The Huge Supreme Court Cases You May Have Missed (Episode 49)

The Huge Supreme Court Cases You May Have Missed (Episode 49)

Date: 28 Jun 2018 | posted in: Building Local Power, Podcast | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail
L-R: Nick Stumo-Langer and Stacy Mitchell

The U.S. Supreme Court has occupied the spotlight this week, with a surprise retirement and a blockbuster slate of decisions on consequential cases.

Amid all the news, though, rulings on two pivotal cases have slipped by largely under the radar. Both have implications for efforts to check the power of big companies, especially tech giants like Amazon. Building Local Power podcast guest host and Communications Manager Nick Stumo-Langer is joined by Stacy Mitchell, ILSR’s co-director and Community-Scaled Economy initiative director, to discuss these two rulings.

In Ohio v. American Express, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling has both immediate and long-term implications for monopoly power. Its direct impact is to give credit card companies wide latitude to use their market position to extract fees from merchants and consumers. Its broader impact is to advance a peculiar and novel economic theory that will make it more difficult for the government to bring antitrust cases against Amazon and other “platform” monopolies. Nick and Stacy discuss the majority’s twisted reasoning and talk about where the anti-monopoly movement goes next.

In the other case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. , the Court granted states the authority to require out-of-state and online retailers to collect state sales taxes. It’s a victory for independent businesses, which have long sought a level playing field with large Internet retailers such as Amazon and Overstock. The decision, though, was a long time coming. For most of its 23-year history, Amazon has been able to largely skirt sales taxes, and still does so for its Marketplace sales. As Nick and Stacy discuss, it would be hard to overstate how significant this policy has been in Amazon’s growth and dominance of e-commerce.

“In the history of the Court, there have been rulings so bad that they actually galvanized people to act, and in the case of this American Express ruling, it is a really strong indication that we need a bottom-up movement of citizens and elected officials to take back antitrust, and to re-infuse our laws, and the enforcement of those laws, with their original purposes, which are about protecting competition and protecting democracy” — Stacy Mitchell

During this conversation, Mitchell and Stumo-Langer refer to a number of different resources on each of the Supreme Court cases they discuss, we’ve curated them below, including analyses from our friends and allies in the anti-monopoly movement:

On the internet sales tax ruling:

On the American Express ruling:

Nick Stumo-Langer: Hello, and welcome to the Building Local Power Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I’m Nick Stumo-Langer, ILSR’s communications manager. We have a great show for you this week featuring our Community-Scaled Economy initiative director and co-director of ILSR as a whole, Stacy Mitchell. She’s a frequent host of this very podcast, where you can catch all of our old episodes with Stacy hosting, but today, we’re going to be talking about the Supreme Court. Stacy, how you doing?
Stacy Mitchell: I’m great. How are you?
Nick Stumo-Langer: Doing all right. All right, so let’s delve right here into these multiple Supreme Court cases. We know we’re hitting the end of the term here, and the end of the term for the Supreme Court is a very busy time, so there’s a lot of cases we could be talking about, but we have some that are actually focused on ILSR’s work in independent businesses and anti-monopoly work. Why don’t you, and there was one last week, I think, that we’ll kind of tackle first, that was out of South Dakota, so why don’t we run through that?
Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. I mean, it’s a big week for Supreme Court cases. Obviously, on a Wednesday, we had the case around unions. We had the travel ban case. Those cases are obviously very important and taking up a lot of attention, but there are two other ones that came down in the last week that have implications for local economies and for antitrust that are really important. As you noted, one of these was this case called Wayfair, and it was about internet sales tax. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that states have the authority to require out-of-state sellers like internet retailers and catalog retailers to collect sales tax, and so for the first time, the court has, at long last, opened the way for a fair playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers in eCommerce.

Just to take people back a little bit to the history of how we got here, there was a Supreme Court case way back in 1992 that had to do with a catalog retailer. In that case, the Supreme Court said that the question was, is requiring a catalog retailer to collect sales tax in a state where it doesn’t have a physical location, is that a burden on interstate commerce? The court said the burden isn’t so great that it’s unconstitutional. They said it’s really a question of trying to decide a sort of balancing act. Yeah, there’s a bit of a burden on that company to have to figure out the sales tax rates in all the different states and collect and remit that tax, but there’s also a public interest in collecting tax, and so how do we balance that?

In 1992, the court said, “We think it’s a little bit more burdensome, so we’re going to say that states can’t require these out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax, but we’re really not sure about that,” and so the court very explicitly says, “We think Congress ought to look at this. Congress is the right place to decide this issue.”

Nick Stumo-Langer: With the Supreme Court kind of turning to Congress on this, as in so many issues that it’s turned to Congress for, I’m guessing that nothing happened and that we kind of maintained the unendurable status quo. Is that right?
Stacy Mitchell: Yes. Unendurable status quo, I think, really, that’s catchphrase for our times. Yeah, Congress really did nothing. It’s kind of amazing, because ILSR’s been advocating on this issue since the late 1990s. We’ve been saying there needs to be a fair playing field. It’s a terrible thing if you’re a local retailer and you’ve got to collect 9% sales tax, and your biggest competitors online don’t have to collect that sales tax. That’s just a really profound disadvantage. When the courts made this ruling back in 1992, of course, eCommerce didn’t exist, but that ruling ultimately profoundly shaped the nature of eCommerce, and it really set up Amazon’s rise. It really enabled Amazon to grow quite rapidly. We know this from research that shoppers were actually, that Amazon, the fact that Amazon didn’t have to collect sales tax for most of its history really drove its expansion. Small businesses and others petitioned Congress for relief repeatedly over the years, and we never got it.
Nick Stumo-Langer: What does the playing field look like, going forward? I mean, it was a 5-4 majority in favor of South Dakota. Anthony Kennedy kind of joined the court’s quote-unquote “liberals.” What does this look like, kind of going forward? Maybe chart a little bit of this path and kind of what this means. I’ve seen people saying this is the end of the unlevel playing field. I’ve seen some people saying, “Well, it doesn’t really matter, because it’s so many years overdue.” Maybe you can kind of cut through the noise on both sides there.
Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. I mean, I would say that it matters, though it is also in some ways too late. What brought us to this point was that the Supreme Court had another case back in 2015 that kind of touched on sales tax, but it wasn’t really about internet sales tax, but in the ruling on that case, Kennedy said, “We really ought to look at this internet sales tax thing again.” I mean, he basically invited a case, and so South Dakota and a number of other states heard that loud and clear, and they went and passed these laws that say even if you don’t have a physical presence in a state, you could have what they termed an economic presence, meaning, in the case of South Dakota, if you’re selling $100,000 or more worth of stuff to residents of South Dakota, you’re considered to have an economic presence, and therefore you have to collect sales tax.

That’s the case that then resulted in a lawsuit and finally got us back to the Supreme Court and to this 5-4 decision giving states this power to collect sales tax. It was a really mixed decision, actually. It was a mix of conservatives and liberals on the five side and then a mix of conservatives and liberals on the four side, so it was a bizarre decision in terms of the split of the court.

To get to your question, where we go from here, so in the case of Amazon, they collect on their first-party sales, so their own direct sales in all 45 states that have sales tax, but they don’t collect on their third-party sales. Those are in the marketplace the sellers that use Amazon’s platform and sell through Amazon. Amazon doesn’t necessarily collect sales tax for those sales, which is about half of its business. What this decision does is really twofold. One, there are a number of states where Amazon doesn’t have a physical presence. Maine is one of them. Hawaii, Alaska, the Dakotas. Amazon doesn’t have any warehouses, any offices, anything else in those states, and so those states legally can’t require Amazon to collect sales tax. Amazon’s been collecting on a voluntary basis as a part of agreements where it got some favors in exchange. This ruling means that now those states have firm legal grounds to require Amazon to collect sales tax. What’s going to happen with the third-party sellers is now a big question, because there’s a fight going on over that question.

South Carolina has stood up and said, “Amazon, you’re responsible for collecting these sales tax on these sales. You’re benefiting from them. You’re profiting from them. You’re facilitating them. You’re the one who ought to collect the sales tax.” Amazon is vigorously fighting that now in court, so we’ll see where that court case ends up, but I just think it’s important to just say at this point there’s still a lot of work for states to do to level the playing field and also that there’s this fight over third-party sellers. As much as there’s been a tendency in the news media to say, “Oh, well, Amazon collects everywhere,” it doesn’t. That’s a little bit of a myth, and Amazon is fighting very hard as it has for the last, however long, 23 years that it’s been in business, it’s been fighting to preserve whatever sales tax advantage it can have, and it’s still actually fighting to preserve that.

Nick Stumo-Langer: It’s an interesting notion, because we’ve talked a little bit offline about this, that you kind of get to the point where maybe after they’ve built up so big and they’ve been able to expend, or extend their infrastructure out, that collecting the sales tax really isn’t that big of a burden for them. I mean, we see a larger fight in someplace like Seattle, where Seattle wanted to impose a tax on these large employers because they are disproportionately using the city’s services, kind of ensuring that there is a little bit more of a fair playing field here. We saw Amazon flex its political muscle in these fights. As we move forward, where states can compel Amazon and other large retailers, out-of-state retailers to collect the sales tax, I’m sure we’re going to see a little bit more of this political clout being thrown around.
Stacy Mitchell: That’s exactly right, and it’s such a good point, because as we’ve talked on this podcast a lot that economic power translates into political power, and that’s one of the reasons we ought to be concerned about these big companies having so much power. I think Amazon’s move to block the Seattle head tax, which was going to be used to fund affordable housing, which Seattle desperately needs, in part because of Amazon’s presence has really driven up the cost of living. I mean, it was really a striking example of how much power that company has over that city, and I think you’re right, we’re going to continue to see them exercise that political power at the state level around this sales tax issue.

They’ve managed to convince some states, including Massachusetts and California, to go after third-party sellers directly instead of going after Amazon as the platform and the medium that really should be collecting the sales tax, in my opinion. We’ve now got Massachusetts and California sending letters to these small sellers. Some of those sellers are overseas. I mean, there’s really no effective way for the state to enforce that, and it creates a lot of confusion and hassle for sellers, but Amazon has persuaded them to do that.

We also suspect that Amazon, in some states where it came to states early last year and said, “We don’t have to collect sales tax here, because we don’t have a physical presence here,” that Amazon said to those states, “We’ll volunteer to collect sales tax on our direct sales in exchange for you not requiring us to collect them on our third-party marketplace sales.” We don’t know for sure that that’s the nature of those agreements, but there’s some indication that it is, and it’s just yet again an illustration of the fact that all these years, Amazon has been working diligently behind the scenes to make sure that it has a competitive advantage in terms of sales tax and that it uses its political power in states to maintain that advantage. I’m really glad for the Supreme Court’s ruling. I think it’s the right ruling, but it’s unfortunate that we’ve ended up in a situation where eCommerce is so dominated by this one company, largely as a result of this tax advantage.

Nick Stumo-Langer: Yeah, and I think it’s worth, before we kind of move on to the next case, dwelling on the fact that this sales tax collection can staunch a little bit of the bleeding in some of these communities that have seen so much wealth leave their communities thanks to eCommerce retailers, third-party or otherwise, on Amazon’s platform, as well as kind of out-of-state retailers and that type of thing. I think that you’re going to be able to see some of this money being able to be pumped back into the local economy and maybe in some better policies, some local purchasing policies, to be able to stay and kind of build up the infrastructure of those local economies and the things that we really like to see here at ILSR.
Stacy Mitchell: Yeah, and that’s a great point. We’ve been talking about this in terms of a competitive playing field needing to be leveled, but it’s also been a big, it had a big impact on revenue of local governments, because sales tax is an important source of revenue for both states and cities. It funds a lot of our infrastructure, our schools, and there’s been research recently that has shown that even though we’re in, that the economy is growing, that revenue for state and local governments has actually been stagnant or declining, and a big piece of why is this transition to eCommerce and the fact that they’re not getting the sales tax revenue that they used to get. Bringing that money back into cities is going to be an important outcome of this case.
Nick Stumo-Langer: All right, so before we head over to the next case, we’re going to take a quick break, and then we’ll be right back. Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of the Building Local Power Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Now, usually, this is the part of any podcast where you usually hear about a mattress company issuing spaceship loans for audiobooks or something, but that’s not quite how it works here at ILSR. We’re a national organization that supports local economies, which means we don’t accept national advertising. As we approach the end of our fiscal year, we need your support. Please consider making a donation to ILSR. Not only does your support underwrite this podcast, but it also helps us produce all of the research and resources we make available on our website. Please take a minute and go to Any amount is welcome, and it’s sincerely appreciated. That’s Thank you so much, and now, back to the show.

Stacy, going from the sacred of this wonderful Wayfair South Dakota decision to the profane of the American Express, the Ohio decision, why don’t you just give us a sense of why so many anti-monopoly activists and friends of ours on Twitter are sounding the alarm bells and kind of are saying that this is a terrible decision for our hopes moving forward with antitrust law?

Stacy Mitchell: Man, profane is right. This is really a shockingly bad decision from the Supreme Court. It’s a decision that doesn’t make a lot of sense if you actually read the decision, and it has implications both in the immediate term and then these bigger-picture implications that are quite concerning. Let me walk through sort of the basics of the case. This was a case that involves the fees associated with credit cards. When you pay for something with your credit card, you know about the fees that you might pay. Maybe there’s an annual fee. If you’re late, there’s a late payment fee. There’s the interest charges you might get and so on, but there are also another set of fees that you don’t see, hidden fees that the retailer pays. When the retailer swipes your card, they also have to pay Visa, Mastercard, or American Express a fee. The fee is quite high in the U.S. It’s often around 2% of the purchase price, plus usually there’s a flat fee of 50 cents or something like that on top of that.

To give you a sense globally, a lot of other countries regulate these fees. They actually cap them and say they can’t be above a certain rate. In the U.S., for example, our credit card fees, swipe fees, are about seven times what they are in Europe. The reason for that is that American Express, Visa, and Mastercard utterly dominate the credit card market, and if you’re a store, a business, you really have to take credit cards. There’s no way in this day and age not to take credit cards. There’s not a lot of competition among those credit card companies to lower the fees, and so you just get gouged. I mean, you pay whatever they charge you. Back a few years ago, there were 17 states, and the federal government got together and said there is an antitrust violation here, that American Express, Visa, and Mastercard are, they have these terms that they give these contracts that the merchant agrees to.

Part of the contract terms are that you, as a merchant, as a store, you can’t encourage your customers to use a cheaper card. The fees vary by the type of card. If it’s an American Express card with lots of airline points that you get as a result, the fees that the merchant pays are quite high, because the merchant’s basically paying for your airline rewards. If it’s a credit card from, say, a local credit union and doesn’t have any of those rewards associated with it, the fees are lower. What retailers would like to do is to say when you come into their store, if you’re going to pay with one of those lower-cost cards, maybe they give you a discount, or if you’re going to pay with cash, maybe they give you a discount so that they have a way of helping steer consumers to the lowest-cost options.

Well, in these contracts that the credit card companies have with local merchants, they say, “No way you can do that. You cannot reveal these fees. You cannot steer consumers to a cheaper option,” so 17 states and the federal government said that’s an antitrust violation, that that’s undermining competition, and they brought this lawsuit.

Nick Stumo-Langer: How did the Supreme Court take that argument? How did they understand, I guess, that antitrust argument for this? Because I’ve seen it described as a fundamental issue with our economy that these fees are not seen, and therefore it is a difficult thing to try and rein them in, because we’ve kind of built this system around the fact that we don’t see these fees and how harmful they are.
Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. Exactly, and in this case, the point that the governments who brought this case were making is that the merchant can’t do what you would normally do. If something is high-priced, you would go to a lower-priced alternative. That’s how a market works. Right? That then makes the company that’s offering the higher price have to lower their price to compete. Well, in this case, there was no competition, because consumers can’t see the fees, and merchants can’t not take the cards, so they’re kind of stuck. That was the argument that the government made. The district court agreed with that argument. Visa and Mastercard ended up settling at that point, and so American Express was the only one that then went on appeal and appealed the case and ended up in front of the Supreme Court. What the court said is that they sided with American Express on a 5-4 decision with … It was the conservatives on the five side and liberals on the four side, and they said, “We don’t think that this is an antitrust issue.”

They had this really novel logic, and it’s almost, it’s so kind of strange, frankly, that it’s hard to describe in some ways, but what they said is that there is this two-sided market, that this is a two-sided market, meaning that in this case, American Express both has customers using the card on one side, and merchants using the card on the other, and so there are two sides to this market. They said, “When you look at this from an antitrust perspective, you can’t just consider how the merchants are affected. You also have to consider how the consumers are affected.” They said essentially that Visa, Mastercard, and American Express can behave in very anticompetitive ways with regard to the merchants. They can gouge them all day long as long as they can show that there’s some kind of benefit to consumers.

Now, the benefit for consumers, I think, is quite questionable, because what’s so striking about the case is that the majority utterly ignored the factual findings of the district court ruling. One of the factual findings of the district court ruling was that credit card fees, these swipe fees, have been increasing quite substantially, in fact, American Express has increased those fees 20 times in the last few years, and that those added fees end up resulting in prices being raised across the economy for all consumers regardless of whether you’re using a credit card, so there was in fact some real harm shown to consumers here, not just to merchants, but somehow, the majority utterly ignored that harm. The minority, the dissenting justices, the opinion was issued by Breyer, and he actually read the dissent out loud from the bench. They almost never do that. They only do it in cases when they are just so beside themselves about how bad they think the majority’s decision is that they read it out loud as a way of really showing a level of dissent.

What he said and what other people have … Concerns that others have raised about this case is that not only are we letting the credit card companies off the hook, we’re allowing these handful of credit card companies to continue to gouge Main Street businesses, and that’s anticompetitive, but this whole, weird, two-sided market theory is novel. It’s not really grounded in anything that’s terribly logical, and what it opens the way for is a situation in which the big tech companies, like Amazon, Google, and Facebook, could just be let off the hook for antitrust enforcement because they’re all two-sided markets. As long as Amazon can say, “Oh, consumers are benefiting,” then essentially, what this ruling suggests is that Amazon could say, “It doesn’t matter what we do to third-party sellers. It doesn’t matter what we do to suppliers. If we can serve some benefit to consumers, then this isn’t an antitrust case.”

Nick Stumo-Langer: I think it’s worth saying, as well, that in opposition to some of the other rulings that folks have been angry about, this is not a very narrow ruling, as far as the scope of what this could be used for. First of all, it is very impressive to see people as old as these justices do these kind of backflips to kind of service toward this huge, concentrated power. I mean, it’s quite impressive. Really, what we’re seeing is opening the door to gutting antitrust enforcement that’s been gutted before, and it seems like so many of the recommendations that I hear you making, Stacy, and I think some of our allies in this movement are making, is that these laws are on the books. There is precedent to enforce these laws in a way that can improve competition, can reduce market concentration, and so on and so forth down the line.

What we’re seeing here is the alternative judicial theory kind of going as far as, I wouldn’t say logic, but as far as this progression is taking them. It’s kind of just unbelievable to watch these types of things, and you’re right for pointing out Justice Breyer’s dissent from the bench, because he seemed rightfully angry about the fact that none of this has a basis in reality.

Stacy Mitchell: That’s exactly right. I mean, he was just … His opinion’s really worth reading. It’s actually worth reading both the majority and the minority opinion in this, because, as you said, backflips. I mean, Justice Thomas, Clarence Thomas, did the majority’s opinion, and it’s just astonishing to read. I mean, at different points, he sort of finally acknowledges that the cost of credit cards has, in fact, gone up, which suggests an anticompetitive situation, but then he says, “Well, but output has increased. There are more credit card transactions, and so output has increased, and that’s a good thing. We want to see more output in the economy.”

Well, that doesn’t make any sense, because, obviously, credit card transactions are going to be growing because people are multiplying, and more people are using credit cards than cash. That doesn’t really tell us anything about, well, whether this is a competitive market or not. Yeah, tons of backflips and weird contortions in his opinion. Then Breyer’s opinion is just searing. I mean, one of the things that he says in there is that, “By failing to limit its definition to platforms that economists would recognize as two-sided, the majority carves out a much broader exception to the ordinary antitrust rules than the academic articles it relies on could possibly support.”

In the decision, he talks about, “You’re relying on these … The majority’s relying on these sort of novel academic articles, these sort of untested theories by economists, and by the way, you’re taking it even further than those economists were taking this two-sided market argument,” so it just, it really is out there on a limb. I think to your broader point, this is one of the ways in which antitrust has gone wrong. We have these really good laws on the books that are a great foundation, and yet, in recent decades the courts have begun to, have interpreted these laws in ways that really take us far away from their true purpose and their true scope, and often doing those new interpretations based on a kind of ideology that is connected to a set of economic theories that are not necessarily true, and really are moving away from the policy purposes of those, and using economics in a way to rewrite our law that I think is quite dangerous and undemocratic.

Nick Stumo-Langer: I think it’s worth kind of pulling out this dichotomy as we move into more broader conversation. The first case that we talked about is really the Supreme Court saying, “Well, we didn’t have legislative action, so now we have to do something about this, because it’s obviously terrible.” Then this second case is, “Well, we have all this great legislation that we definitely don’t want to use, so we might as well just make these judicial decisions that are transforming it into the way that we think we want for some mistaken notion of freedom.”

It kind of begs the question, for me, that what is the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, this organization that we focus on local economies and kind of building up in a variety of different sectors, what do we think about SCOTUS as, Supreme Court of the United States, what do we think about the Supreme Court kind of wielding this power in this centralized way, and what does that kind of say for us? That’s useful as like kind of a reflection point at this point.

Stacy Mitchell: There have been a lot of Supreme Court cases over the history of the court where the case was such a bad ruling that it actually galvanized people to act, and I think in the case of this American Express ruling, it is a really strong indication of the fact that we need a bottom-up movement of citizens and elected officials to take back antitrust, and to reinfuse our laws, and the enforcement of those laws, with their original purposes, which are about protecting competition and protecting democracy. That’s really what’s at stake here, so …

In an odd way, as sort of disastrous and awful as this case is, it actually shows the need for what is already underway, which is this growing movement, and it really defines quite clearly why this movement is needed and what our purpose is, because the way that the law is being enforced is way out, far removed from its original purpose, and it’s our job as citizens to bring it back, bring it back home to what antitrust should be about.

We’re going to continue, at ILSR, to develop popular education tools and resources to help citizens and elected officials at all levels of government get involved in this issue, because that’s what we need to do, and we really need to begin using both the authority that we have at the state level and the authority that Congress has to get these laws back to where they need to be, and to create an open and fair market, and to restore democracy, really, in the face of concentrated economic power.

Nick Stumo-Langer: To put a cheesy bow on it, as well, it was Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who said that states are the laboratories of democracy, and there’s a number of different ways that we can challenge the concentration of this power across the economy, and all these different new and nuanced ways in these states, like you said, kind of reclaiming this democratic part of our control over the economy. I think that that’s a great place to kind of, can move it forward.
Stacy Mitchell: It’s interesting. As we move forward, what’s striking about this is that we are seeing more and more people talking about monopoly. In fact, it’s interesting that this American Express case came down at the same, right during the same few weeks when, for example, the Federal Trade Commission, one of the agencies in charge of antitrust, stepped forward and said, “We’re going to do a series of hearings on concentration, and particularly on the tech platforms,” at a time when we’re seeing also more members of Congress speaking up. There really is this shift that’s going on in this movement that’s developing from the bottom up, and that’s exciting.

One of the things I just want to say that I also think is interesting, we, in talking about the American Express case, I noted that it was a 5-4 decision, it was the conservative wing of the court that was on the majority side in that decision, but that left-right split is not so clear-cut on this issue. In fact, there are a lot of Republicans and conservatives who are increasingly concerned about concentration. I spoke last week at the American Conservative Magazine’s … They had a forum on big tech, and where a lot of people there quite concerned about concentration. Also, it’s just notable that the states, the 17 states that filed this antitrust case against American Express, were led by the state of Ohio and the Attorney General in Ohio, who is a Republican. There are some indications that this, there is a sort of bipartisan embrace of this idea that concentration has gone way too far, and that we need to, as I said, we really need to take our democracy back from these economic powerhouses.

Nick Stumo-Langer: That’s a great place to leave it, and kind of leaves some meat on the bone for our future conversations. Stacy, thank you so much for joining us this week, kind of explaining these Supreme Court cases and where we go from here.
Stacy Mitchell: Thanks, Nick!
Nick Stumo-Langer: Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of the Building Local Power Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. You can find links to everything we discussed today by going to our website,, and clicking on the show page for this episode. That’s While you’re there, you can sign up for one of our many newsletters and connect with us on social media. Finally, as we near the end of our fiscal year, you can go to and help us out with a gift of any amount. This really helps us produce our podcast, get us great guests, and produce original research on the way that monopolies are impacting our economy. Once again, please help us out by rating this podcast and sharing it with your friends on iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts. This show is produced by Lisa Gonzalez and me, Nick Stumo-Langer. Our theme music is Funk Interlude by Dysfunction_AL. For the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, I’m Nick Stumo-Langer, and I hope you’ll join us again in two weeks for the next episode of Building Local Power.

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Nick Stumo-Langer
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Nick Stumo-Langer

Nick Stumo-Langer is Communications Manager at ILSR working for all five initiatives. He runs ILSR's Facebook and Twitter profiles and builds relationships with reporters. He is an alumnus of St. Olaf College and animated by the concerns of monopoly power across our economy.