President Biden’s Remarks Before Meeting with the White House Competition Council

East room

17:09 EST

THE PRESIDENT: Hello everyone. Please – please sit down. Well, it’s good to see everything. Let’s have a cabinet meeting. (Laughter.) Really, thank you for all you do. We also have many more good things to do.

In July, as you all know, I signed an executive order to promote competition and build an economy that works for everyone, not just a few. And competition results in lower prices for families, competition results in fair wages for workers, and, as you all know, competition encourages companies to innovate.

And – but what we’ve seen in recent decades is less competition and more concentration that is literally holding the economy back. And in too many industries, a handful of giant companies dominate – dominate the entire market. And we see it in big ag – I don’t have to tell the Minister of Agriculture that; he’s forgotten more about this than i know – in big tech, big pharma. The list continues.

And instead of competing for customers, they consume their competitors. And instead of doing what they should be doing, they do the opposite: have a negative impact.

All things considered, between generating higher prices and lower wages, the lack of competition is costing the average American family household, according to research done at NY — at NYU, $5,000 a year — the middle-income family.

My executive order is changing that, as everyone at this table knows. It includes — it included 72 specific actions for federal agencies to help restore competition in our economy. It includes the creation of a Competition Council – all of you – and – made up of cabinet members and heads of various independent agencies to coordinate and monitor our progress across the federal government.

In six months since I issued the order, we’ve met every deadline my – my order requires so far. And here are just three examples. “The right to repair” – sounds a bit silly to say it that way, but it is – but we call it “the right to repair” – is literal.

Too many areas, if you don’t own a product — excuse me, if you own a product, from a smartphone to a tractor, you don’t have the freedom to choose how or where you want to fix that item you bought.

It is broken. “Well, what can I do about it?” If it broke, you had to go to the dealer and you had to pay the dealer price – the dealer price.

If you tried to repair it — if you tried to repair it yourself, some manufacturers would even void the warranty when they sold the product to you — sold the product to you or disable the features of that product they sold you.

Denying the right to repair will increase consumer prices, meaning independent repair shops can’t compete for your business. And my ex- – my executive order announced that support for the right to repair, earlier – right after I issued my order, I was pleased to see the Federal Trade Commission unanimously announce it would increase – unanimously announce that it would enforcement against illegal repair restrictions.

That was Allowed [followed] by major companies to — or voluntarily agree to change their repair restrictions.

And – excuse me – what happened was a lot of these companies said, “You’re right. We’re going to do it voluntarily. You don’t have to order us to do it.” And willingly said, “We’ll do it.”

For example, Apple and Microsoft are changing their policies so that people can fix their phones and laptops themselves – although I’m not sure how to do that. (Laughter.)

I – if I have a problem with my phone, I call my daughter. (Laughter.)

But it will make it easier for millions of Americans to fix their electronics rather than pay an arm and a leg to fix it or just throw the device away.

Hearing aids. About 48 million people suffer from hearing loss in America – 48 million. But to get a hearing aid, people have to — go to a specialist and then get a prescription and then they pay thousands of dollars for a pair of hearing aids.

But most importantly, just why – that’s a big part of why only one in five people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually use one. And so my competition order changes that.

In October, the Food and Drug Administration released a new proposed rule that would allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter without a prescription.

We expect this to reduce hearing aid costs from thousands of dollars to – literally hundreds of dollars, saving people hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

And people will — they can pick them up at a local pharmacy, which saves time and money and helps the tens of million people with hearing loss who don’t have hearing aids now.

Third area: mergers. In too many industries, large companies – large companies can use their power to squeeze out smaller competitors, suffocate new competition, raise prices, reduce choice for customers, and exploit their employees.

Well, I’ve said it before: capitalism without competition is — is not capitalism; it is exploitation.

So the Department of Justice and other supervisory authorities have stepped up their efforts to investigate these mergers. It includes challenging or blocking mergers that are bad for the economy and your wallet.

For example, the Justice Department just took action to block a mega-merger that would have resulted in two brokers dominating the insurance industry, which would result in customers having fewer choices, higher prices and lower quality services.

The bottom line: This isn’t just about quick wins. It’s about reversing decades of concentration that harmed workers, consumers and small businesses. It never happened. It’s been a while – a long time.

However, this is just the beginning. Americans can expect more in the coming weeks and months — more protections for farmers and ranchers selling products such as beef, pork and poultry; more options and better prices for consumers; more clarity about the actual price you pay for fast internet services and airline tickets.

We will also continue to prioritize and – from my executive order, such as addressing the non-compete clauses that affect one in five employees. One in five employees has to sign a non-competition clause.

I was surprised that this – as Brian will tell you, this is basically how this came about – this whole competitive council. I knew all that was going on, but then I realized how many people who had no special understanding of how to gain access to patents or anything else had to sign a non-compete agreement – ​​people who made hourly wages – all designed to for — or to keep wages low and prices high.

But one in five employees works at a metric – giving them, the company, the power over their careers.

The bottom line is, our economy shouldn’t be about people working for capitalism. It should be about capitalism that works for people, for everyone.

Now I’m going to pass this on to Brian so we can start this meeting. But again, thank you all here in this council. I really mean it.

You know, I think even when we decided to take this advice, some of you – you all thought it was a good idea, but I’ll be – I’d be surprised if some of you didn’t go, “Hey, I realized I don’t know how restrictive some of this was – how restrictive some of this was.” But you’re going to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people, the lives of ordinary people are going to make a difference.

So anyway, Brian, the floor is yours.

mr. DEESE: Thank you, sir. We’re going to give the press a moment to leave, and then we’re going to start our meeting.

Q Mr. President, can you give us a brief update on your conversation with European leaders about what is happening in Ukraine today?

THE PRESIDENT: The only reason I don’t like doing this is that you never report why I called a meeting. And this is really important.

I had a very, very, very good meeting. Total unity with all European leaders. We’ll talk about it later.

Thank you.

mr. DEESE: Thank you.

Are you asking troops for Ukraine, sir?

Q Why are you possibly sending 8,500 troops to Ukraine?

Q Are you going to answer questions about inflation? Do you think inflation is a political imperative ahead of the midterm elections?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it is a great asset. More inflation. What a stupid bastard.

17:18 EST

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