WASHINGTON - At a Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing titled, “Oversight of Federal Enforcement of the Antitrust Laws,” U.S Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee, highlighted the need for vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws to boost competition and benefit consumers and entrepreneurs. The hearing featured testimony from Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan and the Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division Jonathan Kanter.
“It's painfully obvious to me and to many other people that we have competition issues throughout our economy…Competition provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to start and grow new businesses, fueling economic growth. But if you look at our markets today, there are big cracks in the free market foundation,” said Klobuchar.
“It's clear that there are places where we need new laws, but in many cases what we need is funding to make sure the antitrust agencies can enforce laws already in the books,” Klobuchar continued. “We want to make sure that our existing laws are being enforced, that anticompetitive mergers are stopped, that competitors aren't agreeing on prices, and that companies with market power aren't abusing it…Millions of consumers depend on [these] efforts to ensure that the economy is sufficiently vibrant to keep prices low, quality high, and innovation strong.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar: I call this hearing to order and it’s a hearing of the Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights on the oversight of federal enforcement of the antitrust laws. Senator Lee and I have long presided over this subcommittee together. And once again, antitrust is an area of bipartisan cooperation. I know we've had hearings with the former administration, the Trump administration's head of the FTC and your former head of the DOJ Antitrust, Makan Delrahim. And I hope that our bipartisan goodwill will continue.
I want to thank everyone here today. I know there's many interested parties, and we also thank the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. I believe the chair will also be with us today, but Senator Grassley is here. It's painfully obvious to me and to many other people that we have competition issues throughout our economy. And what sometimes is unclear is how it impacts all Americans every single day. It is competition that is the great part of capitalism. It drives down prices for consumers. It pushes manufacturers to innovate and improve their products and forces companies to pay fair wages to compete for workers. Competition provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to start and grow new businesses, fueling economic growth. But if you look at our markets today, there are big cracks in the free market foundation. Now there's still very many areas of our economy where there is competition, but in a number of areas, we're seeing bigger businesses and fewer competitors and more dominant companies using their market power to suppress their rivals and line their own pockets.
In over 75 percent of our industries, ranging from agriculture to pharmaceuticals to tech, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did 20 years ago. This is raising prices for Americans. The lack of competition is estimated to cost the median American household $5,000 per year. This is not the first time our nation has faced a competition problem. Our nation's fight for competitive markets goes back to the American colonists, who fled England seeking religious freedom, political freedom and yes, economic freedom from overbearing monopolies. It was these colonists who dumped all that tea into the Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773. They did this not only to send a message that they wouldn't support taxation without representation, but also to show that they wouldn't be forced to buy tea from a bloated monopoly like the East India Company, which could drive colonial tea market merchants out of business. Because to quote Adam Smith, the so-called godfather of our capitalist system, “the invisible hand of competitive entrepreneurship is the key to a strong economy.” But only in his words, if we have a government that takes on the “overgrown standing of monopolists.”
I'm quoting people well from the past, Senator Lee, a student of history himself. Consider this one from Senator John Sherman, a Republican from Ohio, Sherman of the Sherman Act, who famously said “if we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale of any of the necessaries of life.” So that's why this has always been a bipartisan issue. American prosperity stands on a foundation of open markets and fair competition. We know that government can protect the economy, consumers and entrepreneurs by making sure that we have a check on what Adam Smith called the “standing army, the overgrown army of monopolies.”
Updating our antitrust laws is a bipartisan goal that we have talked about for years. We've held a number of hearings on how antitrust issues affect industry across our economy, both in the Senate and the House. We have one bill, Senator Lee's bill and I'm the lead Democrat on the bill, about making sure our state attorney generals are able to keep their venue, that is currently sitting over in the House. We have another bill, Senator Grassley and I have passed through the Senate as part of another bill, to finally update the merger fee, something he's wanted to do for a while, which would help our agencies. Senator Cotton and I have a bill. We have numerous bills on competition and especially in this area of tech for which we have not passed a competition bill since the advent of the industry.
So while today we're going to be focusing on oversight of our antitrust agencies, I think it is very important for both parties to also turn the mirror back on ourselves in Congress and do more than just talk. It is time to legislate and get these bills done.
We have many, many opportunities to create some common sense rules of the road to make sure that entrepreneurs and small businesses can compete on a level playing field and also to give those that appear before us today more tools to do their job in a modern economy.
Of course, our country's competition problems go beyond our digital markets - just ask anyone who has ever had to choose between filling a prescription and filling their refrigerator. That's why a number of us have worked together on prescription drug market issues, including Senator Blumenthal and Cornyn. And a number of us on this subcommittee are looking at broad changes to our antitrust laws, as well. It's clear that there are places where we need new laws, but in many cases what we need, as I noted, is funding to make sure the antitrust agencies can enforce laws already in the books. I'm thinking of the case, that was actually the cases, started during the Trump administration. The FTC taking on Facebook, under your predecessor, Ms. Khan, and under your predecessor, Mr. Kanter, to take on Google. And I think about that because those are huge cases against some of the biggest companies the world has ever known. And you can’t take them on with duct tapes and band-aids, you actually have to have the resources, to have the lawyers to do it. While you are looking at all these other rampant number of mergers and other things that are going on across our country.
We want to make sure that our existing laws are being enforced, that anticompetitive mergers are stopped, that competitors aren't agreeing on prices, and that companies with market powers aren't abusing it. I think there's basically bipartisan support for that, even though there may be differences on the means. That is why oversight of the antitrust agencies is a key function of this committee.
Millions of consumers depend on your efforts to ensure that the economy is sufficiently vibrant to keep prices low, quality high, and innovation strong. Before I turn it over to Ranking Member Lee, my office received a statement from FTC Commissioners Wilson and Phillips which I would also like to add to the record unless anyone objects.