Several weeks ago, President Joe Biden signed a radical executive decree which included 72 initiatives across the federal government aimed at tackling America’s monopoly problem. Biden’s executive action is the first concerted effort to combat concentrated corporate power in decades. While anti-monopoly, especially antitrust, is often seen as work for the federal government, Biden’s order recognizes the key role the state government could and should play in reducing corporate stranglehold. monopolists.
Today, at a time of galloping economic concentration which workers, destroying small enterprises and deform our political system, states like Minnesota can lead the way in opposing corporate power. Minnesota has done it before. In 1871, as the Minnesota Grange movement was beginning to gain momentum, the legislature faced the most significant monopolist of the time by establishing tariffs and maximum tariffs for railways and establishing the office of the Commissioner of railroads. La Grange continued to establish the Minnesota Anti-Monopoly Party in 1873 and with the help of the Democrats, won legislative seats in 1874. These electoral victories led to the creation of a railroad commission as state lawmakers pursued the work of limiting monopoly power.
Action in New York, Wyoming …
Looking to the present, states are once again ready to lead the way. Last month, the New York State Senate passed a revolutionary overhaul of its antitrust laws. the 21st Antitrust law of the century would set a broader standard for antitrust enforcement based on a company’s ability to dominate markets, instead of the much narrower consumer welfare standard. Before that, Wyoming increases the fines companies will face for violating antitrust law, while state attorneys general have filed major lawsuits against Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Beyond changes to antitrust law, state lawmakers across the country have pushed forward anti-monopoly policies that target today’s main monopolist, Big Tech. This spring, several states, including Minnesota, introduced legislation that would shatter Google and Apple’s duopoly on smartphone app development by allowing customers to use alternative app stores for app distribution and cap foreclosure fees (up to ‘at 30%) billed to developers.
Assessment of subsidies and tax exclusions
States are also re-examining tax policies that have helped big business gain economic control. Big Tech has grown by billions in national and local tax subsidies and exclusions, like the one in Minnesota sales tax exemption for data centers, which costs almost $ 100 million per year! Research suggests that these incentive programs are little more than a black hole of corporate largesse. Some decision-makers are finally becoming aware of these corporate abuses and are trying to terminate these programs, while others joined in the effort to establish a interstate fiscal pact which would limit the use of corporate gifts. Minnesota would be well served to join these other states and examine how taxpayer funds are used to improve Fortune 500 business results.
The workers are also in the crosshairs of the monopolies. Highly concentrated labor markets drive down wages, with Amazon warehouses being particularly striking example monopoly power putting the screws on working families. One tool used to accomplish this wage suppression are non-compete agreements, which are restrictive covenants prohibiting a worker from taking a job in a competing company. Institute for Economic Policy estimated 27.8% to 46.5% of workers are subject to non-competition! States such as Illinois, Nevada and Oregon have recently adopted law limit these coercive contracts.
Consumers are not immune to the evils of monopoly power. For example, manufacturers like Apple and John Deere to make impossible for consumers or freelance repair technicians to repair items like smartphones and tractors. This forces consumers to buy a new product or send the device to the manufacturer itself, driving up prices and destroying entrepreneurial opportunities for freelance technicians. For several years Minnesota lawmakers and across the country have introduced legislation that would break this monopoly power and grant consumers the “right to fix” the things they own.
Apple and Google add lobbyists
As lawmakers, including some in Minnesota, begin to understand the toolbox available to reduce corporate power, the fate of many of these bills underscores the challenges ahead. Just days after Minnesota lawmakers introduced the App Store legislation, Apple and Google each added three new lobbyists. The bills then went nowhere. In North Dakota, Big tech lobbyists persuaded the Senate to vote against similar legislation, and in Arizona, when app store legislation was passed by the House, it went nowhere in the Senate after Apple and Google. “hired almost every lobbyist in town. “
The proposals outlined here are just a few of the ways Minnesota can rebalance its economy. What is needed, more than political ideas, are decision-makers willing to challenge corporate power and think creatively about the role state government can play. It will require an electorate that presses candidates, at all levels, on their plans to confront corporate power and restore competition. Minnesota made anti-monopoly cool over a century ago; he can do it once more.
Justin Stofferahn lives in the Township of White Bear and is a public affairs professional who has worked on various tax and economic development issues. He was a candidate for the Minnesota State Senate in 2020 and can be contacted at www.justinstofferahn.com.
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