The United States Congress is arguably the most powerful deliberative body on the planet. The decisions taken, and sometimes not taken, in the House of Representatives and Senate have the power to shape and reshape people’s lives, not just in America but across the world. With this great power, however, comes the greater responsibility of legislating according to the concerns of the American people and consumers.
Unfortunately, Congress’ approach to big tech over the past two years has shown almost no regard for this responsibility. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have pushed legislation that would rewrite America’s antitrust laws to target big tech companies to diminish consumer welfare and degrade the benefits these companies bring to the U.S. economy.
What makes the attempts to rewrite America’s antitrust laws remarkably egregious is that they prevent Congress from addressing top constituent concerns and engaging in policymaking that could vastly improve the quality of life for every American. Instead, they are proposing new laws that address peripheral issues that are low priorities to their voters and could have harmful consequences.
Since 2020, Congress has proposed a plethora of new antitrust measures to rein in the perceived power and influence of big tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter. Conservatives allege these companies have become woke, are pushing a liberal agenda, and censoring conservative speech. Liberals, on the other hand, see these big tech companies are depressing workers’ wages and pushing small businesses toward bankruptcy.
The shared opposition toward big tech, albeit for different reasons, has created a bipartisan consensus in Washington that Congress must act. To that end, Republicans and Democrats have proposed measures that would prevent big tech companies from acquiring other companies, self-preferencing their goods and services, and could even see these companies broken up into smaller companies.
The bipartisan consensus is noteworthy because agreement dramatically increases the chances that a bill will become law in an era of deep partisan division.
While lawmakers press ahead with new antitrust proposals, they ignore the reality that reining in big tech is rarely mentioned by voters as an issue they prioritize. Last month, voters cited inflation as the country’s biggest problem, closely followed by the affordability of healthcare and violent crime. Big tech did not even make the top 12. Yet, Congress has devoted substantial time and energy to this peripheral concern.
Aside from ignoring the real concerns of American voters, legislating against big tech could also deny consumers access to services they overwhelmingly approve. A recent report from the American Consumer Institute found that Amazon, one of the companies targeted by new antitrust proposals, was the most popular online shopping platform and 62% of Amazon users opposed legislation that could see them lose access to prime services. Apple, another company, targeted by proposed antitrust reforms, held an 82% satisfaction rating. On the other hand, Congress has an approval rating of just 20%, lower than lawyers and car salespeople.
These approval statistics reveal that by prioritizing antitrust reform over other more pressing issues, Congress could inflict considerable damage on companies that generate substantial welfare for consumers and companies that they overwhelmingly approve.
With Congress seemingly moving full-steam ahead on antitrust reform, its members should be looking at two critical pieces of information, namely current voter concerns and the overall approval ratings of these companies, particularly when compared to overall satisfaction toward the Congress. Considering these two statistics should be more than enough incentive for lawmakers to drop their unnecessary and futile crusade against big tech and shift their resources toward real issues.
After all, Midterms are fast approaching.
Edward Longe is a policy manager at the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit educational and research organization. For more information about the Institute, visit www.TheAmericanConsumer.Org or follow us on Twitter @ConsumerPal.