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Biden touts actions to promote competition in airline, agriculture sectors

'Do it now. … Not a month from now, do it now,' president tells gas companies on pump prices

President Joe Biden speaks at a meeting of the White House Competition Council at the White House. Biden was joined by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
President Joe Biden speaks at a meeting of the White House Competition Council at the White House. Biden was joined by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden formally announced new actions Monday his administration is taking to try to reduce costs and spur competition across industries, headlined by air transportation and the poultry and meat industries.

“You should know the full cost of your ticket right when you’re comparison shopping,” the president said. “The Federal Communications Commission is doing the same thing for fees that internet companies charge.”

Even as he touted the work of the White House Competition Council so far, the president said he expected its members and agencies to do more. The group was established to “to promote competition in the American economy,” according to a White House fact sheet.

“I’m expecting this council to build on this momentum and deliver more concrete results by the next time we meet. I’ve said it before: Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism, it’s exploitation,” Biden said in remarks at a council meeting.

Biden and his administration are continuing to try to find ways to reduce inflation. The president also had a direct message for fuel companies, suggesting that the retail price of gasoline has not fallen as quickly as he would like.

“Bring down the prices you’re charging at the pump,” he said. “Do it now. … Not a month from now, do it now.”

The council, which Biden launched in 2021, includes cabinet members and representatives from various departments and agencies. Cabinet agencies announced some of their latest actions ahead of the Monday afternoon meeting with the president.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg previewed the announcement with perhaps the most potential for direct impact on consumers.

The Transportation Department is proposing a rule that would require up-front disclosure of a host of airline ticket fees, including those for being seated next to children, for checking baggage and canceling or rescheduling flights.

“Airline passengers deserve to know the full, true cost of their flights before they buy a ticket,” Buttigieg said in a Monday statement. “This new proposed rule would require airlines to be transparent with customers about the fees they charge, which will help travelers make informed decisions and save money.”

Airlines for America, which counts among its passenger airline members American, United, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, Hawaiian and Alaska, noted in response to a question about the proposed rule that their members already disclose an assortment of fees.

“A4A member passenger airlines – which are fierce competitors—already offer transparency to consumers from first search to touchdown. U.S. airlines are committed to providing the highest quality of service, which includes clarity regarding prices, fees and ticket terms,” an Airlines for America spokesperson said in an email. “A4A passenger carriers provide details regarding the breakdown of airfares on their websites, providing consumers clarity regarding the total cost of a ticket. This includes transparency regarding taxes and government fees on airline tickets, which account for more than 20 percent of many domestic one-stop, roundtrip tickets.”

On the health policy front, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it would make nursing home ownership data public — and this nursing home ownership data could be linked to data identifying the performance of nursing homes under common ownership.

This is part of a larger effort to shine a light on what goes on in federally funded nursing homes. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed broader structural problems in federally funded nursing homes, from poor quality of care to understaffing. Nursing homes had among the worst death rates throughout the pandemic.

The Agriculture Department, meanwhile, was announcing initiatives including an effort to partner with state attorneys general to ramp up investigations of anticompetitive practices.

“Through a combination of renewable cooperative agreements and memorandums of understanding, these new partnerships will assist state AGs in tackling anticompetitive practices in the agricultural sector and related industries that are contributing to heightened inflationary pressures, lack of choices for consumers and producers, and conflicts of interest and anticompetitive barriers across the food and agriculture supply chains,” USDA said in announcing that plan, which would allocate $15 million to help with investigations and enforcement.

The Agriculture Department’s actions also include a new rule-making that in part seems to seek to protect “market vulnerable individuals” from discrimination in the marketplace, including on the basis of race, sexual orientation, religion and gender identity. The rule would apply to several agriculture sectors, including the meat and poultry markets.

Ariel Cohen contributed to this report.

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