The Federal Trade Commission, with a majority of Trump appointees, has just launched a full-scale investigation of abuse of monopoly power by the tech platform giants—Google, Amazon, Facebook et al. The inquiry will focus on more than 400 strategic acquisitions over a decade, which big tech companies have used to cement their monopoly stranglehold, such as Facebook’s purchase of competitors Instagram and WhatsApp.
This perversion of market power was already flagrant during the Obama years, but the FTC—with a majority of Democratic appointees—did nothing. Call me cynical, but did this lapse have something to do with the fact that Silicon Valley, liberal on social issues, reactionary on economic ones, tends to support Democrats?
And is Trump’s FTC playing against type for the flipside of the same reason? A Trump nemesis is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who also publishes The Washington Post. Break the bastard’s rice bowl.
And speaking of rice bowls (pardon the stereotype), Trump has also been eating the lunch of corporate Democrats on the trade issue. While the trade agenda of Clinton and Obama was a pure corporate wish list, Trump managed to make China an issue. Though the China trade deal gets at none of the underlying issues in China’s system of state subsidies, China agrees to buy more American stuff and Trump still gains bragging rights.
And on the NAFTA renegotiation, Trump (or rather his top trade negotiator, Bob Lighthizer, prodded by Democrats) managed the very real achievement of getting rid of the “investor-state” provision, which allows corporations to sue for damages in special, extra-judicial private panels, if they contend that health, safety, financial, or environmental regulations in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, have cost them profits. So far, governments under this provision have paid a half-billion dollars in damages. That’s now mercifully gone.
So when Trump on the campaign trail goes after a few high-profile corporate outsourcers, and claims NAFTA and the China trade deal as big wins for American workers, we can blame Wall Street and Silicon Valley Democrats for giving him the opening.
And the cure for this is … Michael Bloomberg?