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Opinion | In a House subcommittee’s report, a strong step toward an antitrust revival

The subcommittee revived a key function of Congress: the power to investigate, report and set the stage for legislation. The report itself may become a keystone in a long-overdue dawning of progressive tech reforms.

Since the mid-1970s, Congress has celebrated the rise of new technology and tech businesses. Both political parties, for different reasons, dismissed antitrust concerns as a relic of a bygone age. For Democrats, globalization and technology seemed to guarantee competition. When antitrust was excised from the party platform in 1992, it had been there since the Gilded Age. For Republicans, markets cured themselves; antitrust was simply another form of regulatory abuse.

Into the vacuum between these positions came the rapacious Big Four. The subcommittee report details how they came to operate at unprecedented scale and reach. The companies’ combined valuation is more than $5 trillion. Add in Microsoft ($1.5 trillion) and Tesla ($275 billion), and the collective value is nearly equal to that of the NASDAQ 100.

The Big Four have enormous influence given their hold on communications infrastructure (Facebook, Google), e-commerce (Amazon), and start-ups and entrepreneurs (Apple). They directly compete with businesses that use their markets. The report tracked how they have gouged suppliers and imitated, acquired or eliminated competitors. It showed how their profits allow them to enter into new lines of business, where they repeat their predatory strategies.

As the subcommittee detailed, the Big Four have acquired hundreds of companies, often to eliminate potential competitors, in what are known as “killer acquisitions.” Meanwhile, antitrust regulators are underfunded — or possibly compromised by lobbying — and seldom are their powers exercised under antitrust laws to block mergers. Of nearly 100 Facebook acquisitions, the Federal Trade Commission extensively investigated only its 2012 purchase of Instagram (over which the FTC took no action).

When monopolies have unlimited

Pelosi says White House proposal on COVID-19 relief is “one step forward, two steps back”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled that there has been limited progress in negotiations with the White House over a coronavirus relief package, saying in a letter to her Democratic colleagues that a proposal presented by the Trump administration on Friday amounted to “one step forward, two steps back.”

“When the president talks about wanting a bigger relief package, his proposal appears to mean that he wants more money at his discretion to grant or withhold, rather than agreeing on language prescribing how we honor our workers, crush the virus and put money in the pockets of workers,” Pelosi wrote. “At this point, we still have disagreement on many priorities, and Democrats are awaiting language from the Administration on several provisions as the negotiations on the overall funding amount continue.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday that President Trump had “approved” a “revised” coronavirus relief package, although he did not offer specifics. 

Earlier, on Tuesday, Mr. Trump slammed the door shut on a deal before the election, but then appeared to change his mind, first calling on the House to pass standalone relief bills and then indicating that he would support a large relief package. In a tweet on Friday morning, the president said, “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!”

In her letter to colleagues on Saturday, Pelosi said the plan produced by the administration does not include “a strategic plan to crush the virus.” She compared it to the HEROES Act which the House passed last month, which provides a national regimen on testing and tracing.

The $2.4 trillion relief bill would also restore a popular benefit providing an additional $600 per week on top of unemployment benefits, deliver another round of direct payments and provide funding for schools and state and local jurisdiction. The legislation was

Defining home with interior design consultant Anjel Herman. | Step Inside

“I wanted us to come home to simplicity and peace, a place that is both elegant and timeless,” she says.

For a couple who loves to entertain and socialize, living in a small, gated community of close-knit neighbors, the kitchen naturally became a focal point of a phased remodel that includes a Step Inside first: a baby grand piano in the kitchen for anyone whose appetite includes a little Elton John with their wine.

“It is the epicenter of every party,” Herman says. “No matter how many guests attend our soirees, they all seem to hover around that island.”

With that in mind, the design consultant removed the much smaller two-tiered island and its large built-in awning and replaced it with the simple but ample, front-and-center serving island you see today.

“The kitchen is light and airy now,” Herman says. “I love the beautiful quartzite countertops and backsplash.”

For social gatherings of a more intimate nature, she designed a dining room in white that expresses every texture, every shape, and every mood. Inspired by Europe and a hotel bar ceiling that wowed her, Herman cross-pollinated design elements with the room’s drapery panels and mimicked them in the applied moldings of the architecturally inspired ceiling design. That ceiling design then found further artistic expression in the pastel-colored cut glass diamonds that hang on ribbons of silk from the chandelier. The overall effect catches the shimmering light of the setting sun in a room that makes you feel like you’re floating on a cloud.

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