Unshocking Report: Trump Admin Is Historically Terrible At Reining In Destructive Monopolies

from the dysfunction-junction dept

You need only look at its treatment of the telecom industry to understand that the Trump administration doesn’t give a flying damn about U.S. monopolies (or the impact those monopolies have on consumers, prices, innovation, or the market). Despite being one of the least competitive (and least popular) industries in America, the administration has taken a hatchet to telecom consumer protections, often using bogus data and fraud to do it. Massive, competition and job-eroding mergers are rubber stamped before the administration even sees the data. Any pretense at meaningful oversight is theater.

A new report by the American Antitrust Institute suggests that despite the administration’s rhetoric around “big tech,” its apathy to monopolies is fairly uniform. Experts have noted for a decade than US antitrust enforcement has grown toothless and frail, and our definitions of monopoly power need updating in the Amazon era. Antitrust enforcement had already waned under the Obama administration, getting severely worse once Trump came to power:

“Despite its anti-corporate concentration rhetoric on the campaign trail, key metrics of cartel and merger enforcement have declined since the Trump administration took over. And in 2017 and 2018, the DOJ did not open one monopolization investigation, the longest span of inattention to dominant firms in the last 50 years.

That’s not particularly surprising for those who watched the head of the Trump DOJ antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, not only ignore the input of his staff and approve T-Mobile’s competition eroding $26 billion merger with Sprint, but personally helped usher the deal through the process via his personal phone and email accounts.

The report notes that cartel investigations, fines, and the amount of fines levied are down overall as well, with the number of corporations fined by the Trump agencies in 2017 and 2018 falling by about 45% compared to the Obama administration. This sort of corruption isn’t new, and it’s certainly bipartisan. Trump’s just exponentially worse at disguising feckless obedience to profit and corporate power as a more elaborate ethos. For years, America routinely embraced mindless “deregulation” of broken markets like telecom under the belief that antitrust enforcement would come in and maintain some semblance of proper balance. That is, again unsurprisingly, proving to be total fantasy in practice:

“As markets have changed over time, deregulation garnered broad support through bipartisan efforts intended to remove regulatory barriers that were thought to impede competition more than their benefits could justify. This was based, however, on the assumption that lost government oversight would become unnecessary due to active antitrust enforcement. Conservative administrations have often deregulated without concern for whether antitrust enforcement or competition policy would effectively fill the gap.”

When the administration does act, it often acts for the wrong reasons, as seen with the short-lived “antitrust investigation” into the auto industry for adhering to pollution standards. Or the administration’s lawsuit to stop the AT&T Time Warner deal, which had less to do with protecting markets and consumers, and more to do with making Rupert Murdoch happy and getting revenge on CNN for critical coverage of his bumbling and corrupt administration.

Throughout all of this, somehow, many policy folks and tech reporters still somehow take Trump’s rhetoric about reining in “big tech” monopolies seriously. The DOJ’s announcement of “investigations” into everyone from Google to Apple are treated with deadpan seriousness by a press and policy ecosystem that doesn’t seem to learn from experience. Some Economists advise we perhaps should stop doing that, since there’s zero indication the administration takes Section 2 of the Sherman Act seriously, and there’s very little indication any of these investigations will result in substantive action:

More often than not, such investigations are being used more for leverage on other issues (see: Barr’s war on encryption, or more positive coverage and ranking). Because in reality, Trump cares about three things: attention, power, and personal enrichment. It’s not clear how much more idiotic theater we need to witness before policy experts and tech reporters understand that, and stop treating egomania, grift, and corruption as “very serious policy.”

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Comments on “Unshocking Report: Trump Admin Is Historically Terrible At Reining In Destructive Monopolies”

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Anonymous Coward says:

no surprise here! it’s only the voters who are hoodwinked into thinking that there are going to be changes! let’s face it, they were hoodwinked into thinking there was going to be changes, that’s why they voted Trump in in the first place (and will be dumb enough to vote him back in for another term)! the Republican party and in particular, government, is interested only in ensuring that businesses and industries that give ‘campaign contributions’ to party and government members not just continue but actually increase the amounts donated. as long as the Republican Party is in The White House, these ‘donations’ will continue, the businesses will maintain their monopolies/duopolies, the bosses will continue, with the help of the ruling party’s members still getting their contributions, to get their massive salaries, bonuses and ‘retirement packages’ whilst every member of the public continues to be ripped off from head to toe! i dont recall the last time a POTUS was so keen to blame anyone and everyone, except himself, when something was or went wrong, but even more keen to try to shower himself with compliments when something was or went right, when he had no hand in it! Republicans are interested in nothing but themselves and ensuring they remain the most wealthy, the most powerful, always totally in control!! and everyone else can take a hike!!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I hear this a lot.

I think it’s more of a mixed bag: Trump is the GOP and the GOP is Trump.

Trump is inherently lazy, as such, I doubt he really leads the GOP in a classic sense, but, he clearly leads them in the crazy sense. We’re well past the fiscal conservative days of yonder.

On the other hand, Mitch just wants judges, and Trump will approve all of them, so in that sense, the old-school GOP leads.

The problem for me is that pretty much all of these groups are bat-shit insane from where I sit. There’s little evidence the GOP is fiscally conservative, it’s tax arguments are pretty much nuts, and the social side is cray-cray, and then you’ve got the anti-immigrate, clorox sniffing crazies.

I’m confident the GOP will be gone or change, it’s dead in California because of the crazy, I just hope I live to see it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Trump most definitely is the Republican party. There may be a few out there who still call themselves Republicans but dislike Trump and his action (or inactions). But those dissenters number so few as to be a statistical anomaly.

Face it: The Republican party is now the party of racism, wealth to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, and absolute government control. Perhaps it’s time to reassess your party affiliation.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"There may be a few out there who still call themselves Republicans but dislike Trump and his action (or inactions)."

I think most people still miss the point; The republican party hasn’t consisted of actual republicans since they switched political position with the traditional old stronghold of racism and southern-trash white supremacy which was, at that time, the democratic party.

So it’s really meaningless to assign the GOP any of the ideals it held in 1950 or earlier.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Trump is not the Republican Party."

No…Trump is simply what most republicans in the position to claim office of any kind wish they could be.

Most of them still aren’t at the point where they can get away with the crap he pulls on a daily basis. They just wish they were and are eaten alive by envy over it.

And then there’s the saner republicans…most of whom are, by now, democrats or independents, having fled the dumpster fire which is the current GOP.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


Not as tired as we are of hearing Trump apologia for all the fuck-ups and potential crimes he and his cronies have comitted during his time in office. Tell me, is Andrew Cuomo or the W.H.O. responsible for the inaction of the Trump administration vis-á-vis COVID-19 during practically all of February?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Don’t the hate mongers ever tire of "Anti-Trump = anti-America"? Trump and everyone who votes for him in November is a useless piece of shit. I can say that and still want the best for my country. In fact, saying that is evidence of wanting the best for my country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

One more thought:

All you anti-lockdown, pro-coronavirus idiots protesting the social distancing measures… I hope every one of you catches the virus with your no-PPE, no-social-distancing demonstrations of stupidity. It would be ultimate poetic justice for the republican party to lose votes to their own dumbass agenda. If you want to guarantee you lose the November election by way of proving you’re all dumb as posts, by all means, go for it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Don’t the hate mongers ever tire of "Anti-Trump = anti-America"?"

They’re usually the same people who claimed that Obama wearing the wrong kind of suit or ordering the wrong kind of lettuce was treason, but don’t bat an eye when thousands are dying as a direct result of Trump’s decisions. So, I doubt it.

I just hope this is all the correct amount of motivation for November.

Anonymous Coward says:

Bear in mind that (if the polls were valid) as many as 2/3 of the voters may have voted "against Clump" rather than "For Trinton" (and of course, vice versa.) Either vote has my sympathy, whatever my preferences. Because, as any honest person has to admit that there are very few politicians with NO flaws, NO reason to vote against them. All you can do is weigh the odds.

And sometimes everyone’s surprised, pleasantly. Remember that ex-lobbyist appointed FCC chairman by a democrat? Or those various republican supreme-court justices that have pushed back so hard for free speech and thought against all comers? copyright- and patent-hoarding corporate monopolists, jerks with hurt feelings, whomever.

Not a new phenomenon: not many people remember that moron who shot Garfield expecting Chester Arthur to be a tool of the corrupt city politicians of the day…

ECA (profile) says:

how many times..

Can we fine a corp for doing what a corp does?
How can we fine them SMALL amounts that dont even add up tot he wages of the top 10 persons in the corp?
I will even bet, that the lawyers and fines are Tax deducible.
Who gets it in the but?? the stock holders? the Customers? everyone except those at the top, and the owners.
There is a long line of this, happening for years, and NOW someone says something??

This is going to make things really stupid.
As the internet is bringing this to the top where people can see whats happening, and WHO do you think is going to be on the forefront of Stomping on the net?? Already happening?? yep.

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