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Dallas Observer Q&A with CD32 candidate Lillian Salerno

Once more to the Dallas Observer’s Q&A machine.

Lillian Salerno

Earlier this month, you spoke at an anti-monopoly conference in Washington about your experiences in the health care industry. Why is it so hard for innovative products to get into the health care market, and how does that harm health care workers and Americans seeking health care?

I was on a panel discussing what we call corporate concentration, which is why, in so many sectors of the economy, we only have one or two players. In telecom, we have Comcast and Verizon, and there’s no one. In platform technology, it’s Google, Facebook, and they own the information highway. What happens is, when you’re innovating, if you go to sell your device or idea or app, you can only go one place because there’s only one or two players. That’s very unhealthy for an economy, and it’s very unhealthy for a democracy.

We’re a country based on small business and entrepreneurship. I worry — and it’s the issue I want to work on when I’m elected — I worry that we created an economy that has never been this consolidated, and we’ve got to start unpacking that, and we do that by enforcing the laws. Both Republicans and Democrats have failed us on this issue, and they haven’t really funded the Federal Trade Commission or funded the Department of Justice and given investigators and lawyers the tools so they can start going after companies that are violating competition laws.

So if it’s not just an unsolvable systemic problem, what do you do to fix it? Is it just through enforcement of existing laws, or is it creating new regulations and new laws?

We have laws on the books which were passed because of stuff like the railroads. Railroads, yes, good idea. Bad idea, one guy running all the railroads. So we had laws put on the books that would make it so if you own a certain percentage of the market, you, by definition, are under a different obligation than the small company that only has a certain percentage. If you own a certain percentage, then you can’t lock up all the markets so the new guy or gal can’t get into the market. But those laws have not been enforced, so up until the ’80s, companies used to look over their shoulder and even call regulators and say, “Hey, we’re thinking about merging” or “We’re thinking about buying this company — give us an opinion.” Look how many mergers and acquisitions we have every single day.

That’s because we’ve had the Department of Justice and the FTC asleep at the wheel. The Obama administration did a horrible job. By the time we started getting our head around it right at the end of the administration, it was too late. We keep putting the wolf guarding the henhouse, so the head of the anti-trust commission then goes and works on the biggest company in telecom, and in a different administration, they come back and they’re head of the FTC. We can’t have that anymore. We can’t have people that go and regulate and enforce and then they go work for the very companies that they cut a deal with. We gotta stop that. I saw that — we’ve seen that since the Clintons, since Bill Clinton all the way through Obama and then all Republicans between those.

It’s not a Democrat or a Republican problem; it’s a we gotta clean up our politics kind of problem. Everybody’s finally waking up to what I’ve experienced as a small business person. We’ve allowed too much consolidation in this country. It’s not about we need to go and regulate. When people violate, laws we need to find them, and sometimes you have to put people in jail.

As always, read the whole thing, and then go read the Q&A with Colin Allred and the Q&A with Ed Meier, too. I really appreciate the Observer doing this, because as we well know there are a crapload of candidates and only so much time before actual voting starts. I’m going to do what I can to interview candidates here, but I’m one person and again, there’s only so much time. The more outfits out there talking to candidates and getting them on the record about things, the better. At the very least, it can help separate the people who know what they’re talking about from those that don’t.

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