Tag: federal antitrust laws

Comcast-NBC Universal: Everybody Loves a Fight!

If you haven’t been paying attention to the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, here’s a reason to: A good fight has broken out!

It starts with Mark Cooper, Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America, who testified against the merger to the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet on behalf of CFA, Free Press, and Consumers Union.

The merger has so many anti-competitive, anti-consumer, and anti-social effects that it cannot be fixed,” says Cooper.

Cato Adjunct Scholar Richard Epstein lays into Cooper’s testimony with aplomb: ”Dr. Cooper has achieved a rare feat. The evidence that he presents against this proposed merger suffices to explain emphatically why it ought to be approved.”

And in a second commentary, Epstein ladles out another helping of humble pie to Cooper, concluding:

The cumbersome Soviet-style review process that Mr. Cooper advocates does no good for the consumers who he purports to represent. It only shows how far out of touch he is with the basics of antitrust theory as they relate to the particulars of the telecommunication market.

Maybe Cooper will have a rejoinder. But until then, I’ll just note that the best fights are the ones that your guy wins.

Nice Insurance Company. Shame If Anything Were to Happen to It.

Just days after the health-insurance lobby released a report criticizing the Senate Finance Committee’s health care overhaul (for not expanding government enough!), Democrats and President Barack Obama lashed out at health insurers, threatening to revoke what the Government Accountability Office calls the insurers’ “very limited exemption from the federal antitrust laws.”

Democrats say they’re motivated by the need to increase competition in health insurance markets.  Right.

According to Business Week:

David Hyman, a professor of law and medicine at the University of Illinois College of Law and adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute…considers it unlikely that repeal would fundamentally change the nature of the market. While it might increase competition in some markets, he says, it could actually decrease it in others, such as those where small insurers survive because they have access to larger providers’ data. Changes to the act could therefore hurt smaller companies more than larger ones, he says.

Because the act doesn’t outlaw the existence of a dominant provider but simply prohibits collusion, says Hyman, a repeal would fall short of breaking up existing market monopolies that are blamed for artificially inflating prices. The current move against [the] McCarran-Ferguson [Act], he says, “has more to do with the politics of pushing back against the insurance industry’s opposition to health reform than it does with increasing competition in health-insurance markets.”

Combined with what The New York Times described as the Obama administration’s “ham-handed” attempt to censor insurers who communicated with seniors about the effects of the president’s health plan – the Times editorialized: “the government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had to stretch facts to the breaking point to make a weak case that the insurers were doing anything improper” – it’s hard to argue that this is anything but Democrats threatening to use the power of the state to punish dissidents.

When Republicans were in power, dissent was the highest form of patriotism.  Now that Democrats are in power, obedience is the highest form of patriotism.