By Doug Kelly
Four full months after an anti-innovation bill raised bipartisan concerns about its potential harm to national security, cybersecurity, privacy, competitiveness, and U.S. consumers, a revised version of the bill does little to nothing to address those problems.
Instead, the bill doubles down on punishing America’s most innovative companies, creates special carve out protections for big banks and other favored industries, and hands China a sizable advantage in the race for future technology leadership. The many problems with this revised bill include:
- Inflationary: It prohibits companies covered under its restrictions from offering free shipping and bans inexpensive private labels. At a time of high inflation and rising prices, the last thing that consumers need is a bill that reduces price competition.
- Compromises our national security and cybersecurity: Despite cosmetic changes, the bill still requires U.S. companies to share sensitive data with foreign competitors, requires platforms to justify security precautions, and lets professional bureaucrats in antitrust agencies second-guess those decisions.
- Hands China an advantage in the race to secure critical future technologies: Determined to wrest away America’s innovation edge, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is investing hundreds of billions of dollars in developing its artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, extended reality, 5G, and cloud computing capabilities. Their biggest opponent is U.S. private sector tech companies, who each year invest tens of billions in these technologies, most of which have dual military-commercial usage. But by allowing excessive lawsuits and enacting exorbitant penalties, the anti-innovation bill would not only tie up U.S. companies in frivolous litigation, but also leave them with significantly less discretionary funds for research and development (R&D) investments.
- Anti-innovation: The legislation punishes America’s most innovative companies based on their size and success in the marketplace, directly at odds with the U.S.’s innovative spirit. While tightening the restraints and restrictions on U.S. technology companies, the bill also adds special protections and exemptions for big banks, telecommunications companies, and credit card processors.
- Hurts pensioners and retirees: This revised bill is one part of a series of pending legislation that would radically overhaul existing U.S. antitrust law. A new study finds these proposals would cost U.S. teachers, firefighters, nurses, police, and other public sector workers up to $109 billion in pension benefits through increased operating costs and declining stock values – an average expected harm of up to nearly $4,000 per person.
How politically unsavory is the bill? POLITICO reports that multiple vulnerable Senators in tough 2022 races have no desire to discuss the bill’s painful impact with voters. They know this bill is unpopular and a political loser. A new article also reaffirms what we all know; voters want lawmakers in Washington to focus on bringing down skyrocketing costs at the gas pump and grocery store. But, some on Capitol Hill are focusing their energy on anti-innovation legislation that will only hurt consumers. One Senate aide who criticized the legislation said, “We should be focused on items that will help consumers deal with rising costs.”
A recent Pew Research poll supports that instinct. That poll found voters want Congress to find solutions to a variety of challenges unrelated to technology. By a wide margin, Americans view inflation as the top problem facing the country today (70 percent said it was “a very big problem”), followed by the affordability of healthcare (55 percent), violent crime (54 percent), gun violence (51 percent), and the federal budget deficit (51 percent). This bill fixes none of those issues and will likely exacerbate economic problems facing families and hardworking Americans.
Congress should turn away from this anti-security, anti-consumer, and pro-China bill and focus instead on building a stronger innovation economy. The American Edge Project has offered a bold plan for accelerating domestic innovation that will maintain our technological edge by investing in the innovation economy, developing our future tech talent, and spreading the benefits of innovation even further across the country.
The bottom line: This new bill does the opposite of what lawmakers should be doing: it makes technology products worse, it harms our competitiveness, reduces the ability of leading companies to invest in the future, and hands an edge to China. It matters greatly which country builds the future.