Robert Reich: "Leave Apple Alone!"
The former US Secretary of Labor has a message for the Federal Trade Commission, which is reportedly considering a lawsuit against Apple: investigate big banks instead
. Robert Reich says that it is an"absurd double standard" that the US regulatory agency can prevent companies from engaging in unfair competition… so long as they're not in the financial industry.
Reich was the head of Bill Clinton's Labor Department from 1993 to 1997 and was a strong advocate of technology education for US workers. Since leaving the government the former Harvard professor returned to academia as a Berkeley professor and has been a frequent talk-show guest and commentator. In his blog post (cross-posted at The Huffington Post
and elsewhere), Reich excoriated the FTC for "not even raising an eyebrow about" Wall Street and what he refers to as the "huge and growing economic (and political) muscle" of the five giant US banks. He argues that Apple is no monopoly, saying that "if consumers disagree they can buy platforms elsewhere. Apple was the world's #3 smartphone supplier in 2009, with 16.2 percent of worldwide market share. RIM was #2, with 18.8 percent." Nokia, of course, is still #1.
As Reich points out, by law the FTC is prohibited from regulating banks. It does
have the job of regulating other parts of the economy, though: by law
. The point that the government should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time is a good one, but if Apple is acting in a way that stifles competition (and it's a big "if
," there), then it wouldn't seem more fair to be "hands off Apple," as Reich demands, than it would be to "cut the big banks down to size."