Biden’s misguided fight against phantom monopolies will only further damage the economy
More evidence that the Biden administration has no idea what’s causing inflation, but is determined to look busy stopping it? Using the federal government’s antitrust enforcers to stamp out alleged monopolists, whose sole aim is fleecing consumers:
Mr. Biden has prodded the Agriculture Department to investigate large meatpackers that control a significant share of poultry and pork markets, accusing them of raising prices, underpaying farmers — and tripling their profit margins during the pandemic. As gas prices surged, he publicly encouraged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate accusations that large oil companies had artificially inflated prices, behavior that the administration says continued even after global oil prices began to fall in recent weeks.
The push has extended to little-known agencies, like the Federal Maritime Commission, which the president has urged to search for price gouging by large shipping companies at the heart of the supply chain.
The turn to antitrust levers stems from Mr. Biden’s belief that rising levels of corporate concentration in the U.S. economy have empowered a few large players in each industry to raise prices higher than a more competitive market would allow.
All of which fits soundly inside the wheelhouse of Team Biden, which appears to have only a passing familiarity with the headlines of the last 18 months or so:
Corporate culpability for rising prices remains unclear. Inflation is at a 40-year high because of pandemic-related factors such as broken supply chains and high demand for goods from consumers still flush with government-provided cash. But as the price increases have spread across sectors, including food and gasoline, the administration has come under increasing pressure to find ways to respond.
So what we have is a case of looking busy, consequences be damned. But there may be some method at the heart of all this economic madness:
…the rise of inflation has given the White House an opportunity to take action that Democrats have long encouraged, and that Mr. Biden made an early focus of his tenure: using the power of government to break up monopolies and promote economic competition.
Which is another way of saying “breaking up things we don’t like and can’t understand.” The fallout from such activism will be more costly and long-lived for workers, employers and investors, than Biden’s team of hipster trustbusters know. But that, too, is right on brand for Mr. Biden’s minions.