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Why isn't Washington defending American companies from foreign assaults?

 Why isn't Washington defending American companies from foreign assaults?
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On Friday, the European Union took aim at one of America’s most iconic companies, Apple, with a multibillion-dollar antitrust lawsuit. The Europeans are hopelessly uncompetitive in the major tech industries, so they resort to lawsuits to slash at American supremacy.

The Euro-socialists want to pilfer as much as 10 percent of Apple’s profit stream. This flimsy charge of “monopoly behavior” by the EU is becoming standard practice as Germany, France and others continue to fall technologically behind and their citizens become rapid purchasers of Silicon Valley products and services. The move by the EU is a classic shakedown — the money it wants is akin to imposing a foreign tariff on American products. This could cost U.S. shareholders hundreds of billions of dollars. Europe has similar suits against another trillion-dollar American company, Google.

So the U.S. government is rushing to defend America’s crown-jewel companies that have added hundreds of trillions of dollars of wealth, hundreds of thousands of American jobs and trillions of dollars more in worldwide consumer surplus, right?

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Wrong.  

Apple is facing similar charges in courts here at home. Epic Games, a web gaming company, is in the middle of a court battle with Apple over monopolistic behavior.

And, ironically, the same day that the EU announced its complaint against Apple, Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyConcerns grow over China's Taiwan plans GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack MORE (R-Mo.) penned a piece in the Wall Street Journal calling for “a big new era of trust busting” to rein in big tech. Hawley’s trust-busting bill may be the most dangerous assault on free-market capitalism in many years. He wants to limit the ability of these companies to grow more profitable and even possibly break them up. 

Hawley’s trust-busting crusade has found a strange-bedfellow ally in liberal Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHouse unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants Democrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' Senate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin MORE (D-Minn.), who chairs a powerful Senate antitrust committee

Klobuchar, who is threatening Google, AppleFacebook and others with antitrust actions, actually cheered on the Europeans’ gambit to pickpocket an American company, saying: “The charges brought in Europe only reaffirm that app store policies and conduct deserve both scrutiny and action in our own country.” Would she also welcome Chinese and Russian lawsuits against Silicon Valley?

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The Europeans are clearly frustrated that they’ve been running far behind over the past two decades as American companies have asserted tech prowess in web browserssocial media sitescell phonessearch enginesvideo streaming and 5G capabilities. Euroland hasn’t come up with many devices or applications that compete with the iPhone, Google search engines, or social media applications. Hence, the Europeans invent exotic theories of anti-consumer predatory behavior. Their arguments are as unpersuasive as the Minnesota Timberwolves complaining that the Los Angeles Lakers with Lebron James are a monopoly. 

These foreign attacks on American tech superiority need to be repelled. Yet Hawley and Klobuchar — and the Biden Justice Department, and the attorneys general of more than 30 states — are aiding and abetting these allegations. Talk about putting America last.  

These companies are far from corporate saints — but the idea that they are bilking consumers is absurd, because no industry in the history of civilization has slashed its prices more than high tech. Back in the mid-1980s, a rudimentary cell phone the size of a brick cost nearly $4,000. Now, smartphones are less than $300 for devices that have 1,000 times the computing power of those earlier, more expensive versions. 

The flimsy complaints by the Europeans and Epic Games against Apple is that it demands a payment on the apps it allows other companies to download on its phones. It also is alleged to illegally direct people to its own apps over those of certain rival companies. How and why is that a crime? If you go to McDonalds, you can’t order Burger King fries with a Big Mac. If Apple’s app policy is so costly to consumers, then the consumers’ obvious recourse is to buy one of scores of other cell phones.

To use another sports analogy, the antitrust complaints could be likened to fans saying the football stadium is charging monopoly prices on its beer and hot dogs.

These antitrust probes aren’t just harmful to the trillion-dollar companies in America that are locked in severe competition with the likes of Chinese government-sponsored companies like Huawei and Alibaba. They jeopardize jobs held by American workers, often in the highest-paid occupations. Worse, they penalize American companies for building best-in-class world products.

Hawley retorts that aggressive trust-busting is long “in the Republican Party tradition” — but he has a short memory. The Reagan administration helped launch one of America’s greatest wild-west economic expansions by reversing most antitrust investigations by the Carter administration. As the late Judge Robert Bork noted, this hands-off policy was a key component of Reagan’s deregulation and pro-business policies. 

If America wants to remain the richest, most innovative nation in the world, we should be defending our great companies when they succeed — not tearing them down. Can anyone imagine China doing something so stupid as this to their companies?

Stephen MooreStephen MooreFormer Trump economic adviser to Biden: 'Stop taxing. Stop spending. Stop borrowing.' trillion in taxes, trillion in spending, trillion in borrowing — what could go wrong? Why isn't Washington defending American companies from foreign assaults? MORE is an economist at Freedom Works, one of the founders of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, and a former member of the White House economic recovery task force. Follow him on Twitter @StephenMoore.