Sen. Hawley’s Big Government Power Grab

April 13, 2021

Is Sen. Josh Hawley’s extreme lurch to the left the first sign that the Republican Party is returning to the progressive populism of Teddy Roosevelt in his Bull Moose incarnation? Or is Hawley just a fist-bumping outlier?

  • Like a man swatting at a fly with a loaded shotgun, Hawley’s irritation at woke corporations has led him to propose a basket of radical, anti-business proposals in his “Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act.” It is a basket of proposals that are big government personified, aiming at social media companies but giving the government sweeping oversight of all American business. Elizabeth Warren, you’ve just been one-upped … by Josh Hawley!

What would the senator from Missouri do?

  • Hawley would ban mergers and acquisitions for firms with a market cap of over $100 billion. Hawley is aiming at Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook. But he is also subjecting ExxonMobil, Procter & Gamble, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America, Walt Disney, Pepsi-Co, Cisco Systems and dozens of other corporations to a rule in which they are essentially unable to acquire anything new.

This is not a recipe for more competition. It is a recipe for the fossilization of American capitalism.

  • Hawley would also lower the threshold for prosecution under existing federal antitrust laws, replacing the prevalent “consumer harm” standard with one that “protects competition.”

This is a neo-Brandesian move that Lina Khan and Elizabeth Warren would applaud (if they weren’t afraid of the cooties that come for progressives mentioned in the same breath as Josh Hawley). The senator’s legislation jettisons the Consumer Welfare Standard that has anchored antitrust law for almost a half century, and returns us back to the subjectivism of past jurisprudence.

  • Hawley would require companies that lose federal antitrust lawsuits to “forfeit all their profits resulting from monopolistic conduct.” This is a corporate death penalty. With punishment that Draconian, expect corporate executives every morning to politely ask regulators and the politicians who control them how high they should jump. If Hawley’s bill is to strike back at “woke” corporations, then his bill is an own-goal.
  • And finally, Hawley would give the Federal Trade Commission new power to designate and regulate “dominant digital firms” in different online markets. In the name of opening up more space for conservative voices, Hawley would subject social media companies to regulation by Biden-appointed Democrats. If you dislike the restrictive view some social media companies take toward conservatives, wait until you put them in a state of perpetual investigation and potential prosecution by woke politicians and regulators in Washington, D.C.

Taken together, this is a sweeping assumption of government power that would be perfectly in sync with the socialist direction of AOC and the ultra-progressive dreams of the Biden Administration. Is Hawley a harbinger of things to come? Or is he fist-bumping his way to irrelevance?

Whatever the answer, his “Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act” shows the extent to which many so-called conservatives in Congress have lost touch with conservative thought. To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, if your solution to big, powerful companies is even bigger and more powerful government, you just might be a progressive.