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Democrats Propose New Competition Laws That Would 'Break Up Big Companies If They're Hurting Consumers' (arstechnica.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate and House Democratic leaders today proposed new antitrust laws that could prevent many of the biggest mergers and break up monopolies in broadband and other industries. "Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care," US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. "We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they're hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition." The "Better Deal" unveiled by Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was described in several documents that can be found in an Axios story. The plan for "cracking down on corporate monopolies" lists five industries that Democrats say are in particular need of change, specifically airlines, cable and telecom, the beer industry, food, and eyeglasses. The Democrats' plan for lowering the cost of prescription drugs is detailed in a separate document. The Democrats didn't single out any internet providers that they want broken up, but they did say they want to stop AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner: "Consolidation in the telecommunications is not just between cable or phone providers; increasingly, large firms are trying to buy up content providers. Currently, AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner. If AT&T succeeds in this deal, it will have more power to restrict the content access of its 135 million wireless and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers. This will only enable the resulting behemoths to promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market."
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Democrats Propose New Competition Laws That Would 'Break Up Big Companies If They're Hurting Consumers'

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  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @05:52PM (#54870675) Homepage
    We already have anti-trust laws. The primary point of them is to break up companies that are too big, or to prevent the formation of companies that are too big. The solution is to enforce those laws seriously not to add more laws on top.
    • by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @06:03PM (#54870759)

      The primary point of anti-trust laws is not to break up companies, but seek remedies against companies when they violate the laws. If a company is deemed a monopoly, that could possibly be one of the remedies, but it's not the goal of anti-trust laws to break up companies because people "feel like" they are too big.

      I don't like AT&T. I don't like Comcast, either. But lately Comcast has been pushing HBO, trying to get subscribers to pony up for the premium channel, citing shows like the new season of Game of Thrones. HBO is a Time Warner property. They have also spent quite a bit promoting that you can watch Netflix on their X1 platform. Apparently, despite how much I dislike Comcast, they are not forcing their own (NBC Universal) content on me.

      Point being that large companies are actually capable of not violating anti-trust laws, and there's nothing inherently wrong with being enormous conglomerates until they actually start violating the law. I agree they simply need to be enforced, and like any effective deterrent, they need to be enforced swiftly and with commensurate punishments.

      • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @06:54PM (#54871129)

        > there's nothing inherently wrong with being enormous conglomerates until they actually start violating the law.

        That's a philosophical determination, not a factual claim. When talking about "the good", it's important to set a standard so that it might be measured and some sort of determination can be made. The common good in terms of retaining or growing economic power for the average individual of a population? or what? In practice, the concentration of wealth has shown to have a negative impact on all strata of economic systems for many definitions of common good. Even when redistribution occurs, it's usually applied in a regressive manner, so it's hard to say what the proper remedy would even look like.

        There is commensurate political power that comes with economic power, as with every economic system in history. This will never go anywhere for the political reason, not because politicians will come to their senses about some quasi-morality like "it's ok for the super-powerful super-wealthy organizations to be super wealthy".

      • The primary point of anti-trust laws is not to break up companies, but seek remedies against companies when they violate the laws....

        Well, that's one way to describe anti-trust law goals. A better one would be "to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers." [wikipedia.org] I hope everyone will admit that these mega-corps could really benefit from more competition [salon.com].

      • But lately Comcast has been pushing HBO, trying to get subscribers to pony up for the premium channel, citing shows like the new season of Game of Thrones.

        I can see their angle here. GOT is huge, and the bigger it is, the more people willing to pay to watch, the easier it is to buy cable. If you rope in a chord-cutter with HBO, and then get them paying for one or two more channels, bundle in some internet, and all of a sudden, customer is thinking why am I paying all these seperate bills that add up to close to regular cable anyway? And now there's a 6 month promotion where I'll actually save money. 6months later, 'ya, I need to cancel, but it's freaking

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        With a large conglomerate it's not a question of IF, it's a question of WHEN. And those companies can move slowly to remain undetected for a long time until they finally get discovered, but at that time they may have infiltrated the world so tight that they are hard to remove. Look at Facebook - you can hardly browse the web without getting Facebook cookies poured into your browser.

      • Point being that large companies are actually capable of not violating anti-trust laws

        I suppose after capturing lawmakers and regulators this could be a true statement.

        there's nothing inherently wrong with being enormous conglomerates until they actually start violating the law.

        It's not really about the law as it is but rather promoting structures that reinforce good behavior rather than betting against reality while incentivizing bad behavior. When you fail to do this you inevitably end up with Ajit Pai heading FCC, Scott Pruit at EPA and consumers with bills for telecom services that are multiples of what they cost in other countries with comparable standards of living.

        The primary point of anti-trust laws is not to break up companies, but seek remedies against companies when they violate the laws

        I agree they simply need to be enforced, and like any effective deterrent, they need to be enforced swiftly and with commensurate punishments.

        This is a fools errand. It

      • You did not address the very important clause of "hurting the customers".

        Importance of this clause is in its nebulousness: it can be used to crack down on the companies you do not like and it could be completely ignored.

        I hate laws like this. They plague every Western or wanna-be-Western "democratic" system like ... plague.

    • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @06:06PM (#54870771)

      The democrats are searching for a reason, any reason, no matter how crazy or ill-advised that will hopefully get people to the polls to vote for them. This is but a trial balloon to test the political winds aloft.

      They already know that the Anti-Trust laws exist, they don't care. They NEED a cause (other than bashing Trump or keeping Obamacare which is for their base) to recapture the middle. This is a good as any I suppose..

      I figure this trial won't gain much traction..

      • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @08:37PM (#54871635)

        Democrats: We had Whitehouse for 8 years, and now that we lost it, here are our ideas (that we're totally really committed to, not faking at all, honest).

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by skam240 ( 789197 )

          Much more like Democrats: We had control of congress for 2 years and passed Obama Care. The presidency is meaningless if the party in power in congress has a clearly stated goal of opposing everything the president supports.

          The Republicans can't even keep their own party in order long enough to repeal Obama Care under similar circumstances. Meanwhile more and more people are realizing that "hey, being poor shouldn't mean I should have to go massively in debt just because I'm unlucky enough to get sick".

      • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @09:04PM (#54871731)

        The democrats are searching for a reason, any reason, no matter how crazy or ill-advised that will hopefully get people to the polls to vote for them.

        Wait... wait... a political party... trying to get... people... to vote... FOR... THEM?

        HOLDTHEFUCKINGPHONEOMGWTFBBQIJUSTSHITMYPANTS!!!!!

        You've done it. I've soiled my pants and my heart has stopped and I ruptured my vocal cords screaming in shock at this upsetting insight. I'm literally dead and covered with feces. That's what the shock of what you just said has done to me. You need to introduce things slowly, you can't just drop "Political parties in democracies seek to get votes" on us like that.

        They NEED a cause (other than bashing Trump or keeping Obamacare which is for their base) to recapture the middle.

        No, Obamacare was for the middle. Single payer like the rest of the civilized world is for their base. "Lets make the US an actual fucking democracy where 1 citizen = 1 vote instead of 1 redneck vote = 100 city votes" is for their base.

        "How about we don't let huge corporations rule the country" maybe could be considered for the middle, but personally I think the average voter is far too stupid for that to catch on, so I'm almost more convinced it's just because it's a smart idea.

        We have antitrust laws right now, but that's like saying "We have antibiotics right now, what do we need to develop new ones for?" We need new antitrust laws because banks, telecoms, and media companies are still getting too big and powerful compared to real citizens.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <(evi) (at) (evcircuits.com)> on Monday July 24, 2017 @06:23PM (#54870881) Homepage

      The thing is that Democrats allowed these mergers they are decrying. Obama allowed not just one but two of the biggest mergers in media history and left office with a third one pretty much approved.

      The main reason this is happening is because Dems are finally noticing that they created this media mess that got Trump elected and most likely reelected. Now that it's no longer working in their favor must it be abolished. It's just a repeat of the Nixon administration and the Bell breakup.

      It's all just politics in the end.

    • The Dems know this (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @06:46PM (#54871073)
      the party is stacked with "Corporate Dems" like Chuck Schumer & the Clintons who are really just Republicans that think pot should be legal, immigration is fine and maybe we should leave the gays alone (but don't let 'em marry, that's icky).

      They're searching for an issue they can use to differentiate themselves from the Repubs. They can't do Medicare for All, College for All, End the Wars, real infrastructure bills (aka the "New New Deal") or even really end the war on drugs since their donors don't want any of that. So we get crap like this. Meanwhile they keep losing seats because what the hell's the point of voting for Republican Lite?

      The Bernie Democrats (a wing of which is calling themselves "Justice Democrats") is trying to kick 'em out of the party. If you want to see the country move to the left you need to join 'em and get voting in your primary.
      • by HanzoSpam ( 713251 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @07:26PM (#54871327)

        Maybe what we need is a law to break up the Democrats.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by s.petry ( 762400 )

        the party is stacked with "Corporate Dems" like Chuck Schumer & the Clintons who are really just Republicans that think pot should be legal, immigration is fine and maybe we should leave the gays alone (but don't let 'em marry, that's icky).

        Sorry, but that is backwards. "Progressives" are Democrats almost exclusively, and they have infiltrated the Republican party starting right around the Reagan era. You know, that guy with a R in front of his name? or maybe Eisenhower? We could go back further but I'd hate to embarrass you by showing you all of the "Progressives" who were Democrats. (It would also bring out all of the racists, segregationists, and Jim Crowe supporters. You don't want to go there.)

        The Bernie Democrats (a wing of which is calling themselves "Justice Democrats") is trying to kick 'em out of the party. If you want to see the country move to the left you need to join 'em and get voting in your primary.

        Yes please! The far Leftists has done

      • by Frank Burly ( 4247955 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @10:32PM (#54872017)

        the party is stacked with "Corporate Dems" like Chuck Schumer & the Clintons who are really just Republicans that think pot should be legal, immigration is fine and maybe we should leave the gays alone (but don't let 'em marry, that's icky).

        You grossly understate the difference between the parties, even while the party that controls all three branches of government plots (in actual secrecy) to strip healthcare from the poorest Americans to give tax cuts to the top 1%.

        Hillary's FCC would not be dismantling net neutrality and her Supreme Court nominees would not say that corporations are people, or that forced arbitration terms must be obeyed. And hawkish as she is, it is a safe bet Hillary wouldn't let generals kill as many civilians in 6 months as Obama did in two years.

        So if you wanted to see daylight between "corporate" Dems and Repubs there you have it.

        Hillary lost because did didn't make the 99% (or bottom 33%) feel that she felt their pain or their resentments. Hillary acknowledged that the Earth is flat for capital and practically parabolic for labor, but she didn't provide a clear and compelling solution so a critically located minority of voters opted for the guy who said he would bring coal back.

        Finally, Dems don't keep losing seats: Dems picked up 6 house seats and 2 Senate seats in 2016, and the special elections that Dems lost this year were all in Republican territory. In Georgia the winning Republican candidate said expressly "I do not support a livable wage"; I don't see how tacking left would have helped there.

        • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @09:59AM (#54874453)
          in the rust belt and because Trump ran on a populist message while she ran, well, without one. She couldn't say anything that would piss off her corporate donors so she had to shy away from anything better than "we'll take a few percentage points off your college loans and let you borrow more money, and oh yeah health premiums are gonna skyrocket about 20% less". That's not a message _anyone_ could get behind. It didn't help that she was for TPP until it became clear it would cost her the primary.

          Never mind the fact that the Dems should never has nominated somebody with 20 years bad press. But she could've weathered all that and won if she had just stopped being so damn arrogant and campaigned in the rust belt. She was off wasting time in Arizona while Trump's people were pounding the pavement in Ohio and Wisconsin. There's interviews with Dem party leaders in swing states talking about how they never once saw any of her people. When one of the key issues is that voters feel like their being forgotten and/or taken for granted and you're taking them for granted well, you're just out of touch.

          Hilary was everything everybody hates about the Democrats. Not just in theory but in actuality. She's the real thing. A genuine right wing democrat. And just as useless.
      • >but don't let 'em marry, that's icky

        That have been embraced almost universally now by both parties.

    • You mean it might be a bad idea to give politicians the power to break up companies over potentially vague, ill defined precepts like "hurting customers"? Shocking, shocking I tell you.

      Where were the anti-trust regulators when Comcast bought NBC? ...

      "We won't enforce the rules already on the books, but you should totally give us more regulatory power to use at our complete discretion. Also, just ignore the billions of dollars spent by lobbyists, we're totally immune from outside influence and have the litt

    • Regulations that were effective in the past is no longer so. Much of what used to protect the American people has been torn away over the last 40 years. And now we have the ruling Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which neither the Democrats or Republicans wish to address. The status quo is profitable for the current oligarchy, and DNC posturing that they'll break up the "big bad corporation" lacks teeth because multinational corporations can reorganize so quickly under the same set of shareho

      • Much of what used to protect the American people has been torn away over the last 40 years

        If by "protecting the American people", you mean the proto-fascist regulations from the progressive area and the WWII economy, guilty as charged and good riddance.

        there would be talk from the main-stream Democrats to deal with the Citizens United ruling

        The "corporation" in Citizens United was a non-profit making a political movie critical of Hillary. That's what we are talking about here: non-profit political orga

      • Re:Citizen's United (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @09:05PM (#54871735)

        Much of what used to protect the American people has been torn away over the last 40 years. And now we have the ruling Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which neither the Democrats or Republicans wish to address.

        You mean the decision that the First Amendment was important enough to allow people to exercise their right to political speech despite unconstitutional attempts to restrict it? A decision that protected the First Amendment is tearing away protections? Huh?

        Yes, those people happened to have formed a corporation, but by doing so they did not abdicate their First Amendment rights. And you might want to note that the same decision that said that the people forming the corporation called Citizens United had First Amendment rights said that people who form labor unions also do not give up their rights. It was a decision that took the venue of paid political speech away from exclusive control of the media and allowed the public to band together to pay for speech they would otherwise be unable to afford.

        I'd argue if the DNC was serious about going after corporate behavior that harms Americans, there would be talk from the main-stream Democrats to deal with the Citizens United ruling,

        Yeah, Democrats would get a lot of political mileage by angering the labor unions that spend a lot of money on political speech supporting Democrats, and by becoming the party that opposes the First Amendment rights of the people.

        but I really haven't seen anything but hot air.

        I've see a lot of hot air about CU vs. FEC, but I've also read the decision and know the truth. Trying to claim that CU hurts Americans is only one warm front amongst many.

      • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @10:41PM (#54872043) Homepage Journal

        The shills are out in full force tonight.

    • Both parties love to promise the world when they're in the minority, and then nothing gets done when they have the majority. The Republicans spent six years promising they had way better ideas than Obamacare. The American voters gave them control of Congress and the White House, now it's time to show their cards... and it looks like they have nothing.

      But don't be too hard on the Republicans. The Democrats are now playing the same game. They're going to fix broadband, and education, and Obamacare, an
    • ummm no, the primary goal of the anti-trust laws is to prevent companies from using their position of strength to exploit users or leverage themselves into other markets, it has noting to do with breaking up companies though that sometimes is a remedy sort during an anti trust trial.
  • by KGIII ( 973947 ) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Monday July 24, 2017 @05:52PM (#54870679) Journal

    I get that they want to put on a good show, but it's not like they actually have the votes to accomplish a damned thing without help from the other side of the aisle. I don't see Republicans actually supporting this idea. It just seems rather unlikely.

    • by Chas ( 5144 )

      The Democratic Party: Because We Want To Appear To Care More...

    • So long as large companies can buy their own senators it is useless to put laws in place that will get passed with semi-truck sized loop holes and with key provisions watered down to homeopathic levels. Unfortunately it is also futile to try to pass campaign finance reform while big corporations and billionaires control congress, as those laws will have loopholes and be toothless as well.

      I fear that basically we have lost control of our own governance at this point. We'll get to pick the color of the pain

      • I'm pretty sure you have lost control of your Government.
        It amazes me that a country the size of the US has only 2 serious political parties.
        Even the UK (which has first past the post electorates as well) managed to elect 9 different parties in the 2017 election.
        I understand the argument that the two US parties are "Big Tent" parties, I'm just not buying it.
    • I get that they want to put on a good show,

      What makes you so sure that it's only a show?

      but it's not like they actually have the votes to accomplish a damned thing without help from the other side of the aisle. I don't see Republicans actually supporting this idea.

      Here's the thing, people may change their vote at the next election based on what their representative won't support. Then they may get the power to actually pass the law.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I am kinda sure I should say sorry to you. That's not because you're right, it's because you're deluded.

        What did the last group do? What did they cement so that it can't be broken with ease?

        I am sorry that you felt obligated to respond with that. That's the best I can offer you. In my defense, I only get one vote.

        • What did the last group do?

          There's the ACA, which needs some fixes but is a step in the right direction.

          What did they cement so that it can't be broken with ease?

          Despite claiming they want to, Republicans cannot seem to undo it. "Who knew healthcare was so complicated? Nobody knew!"

    • I don't see Republicans actually supporting this idea.

      That's OK, just get them on the record as being opposed to it. Build a case. Republicans in Congress currently have a 20% approval rating (28% among Republican voters and 12% among Democratic voters). In January, they had a 50% approval rating among Republican voters. Tomorrow, after they vote (again) on a health care bill that no Republican member of Congresshas even seen yet, I expect that rating will go down again if the bill doesn't pass and do

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Umm...

        I'm pretty stoned. I'm not that stoned.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Amazon is making things cheaper and easier to obtain, but it is going to kill Mom and Pop stores. Is that "hurting consumers"?

    I feel like that definition solely depends on much those big companies donate to Democrats.

    • I feel like that definition solely depends on much those big companies donate to Democrats.

      EXACTLY THIS!

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @06:02PM (#54870751)
    Force Facebook to give up users to Google+ and MySpace. Maybe even bring back Friendster.
  • What will Pelosi's corporate masters think? They might break up the DNC in retaliation.

  • funny (Score:5, Insightful)

    by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @06:55PM (#54871139) Journal
    Industries missing from the list:
    • -- Entertainment companies.
    • -- State Bar associations (private organizations controlling access to law licenses!!! which act as gateways to petitioning the government!!!)

    In other words, we'll make life difficult for the companies which haven't paid us off, but will leave you alone if you are a big Democratic donors.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Monday July 24, 2017 @07:34PM (#54871363)

    On one hand, the companies this would be targeting are big enough to hold either de facto or explicit monopoly power, which isn't good for competition. On the other, in this new zero-slack, tiny-margin economy that looks like it's upon us, large companies would be the only ones making enough profit to pay their employees well.

    I was just reading this article [msn.com] 2 minutes before reading the linked article. Companies that are being squeezed to the point where they can't make any more money are certainly not going to make life easier for their employees. If you optimize the system 100% and remove all inefficiencies, you could have a situation where nobody can provide enough value to sell their labor anymore. I know that sounds very Luddite-y, but IMO we're at the point where the vast majority of people can't simply move up the job ladder to the next better position when theirs is eliminated. There are too many people employed in middleman positions who will no longer have work, nor have any way to get new work.

    Sure, no one wants monopolies with unlimited pricing power. But should the alternative be a hyper-efficient world where no one of average skill and intelligence can find work?

  • The Federal Government is too big! So, we need to break it up. Tim S.
  • Well, there goes my business plan for a BDSM dungeon.

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