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06 September 2009

Reinvigorated Antitrust Under Obama

The new head of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department, Christine Varney, wants to pursue a much more vigorous antitrust program than that under the Bush administration, which was actually by no means insignificant. According to the 29 August - 4 September 2009 issue of the Economist, she plans to model herself after Thurman Arnold, who held the same position beginning in 1938 under FDR. He claimed he was "responsible for the first sustained program of antitrust enforcement on a nationwide scale."

Thurman Arnold wrote The Folklore of Capitalism (1937), an anti-capitalist book. According to Jim Powell in FDR's Folly (2003), he said, "The advantage of the antitrust laws is that they are sufficiently vague," meaning they gave government officials like Arnold a great deal of arbitrary power. So, what did Arnold do with this arbitrary power? According to Jim Powell, he
  • Hired 300 lawyers and filed 150 antitrust lawsuits against employers
  • He filed both criminal and civil lawsuits simultaneously
  • Often filed suits against entire industries
  • Grand juries created 99 criminal lawsuits and 22 civil suits
  • Lawsuits against milk, oil, tobacco, shoe machinery, tire, fertilizer, railroad, pharmaceutical, school supply, billboard, fire insurance, liquor, typewriter, movie industry, and others
  • Thought that advertising was unfair if one company had a well-recognized name brand and called this coercive advertising
  • Got the Senate to set up the Temporary National Economic Committee, which set up hearings with 552 witnesses, 20,000 pages of testimony, 3,300 technical exhibits, and 43 special studies, whose results were useless
  • Helped to create fear that Social Security was going to take over the life insurance business
  • Prosecuted companies and industries for trying to raise prices just as the National Industrial Recovery Act did, including some who were specifically asked by the NRA to do so
Only the need to increase industrial production for WWII brought an end to these very disruptive actions by Arnold. He contributed mightily to the climate of uncertainty which caused many businesses to be reluctant to invest and to hire, thereby greatly prolonging the Great Depression. Of course, many others of FDR's cadre of socialists were also determined contributors to the creation of business uncertainty.

So, what does Christine Varney intend to do? We know that she has made comments prior to taking this job, that she thinks Google is going to be an antitrust problem. Google is a very leftist oriented company. According to CNN Money, 98% of Google employee's contributions in the 2004 presidential campaign went to John Kerry. Six top Google executives paid $150,000 to fund Obama's swearing in bash. But, sometimes you can buy off socialists and sometimes you cannot. The FTC has already begun an investigation into ties at the Board of Directors level between Apple and Google, which caused Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, to leave the Apple board.

Varney also intends to use antitrust enforcement to combat the effects of earlier deregulations, particularly upon the financial industry. But, even the biggest banks have a global market share of less than 10%, so they are difficult to prosecute in a traditional way under antitrust laws. There has been a trend, especially in Democrat administrations, to narrow the market size with creative definitions to make the market share in such peculiarly defined markets larger. She may try to claim they are too big to fail, so they cannot be allowed to be so big.

She recommended that Continental Airlines not be allowed to be integrated into an international alliance of airlines, but the Department of Transportation has ignored that recommendation.

Overall, it is clear that Varney is an activist socialist who will fit in well with Obama's cadre of committed socialists who are trying very hard to damage the Capitalist system wherever possible. She is clearly planning to work hard to exercise an increased level of government fascist control over the private sector.

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