Battling bigness: Congress eyes action against monopolies
WASHINGTON — The battle against bigness is building. Whether it’s beer, banks or book publishing, lawmakers are targeting major industries they say have become so concentrated that they’re hurting competition, consumers and the economy.
The economic dislocation of the pandemic has laid bare the struggles of small businesses unable to compete with corporate giants that have been able to capitalize on the new order. Experts and lawmakers are throwing out stunning stats:
The four biggest airlines control about 65 percent of U.S. passenger traffic, five giant healthcare insurers control an estimated 45 percent of the market, pharmaceuticals are dominated by three major companies, the top four banks control about 44 percent of the market, the so-called Big Five book publishers control some 80 percent of the U.S. book market, and Google alone accounts for about 90 percent of web searches worldwide.
Beer and a burger? Four companies are estimated to control 80 percent of U.S. meat-packing; the top four brewers and importers control about 76 percent of the U.S. beer market.
Congress, federal regulators and states had already been putting Big Tech companies under intense scrutiny for nearly two years and even suing some for antitrust. Now with Democrats in the majority in Congress and President Joe Biden seemingly prepared to act on an anti-monopoly agenda, the focus is widening to the rest of corporate America.
Critics say the corporate concentration is quickening, limiting consumers’ choices, raising prices and eroding service.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has put forward expansive legislation to overhaul antitrust law. It would make it harder for dominant companies to win regulators’ approval of mergers and stretch the government’s authority over competition in other ways.