fashion, stating that Khan's brazen attempts to remake federal antitrust law and general disregard for the Congressional rule of law had left her no option. Wilson added, "I have failed repeatedly to persuade Ms. Khan and her enablers to do the right thing, and I refuse to give their endeavor any further hint of legitimacy by remaining."
As the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) deserves credit for prioritizing FTC oversight. Last summer, Jordan sent Khan a letter raising questions about her purported reliance on private consultants for tasks that should have been completed by public employees. More recently he threatened to subpoena the FTC for failure to comply.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), also highlighted the disparity between Khan’s budget increase (from $430 to $590 billion) with her spotty record. At a recent hearing she stated, “Before I even entertain any additional funds or authority for the FTC first you need to convince us that the mission of protecting Americans isn’t taking a backseat to the Biden administration’s radical agenda.”
After the Internal Revenue Service received an $80 billion dollar bump in its “enforcement” services, Americans are rightly wary of overly empowered government agencies. Even if Khan does not get the four-fold budget increase she is seeking, Congress must keep their eye on her quest to impose her political agenda which shows no signs of slowing down.