Posturing for points against Big Tech

CBJ Editorial

Every few years Congress conducts a parade of successful business executives through committee hearings to lambast them and score political points.

It is usually an ugly ordeal.

It happened in 2008 when auto executives came to Washington (memorably, in their private jets) to seek a bailout during the height of the Great Recession.

It happened again on July 29 via video conference when the so-called “tech titans” of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon had their day in front of Congress, testifying about concerns that they use the power of their technology platforms to compete unfairly.

The hyperbole during the hearings came from politicians from both political parties.

“Our founders would not bow before a king,” said David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, “nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy.”

We certainly have concerns with the deleterious effect of social media and profitable tech companies not paying taxes, but these antitrust concerns seem overblown. These companies and the jobs and wealth that they have created should be embraced, not castigated.

Ironically, the hearing took place a day before the nation’s Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product — the value of all goods and services produced across the economy — fell at a 32.9% annual rate in the second quarter, or a 9.5% drop compared with the same quarter a year ago. Both figures were the steepest in records dating to 1947, the Wall Street Journal reported.

When companies are surviving and thriving during a pandemic, maybe the best way to get the economy back on track is not to criticize the leaders of the companies most Americans are relying on to help them get through the crisis.

Amazon, which employs more than 500,000 people in the U.S., making it the country’s second largest private employer, was aiming to hire 100,000 new workers during the beginning of the pandemic when millions of people were getting laid off.

Amazon announced recently that 1.7 million small and medium-sized businesses sell via Amazon’s platform, and Iowa was ranked the top state in terms of digital entrepreneurs per capita.

These tech companies are also taking strong positions on the environment.

Amazon launched a $2 billion fund earlier this year to advance technologies that will cut down greenhouse gases.

Apple announced that is committing to be 100% carbon neutral for its supply chain and products by 2030.

Criticizing success, especially in the business world, is something that has occurred seemingly forever. The treatment of these executives and the wealth that their companies and themselves have generated reminds us of an editorialist at a Muncie, Indiana, newspaper who, during the Great Depression noted that Theodore Roosevelt had once said: “To preach hatred of the rich man as such” was “to mislead and inflame to madness honest men.”

Let’s celebrate corporate success and do our best to help foster the kind of entrepreneurial success these executives and companies have created.  CBJ