The Market Institute President Charles Sauer has a new article in Real Clear Markets highlighting the ongoing war on business by FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan.
“In 2020 Joe Biden responded to then-President Donald Trump’s taunts that Biden was a socialist by reminding voters that he beat the “democratic” socialist Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. This was Biden’s way of reassuring voters that they did not have to worry that a vote for Biden was a vote to for a radical left-wing agenda. Biden’s implicit pledge to avoid turning far left was broken early in his administration (amongst other actions) by his appointment of Lina Khan as Chair of the Federal Trade Commission.
Khan, while in law school, became a progressive superstar based on an article calling for enhanced use of antitrust to deal with the unique threats to society posed by Amazon. While this is a view shared by some conservatives, including some who normally oppose government regulations, Khan would go much further. She gave a hint of how radical her agenda was when shortly after she assumed the Chair of the FTC, the FTC’s rule making procedures removed references to the Bureau of Competition’s mission as working to “….preserve the free market system.”
In a subsequent memo to FTC staff, Khan called her approach to antitrust “holistic,” saying “workers and independent businesses, in addition to consumers, can be harmed by antitrust and consumer protection violations.” Khan wants to both utilize and politicize antitrust laws as a tool to punish businesses deemed too big or not “woke.” The FTC is currently issuing regulations banning “non-compete” employment clauses. The FTC has also expanded the questions it asked when reviewing mergers to include questions regarding issues such as how mergers would affect workers and other labor issues that are seemingly unrelated to the FTC’s congressionally mandated mission of preventing “unfair” competitive conduct. Alarmingly, these issues outside the scope of the FTC seem to be a central focus of its leader.
Khan and her allies claim Congress’ intent in forming the FTC was to create an agency with broad powers to prohibit “unfair” conduct. Khan thinks her expansive view of antitrust law is within the scope of the agency’s congressionally-granted powers. Others say Khan is overreaching and her holistic approach to antitrust will be struck down by the conservative Supreme Court. The Court has been less willing than its predecessors to defer federal agencies’ interpretations of their regulatory powers. In West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, 597 U.S. ___ (2022) the Court ruled that Congress did not give the EPA authority to address climate change. However, a conservative court may rule that even if the agency is exceeding its authority and strikes down certain instances of FTC overreach, it is the job of Congress to reverse, modify, or ratify any fundamental changes to the agency’s mission.
Congress has a constitutional responsibility to oversee federal agencies and rein them in when they’ve exceeded their legal authority. Khan escaped oversight for the first two years of her Chairmanship because both the House and the Senate were controlled by Democrats. Now that Republicans control the House, they have put overseeing the Biden Administrant at the top of their agenda.
Khan’s radical agenda is a natural target for oversight. Not only does her agenda threaten to wreak havoc on the U.S. economy by dramatically expanding government power, her appointment shows how much Biden’s economic agenda is being shaped by radical progressives. This allows the GOP to put moderate democrats from red or “purple” districts in a tough predicament where they have to choose between loyalty to Biden or their own constituents.
Unfortunately for Khan, one of the House Committees with jurisdiction over the Federal Trade Commission is the Judiciary Committee. The Republican Chair of that committee is Jim Jordan, who is eager to use his chairmanship to conduct effective oversight of the Biden administration. Even better for those of us who value liberty- and thus worse for Khan and her allies- the new Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Administrative State, Regulatory Reform, and Antitrust is Representative Thomas Massie (KY-01). Representative Massie is not just the most principled defender of limited constitutional government currently serving in Congress, he may well be the most principled defender of liberty not named Dr. Paul to serve in Congress for at least the last hundred years.
A MIT educated engineer, Representative Massie is more than capable of exposing the dangers of Khan’s agenda. Representative Massie’s history of criticizing Republican leadership when they deviate from the principle of individual liberty, as well as his history of reaching across party lines to defend civil liberties and oppose unconstitutional wars, make it difficult for Khan’s defenders to smear him as a partisan hack.”