BETHLEHEM, Pa. - President Joe Biden on Friday signed a sweeping order to increase competition in the U.S. economy.
"We are now 40 years into the experiment of letting giant corporations accumulate more and more power and what have we gotten from it? Less growth, weakened investment, fewer small business," Biden said.
The order aims to address sharp increases in business consolidations over the last 20 years, ramping up anti-trust enforcement, limiting non-compete agreements, and lowering costs on things like prescriptions, shipping, and broadband.
"Rather than competing for consumers, they are consuming their competitors. Rather than competing for workers, they're finding ways to gain the upper hand on labor, and too often the government actually has made it harder for companies to compete," Biden said.
The White House says the measure will lower costs, increase wages, and improve benefits.
"All told, between rising prices, lower wages, lack of competition, it costs the median American household $5,000 a year," Biden said.
"I think that number sounds about right," said Ahmed Rahman, a labor economist with Lehigh University.
"I think there is very little question that it has eroded both the purchasing power of the American worker and the variety of choices the American worker has," Rahman said.
"For most people - they have one or two broadband providers, or one or two hospitals that they can go to in their area."
Warren Clark is co-owner of Domaci, a furniture store on Main Street in Bethlehem. As a small business owner, he says any help is good, especially the provisions to lower shipping costs.
"We don't have the luxury of a Home Depot that just bought their own cargo ship so they could get around that," Clark said.
But this band-aid approach may not stop it from happening again.
"I don't think it is a fundamental solution to - as a I said - the dilemma the American capitalist system has," Rahman said.