The Leaders Working to Build a Robust Small Business Economy — Episode 147 of Building Local Power

Date: 24 Mar 2022 | posted in: Building Local Power | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

On this episode of the Building Local Power Podcast, we share highlights from a recent ILSR event called “The Progressive Fight for Small Business” featuring Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and White House Advisor Tim Wu. Rep. Jayapal talks about the intersectionality between small business, health care, minimum wage, and racial inequity. Wu discusses how we need to relearn the virtues of a true American economy and how consolidation and the rise of a middleman are two of the biggest problems we face today. 

Highlights include: 

  • How the Paycheck Recovery Act would help small businesses if it is reintroduced. 
  • The effects of Biden’s Executive Order and how the Competition Council are working towards a more equitable economy. 
  • How the economic principles that our nation subscribed to 40 years ago were not interested in maintaining a diverse set of businesses.
  • Why it is critical for small businesses to thrive. 

“We have a real opportunity to use the bipartisan momentum to prevent dominant companies from maintaining market power and using their extensive resources to stifle independent and small competitors from entering the market and also to think about our communities in a holistic way and I think that is what small businesses do particularly well.”   – Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal

“Our country has become too centralized, too national, too centered on consumption as opposed to production, and too many of the returns go to too few people. ”  – Tim Wu

Jess Del Fiacco: Hello, and welcome to Building Local Power, a podcast dedicated to thought-provoking conversations about how we can challenge corporate monopolies and expand the power of people to shape their own future. I’m Jess Del Fiacco, the host of Building Local Power and communications manager here at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. For more than 45 years, ILSR has worked to build thriving, equitable communities where power, wealth and accountability remain in local hands.
Jess Del Fiacco: For today’s episode, we’re bringing you highlights from a recent event that we put on. The event is all about the momentum that is building in Congress within the Biden administration and within many state houses to reign in monopoly power and level the playing field for small, independent businesses. You’ll hear from Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who’s the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Tim Wu, who is a special assistant to the president for Technology and Competition Policy. This event was called the Progressive Fight for Small Business, and if you’re interested in watching the whole recording, you can find that and related resources archived on ilsr.org.
Jess Del Fiacco: With that, I’ll let you listen to the show.
Stacy Mitchell: I’m Stacy Mitchell. I’m the co-director of ILSR, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. More than a decade ago, I helped launch an initiative here at ILSR focused on independent business. We were, and continue to be, deeply concerned about the sharp decline in small, independent businesses that we’ve seen across virtually every sector of the economy. Back at that time, there were very few political leaders on either side of the aisle who had much concern about this trend. The widespread assumption at that time was that small business didn’t matter much, the bigger corporations were better, more efficient, more productive, and so on.
Stacy Mitchell: Today, we know that economic concentration and the losses that we’ve seen, both for working people and for small businesses, have had devastating effects on communities, that the decline of small business and the growing concentration across our economy is really driving racial and economic inequality, and ultimately undermining our democracy. We know that the primary driver of this trend is concentrated corporate power, whether it’s the power that these corporations wield in the market or the political power that they have to rig government policy in their own favor and to undermine their smaller competitors.
Stacy Mitchell: Today, we’re obviously at a very critical juncture in our country’s history, and fortunately, small business is beginning to be more at the forefront of public discourse. We have a growing anti-monopoly movement and many progressive leaders are beginning to see small business as a central part of how we create an equitable economy and a vibrant democracy where all people can thrive.
Stacy Mitchell: Today, we have just an incredible lineup of speakers to explore these issues, and I’m just really excited about this conversation. Let me give you a quick overview of our run of show, and I’m going to briefly introduce our speakers and then we’ll get going. Our keynote today is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She’s serving her third term in Congress, representing Washington’s Seventh District, which encompasses most of Seattle and its surrounding areas. She’s the first South Asian American woman elected to the US House. She’s a member of the House Judiciary Committee and she also serves as the vice-chair of its subcommittee on antitrust, where she’s done really terrific work as part of the big tech investigation, looking at the impact of big tech and concentrated power, particularly lifting up small businesses. After a conversation and remarks from the Congresswoman, we’ll then turn to Tim Wu, who is an official in the Biden White House with responsibility for technology and competition policy. Tim is a legal scholar at Columbia University and has authored several books, including a really terrific book called The Curse of Bigness.
Stacy Mitchell: Let’s get started. I’d like to welcome Congresswoman Jayapal. It’s so nice to see you. Thank you so much for being here.
Pramila Jayapal: Stacy, it’s so wonderful to be with you. I am grateful to ILSR for all of your fantastic work and for really elevating the issues of small business. Of course, my involvement with small business goes back to when we worked with Main Street Alliance around raising the minimum wage to 15 here in Seattle, we became the first major city to do that. I think small business was such an important part of that fight and really the framing of what it means to have healthy communities and the role that small businesses play in that landscape.
Stacy Mitchell: Well, that’s terrific. You have really been central. Small businesses are at this really precarious moment right now. I mean, we’ve not only seen this 40-year decline, where their role in the economy has been cut in half, but a very precarious moment, both with concentrated power, with the effects of the pandemic and the way that’s magnified concentrated power, and a really whole host of policy issues. You’ve been really instrumental on some of the work in Congress around trying to restore antitrust law. I was very aware of the important role that you played in COVID relief around small business.
Stacy Mitchell: I’m wondering if you talk a little bit about why progressives should even care about small business, I don’t think small business generally has been on the progressive radar as a central part of what we need, and why should progressives even care?
Pramila Jayapal: Well, I mean, very simply put, progressives care about local communities doing well, and the way that local communities do well is to have a thriving small business economy. I mean, that is so central to how we think about healthy and vibrant communities. Every community across the country has small businesses and people are very connected to their small businesses.
Pramila Jayapal: One of the things that we found, going all the way back to 10 years ago on the minimum wage fight, is that our small businesses often are very high road employers, they are very connected with the people who work in those small businesses and they want to do right by them. A lot of progressive policies are at the forefront of the wishlist for many small businesses. I think we’ve come a long way in terms of really educating progressives about how small businesses are key ally in our fight for justice and equity, and that efforts to support small businesses aren’t just limited to progressives, they’re a concern for everyone on the political spectrum. I think that is why we see a lot of bipartisan support.
Pramila Jayapal: For me, I told you about my background with really engaging with small businesses during the Fight for $15, but the two issues that I have been very actively involved in around COVID relief and antitrust, as the vice chair of the antitrust subcommittee, really have that thread, again, in the middle of small business. My district, the 7th District of Washington, which is the Seattle and surrounding areas, as you said, was hit first and very hard by the pandemic. I think people around the world know Seattle as the home of big corporations, like Starbucks and Microsoft and Amazon, but it is so much more. It is the smaller, independent coffee shops, the restaurants, the bookstores. In fact, we have one of the highest concentrations of independent book sellers in the country. We found out very quickly what the effects of COVID were on our local community and our small businesses, and it pushed me into finding how other countries in the world dealt with this kind of crisis situation.
Pramila Jayapal: In my research, I found that countries like Germany, after the last recession, put in place a program that allowed small businesses, medium-sized businesses, to get assistance in circumstances where you reach certain thresholds, economic distress, unemployment, health crises, those kinds of things. There were automatic stabilizers that kicked in. Instead of doing the assistance through a big bank that could leave people out, the model was for those businesses to go directly to the government.
Pramila Jayapal: I worked with Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, I worked with Mark Zandi from Moody’s, I worked with economists all over the spectrum and with small businesses and coalitions, to put together a bill called the Paycheck Recovery Act, which would have allowed all small businesses to not have to go through a third party of a big bank, which was how the Paycheck Protection Act was initially structured, and be able to go directly to the IRS with their tax filings and be able to get assistance that is proportional to their loss of income, their loss of sales or activity, and that that activity would determine how long the assistance would go for and it would go to fund things like rent and electricity charges and all the things that had to keep continuing even as a small business had to shut down during COVID.
Pramila Jayapal: That, I think, would’ve been a far more effective way. It also would not have kicked people off of healthcare. It would’ve allowed small businesses to keep employees on their payroll and not deal with the problems of not having the workforce that we needed. Frankly, it would’ve been far more efficient at delivering relief to our small businesses and much, much quicker.
Pramila Jayapal: That was one piece that I am still working on actually, I’m going to reintroduce it. Now that we’ve seen some of the problems with the delivery mechanisms for getting loans out to small businesses, I think we have a chance to make the legislation even stronger and people are realizing, yeah, this is what we should have done, because it would’ve scaled the assistance. If you have a wave of COVID, you could have had more assistance when the wave is particularly bad or the surge and the virus is bad, and then as it goes down, you would have had less assistance, but you would’ve stayed in business the whole time. That’s what I heard from small businesses over and over again. I think we have to do better to grant federal relief to small businesses who are devastated by the pandemic.
Pramila Jayapal: On antitrust, if I can just say for a minute there, I think when I came into the judiciary committee and the antitrust subcommittee, and when we started our investigation a couple of years ago, which was a 16-month investigation into market concentration and monopoly power of the four big tech firms, I don’t know that I knew that much about exactly how that worked, but over 16 months, we heard from so many small businesses, some in great confidence because they were very afraid of what would happen to them if they spoke out and how they could have the power that big tech firms wield over them demote them to maybe not being on the first page when you do a search engine, or if you’re on Amazon, not getting the preferred customer slot.
Pramila Jayapal: Some of was not public, some of it was done confidentially, but we had over 120,000 documents that we got. We had dozens of hearings and briefings and interviews with small businesses, and some medium-sized businesses and even some big businesses, about the practices of big tech and the ways in which market concentration and monopoly power have really contributed to driving small businesses out or setting the rules in such a way that you simply cannot compete, you can never compete.
Pramila Jayapal: That led to a package of bills that we introduced in the judiciary committee, a bipartisan antitrust package, that addresses these anti-competitive habits. There are five bills that are focused on unique issues presented by these big tech companies. My bill is HR 3825, the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, which essentially protects the interests of small businesses that sell their products on digital platforms by eliminating the ability of those dominant platforms to leverage their control over multiple lines of business and self-preference their own business lines. This is something we heard over and over again about from small business owners, who saw companies like Amazon suppress their listings by placing them at the bottom of the seller queue and simultaneously elevating their own competing products. My bill addresses that conduct and it prohibits digital platforms from selling their own products on their websites.
Pramila Jayapal: All of these bills, including mine, have bipartisan support, not just in Congress, but from small business owners from all backgrounds. I think these bills really transcend politics and they hit at the heart of what ILSR is about, what America is about, and that’s free markets, small business ability to grow, and most importantly, better choices for Americans.
Stacy Mitchell: It’s been great to see the movement on monopoly power and the big tech bills. There was an important vote in the Senate on one of those bills just last week, we’ve been thrilled to see your breakup bill, which really gets the structural, the inherent conflicts of interest that you just outlined that are deeply problematic. We hear from many of the small business owners we talk to that that bill is really an essential piece of solving this problem.
Stacy Mitchell: For a long time, the big business lobby and the Chamber of Commerce has gotten to own what small business needs and also own our political process to drive their agenda. Will you talk a little bit about how you see addressing small business issues and engaging with small business as a base and as part of this anti-monopoly agenda, how that might be helpful in terms of reducing corporate power not only in the economy, but in our political system.
Pramila Jayapal: Yeah. It’s a really, really important piece of the work we have to do, and frankly, it’s going to be a very important piece of whether we’re successful or not. That is really my call to action, if you will, to small businesses that are on this call, because you’ve already seen the amount of money that’s being poured into lobbying Congress, but also lobbying the public, the multi-minute ads on mainstream television, on every cable station, about these big tech companies and why our package of bills is not going to be helpful, a lot of framing of the conversation as if the big tech companies are the savior for small businesses, when in fact, we know that our experience shows that they self-preference themselves and they act competitively and actually drive a lot of small business out. They have so much concentration of power, market power, that they can set … I said during the hearing that it’s sort of like being the referee of a game, making all the rules, calling all the plays and playing on the team, it’s like that. It’s just a very unfair set of advantages.
Pramila Jayapal: What we really need, I think, if we’re going to change the political landscape, is to have a real alliance with small businesses to help tell the stories of what small businesses are experiencing and to have small businesses be the ones reaching out to members of Congress to say, “I support this package of bills. I support the ability for small businesses to have a competitive landscape to operate our small businesses.” I think that is very, very important, and I think Democrats have increasingly been concerned about the pervasiveness of corporate power.
Pramila Jayapal: It’s a message that resonates across party lines and can really help Democrats build support. When we looked at the political map on this issue, it very much in favor of exactly what we’re talking about, taking on big monopolies and breaking them up and allowing small businesses to compete, and also recognizing the monopsony power that is created with concentration of market power. What happens to workers when they don’t have choices about where to go? Wages go down, benefits go down, it has multiple effects across the economy.
Pramila Jayapal: I know you’re going to have Tim Wu on after me. The president has been really very strong on lifting up competition and the role of monopolies in income inequity, racial equity, a number of different pieces in all parts of our country, in rural America with meat packing and agriculture and the food supply, but also across the board. I think that’s a very good thing. He’s got a lot of experts, like Tim Wu and Lina Khan at the FTC and others, Bharat Ramamurti is also in the White House. I think they really understand this issue of concentration of corporate power.
Pramila Jayapal: I think we can improve our support, as Democrats, for small businesses, by understanding how these issues also intersect with dozens of other legislative priorities. As the political makeup of small business advocates has grown, I hope that we will be able to engage directly with you to tell your stories and to also get your help in moving these sensible bipartisan measures, like this bipartisan antitrust package.
Pramila Jayapal: But also, there’s other issues that I hear from my small businesses all the time about. One of the big ones is healthcare. I’m just going to put in a plug for my bill, HR 1976, the Medicare for All Act of 2021, which would add benefits to Medicare and expand Medicare and guarantee coverage to all Americans. Just think about how important health coverage is if a small business wants to be able to provide their employees with health insurance and doesn’t want to have to try and navigate it on their own. That’s why we’ve seen so much support from small businesses across the country to support something like Medicare for All, because it gives employers a lot more freedom to keep wages in line with rising costs and just frees them up to devote their energy to innovation and production instead of endless paperwork and phone calls with insurers. Even if they have insurance, so many small business employers have told me about how they still have to fund GoFundMe campaigns for their employees because their employees are simply not getting the kind of healthcare that they need.
Pramila Jayapal: I think we have a real opportunity to use the bipartisan momentum to prevent dominant companies from maintaining market power and using their extensive resources to stifle independent and small competitors from entering the market, and also to think about our communities in a holistic way. I think that’s what small businesses do particularly well.
Stacy Mitchell: That’s great. I’ve been so heartened to see the focus, as I said, on concentrated power and the ways in which, not only in tech, but across the economy, I mean, even Visa and MasterCard’s ability to leverage these huge fees on local businesses. It seems so important, I think partly because what I heard a lot from small business owners, who say, “Yes, we want to pay more, we want to be good stewards of our communities. We support these kinds of higher standards, but it can sometimes be really tough when we’re asked to do that, and meanwhile, we’ve got corporate landlords and big banks who are hiking fees. We’ve got other monopolists who are blocking, that we progressives to fight for us in order to be able to be the kinds of community stewards that we’re capable of being.”
Stacy Mitchell: I know we just have a couple minutes left with you, but I do want to get to one important final question, which is, small business has a particular significance in communities of color and immigrant communities, and I’m just interested to hear your reflections on that and how you think policy makers can be thinking about small business development as a strategy for building both economic and political power in Black and Brown communities.
Pramila Jayapal: Yeah, this is so important because I think we see how small and minority and women-owned businesses are still suffering, and when businesses fail, communities fail. I think you saw this in the first iteration of the PPP, the Paycheck Protection Act, which used big banks to deliver relief. What happened? If you didn’t have a relationship with a big bank, and a lot of small businesses didn’t, and they don’t have armies of lawyers and accountants to process applications and things like that, the money was gone. The first tranche of money was gone before it ever reached small businesses. It was really taken up by larger businesses that had relationships with those big banks. My view is that we shouldn’t rely on big banks to get money out to small businesses and minority communities, big banks have never really been good at doing that and we should have learned that lesson. I think that is what we saw with our minority-owned businesses, they just didn’t get the assistance they needed.
Pramila Jayapal: Now, later, we made some changes thanks to Nidia Velazquez, the chairwoman of the Small Business Committee did make some changes that allowed for credit unions and local community development banks to be able to be the stewards of some of those funds, but the reality is, I just talked to my local coffee shop that I go to every Sunday when I’m here at home and she said, “You know what, Congresswoman? I didn’t even apply, it was just too much.” This is a thriving small business right near my home. I said, “Listen, you’ve got to call me next time because we will walk you through it.” But she basically said, “It’s just too much, it’s too hard.” When I told her about the Paycheck Recovery Act and how you would essentially use your same tax forms that you submit and just do an attestation of what’s happened and then the money would flow and it could always be adjusted at the end of the year with your next set of taxes if your revenue were to go up, she was like, “Why can’t we have something like that?”
Pramila Jayapal: That’s what we need for minority businesses and women-owned businesses, to be able to prioritize those procedural pieces that prevent small businesses and minority-owned businesses from getting their fair share. I think we also have to be much more intentional about how we target minority businesses in particular and we need to use trusted advocates and messengers to connect with those communities and just ultimately prioritize economic dignity for everyone.
Pramila Jayapal: I think those are some of the things we’ve learned, I just fear that it takes us a long time to change the way things are done. That’s why we need your advocacy and the progressive caucus, our hundred members, are very, very committed to doing everything we can to strengthen our small businesses across the country.
Stacy Mitchell: Thank you so much, Congresswoman Jayapal. It’s just lovely to have you here, I really appreciate your time today.
Pramila Jayapal: Thank you so much for having me, and thanks for all the work that you are doing, really appreciate that.
Stacy Mitchell: Great, take care.
Jess Del Fiacco: We’ll continue on with this episode after a very short break. Thank you for listening to our show. If you’re enjoying this episode, I hope we’ll consider heading over to ilsr.org to help support our work. Your support not only makes this show possible, it allows us to develop the innovative research and resource that are helping to level the playing field for small businesses across the country. You can head over to ilsr.org/donate to make a contribution today, any amount is sincerely appreciated. Thanks, and now back to the show.
Stacy Mitchell: And let’s now transition to our second segment, our second keynote speaker, Tim Wu. So nice to see you.
Tim Wu: Likewise, likewise. Thank you for having me.
Stacy Mitchell: Just to briefly reintroduce You, Tim is a White House advisor focused on competition policy issues. I guess I want to just start by just going back to something I raised at the beginning of this, which is that we’ve seen this really pretty sharp decline across most sectors of the economy over the last 40 years in small businesses. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about why America has become so much less hospitable to local businesses and what’s at stake if we continue down this path.
Tim Wu: Yeah, sure. Thank you, and thanks everyone, I really appreciate chance to address this audience. I feel like I have small business in my blood. I started a hot dog business as a teenager, my brother ran a software business. I’ve always just had this admiration for the courage, the resiliency, the kind of virtues that lead people to take the risk on running their own business or inheriting or just deciding to take this route in life, so I’ll start with that.
Tim Wu: Actually, it’s been said before, worth saying again, when you go to the founding, the United States was always built on the back of regional economies, small business. I want to emphasize that has been a key, and we really believe this, to the nation’s democratic soul, the strength of its character. You’ll sometimes hear about Louis Brandeis, famous as a Supreme Court Justice, but he was also an anti-monopoly crusader, also came from a long line of small business men, small business men back then. He would always speak about the link between a nation of small producers and the kind of virtue and character of the country, that’s virtues like risk taking, resilience, responsibility, innovation. You have to have these to start a small business and to keep running it. I think it’s a big part of what has made this country, historically, the land of opportunity.
Tim Wu: The question is, what’s happened and where are we? I think right now, we’re really going through an experience where we can see very vividly how fragile this concentrated economic system we built has been and how poorly it is working for the whole country. Our country has become too centralized, it’s too national in its character in terms of where businesses are located, too centered on consumption as opposed to production, too many of the returns go to too few people who often live very far away from the communities they serve.
Tim Wu: I think what’s happening right now is we’re relearning the virtues and the merits of a mixed economy that is the truer American tradition of small and medium businesses, market structures where they can all survive and prosper, what the president often calls an economy that works for everyone. You only have to look around and see how much we’re struggling with the fragility of our supply chains and the extraction of rents by some of the entities we already mentioned, whether it was credit card companies, whether it was healthcare, to see that there’s something pervasively wrong here.
Tim Wu: The question is, what’s changed and how can we turn the ship? The main problem is about 40 years ago we began to subscribe to a set of microeconomic principles that were fundamentally focused on prices and profits. We’re not interested in the health of the economy from a more macro perspective, we’re not interested in ensuring a healthy mixture of businesses, small, medium, large, but as I said, we’re very focused on narrow economic metrics. That’s led to at least three problems that I want to highlight.
Tim Wu: One is very well known, I think. We’ve all seen so many industries consolidate into just a big three or big four, Visa, MasterCard, mobile plans, airlines, parts of the insurance industry. That’s a traditional problem that I think extracts a lot from the economy, market power, power among sellers.
Tim Wu: But I also want to highlight a problem that maybe many of the people have experienced firsthand, which is what we call the rise of a middleman economy, which has really accelerated over the last decade. That’s where so many industries have seen the rise of a highly concentrated middle layer, whether that’s an online selling platform or just a few online selling platforms, whether that’s meat processing where you have just a few companies that process almost all the beef in the United States, whether that’s the credit card situation, whatever it is, also banking, you just have a middle layer that’s extracting a great amount of the revenue for itself. It leads to a different problem than you might be familiar with when you think about monopoly, which is just high prices, it leads to this problem where the middle layer, the middlemen, have power over their suppliers and are able to squeeze their suppliers and also often able to squeeze their employees. It’s a problem that I think is a new problem for the economy and one that we need to face directly.
Tim Wu: Third thing I want to say, and I’m sorry for going on at such length, but there is a real sense that whatever it is, the sense of opportunity that has been the American brand, has diminished. There’s statistics, a little depressing, that confirm this. In over 75% of US industries, large companies control more of business than they did 20 years ago. Since the mid-80s, the number of annual mergers has skyrocketed. In ’85 it was about 2,000 a year, now it’s more than 15,000 a year, and I think this year it’ll be historic levels. That’s the process of consolidation, large companies buying up smaller ones. Finally, over the last 20 years, the share of total business going to small firms has fallen by nearly a fifth.
Tim Wu: These are real challenges that I just want to assure you that the administration, the White House, is very focused on. We see it not just in terms of the economy, but in terms of the democratic soul of this nation. Freedom and opportunity are not trivial things when it comes to describing what a democracy’s all about, and we need to fight to restore that, to restore the sense that this is a country where you do have the freedom to take your shot, where you do have the economic opportunity to strike out on your own and really try and make something. I think that is what we see as a real key to restoring the character of this nation that we love.
Stacy Mitchell: Back in July, I think it was, President Biden issued this executive order that is designed to focus on competition and restoring competition. It is a big, sprawling document with a lot of provisions. Can you give us an overview of what it does, can this have real impact, and maybe some of the components that are most relevant to independent businesses.
Tim Wu: I think just to answer that straight up, I think it already has had real impact and will continue to have a lot more. Just today, for example, the director of the CFPB, which regulates financial institutions, Rohit Chopra, announced a new war on junk fees being charged by banks. He wants to save bank consumers. I think his target is $36 billion. He announced that at the competition council, which I’ll describe in a minute. That’s just an example of the kind of things that I think the executive order is trying to do.
Tim Wu: Let me back up and describe what it was. On July 9th, the president signed an executive order on competition. It is something of a sprawling document, it has 72 directives, but it’s goals should be understood in light of what I was saying earlier. It’s a historic effort to try to turn this giant steamship called economic policy and point it in a different direction. In his speech launching it, the president spoke about the Roosevelts, both Theodore and FDR Roosevelt, and their vision of an economy that was democratic in nature and fundamentally geared towards opportunity and deconcentration and a fair economy for small and medium-sized business. That’s where we want to turn back to.
Tim Wu: The executive order created the Competition Council, which is the heads of 17 agencies who are tasked with, both in civic and general ways, trying to improve competition in the economy, promote competition in the economy. Let me talk about some of what they’re doing and some of what they will do. At one level, this is a reinvigoration of antitrust enforcement. You’ve seen the president has appointed two strong enforcers, Lina Khan and Jonathan Kanter, to be at the front line of enforcement. We try not talk about current cases, but there’s a number of challenges out there to mergers that are anti-competitive in their views. They’ve also already managed to block a few mergers, a big one was the Justice Department early this year blocked a merger between two of the three largest insurance brokers, which if it had gone through would’ve raised insurance rates for businesses and further increased cost for everyone, so I think that was a big success.
Tim Wu: Some of the other things, I’ll spare you all the details, 72 directives is a lot, but take another example, the order has committed to the administration and its agencies to protecting the right to repair. I know for a lot of businesses, a lot of individuals, paying dealer prices is a very expensive proposition. We’re doing everything we can to try to fight against repair monopolies and make it so either you can fix your own stuff or you can go to independent repair shops. We’ve had some success with companies, including Apple and Microsoft, announcing they’re going to change their policies and make it easy to repair stuff and we think that ha has a lot of legs.
Tim Wu: I can go on at some detail, but I don’t want to get caught in the detail. I just want to give a sense that the whole of government, and not just the antitrust agencies, although they’re a big part of it, is trying and directed by the president to find ways to try and improve competition. I want to also say, the president is into this. He came to the meaning of the Competition Council on Monday, he’s repeatedly spoken about turning the economy around, make it work for all Americans, and spoken of competition as a third pillar.There’s a lot in there, and I look forward to talking about that at greater length.
Stacy Mitchell: That’s great. Well, I feel like we could spend the next half hour continuing to talk about this, but unfortunately we’re out of time and need to move on to the next panel, but that was a really terrific overview and glad to hear that this work is going on. We have a rundown of some of the things that are in the executive order on our website that are particular, I think, highlights for some of the concerns that small businesses have. I’m and excited to see that work go forward and hopefully really have an impact on policy. Tim, thank you so much are being with us today. I really appreciate it.
Tim Wu: Pleasure, it was great. Yeah, there’s a lot in there. If I can just say in closing, just one thing I’ll stress, is the defense department had a number of things, probably should have gotten to them, but the defense department, for example, is revamping its small business procurement program. There’s just one example of something else that the executive order has directed the agencies to do. Thank you so much for having me on and appreciate hearing what comes next.
Stacy Mitchell: That’s great, thank you.
Jess Del Fiacco: Thank you for tuning into this episode of the Building Local Power podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. You can find links to everything discussed today by going to ilsr.org and clicking on the show page for this episode, that’s ilsr.org. While you’re there, you can sign up from one of our many newsletters and connect with us on social media. We hope you’ll also take the opportunity to help us out with a gift that helps produce this very podcast and supports the research we make available for free on our website. Finally, we ask that you let us know what we’re doing with a rating or a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your podcasts.
Jess Del Fiacco: The show is produced by me, Jess Del Fiacco, and edited by Drew Birschbach. Our theme music is Funk Interlude by DysFunktional. For the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, I’m Jess Del Fiacco, and I hope you’ll join us again in two weeks for the next episode of Building Local Power.

 

 

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If you have show ideas or comments, please email us at info@ilsr.org. Also, join the conversation by talking about #BuildingLocalPower on Twitter and Facebook!

 

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Audio Credit: Funk Interlude by Dysfunction_AL Ft: Fourstones – Scomber (Bonus Track). Copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.

Photo Credit: iStock

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Luke Gannon

Luke Gannon is the Research and Communications Associate for the Independent Business team.