Opinion | In a House subcommittee’s report, a strong step toward an antitrust revival

The subcommittee revived a key function of Congress: the power to investigate, report and set the stage for legislation. The report itself may become a keystone in a long-overdue dawning of progressive tech reforms.

Since the mid-1970s, Congress has celebrated the rise of new technology and tech businesses. Both political parties, for different reasons, dismissed antitrust concerns as a relic of a bygone age. For Democrats, globalization and technology seemed to guarantee competition. When antitrust was excised from the party platform in 1992, it had been there since the Gilded Age. For Republicans, markets cured themselves; antitrust was simply another form of regulatory abuse.

Into the vacuum between these positions came the rapacious Big Four. The subcommittee report details how they came to operate at unprecedented scale and reach. The companies’ combined valuation is more than $5 trillion. Add in Microsoft ($1.5 trillion) and Tesla ($275 billion), and the collective value is nearly equal to that of the NASDAQ 100.

The Big Four have enormous influence given their hold on communications infrastructure (Facebook, Google), e-commerce (Amazon), and start-ups and entrepreneurs (Apple). They directly compete with businesses that use their markets. The report tracked how they have gouged suppliers and imitated, acquired or eliminated competitors. It showed how their profits allow them to enter into new lines of business, where they repeat their predatory strategies.

As the subcommittee detailed, the Big Four have acquired hundreds of companies, often to eliminate potential competitors, in what are known as “killer acquisitions.” Meanwhile, antitrust regulators are underfunded — or possibly compromised by lobbying — and seldom are their powers exercised under antitrust laws to block mergers. Of nearly 100 Facebook acquisitions, the Federal Trade Commission extensively investigated only its 2012 purchase of Instagram (over which the FTC took no action).

When monopolies have unlimited power to buy up or kill off competitors, they turn perverse. History shows how, in a variety of sectors, monopolies led to prices going up, quality and innovation declining, and wages and working conditions worsening. Inevitably, concentrated economic power becomes a political issue. The Big Tech monopolies illustrate the cycle. They control more and more parts of society. They employ legions of lobbyists to consolidate their control. Big-money politics expands their influence. They have grown further during the pandemic, as more economic and social activity has moved online.

The subcommittee report includes recommendations for action, including divestment of different lines of business — such as forcing Facebook to split off Instagram and WhatsApp — and preventing platforms such as Amazon from giving preference to its own services or products. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Post.) It calls for increasing the budgets and authority of the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department Antitrust Division.

Although the subcommittee investigation proceeded with bipartisan support, that fell apart when it came to remedies. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the right-wing disrupter, assumed minority leadership of the subcommittee midway through the investigation and focused his attention on the canard that the

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Pelosi says White House proposal on COVID-19 relief is “one step forward, two steps back”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled that there has been limited progress in negotiations with the White House over a coronavirus relief package, saying in a letter to her Democratic colleagues that a proposal presented by the Trump administration on Friday amounted to “one step forward, two steps back.”

“When the president talks about wanting a bigger relief package, his proposal appears to mean that he wants more money at his discretion to grant or withhold, rather than agreeing on language prescribing how we honor our workers, crush the virus and put money in the pockets of workers,” Pelosi wrote. “At this point, we still have disagreement on many priorities, and Democrats are awaiting language from the Administration on several provisions as the negotiations on the overall funding amount continue.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday that President Trump had “approved” a “revised” coronavirus relief package, although he did not offer specifics. 

Earlier, on Tuesday, Mr. Trump slammed the door shut on a deal before the election, but then appeared to change his mind, first calling on the House to pass standalone relief bills and then indicating that he would support a large relief package. In a tweet on Friday morning, the president said, “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!”

In her letter to colleagues on Saturday, Pelosi said the plan produced by the administration does not include “a strategic plan to crush the virus.” She compared it to the HEROES Act which the House passed last month, which provides a national regimen on testing and tracing.

The $2.4 trillion relief bill would also restore a popular benefit providing an additional $600 per week on top of unemployment benefits, deliver another round of direct payments and provide funding for schools and state and local jurisdiction. The legislation was a slimmed-down version of a $3.4 trillion bill the House initially passed in May.

“At this point, the Trump proposal is insufficient in meeting families’ needs, in stark contrast to the Heroes Act, which secured tens of billions for direct relief and refundable credits,” Pelosi said in her letter. She said the Trump administration proposal would differ from the HEROES Act by eliminating the earned income tax credit, child tax credit and child dependent care tax credit. The Democratic proposal would also include $57 billion for child care, while the White House plan only offers $25 billion.

Pelosi also slammed the administration for including a tax benefit that she said would benefit the wealthy, and offering $200 billion less than the Democratic proposal in unemployment benefits.

Nonetheless, Pelosi indicated she would like negotiations to continue.

“Despite these unaddressed concerns, I remain hopeful that yesterday’s developments will move us closer to an agreement on a relief package that addresses the health and economic crisis facing America’s families,” Pelosi said.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has cast doubt on a potential deal, saying Friday he believed “the situation is kind of murky.”

“I’d like to see us rise above that like

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Defining home with interior design consultant Anjel Herman. | Step Inside

“I wanted us to come home to simplicity and peace, a place that is both elegant and timeless,” she says.

For a couple who loves to entertain and socialize, living in a small, gated community of close-knit neighbors, the kitchen naturally became a focal point of a phased remodel that includes a Step Inside first: a baby grand piano in the kitchen for anyone whose appetite includes a little Elton John with their wine.

“It is the epicenter of every party,” Herman says. “No matter how many guests attend our soirees, they all seem to hover around that island.”

With that in mind, the design consultant removed the much smaller two-tiered island and its large built-in awning and replaced it with the simple but ample, front-and-center serving island you see today.

“The kitchen is light and airy now,” Herman says. “I love the beautiful quartzite countertops and backsplash.”

For social gatherings of a more intimate nature, she designed a dining room in white that expresses every texture, every shape, and every mood. Inspired by Europe and a hotel bar ceiling that wowed her, Herman cross-pollinated design elements with the room’s drapery panels and mimicked them in the applied moldings of the architecturally inspired ceiling design. That ceiling design then found further artistic expression in the pastel-colored cut glass diamonds that hang on ribbons of silk from the chandelier. The overall effect catches the shimmering light of the setting sun in a room that makes you feel like you’re floating on a cloud.

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Longtime House parliamentarian to step down

Longtime House staffer Tom Wickham is stepping down as parliamentarian of the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium On The Money: Senate Democrats block GOP relief bill | Senators don’t expect stimulus until after election | Jobless claims plateau GOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election MORE (D-Calif.) said on Friday.

He will be replaced by Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithPass the Primary Care Enhancement Act Trump coronavirus briefings put health officials in bind House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought MORE, who serves as the deputy parliamentarian.

In announcing the change, Pelosi praised Wickham as “a master of House rules and procedure, whose incisive legal acumen and absolute professionalism have strengthened the People’s House and benefited the American people whom we serve.”

“In his 25 years of distinguished service,” she said in a statement, “Tom upheld the great Constitutional underpinnings of the historic role of Parliamentarian with excellence and integrity.”

Wickham previously held the roles of assistant parliamentarian and deputy parliamentarian. Then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFive things we learned from this year’s primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker MORE (R-Ohio) gave Wickham the top parliamentarian job in 2012.

As parliamentarian, Wickham’s job is serve as the House’s referee, providing nonpartisan guidance on parliamentary rules and procedures. That’s put him in the middle of some contentious fights between the Democrats and Republicans.

Last summer, Wickham ruled that Pelosi’s floor remarks calling President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: I feel ‘deep down fury’ that Trump downplayed pandemic NYT reporter removed from Trump rally in Michigan Trump says he didn’t share classified information following Woodward book MORE’s tweets about four first-term women of color “racist” was out of order. The House, led by Pelosi’s party, then voted to overrule Wickham and her remarks were allowed to remain in the Congressional Record.

Pelosi also had praise for Smith.

“Jason brings outstanding experience, a brilliant legal mind and great rigor of judgment to this historic responsibility, and I am confident that he will uphold and advance the proud traditions of this critical office,” Pelosi said. “As we transition to a new Parliamentarian, we do so committed to fostering diversity in the running of this office and its future leadership.”

Smith is not related to the GOP congressman by the same name, Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, who is a member of the leadership team.

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A 5 – Step Plan To Prepare To Buy A House

Although, owning a home of one’s own, is often considered, a major component of the so – called, American Dream, wouldn’t it make sense, to effectively, plan, to ensure this doesn’t become a nightmare, instead? After, over fifteen years, as a Real Estate Licensed Salesperson, in the State of New York, I have created, what I, often, refer to, as the RICH IDEAS, for proceeding, wisely, in terms of buying a house. With that in mind, this article will attempt to, briefly, consider, examine, review, and discuss, a 5 – step plan, for properly, effectively, wisely, being prepared for this process, and proceeding accordingly.

1. Put together/ accumulate sufficient funds, for a variety of requirements and necessities: It’s smart to proceed, as well – prepared, as possible, from the beginning. Well – before, you start searching for a house, begin saving money, in a systematic way. Remember, you will not only need funds, for the down – payment (often, but not always, 20%), but, also, funds for other Closing Costs, including, but not limited to, pre – paid real estate taxes, utilities, and other, so – called, escrow items. In addition, most lending institutions require a demonstration, and proof of funds, equal to several months, of mortgage payments.

2. Obtain a copy of your Credit Report (if husband and wife, get both): You are entitled, once per year, to request a free copy of your Credit Report, from one of the major credit organizations/ companies. Review this document carefully, and correct any errors. If your rating is not, as high, as a lending institution may seek, begin to take steps, to enhance and improve it, sooner, rather than later!

3. Pay – down other debt: Lending institutions use formulas, to determine one’s qualification, to receive funds. These are generally, focused on, one’s percentage of debt to income. Therefore, pay – down your other debt, prior to beginning the process!

4. Don’t add any other debt: Avoid acquiring any more debt, regardless of how convenient, and/ or, appealing, it may seem, at the moment. Don’t fall into the trap, of, accepting new store charge accounts, because doing so, may compromise your credit worthiness, when you seek a mortgage!

5. Shop for homes, within your means: Avoid the trap, of becoming, house – rich, and seeking to purchase a home, beyond your comfortable means! Know, how much, you can afford, comfortably, and securely, so you choose, wisely, and remain, comforted!

Since, for most of us, the value of our house, is our single – biggest, asset, doesn’t it make sense, to proceed, carefully, and wisely? Will you be up to this task?…

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Decluttering Blueprint – Step 3 – Organizing Your Kitchen

If your kitchen isn't living up to your expectations, give it a makeover for convenience and pizazz using the steps below.

  1. Take stock of your kitchens purpose. Is it for cooking, baking, eating, and storing food? If so, move all the items that are unrelated to the purpose of your space (such as papers, magazines, tools, etc.) to other, more appropriate rooms of your home.
  2. Identify the major categories of items to be kept in your kitchen. For example:
  • Cookware – skillets, saucepans, stew pots, and lids.
  • Bakeware – cookie sheets, pie pans, cake pans, and muffin pans.
  • Appliances – coffee maker, toaster, food processor, bread machine, and mixer.
  • Kitchen tools – vegetable peeler, egg slicer, thermometer, cork screw, manual can opener, box grater, cutting board, rolling pin, strainer, and sifter.
  • Utensils – spoons, forks, spatulas, tongs, whisks, pastry brush, and grilling utensils.
  • Dinnerware, glassware and flatware – plates, bowls, cups, glasses and silverware.
  • Pantry items – spices, herbs, dry goods (flour, noodles, etc.), canned and bottled items (soups, worcestershire sauce, etc.), and vinegar and oils.
  • Refrigerator and freezer items.
  • Cook books.
  • Under the sink items – waste basket and cleaning products.
  • Sort everything in your kitchen into the piles that represent the major categories identified in step # 2. Start with all surface items, and then move to the objects stored in drawers, cabinets, and your pantry. If you have an extraordinary amount of items to sort, you might want to get a large box for each category so your piles don't get mixed up.
  • Weed out and organize each category. Be determined to eliminate everything but the items you love and use. Reduce multiples of any single item and dispose of old, seldom used and unwanted items by pitching them, giving them to someone else, selling, or donating them. Then put the remainder of items into sub categories, ie when organizing pantry items – put all spices together and all dry goods together, etc.
  • Decide where to store each category. Consider the size of each category, how frequently you will be accessing each category, and where in your kitchen you will be using each category. For example, put dinnerware close to your dishwasher and cookware close to your stove. Then, double check your plan – is there convenient and sufficient storage space available for each category?
  • Purchase containers, space saving fittings and accessories to make your kitchen as convenient and pleasing as possible. Many kitchens suffer from a shortage of space so using items such as the following will maximize your space and make it more functional.
    • Pull out cabinet organizers make it easy to keep like things together and provide easy access to items in the back of your cupboard. (Available at many home improvement stores.)
    • Steel expanding shelves double space in your shelf area. (Available at Bed, Bath and Beyond.)
    • Wall rack systems free up counter space and make it easier to grab needed utensils when cooking. (Available at Stacks and Stacks, IKEA or home improvement
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