Biden’s Economic Executive Orders
Earlier this month President Biden signed an executive order encompassing 72 actions and recommendations aimed at increasing competition and limiting anti-competitive practices. With the Senate filibuster requiring a super majority of 60 votes for non-budgetary legislation, Democrats are facing significant limitations in the bills they can hope to pass. Biden’s order is an attempt to change economic conditions without going through Congress.
Highlights of the 72 actions include:
- Increased scrutiny of mergers by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), including an emphasis on “killer acquisitions,” in which companies acquire smaller brands so as to eliminate competitive threats; notably, this scrutiny does not exclude prior mergers allowed by previous administrations
- Urging the FTC to ban occupational licensing restrictions
- Encouraging the FTC to ban or limit noncompete agreements
- Supporting state efforts to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada
- Asking the Department of Transportation to mandate improved disclosure of baggage, change, and cancellation fees, and to explore requiring partial refunds for delayed luggage
- Calling for over the counter availability of hearing aids
It’s not clear how much of Biden’s wish list can be accomplished—for instance, most occupational licensing restrictions are done at the state level, and not the federal level. Moreover, legal challenges could delay or strike down reform efforts by the FTC.
Still, as argued at https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-biden-antitrust-deals/analysis-dealmakers-see-ma-rush-then-chills-in-bidens-antitrust-crackdown-idUSL5N2OL509, it would not be surprising to see an initial frenzy to complete mergers and acquisitions before new regulatory rules are finalized, followed by a slowdown once additional scrutiny is in place. Drug companies may beat back attempts to import prescription drugs from Canada, but hearing aid manufacturers may not have the same clout to stop OTC sales of hearing aids. Tech giants may struggle to find a sympathetic audience from Democrats, who view the industry concentration as anticompetitive, or from Republicans, still angered by the banning of Donald Trump from social media platforms. In the end, Biden’s executive order consists mostly of exhortations; it’s the implementation by federal bureaucracies, along with rulings from a generally conservative legal landscape, that will determine how much economic reform Biden is able to accomplish.
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