Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wants to take a sledge hammer to Big Tech, saying Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook have become so big and powerful that they’re hurting American consumers.
Warren, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, unveiled her plan late Friday in the Long Island City section of Queens, where Amazon was to have built its second headquarters before the plan was scrapped due to outcry from residents
She previewed her proposal in an MSNBC interview before heading out to the New York City borough for a rally just minutes from Amazon’s proposed site. Warren said the choice of campaign rally venue was deliberate: She wanted to underscore her message that Big Tech needs to be broken up.
But could she really dismantle the technology giants that include some of America’s richest and most iconic companies? “You bet!” she said on the cable network late Friday.
“We need real competition in this field. And there’s a problem: So, Amazon, Google, they own a platform which is pretty cool. Where everybody comes to buy and sell or to do the searches. And at the same time, they own a bunch of businesses that are competing with all those folks who are coming, say, to Amazon in order to sell their goods,” Warren said.
“And they don’t just compete straight up. They compete by being able to keep all of the information from every one of those companies,” she continued.
“It’s a little like being an umpire in baseball and owning a team. My view is you can do one, be an umpire, or the other, own a team. But you don’t get to do both at the same time.”
Before being elected a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, Warren came to prominence as a tireless watchdog of the banking industry and a champion of policies meant to empower average Americans.
She was the driving force behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a regulatory agency created during the Barack Obama administration to help ward against abuse by debt collection companies, mortgage brokers, payday lenders, and other financial firms. The agency has been largely defanged, however, during the Trump administration.
Her latest proposal would impose new rules on some tech companies with $25 billion or more in annual revenue, forcing Amazon and Google to spin off parts of their companies and relinquish their overwhelming control over online commerce.
It would also uncouple some high-profile mergers involving technology giants, like one that saw Amazon gobble up Whole Foods, and Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp.
“What they get is the platform gets broken off from the individual companies. That’s all I’m saying. You can still use the platform,” said Warren, adding that individual users of social media and customers who shop online stand to gain immensely from the change.
Better regulation of Amazon would lead to more competition, said Warren. “It’s excellent for consumers ” she said.
She also took a brickbat to the now-scuttled plan by Amazon to locate one of its satellite headquarters in Long Island City, which she said would have been a raw deal for residents there.
The plan fell apart last month after sustained outcry from residents over the $3 billion in perks and incentives local officials offered the tech giant to locate its facility there.
New York was among dozens of towns and cities that took part in a brutal competition to host Amazon’s next headquarters, which Warren said underscores the excessive clout it and other tech companies wield.
“What we see and we saw there on Long Island City is, they come in, they bully towns, cities, states all around the country. You know, the handful of tech giants have gotten more than $10 billion in breaks from towns and cities and states over the past few years,” she told MSNBC.
“The problem is The Hunger Games about it — because that’s what’s happening here. And it’s a problem, because it creates more concentration in the industry,” she said.
“You know, they’re not offering the cities and towns a zillion bucks in goodies and tax breaks to the entrepreneur who’s getting started to the small business that’s trying to make a go of it. Even to the medium-sized business and big business that want to grow more. Nope,” she continued.
“This is about the giants who are able to swagger into town and say, ‘Lay in front of me what you’re going offer. And I’ll decide if I like it or not, and then I’ll go somewhere else and see what they’ll offer.'”
The unveiling of this latest proposal marks Warren’s third major policy initiative since announcing her White House bid on New Year’s Eve, as she embraces proposals meant to underscore a populist message and set her apart from others in the Democratic presidential field.
Last month, Warren announced a wealth tax proposal that would affect the richest Americans, levying an annual tax of two percent on family assets in excess of $50 million and three percent on assets above $1 billion.
Another proposal unveiled last month would fund a new network of federally funded day-care centers and preschools across the United States, providing free or low-cost childcare to low income parents.