President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last night was pretty typical. There were platitudes about his efforts to “renew the soul of the nation” and oversee the “fields of dreams” to “transform the heart of the country.” There were tons of questionable statistics about the economy, job creation, and more, all in the service of praising the Democrats’ massive spending packages. There were the same kinds of dubious claims Biden has made for years, including the claim that despite all that spending, “nobody making less than $400,000 a year will pay an extra penny in taxes.”
One part that stands out as the funniest, lamest, or both is that Biden essentially declared himself the nation’s top travel agent.
Among his administration’s accomplishments, he praised solving the problems that “make it difficult for you … to afford that family trip.”
“We ask airlines to show you the full price of the ticket in advance and to refund you if your flight is canceled or delayed,” he announced at one point.
“We’re going to ban the sudden ‘resort fees’ that hotels put on your bill,” he said on another. “These fees can cost you up to $90 per night at hotels that aren’t even resorts.”
“And we’re going to prohibit airlines from charging families up to $50 round trip just to sit together,” Biden said.
Hotel taxes. The way airlines display fares. Why is the president of the united states so focused on the minutiae of an American vacation?
At first glance, it doesn’t make sense. But it becomes a bit more rational when you consider both his limitations and his administration’s general desire to control business practices.
At this point, the Democrats can’t give the left the big new entitlement programs they want (thank goodness). So Biden’s talk of a bunch of small changes he’s making to address small inconveniences and financial burdens is a way of signaling that he’s fighting for poor and middle-class Americans without actually risking much. In addition to fighting resort fees and airfares, Biden has pledged to limit service fees on concert and sporting event tickets and has touted cuts to credit card late fees, bank overdraft fees and other “worthless fees.”
These are suggestions that sound good in theory – who wouldn’t want to pay less for rubbish? But some of these fees exist for good reasons. (For example, late fees encourage people to pay their bills on time, which is good for both credit card companies and consumers, who will otherwise rack up more interest to pay off.) In any case, companies aren’t simply going to say, ” OK, we’ll just make less money.”
Hotels can respond by raising base room rates or charging new fees for typical amenities. Airlines that cannot charge for your seat selection may raise base fares, baggage fees or other charges. Banks that can’t fine people for overdrafts can raise account opening rates, require higher minimum balances, or deny more people bank accounts to begin with. Credit card companies that can’t collect late fees may decline more lines of credit or charge higher interest rates. And so on.
All the Biden administration is really doing is shifting costs to the people.
It’s silly, but perfectly in line with Biden’s business modus operandi. His administration is openly hostile to big business, viewing them not as independent engines of American wealth, innovation, and jobs, but as pawns that can be manipulated for government purposes.
You can see this view in the actions of the Biden administration’s agencies—for example, when the Federal Trade Commission tried to require Facebook to develop a virtual reality (VR) fitness app instead of acquiring one, because that would give consumers more options for VR fitness. You can see it in his insistence that we can always pay for more spending by raising corporate taxes. You can see this in his industrial policy requirements, which try to control what companies can produce and with what materials, and a host of other proposals to micromanage business practices.
All of this was on display during last night’s State of the Nation Address. There were promises of protectionism (see “Biden vows to stop reneging on his own terrible ‘Buy American’ mandate”). There have been requests for pharmaceutical companies to limit prices. There have been threats to tech companies favoring their products — a “problem” that means consumers get free shipping on Amazon-branded products, seamless integration between Google search and maps, and other perks. And a call to “ban targeted advertising to children”.
Biden promised to somehow “reduce the deficit by $2 trillion” without cutting “a single Social Security or Medicare benefit” (see “Biden Vows to Let the Social Security Ship Keep Sinking”). Instead, Biden says he will raise money by raising taxes on billionaires, conducting more tax audits and quadrupling the tax on corporate stock buybacks.
He has promised to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would seriously hurt gig workers and independent contractors (see “PRO Act Empowers Union Bosses, Not Workers” and “Californians Reject Harsh Law That Destroyed Independent Business. Congress trying to make it a federal law”). He promised to ban non-compete clauses—a tool that can sometimes be used in exploitative ways, but can also be used fairly and for good business reasons.
You can read Biden’s entire State of the Union statement here.
I know I’m crazy for doing this at midnight, but whoever came up with “capitalism without competition is exploitation” needs a new job. If there is no competition, then there is definitely no capitalism either! And Biden says it in a speech peppered with protectionist proposals. ????
— Corie Whalen (@CorieWhalen) February 8, 2023
Republican lawmakers want to force all social media platforms to verify IDs. Sometimes it feels like federal lawmakers are competing to come up with the worst technology bill. The latest contender: a bill that would force social networks to verify the age of all users and ban anyone under 16. Not only would the measure replace the government’s judgment of parents about what is appropriate for children, it would seriously infringe on privacy. of everyone—including adults—using wide swaths of the Internet. This would mean that social media companies must verify IDs for everyone who creates an account, creating a record—available to police and hackers—of who is behind every single Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, Twitch, etc. account, and perhaps even and email addresses, messaging app accounts, and more. The bill comes from Utah Republican Rep. Chis Stewart and mirrors a state law recently proposed in Utah.
The rent stabilization government sides with the city over landlords. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to New York’s rent stabilization law. The court “ruled that the government did not necessarily take a landlord’s property when it forced him to operate at a loss while renting to a tenant he never agreed to host,” he reports ReasonChristian Britschgi.
The case was brought by two landlord associations, which argued that the city’s 2019 law limiting rent increases and evictions was in fact a seizure of their property. “The court rejected those arguments, in part because the landlords failed to prove that rent stabilization eliminated the income of each individual owner of the rent-controlled building,” notes Britschgi. Full ruling here.
• Biden deserves credit for immigration policy, but he refuses to take responsibility where he should, he writes Reasonis Fiona Harrigan.
• “As Tire Nichols sat leaning against a police car, bloodied, dazed and handcuffed after being beaten by a group of Memphis police officers, one of those officers took a photo of him and sent it to at least five people,” he reports. The New York Times.
• Does the 13th Amendment protect legal abortion?
• A scientific review shows that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention greatly exaggerated the evidence supporting mask mandates, Reasonwrites Jacob Sullum.
• Washington, DC City Council members want to decriminalize street vending.
• It never ends:
Scoop: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next week on protecting children online.
— Maria Cristina Curi (@m_ccuri) February 7, 2023