The Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons

As rising inflation threatens his presidency, President Biden is turning to the federal government’s antitrust authorities to try to tame red-hot price increases that his administration believes are partly driven by a lack of corporate competition.

Mr. Biden has prodded the Agriculture Department to investigate large meatpackers that control a significant share of poultry and pork markets, accusing them of raising prices, underpaying farmers — and tripling their profit margins during the pandemic. As gas prices surged, he publicly encouraged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate accusations that large oil companies had artificially inflated prices, behavior that the administration says continued even after global oil prices began to fall in recent weeks.

The push has extended to little-known agencies, like the Federal Maritime Commission, which the president has urged to search for price gouging by large shipping companies at the heart of the supply chain.

The turn to antitrust levers stems from Mr. Biden’s belief that rising levels of corporate concentration in the U.S. economy have empowered a few large players in each industry to raise prices higher than a more competitive market would allow.

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