Conservative economist Arthur Laffer is fighting an antitrust bill aimed at reining in Big Tech on the grounds that the legislation would grow government and inflation.
Mr. Laffer’s entrance into the antitrust battle comes at a critical juncture, as the bill’s supporters are eyeing final consideration by Congress this summer, before the midterm elections become lawmakers’ top priority.
The economist is particularly frustrated by the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, whose bipartisan authors include Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, and Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican. The bill aims to stop Big Tech companies from preferencing their products on their own platforms to disadvantage competitors.
Mr. Laffer wrote in a paper that Ms. Klobuchar’s desired antitrust changes will give government regulators at agencies like the Federal Trade Commission new authority to control America’s top tech firms.
“Antitrust is not anti-inflation — quite the opposite, according to economic theory,” Mr. Laffer wrote. “Proposed antitrust regulatory legislation from Sens. Klobuchar and Grassley that targets companies based on size — threatening utility-style regulation and huge financial penalties — will not reduce inflation. In fact, the inefficiencies this legislation would create could make inflation worse, and further raise the prices of basic needs for consumers.”
Ms. Klobuchar’s office did not respond to requests for comment on Mr. Laffer’s criticism.
Ms. Klobuchar has said the legislation needs to receive floor votes in the House and Senate before the end of August if it stands a chance of becoming law before the midterm elections.
“At its core, this is about lowering costs for consumers and helping competitive business; it’s pro-capitalist and it’s pro-economy,” Ms. Klobuchar said of the bill during a June press conference. “We have momentum. Despite all the money being spent against us, we have momentum because the bill is pro-competition and it’s common sense.”
Rep. Ken Buck, Colorado Republican, co-authored companion legislation in the House and previously identified June as a target for when he wanted the bill to pass Congress.
The legislation has yet to receive a vote, and the bill’s supporters have faced loud and pervasive opposition.
The liberal Chamber of Progress has run digital ads opposing the legislation. The group, which partners with Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta, has previously declined to say how much it spent on the ads.
People traveling around the Fourth of July holiday may have been unable to escape ads from the opponents of antitrust legislation. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance Foundation said last month it was spending a six-figure sum to advertise against antitrust bills on billboards in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and New Hampshire.
“Congress‘ antitrust legislation would break our phones,” the billboards read.
The bill’s supporters are running ads too. Fight for the Future, an activist group opposed to Big Tech companies, is driving two mobile billboard trucks around Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s residences in New York and D.C., urging him to bring the antitrust legislation up for a vote.
The trucks hit the roads on Saturday and will continue to drive throughout the week, according to Fight for the Future.