Myth-Busting the Big Tech “Tassled-Loafer Lobbyists”
Last week, we wrote about why Republicans must rethink antitrust when it comes to Big Tech’s market power, arguing: “The only way to tackle this market power is through antitrust. The time to act is now.”
Indeed, a free market requires a functioning market. And when (woke) trillion-dollar Big Tech monopolists -- Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple -- use their market power to cancel conservatives and crush competition, we no longer have a free market. We can fix this problem by targeting these Big Tech tumors on the free market and enforcing (and updating, when necessary) our century-old antitrust laws. Republicans support law enforcement; we don’t support antitrust amnesty.
This week, the time for action has arrived. Last Friday, the House Judiciary Committee introduced five antitrust bills aimed squarely at Big Tech. Significantly, all five bills are bipartisan. Led by Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO), we saw Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Lance Gooden (R-TX), Burgess Owens (R-UT), Chip Roy (R-TX), and Victoria Spartz (R-IN) step to the plate and co-sponsor one or more of the five bills.
Hopefully, their courage is contagious -- and other Republicans will sign onto these five important pieces of legislation as they make their way to House floor votes. For this to happen, however, we will need to see true leadership from the top of the Republican leadership. Otherwise, the repeated calls from Republican leaders in the House to “break up Big Tech” because “Big Tech is out to get conservatives” will become shallow talking points and empty rhetoric.
Last Friday brought one thing home to us: Big Tech is furious that Republicans are working across the aisle to tackle their market power. Big Tech is rolling out an aggressive misinformation campaign around what the new antitrust bills would actually do. (And we all know how adept they are at spreading misinformation when it suits their business models.) They will stop at nothing to scare Republicans back into the Chamber of Commerce antitrust box into which we were squeezed years ago. They want to erase the Trump legacy that is gradually pulling us out of that stifling policy framework.
The saddest part of this story is that Big Tech is rolling out this misinformation campaign through what Congressman Cawthorn so memorably calls their “tasseled-loafer lobbyists,” all of whom claim to be Republicans while at the same time taking a fat paycheck from some of the wokest, most aggressively progressive companies in the world that are canceling conservatives and crushing small businesses. Our simple message to these Republicans is this: you can have your tasseled loafers and your fat paycheck from Big Tech; or you can have the movement to save the Republican Party from Big Tech; but you can’t have both. If you want the Big Tech paycheck, you must accept that you work for companies that deplatformed President Trump and Parler inside a week just this year. And they censored one of the oldest newspapers in America -- the New York Post -- to help swing the election for President Biden. It’s (past) time to pick a team.
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Below is a list of arguments made by the Big Tech tasseled-loafer (misinformation) brigade over the past few days. We respond directly to each argument and encourage House Republicans to do the same. The effort to right the ship when it comes to Big Tech and antitrust was never going to be easy and the tasseled loafer’s campaign will proliferate the more panicked they get. It is very important for Republican members and their staff to avoid falling for this misinformation as the antitrust bills work their way through the House. We plan on using this substack to myth-bust the misinformation as the process evolves, starting with the list below.
Myth #1: the bills could go beyond Big Tech
The Big Tech tasseled loafers would have us think that the Big Tech antitrust bills will create “unforeseen consequences” for the rest of the economy and should therefore receive no Republican support. This is a fallacy. The bills are narrowly tailored and would cover the Big Tech bad actors alone. For starters, the bills cover platforms with a market cap over $600 billion. The platform must also have at least 50-million monthly active U.S. users. There are many platforms that would love to have a $600-billion market cap, but only a few actually do. The drafters even adjusted this number for inflation, which is a smart move in this (Biden) inflationary economy.
Myth #2: the bills will grow the federal government
Big Tech lobbyists will tell you that Republicans should stay off the Big Tech bills because they grow the federal government. They’re even throwing around terms like “regulation” and “central planning.”
Setting aside the fact that Republicans have been growing the federal government for years now (DHS, anyone?), these antitrust bills rely on existing human resources to enforce their provisions. One of the bills would increase antitrust filing fees for mega-mergers, but the agencies will need these fees to support ongoing Big Tech litigation, not to grow headcount. It is also important to remember that the two federal antitrust law-enforcement agencies—the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division—are not exactly behemoth agencies. The FTC’s total headcount is around 1,100 and its total budget is around $300 million. (That’s tiny, in Swamp terms.) It is using these resources to go up against trillion-dollar Big Tech monopolists in very expensive, complex litigation.
Second, these bills do not create vast regulations or facilitate central planning. Both the FTC and the Antitrust Division are law-enforcement agencies, not regulatory agencies. The Big Tech monopolists welcome regulation, as they serve as entry barriers to startup competitors. Antitrust law enforcement is the opposite of regulation. It targets the anticompetitive bad actors -- Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple -- so we don’t need to punish everyone with regulations for their bad acts.
This is a really important distinction for Republicans. While we may have legitimate concerns about regulation, since when have we been against increased funding for law enforcement? We are not the party that wants to defund the police. Quite the opposite.
Myth #3: the bills will empower the State AGs
Big Tech lobbyists will tell you that the bills will empower state attorneys general and that can only be a bad thing. In truth, the state attorneys general, many of whom are Republican, are already deeply concerned about Big Tech’s anticompetitive conduct. In fact, the states have been sounding the alarm on Big Tech for years now. The (Republican) Texas Attorney General is suing Google under the antitrust laws. Several other Republican AGs are suing Google in a separate, bipartisan lawsuit led by Colorado. Other Republican AGs are suing Facebook in the DC district court. In sum, over 20 Republican AGs are suing Big Tech for antitrust violations. These Republican AGs are working alongside Democrats in these lawsuits because they share a common interest in taking on Big Tech’s market power and conservative bias. They share this concern with a growing number of Red State governors, including Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida who recently introduced legislation curbing Big Tech’s conservative bias. Ironically, the Big Tech tasseled loafers are busy suing Governor DeSantis to invalidate this legislation as we write. Like we said, it’s time to pick a team.
Myth #4: the bills will enable social media bias against conservatives
This myth is probably our favorite. Without evidence, some of the Big Tech tassled loafers would have you believe that the antitrust bills may (somehow) facilitate conservative bias by giving the Biden FTC power over political speech. They have yet to articulate exactly how this would work in reality, but let’s deal with this now before their spin gets out of control. You see, as much as Republicans might want the FTC to take a stand against conservative bias (President Trump certainly did), the FTC has disowned even having jurisdiction over political speech, which presumably includes conservative speech. At a hearing last August, then-FTC Chairman Joe Simons (Trump’s pick) disowned the conservative-bias issue. Significantly, he received support from the current (Democrat) acting FTC Chair, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter (Schumer’s pick), who has publicly stated “we are not the speech police” in response to a question on the issue of conservative bias. This statement alone should be enough to put this myth to bed, but let us know if you hear otherwise from the tassled loafers.
Myth #5: the bills are (somehow) “European”
The interesting thing about this myth is that there is nothing more American than antitrust. We literally invented antitrust. Further, as we explained in our last post, Republicans were at the birth. Senator Sherman from Ohio gave his name to antitrust’s founding statute, the Sherman Act. President Benjamin Harrison signed the Sherman Act into law. It is Europeans who borrowed antitrust from us, not the other way around. We like antitrust precisely because it is not European-style regulation. It protects the free market from bad actors like the Big Tech monopolists -- Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple -- through targeted law enforcement. It does so using a (law-enforcement) scalpel, not a (regulatory) sledgehammer. In doing so, it frees innovative competition from startups and small businesses that would otherwise be crushed by monopolists. Ironically, it was the Justice Department’s antitrust litigation against Microsoft back in the day that freed competition from then scrappy start-ups like Google. Today’s Google and its tassled-loafer lobbyists have long since forgotten the important role U.S. antitrust law enforcement played in the company’s success, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should. We should stand behind antitrust law enforcement as the most American of our economic policies.
Myth #6: the bills would undermine privacy and cyber security
The Big Tech tassled loafers would have you think that the data-portability legislation would (somehow) undermine consumer privacy or cyber security because the bill requires pro-competitive data-sharing between platforms. Don’t believe the hype. Under the bill, the whole process would be overseen by one of the world’s leading consumer-protection enforcement agencies, the FTC. Why on earth would a consumer-protection agency want to undermine consumer privacy? On the other hand, Big Tech platforms are among the biggest privacy violators known to mankind. Not only that, several Big Tech platforms have a storied (to put it kindly) track record when it comes to undermining our nation’s cyber security and election integrity.