Conservative economist Arthur Laffer is battling an antitrust bill aimed at reining in big tech companies, arguing that the legislation would expand government and inflation.
Mr. Laffer’s entry into the antitrust battle comes at a critical juncture, as the bill’s backers focus on final deliberations in Congress this summer, before midterm elections become lawmakers’ top priority.
The economist is particularly frustrated with the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, whose bipartisan authors include Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, R-Iowa. The bill is designed to stop big tech companies from favoring their products on their own platforms, rather than putting competitors at a disadvantage.
Mr. Laffer wrote in a paper that the antitrust reforms that Ms. Klobuchar expected would give government regulators such as the Federal Trade Commission new powers to control America’s top tech companies.
“According to economic theory, antitrust is not anti-inflation – quite the opposite,” Mr Laffer wrote. “The antitrust regulatory legislation proposed by Sens. Klobuchar and Grassley that targets companies based on size — threatening utility-type regulation and hefty financial penalties — will not reduce inflation. In fact, the inefficiencies created by this legislation That could fuel inflation and further raise prices for basic consumer needs.”
Ms Klobuchar’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Mr Laffer’s criticism.
Ms Klobuchar has said that if the bill has any chance of becoming law before the midterm elections, it needs to be voted in the House and Senate by the end of August.
“At its core, it lowers costs for consumers and helps competitive businesses; it supports capitalism, it supports the economy,” Ms. Klobuchar said of the bill at a news conference in June. “We are motivated. Even though all the money is being spent on us, we are motivated because the bill is pro-competitive and common sense.”
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., who co-wrote supporting legislation in the House of Representatives, had previously identified June as the target he wanted the bill to pass through Congress.
The legislation has yet to get a vote, and supporters of the bill face strong and widespread opposition.
The Liberal Progressive Chamber of Commerce ran digital ads opposing the legislation. The group, which works with Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta, has previously declined to say how much it spends on advertising.
People traveling around the 4th of July holiday may not be able to escape ads from opponents of antitrust legislation. The Taxpayer Protection Coalition Foundation said last month it was spending six figures to promote antitrust bills on billboards in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and New Hampshire.
“Antitrust legislation in Congress will destroy our phones,” the billboard read.
Supporters of the bill are also running ads. Fight for the Future, an activist group against Big Tech, is driving two mobile billboard trucks around Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s residences in New York and Washington, D.C., urging him to bring antitrust legislation to a vote.
The trucks hit the road Saturday and will continue to do so throughout the week, according to Fight for the Future.