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What the United States is Doing Against Corporate Power

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Status: 07/01/2022 4:42 p.m.

In the United States, too, the power of individual companies is growing. Dismantling monopolies has a long tradition in the United States. But it is not easy for politicians to create more competition – for example in the oil market.

By Katrin Brand, ARD Studio Washington

The American president has something against monopolies. “Let me be very clear,” Joe Biden said last summer: “Capitalism without competition is not capitalism, it is exploitation.” That said, he signed an executive order to encourage competition in the US economy.

Concentration in the United States has been increasing for decades. According to the White House, in more than 75% of American industries, fewer large companies now control more of the activity than 20 years ago. This applies above all to health, the financial sector and agriculture.

Excessive prices due to concentration

Jack Beatty, radio journalist and author, can think of even more examples: “In 1977, four meat processing plants controlled 25% of the market; today they control 85%.

Excessively high prices may be one consequence of monopolization, while shortages are another. Customers in the United States felt it in recent weeks: there was a shortage of baby food and tampons were also in short supply. “People ask, ‘Why are we running out of supplies?'” Beatty says. “It’s not just about China. It’s also about the fact that we have fewer and fewer manufacturers because of this concentration.”

Dismantling monopolies has a long tradition in the United States. The first “antitrust” law was the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. It was amended by other laws, with the competition authority FTC and the Department of Justice overseeing the whole thing.

Little movement since the Microsoft case

The first major case was the break-up of the Standard Oil refinery in 1911 into 34 individual companies. AT&T was big business in the 1970s and 1980s, Microsoft had to split up in the 1990s. Not much has happened since then.

But now Republicans and Democrats are trying to break the power of big digital corporations. An anti-discrimination bill, for example, targets companies that prioritize their own businesses on their platforms.

“We think that creates a real conflict of interest. They have the incentive and the opportunity to favor their own products and make it very difficult for a smaller competitor to attract customers,” said Charlotte Slaiman of the lobby group recently. Public Knowledge during a round table.

A new cartel guard will scrutinize the oil industry

Another push is trying to keep the market open for apps. There is cross-party support for this.

The Biden administration, in turn, wants Lina Khan, the new head of the FTC, to tackle the oil market. High prices at the pump are bad for the president and his polls. To do this, it would be necessary to prove to the oil companies that they indeed agreed on the prices. And that’s rather unlikely.

How far the US government will go with its efforts is entirely open. The next election could change everything, Republicans are much less interested in setting limits on entrepreneurs. Because President Coolidge’s old adage “America’s business is business” still applies – America’s business is business.

Monopolies are bad for democracy

Katrin Brand, ARD Washington, July 1, 2022 2:27 p.m.

Source www.tagesschau.de

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