Radical Biden Appointee Makes For Surprising Bedfellow With MAGA Republicans

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Gage Klipper Commentary & Analysis Writer
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President Joe Biden has spent his time in the White House appointing left-wing radicals to every nook and cranny of the federal government. One of them, the millennial Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairwoman Lina Khan, has demonstrated a surprising alignment with some of the most conservative members of Congress. As the old saying goes — the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And Khan has made no secret of her plans to take on Big Tech.

To be certain, Khan is no conservative, just as those who came to her defense recently like Rep. Matt Gaetz and Sen. J. D. Vance are surely no liberals. Yet throughout her legal career, there’s relatively little evidence of the dimwitted, leftist virtue signaling that’s become all too common among Biden appointees. Rather, she’s a rare breed of left-winger that’s all but extinct in today’s political landscape. She actually cares about fighting corporate power instead of just subverting it to her own political aims. It’s here Khan can find common ground with these so-called Republican “Khanservatives.”

“I hope her work continues in the Trump administration,” Gaetz told NOTUS last week. “Her work against data brokers has been very important. Her work against some of the consolidated market power that hurts consumers has really inspired me.”

“I probably am one of the few Republicans who thinks Lina Khan is doing a good job,” Vance reportedly echoed. “I think she has some justifiable concerns about corporate concentration.”

Khan cut her teeth as a wunderkind at Yale Law School in 2017, when she authored a landmark paper against Big Tech’s monopoly power titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” She argued that Amazon had become more than simply an online retailer, but a dominant player across many otherwise unrelated industries. Due to this “structure and conduct,” Amazon had stayed under the radar and “escaped antitrust scrutiny.” Ultimately, she argued it’s impossible to understand “the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output.”

While this may sound like stuffy legalese, it’s actually quite radical — in a good way. Over the past several decades, antitrust concerns have become narrowly confined to short-term consumer welfare standards. As long as monopoly behavior didn’t noticeably raise prices, regulators had no interest in regulating. In other words, concentrated corporate power wasn’t seen as necessarily bad — a principle that has certainly been abused by Big Tech to the detriment of everyone but themselves. You can see it clearly in America’s hollowed out local retail and small businesses and in the way these companies have transformed their monopoly power into sweeping political power over the past several years. But if you’re just measuring in terms of the cheap prices on Amazon, there’s no cause for concern.

Think of it as a corollary to globalization; as long as Walmart can sell cheap, low-quality flat screens, our elites typically assume everyone is doing just fine even as China eats our lunch in the long-term. Recognizing there are bigger monsters to slay, Khan rejected the consumer welfare standard. (RELATED: Gov’t Releases Another Batch Of Data That Wipes Out Previous Economic Gains)

As FTC chair, Khan has gone a long way toward bringing antitrust policy back to its old guard leftist roots, focusing on broader social concerns and treating concentrated corporate power with the inherent skepticism it deserves. She’s filed suits against Meta, Microsoft and Amazon, among other corporations and mergers using novel legal theories to demonstrate illegal monopoly power or privacy violations. For example, she’s gone after Amazon for “tricking” users into signing up for Prime subscriptions as well for violating children’s privacy with Alexa speaker recordings.  Against Meta, she argued that the company was trying to thwart future competition in virtual reality. While her record of actually winning these cases isn’t as great as it could be, her scorched earth campaign to take on Big Tech is laying the foundation for a paradigm shift.

“She’s making breakthroughs, and sometimes you gotta lose a few of these cases to make good law. I know that as a lawyer, and there’s going to be doctrine established through the appeals and through the jurisprudence that wouldn’t even be undertaken but for Chair Khan,” Gaetz stold NOTUS.

Additionally, Khan’s losses still help to shift the culture around antitrust law. As President of the Antitrust Education Project Robert Bork Jr. argued, “Khan’s strategy seems to be to give ammunition to the likes of Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Republicans such as Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), to sell their colleagues on the notion that antitrust law is too weak, too broken, to be effective. Time for hipster antitrust 2.0!”

Despite a string of losses, Khan’s aggressive posture has certainly won her some enemies. From the Chamber of Commerce to the Wall Street Journal editorial board, the libertarian-minded right warns how she is overstepping her authority at the FTC. Others, like Rep. Jim Jordan, fear any expansion of federal regulatory power. “She’s abandoned long-standing bipartisan practices and made it clear she will use the FTC to advance President Biden’s agenda in the name of economic ‘inequality’ and socialism,” Jordan told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

However, this is an outmoded way of thinking, stuck in the old consumer welfare paradigm. At best, it represents a debunked naivety on free market absolutism; at worst, an insidious program to mire any opposition to the corporatist status quo. There will be staunch resistance to change, so aggressive, unorthodox approaches are necessary. In this way, Khan appears to be more of a natural ally to the new right than the Democrats today. Democrats view the crackdown on Big Tech as a sort of mafia racket. Concentrated market power is fine as long as it’s used to crack down on conservative speech; censor our opponents, and we’ll leave you alone.

Meanwhile, the new right shares Khan’s inherent skepticism of corporate power. As “Khanservatives” like Gaetz and Vance realize, Khan is attempting to mobilize the power of the federal government against Big Tech toward what is effectively an America First agenda. More Republicans would do well to take note. (RELATED: Democrats’ Latest Campaign Strategy? Pretending To Be Republicans)

There are valid reasons for conservatives to be concerned that the expansive regulatory power can be weaponized against the bureaucracy’s political opponents. But that ship already sailed a long time ago. The only solution now is for Republicans to mobilize the same political force to their own ends. A Republican-led FTC should continue the paradigm shift that Khan began, utilizing anything and everything to dismantle Big Tech. But it also should expand her approach to more explicitly right-wing aims. Any company that champions Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, censors its employees or the public, or conspires to meddle in American elections should find itself under the antitrust microscope.