President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last night was fairly typical. There were taunts about his efforts to oversee “fields of dreams” to “restore the nation’s soul” and “transform the heartland”. Democrats had dubious statistics about the economy, job creation and more to compliment the massive spending package. There were similar dubious claims that Biden has been making for years, including one that despite all that spending, “nobody making less than $400,000 a year will pay an extra penny in taxes.”
One bit that stands out as either funniest, most pathetic, or both is Biden essentially declaring himself the nation’s travel agent in chief.
Among his administration’s accomplishments, he has addressed issues that “make it difficult for you … to afford that family trip.”
“We’re allowing airlines to show you the full ticket price in advance and refund your money if your flight is canceled or delayed,” he announced at one point.
“We will ban the amazing ‘resort fees’ that hotels tack on to your bill,” he said in another. “These fees can cost you up to $90 per night at hotels that aren’t even resorts.”
“And we will prohibit airlines from charging families up to $50 roundtrip just to sit together,” Biden said.
Hotel fees. How airlines display ticket prices. why President of the United States So focused on the minutiae of American vacations?
At first blush, it makes no sense. But it becomes a bit more plausible when you consider both his limitations and his administration’s general desire to regulate business practices.
At this point, Democrats can’t give the left the big new entitlement program they want (thank goodness). So the many small changes that Biden is talking about to address hardships and financial burdens are a way of signaling that he’s actually fighting for poor and middle-class Americans without risking too much. In addition to tackling resort fees and airline ticket prices, Biden promised to cap service fees on concert and sporting event tickets and boasted about reducing credit card late fees, bank overdraft fees and other “junk fees.”
These are the kinds of offers that sound good in theory — who doesn’t want to pay less junk fees? But some of these fees exist for good reason. (Late fees, for example, encourage people to pay their bills on time, which is good for both credit card companies and users, who would otherwise rack up more interest to pay back.) And in any case, companies aren’t just going to say, “Okay, We’ll just make less money.”
Hotels may respond by raising base room rates or charging new fees for common amenities. Airlines that cannot charge you for seat selection may increase the base ticket price, baggage fees, or other costs. Banks that can’t penalize people for overdrawing their accounts can raise rates for opening an account, require higher minimum balances, or refuse more people to open bank accounts. Credit card companies that cannot charge late fees may deny further lines of credit or charge higher interest rates. etc.
What the Biden administration is really doing is shifting people’s spending around.
It’s silly—but perfectly in keeping 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 to manipulate government jobs.
You can see this approach in the actions of companies in the Biden administration — like when the Federal Trade Commission tried to demand that Facebook build a virtual reality (VR) fitness app instead of an acquisition, because it would give consumers more VR fitness options. You see his insistence that we can always pay for more spending by raising taxes on business. You can see this in his demands for industrial policy, which tries to regulate what businesses can make and with what materials, and a bunch of other proposals to micromanage business practices.
All of this was on display during last night’s State of the Union address. There were promises of protectionism (see “Biden Promises to Stop Waving His Own Terrible ‘Buy American’ Mandate”). Pharmaceutical companies were demanding price fixing. The threat was against tech companies that leverage their own products—a “problem” that means customers get free shipping on Amazon-branded products, seamless integration between Google search and Maps, and other benefits. and calls for a “ban on advertising aimed at children”.
Biden promised to “reduce the deficit by $2 trillion” without cutting “a single Social Security or Medicare benefit” (see “Social Security Vows to Sink”). Instead, Biden said he would raise the money by raising taxes on billionaires, conducting more tax audits and quadrupling taxes on corporate stock buybacks.
He has promised to pass the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would severely hurt gig workers and independent contractors (see “The PRO Act Empowers Union Bosses, Not Workers” and “Californians Reject a Harsh Law That Destroyed Freelance Jobs. Congress is trying to make it federal law”). He promised to ban non-compete clauses – a tool that can sometimes be used in an exploitative way but can also be used fairly and for good business reasons.
You can read Biden’s full State of the Union remarks here.
I know I’m crazy for fixing this in the middle of the night, but whoever came up with “competition with/out of capitalism is exploitation” needs a new job. If there is no competition, then by definition, there is no capitalism! And Biden said it in a speech linked to protectionist proposals. ????
— Corey Whalen (@coreywhalen) February 8, 2023
Republican lawmakers want ID checks on all social media platforms. Sometimes it feels like federal lawmakers are competing to see who can come up with the worst technology bill. The latest challenger: a bill that would have required social media companies to verify the age of all users and ban anyone under 16. Not only would this measure replace parents with government judgments about what is appropriate for children, it would seriously invade privacy. Among everyone—including the elderly—who use the Internet a lot. This means social media companies must check the ID behind every Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, Twitch, etc. account, and possibly email, of whoever creates an account, creating a record—accessible by law enforcement and hackers. Addresses, messaging app accounts and more. The bill comes from Utah Republican Rep. Chees Stewart and mirrors state legislation recently proposed in Utah.
Rent stabilization is the ruling party with the city over landlords. The US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit dismissed a challenge to New York’s rent stabilization law. The court “ruled that the government does not necessarily take a landlord’s property when it forces him or her to operate at a loss when renting to a tenant he or she never agreed to host.” becauseIts Christian Britsgi.
The lawsuit was brought by two landlord associations, which argued that the city’s 2019 law limiting rent increases and evictions effectively expropriated their properties. “The court rejected these arguments, in part because the landlords did not prove that rent stabilization eliminated the income of every single owner of the rent-controlled building,” notes Britsgi. Full decision here.
• Biden deserves some credit on immigration policy, but he doesn’t write where he wants to take responsibility becauseIts Fiona Harrigan.
• “As a bloodied, dazed and handcuffed Tyree Nichols sat in front of a police car after being beaten by a group of Memphis police officers, one of the officers took a picture of her and sent it to at least five people,” reports The New York Times.
• Does the 13th Amendment protect legal abortion?
• A scientific review shows that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exaggerated the evidence supporting the mask mandate, becauseWritten by Jacob Sullum.
• Washington, DC City Council members are moving to decriminalize street vending.
• It doesn’t end:
Scoop: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next week on protecting children online.
— Maria Christina Curie (@m_ccuri) February 7, 2023