Binyamin Appelbaum | End the Trump-Biden Tariffs – The New York Times

Mr. Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board.

“Tariffs on imports from China have refilled the employee parking lot at Stoughton Trailers in Evansville, Wis. The company makes chassis, the wheeled steel frames that carry cargo containers around the country. Chassis from China are now prohibitively expensive, Stoughton is hiring hundreds of workers — and the rest of us are paying for those jobs.

The tariffs have contributed to a shortage of chassis in the middle of an import boom, one reason that American ports are gridlocked. Tariffs also drive up prices. American chassis are beginning to roll off production lines, but they cost more than pretariff Chinese chassis, which raises the price of everything that travels by chassis.

In slapping tariffs on chassis and a wide range of other goods in 2018, President Donald Trump loudly insisted China was cheating by subsidizing its export industries. Tariffs, he promised, would shelter American manufacturers from unfair competition. President Biden has maintained the tariffs. The federal government is on pace to collect more money in tariffs this year than in any previous year.”

Binyamin Appelbaum | Monopoly’s Bad Cousin – The New York Times

Mr. Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board.

“The nation’s antitrust police, asleep for the past few decades, barely opening their eyes to buzz through the latest corporate mergers, finally seem to be emerging from their slumber. That is a very good thing for the American economy.

This month the Justice Department filed suit to prevent Penguin Random House from buying the rival book publisher Simon & Schuster. It’s the most interesting antitrust action in a long time. In pursuing the case, the Biden administration is attempting to break out of a cage that has constrained antitrust enforcement since the 1980s.

The power of large corporations can warp the economy in several ways. The most familiar is that companies with monopoly power can impose higher prices on consumers. To the extent federal antitrust regulators have done anything in the past few decades, they have objected to deals that seemed likely to result in higher prices.

But big companies also can pad profits by squeezing their workers and suppliers, and they can influence politicians to entrench their advantages.”

Binyamin Appelbaum | Break Up Big Chicken – The New York Times

Mr. Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board.

“President Biden wants to lead a revival of antitrust enforcement, a campaign aimed most obviously at curbing the behavior of feral tech companies.

But Mr. Biden can’t achieve his goal of expanding fair competition in the United States solely by wrangling with Big Tech. To succeed, he’ll need to confront Big Chicken, too.

Most chicken that Americans eat is processed by a handful of big companies because, in recent decades, the government gave its blessing to the consolidation of poultry processing, along with a wide range of other industries. The unsurprising result: In recent years, the surviving companies took advantage of their market power to prop up the price of chicken, overcharging Americans by as much as 30 percent.

Evidence of the industry’s misconduct became so blatant — thanks in part to lawsuits filed by wholesale poultry buyers — that regulators were roused from complacency. Beginning in 2019, the government has filed a series of charges against the companies and their executives.”

Excellent piece, and also good comments, such as:

Jack Sonville
Florida9h ago

I’ve been in Corporate America board rooms for 35 years and much of that in older, more established industries. In general, they do not have the innovation DNA of an Amazon or an Apple or a Google. Over the years they have gutted their R&D functions to save money and essentially use a commodity business model–try to be a low cost provider, take higher-cost capacity (supply) out of the market, and charge as high a price as possible whenever possible. So in response to Wall Street pressure to significantly grow, they really only have one option: Buy their competitors and consolidate their industry. This allows them to find “synergies”, which in antitrust-speak is supposed to mean lower prices and other benefits to the consumer, but which really means reducing cost by firing employees made redundant by the merger of two companies, and then taking more capacity out of the market and/or using their now-greater market share to raise price. It’s been frustrating to watch, over virtually my entire career, the same story play out time and again. Companies tell the DOJ and FTC in their antitrust filings that consumers will benefit from these mergers, but they rarely if ever do. And government economists buy the story. These mergers generally reduce incentive for innovation, eliminate jobs, put downward pressure on industry compensation, and lead to higher prices through reduced capacity. Good for shareholders? Maybe. Good for consumers? Almost never.

3 Replies207 Recommended

Binyamin Appelbaum | Good Riddance, TurboTax. Americans Need a Real ‘Free File’ Program. – The New York Times

Mr. Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board.

“Intuit, the tax preparation giant, performed a public service last week by announcing its exit from a federal program that let some Americans use a free version of its TurboTax software.

With this move, the company is making clear what has always been true. Intuit and the rest of the tax prep industry want Americans to pay to file their taxes.

By abandoning the pretense of good citizenship, Intuit is clearing the way for the federal government to do what it should have done long ago: create a public website where most Americans can prepare and file income tax returns at no cost.

In countries including Japan, the Netherlands and Britain, most taxpayers don’t file tax returns. The government withholds taxes from wage income and handles the paperwork. People with more complicated finances still need to fill out forms and submit them, but everyone else can simply check the government’s math and move on with their lives.” . . .

Binyamin Appelbaum | It’s Too Early to Celebrate the Child Tax Credit – The New York Times

Mr. Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board.+

“The United States provides big tax incentives to encourage people to work, to buy a home, to save for retirement. But the government provides less money than almost every other developed nation to help people raise children. Last year, the tax credit for buying an electric car was almost four times as large as the tax credit for having a child.

On Thursday, the government began to provide more help, initiating monthly payments of up to $300 per child to most families with children. This is needed assistance for children and parents, and investment in the nation’s future. It’s an overdue adjustment of tax policy to support something obviously important but too often taken for granted.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Is it really that hard to communicate with these poor people? Let’s contact them in ten different ways.
Off the top of my head, let’s ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses to sell this good news, since they like to go door to door, or do they only do middle class neighborhoods?
I also like the comment about paying people not to have children, for the sake of the environment.
So many new goals in life. Let’s eradicate poverty, and also move towards negative population growth.
As a child, I played, Remember the Alamo. As an elder now, I’ve learned that Mexico had abolished slavery, and the fight for Texas was in part to keep slavery there. My new war game, is, Remember the Sixth Extinction is going on today!
David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Binyamin Appelbaum | A New Deal, This Time for Everyone – The New York Times

Mr. Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board.

“The New Deal was mostly for men. The great public works projects that endure in public memory employed men. Labor protections enacted between 1934 and 1939 excluded domestic workers, restaurant workers, retail clerks and others in jobs with large female work forces. New safety nets for the unemployed, for the disabled and for older Americans were similarly tailored for men, who were supposed to provide for everyone else.

Equally telling are the kinds of help the government did not provide. Unlike other industrial nations that unfurled safety nets in the same decades, America’s new laws did not require employers to offer paid family leave or paid sick leave. There was no attempt to provide or subsidize child care. At the time, relatively few mothers worked outside the home, and policymakers did not think they should. One irony in the efforts of later generations to force welfare recipients to find jobs is that the program, launched as part of the New Deal, was intended to make it possible for single mothers to stay home.

’Tis the season for comparing the new administration’s plans to the New Deal, but in one important respect, President Biden is seeking to chart a different course.

To paraphrase Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mr. Biden is proposing to include women in the sequel.

A big chunk of the money in the administration’s twin spending bills, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, is aimed at helping people better balance paid work and family obligations. The Biden administration has emphasized that child care subsidies will benefit children and that senior care subsidies will benefit seniors. It has emphasized that freeing caregivers to take paying jobs will benefit the economy. In other words, it has described these policies in terms of their benefits to others. What has not been emphasized sufficiently is the benefit to women, who bear most of the responsibility for providing care.  . . . “