Klobuchar Says ‘Small But Mighty’ Group Is Out to Bust Trusts
(Bloomberg) -- Senator Amy Klobuchar presented a bullish case for revamping antitrust enforcement in the U.S., citing bipartisan determination to address competition across the economy.
She said there is a “small but mighty group that works on this, both Democrats and Republicans,” committed to pushing the best antitrust proposals through Congress.
Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate antitrust subcommittee, spoke in a Bloomberg TV interview as a House committee slogged through day two of a marathon session to approve a series of bills that seek to rein in Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and possibly Microsoft Corp.
The Minnesota Democrat praised her House counterpart, Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline, whose bill to prevent a handful of large tech companies from favoring their own products moved out of committee shortly before dawn on Thursday.
Asked if the Senate will act on the House bills, including Cicilline’s, as well as other measures that tech companies have warned would destroy services consumers enjoy, Klobuchar said “we’re looking at all of these.”
“I think you will see companion bills,” Klobuchar said. “They may not be identical, but very similar.”
Klobuchar introduced her own sweeping proposal in February that would update current antitrust statutes to make it easier for enforcers to bring and win cases. Her measure seeks to address anticompetitive behavior more broadly, not just in tech, and she has said she’s willing to break the bill into smaller pieces that have a better chance to become law.
Klobuchar said that she appreciates successful U.S. companies that create popular products and employ lots of Americans, but she noted that “at some point, if there’s no competition, these companies are allowed to become these monopolistic, dominant providers,” that act as gatekeepers to shut out or disadvantage new entrants.
“I love capitalism,” Klobuchar said. “But I always believe you need to put some guards around it when it comes to ensuring capitalism works.”
Klobuchar, whose book “Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age” was released earlier this year, said Congress should change the standards for looking at future mergers and antitrust enforcers should take a renewed look at past deals, like Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp and Instagram.
“Yes, break up and divestiture of some assets should always be on the table,” Klobuchar said, speaking generally.
The senator, who sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, also pointed to how concentrated economic power turns into political power, which she described as a “bad synergy.” Asked about a ProPublica report that investor Peter Thiel used a tax-free account to amass $5 billion, Klobuchar described that as one of many distortions in the tax code that have exacerbated inequality in recent decades.
“You’ve got outrageous situations with carried interest and with other parts of the tax code that have allowed the wealthy to get wealthier,” Klobuchar said. “You lose respect for the government when you’re an average citizen out there, a taxpayer, and we don’t want that breakdown of trust.”
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