WASHINGTON – At today’s Joint Economic Committee hearing titled “A Second Gilded Age: How Concentrated Corporate Power Undermines Shared Prosperity,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, delivered opening remarks emphasizing the need to restore competition to address economic inequality and provide opportunities to entrepreneurs and workers.
“I think we all know in our different ways that America has a monopoly problem,” Klobuchar said. “...Well, this is about monopolies. I truly appreciated the title of your hearing because this is something that has gone on since the Gilded Age and this could be well characterized, as you called it, as a second Gilded Age in this country. And I think the answers are right before us. There is a focus, and there should be, on some specific solutions.”
Senator Klobuchar: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and since I have the floor, I will now read all 600 pages of the book into the record. No, I will try to give a summary of my views here and I first want to thank you for having the foresight, for having this hearing. I want to thank my colleague, Senator Lee. We had a hearing yesterday in our Subcommittee together on what we can do about pharmaceutical prices and we’ve introduced a number of bills together, including one with Representative Buck and Cicilline to give state Attorneys General some more tools to use as we take on this major problem of monopolies.
I think we all know in our different ways that America has a monopoly problem. Whether you are a cattle producer trying to bring your beef to market, whether you are someone that’s trying to get a deal on online travel and suddenly find out that all the websites you go to, 90% of them are really owned by two companies, whether you are someone that is trying to get a fair price on a prescription drug, where we know we’ve seen such enormous price increases in America over the last two decades. And then finally, of course, if you’re someone that is trying to get the truth off of a social media platform or you are trying to protect your privacy and you wonder why there aren’t all these bells and whistles that would do that or why Google was able to, or Facebook, hold an entire country hostage, which is the country of Australia when they simply tried to charge for content and make sure that the news organizations were getting a fair deal.
Well, this is about monopolies. I truly appreciated the title of your hearing because this is something that has gone on since the Gilded Age and this could be well characterized, as you called it, as a second Gilded Age in this country. And I think the answers are right before us. There is a focus, and there should be, on some specific solutions. Senator Lee and I had an incredible hearing on app stores in which we actually had to push Apple to even get us a witness and we did and we had companies from Spotify to Match.com testify about how much they had to pay out just to use the app stores, which are pretty much today’s modern websites.
There are things we can do in that area. There are things we can do from patent thickening -- patent thickets, to the issues we have with pay-for-delay in pharma. There’s privacy legislation to be passed.
But then let’s go a step further. And I think we need an overhaul of our antitrust laws if you really want to get at all these things at once. Switching the burden for the big mega mergers, looking back into some very consolidated industries, not all industries, but the most consolidated ones where you have dominant players to figure out what needs to be done. Do some assets have to be divested? Do we have to put better bumpers in place on consent decrees and agreements?
And all of this, to me, leads to something that Senator Lee mentioned which is enforcement. And I don’t think that our agencies can take on the biggest companies the world has ever known with band-aids and duct tape. And that’s why Senator Grassley and I passed in the U.S. Senate our bill to change the merger fee structure which hasn’t happened in decades, which is now over in the House and I know has some good, strong bipartisan support, which without hurting any small companies or mergers in small companies, would actually bring in over $100 million because of the way we’ve changed the structure of this for the FTC and for the DOJ Antitrust Division.
So that’s number one. Number two is what I've already mentioned, the standard change. And number three is something that you’ve had the foresight to look at which is other things that can be done like allowing workers to go to another job if they want to go, very radical, with non-compete agreements only being used in circumstances that fit them, as opposed to frontline workers. Making sure that to me, immigration reform is a piece of this and making sure that we have the workers that we need when we’re facing a labor shortage. And then also looking at our STEM education and allowing new workers to go into the workforce.
I just bring up a few of those ideas, but there are many, many more. And I just want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this hearing and the Ranking Member. And I’m really excited and I think there are some really good things in the White House’s -- President Biden’s Executive Order. And if you don’t think he means business when he’s governing right now, he just came over to the Senate Caucus today and I think we all know he means business.
And secondly, the work that we can do here on a bipartisan basis in Congress. And I do want to say that I’ve gotten to know Representative Buck and, of course, Cicilline quite well and I really appreciate their bipartisan efforts over in your House of Representatives so thank you for allowing me to say a few words.
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