Fitness substitutability extends beyond virtual reality

…either-or — consumers can utilize different offerings simultaneously. The fact that a consumer uses Oculus’s virtual reality workouts doesn’t mean Meta isn’t still competing to draw attention away from fitness substitutes. This feature of substitutability is essential to market definition. The FTC itself says, “In the most general terms, a product market in an antitrust investigation consists of all goods or services that buyers view as close substitutes.” Based on this understanding, the market definition for the products Beat Saber and Supernatural offer should at least be expanded to all fitness games, if not even further by including at-home fitness services such as Peloton or even traditional fitness centers. By narrowing the market definition so severely, the FTC has effectively made it easier to suggest an increased market concentration. The standard measure of market concentration is the Herfindahl–Hirschman Index. This index is calculated by summing the square of the market…

Survey reveals plans to spend extra savings from student debt forgiveness on non-essentials

…a problem given that 100 percent of the cost of this program falls on American taxpayers, many of whom didn’t attend college in the first place and come from low-income backgrounds. In this way, the program, far from being a progressive money saver, is actually a regressive loser that will likely result in a wealth transfer from the poor to the rich. Other survey findings are equally concerning. For instance, 73 percent of respondents admitted that purchasing non-essential goods with program savings was “wrong.” Yet, this same group of people still plans to use at least some of their savings on non-essentials. In addition, 77 percent of respondents said of their spending habits, “it would be possible for them to spend less and save more money.” 4 out of 10 respondents also admitted that their student loans haven’t actually negatively affected their lives. Perhaps this is because individuals with an…

The DoL’s proposed rollback of the 2021 IC Rule would be too costly to bear

essentially subject their employers to increased liability if their drivers are injured during a trip, which would result in increased litigation. Business groups are also worried about these liabilities and the litigation that will ensue from the proposal. The proposal will also harm the independent contractors themselves. 36 percent of the population freelances, and freelancers contributed $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2021. Not only that, but according to studies by Pew Research Center in 2021, 31 percent of gig platform workers who have earned money this way in the past year say it’s been their main job during this time, and 58 percent of current or recent gig workers say money earned via gig jobs has been essential or important for meeting their basic needs over past 12 months. The effects of this proposal on such a productive and prominent sector will be immensely damaging. While in its…

Student Loan Forgiveness Treats the Symptoms and Not the Disease

President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan was met with vocal responses from proponents and opponents alike. Some believe the action is essential to raise living standards and help those struggling to make ends meet. On the other hand, critics contend that forgiving loans will only fuel inflation and provide a handout to the rich. What is missing from the conversation is the reality that student loan forgiveness treats the symptoms without treating the actual disease of sky-high tuition. The primary  aspect of President Biden’s plan is the proposed forgiveness of between $10,000 and $20,000 dollars for eligible borrowers. However, the plan also includes restructuring how the federal government calculates monthly payments, which is currently calculated by taking 10 percent of non-discretionary income—earnings minus necessary spending. The Department of Education proposed raising the non-discretionary income limit and Biden took this one step further by slashing the monthly payments from 10 percent to 5 percent of non-discretionary…

Durbin’s Broken Promise

…the large sums merchants paid in interchange fees, it’s no surprise that Congress has expressed an interest in intervening. While interchange fees generate substantial sums for U.S. banks and networks like Visa, Mastercard or American Express, they are an essential part of the banking ecosystem, enabling investment in cybersecurity and fraud detection and covering the costs associated with fraudulent transactions. When global cybercrime is estimated to cost $10.5 trillion by 2025, government-mandated price reductions, which would diminish revenues for banks and payment networks, would make it easier for bad actors to access sensitive financial information. Prohibiting exclusivity on processing networks would also make it impossible for co-branded credit cards and rewards programs to exist. Co-branded credit cards, which were once almost exclusively offered by airlines and hotels, have proliferated over the last few years, with “household names including Apple, Expedia, PlayStation, and Uber all have cards bearing their names.” These…

House Bill Expands Telehealth Access

More than a third of Americans live in an area with a shortage of healthcare professionals. For these 122 million people, that shortage can mean longer wait times and delayed access to essential care. For patients living in rural areas, attending in-person health appointments can also require them to pay steep travel costs while sacrificing time that could be better spent working or with family. Fortunately, telehealth, in which appointments take place online or over the phone, provides an opportunity for these millions of rural Americans to receive care without visiting a health clinic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth became a lifeline, allowing patients and doctors to interact safely, flexibly, and quickly. Before the pandemic, approximately 840,000 encounters per year between doctors and consumers on Medicare employed telehealth. One year later, amid the national health emergency, 52.7 million appointments relied upon telehealth infrastructure, an increase of 6,300 percent.  While the…

Menthol Bans Will Spell Financial Hit to State Coffers

Back in March, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was planning “to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and prohibit all characterizing flavors (other than tobacco) in cigars.” The proposal is rooted in the agency’s desire to “significantly reduce disease and death from the use of combusted tobacco products, the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., by reducing youth experimentation and addiction and increasing the number of smokers that quit.” While the desire to have fewer Americans smoke is a good public policy, a prohibition on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars could have significant health and financial ramifications beyond Washington, denying all 50 states access to an essential source of revenue. While public finances should never trump public health, policymakers must consider the full ramifications of their decisions before proceeding with any new rules. Failing to do so could create more intractable problems further…

Stablecoin Legislation Seeks to Preserve the Growth of Blockchain-Based Currency

…Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In addition to these two agencies, cryptocurrencies can also be covered by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, or the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. If  passed, the Stablecoin TRUST Act would clarify some of the regulatory confusion for stablecoins by establishing that stablecoins are not securities, and would therefore not fall under the purview of the SEC. According to Brummer, this would put the stablecoins under the FTC’s jurisdiction. The bill also creates a federal license for Stablecoin issuers with specific requirements such as capital requirements, liquidity requirements, risk management, and reserve asset requirements to protect the value of stablecoins for the owners of the currency. Clarifying regulatory confusion is essential as uncertainty inhibits the growth and widespread use. Telegram already announced in 2020 that it would discontinue operations in the U.S. due to regulatory uncertainty and disagreement over whether the company’s offerings were subject…

Congress Must Act Quickly to Ensure the FCC’s Spectrum Authority is Reauthorized

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC), which is tasked with hosting annual auctions for commercial wireless providers, may soon lose the ability to license radio frequency bands if its spectrum authority expires on September 30th. The FCC’s current authority only lasts for 10 years and must be renewed by Congress. Should Congress fail to act in a timely manner, the consequences could be devastating. The FCC collects billions of dollars each year from the sale of spectrum. This money is used to offset public debt and pay for a variety of important public projects such as FirstNet emergency communication networks. It also provides the federal government with a steady stream of revenue that cannot be easily replaced. To do so would require raising taxes on Americans who can ill afford higher costs during a time of high inflation. Yet, after the July 29th auction of the 2.5 Gigahertz band licenses, the…

ACI Files Comments with the U.S. Postal Commission Regarding Contributions to Institutional Costs

…and package segment has accelerated 22.9 percent in just a two-year period (7,578,000 units in FY2021 compared 6,165,000 in FY2019).[2] Despite growth of the product segment that the Postal Service considers an essential competitive market venture, and critical to the formation of a modern postal system, the institution’s financial difficulties have notably accelerated. While Congress has largely absolved the USPS’ net losses of $9.2 billion and $4.2 billion during the pandemic years, and for many years prior, significant concerns remain. Specifically, the Postal Service Reform Act omits business and operational overhauls that would counteract escalating losses stemming from its own decision-making and authority. The Postal Service has cumulatively posted $11.6 billion in controllable losses since FY2018 and it projects to lose $4.1 billion in FY2022.[3] It should concern the Commission that the origin of such operational losses largely remain unknown, especially as expenses are projected to grow beyond the institution’s…