East Room

5:09 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everyone.  Please — please sit down.  Well, it’s good to see all.  Let’s have a Cabinet meeting.  (Laughter.)  Really, thank you for what you all are doing.  We got a lot more good things to do as well.

Back in July, I signed, as you all know, an executive order to promote competition and build — build an economy that works for everybody, not just a few.  And the competition results in lower prices for families, competition results in fair wages for workers, and, as you all know, competition encourages companies to innovate. 

And — but what we’ve seen over the last few decades is less competition and more concentration that literally holds economy back.  And in too many industries, a handful of giant companies dominate — dominate the entire market.  And we see it in big ag — I need not tell the Secretary of Agriculture that; he’s forgotten more about this than I know — in big tech, big pharma.  The list goes on. 

And rather than competing for customers, they’re consuming their competitors.  And rather than doing what they should be doing, they’re doing the opposite — having a negative impact. 

All told, between generating higher prices and lower wages, lack of competition costs the median American family household, according of study done at NY- — at NYU, $5,000 a year — the median-income family.

My executive order is changing that, as everyone at this table knows.  It includes — it included 72 specific actions for federal agencies to take and help restore competition in our economy.  It includes creating a Competition Council — you all — and — comprised of Cabinet members and heads of several independent agencies to coordinate and monitor our progress all across the entire federal government.

In six months since I issued the order, we’ve met every deadline that my — my order calls for so far.  And here are just three examples.  “The right to repair” — sounds kind of silly saying it that way, but it’s — but we call it “the right to repair” — is literal. 

Too many areas, if you don’t own a product — excuse me, if you own a product, from a smartphone to a tractor, you don’t have the freedom to choose how or where to repair that item you purchased.

It’s broke.  “Well, what do I do about it?”  If it’s broke, you had to go to the dealer and you had to pay the dealer’s cost — the dealer’s price.

If you tried to get it fixed — if you tried to fix it yourself, some manufacturers actually would void the warranty when they sold the ve- — sold the product to you or disable the features on that product they sold you.

Denying the right to repair raises prices for consumers, means independent repair shops can’t compete for your business.  And my expe- — my executive order announced that support for the right to repair, rather — right after I issued my order, I was pleased to see the Federal Trade Commission unanimously announce that it would ramp up — unanimously announced it would ramp up enforcement against illegal repair restrictions.

That was allowed [followed] by major companies to — or by voluntarily agreeing to change their restrictions on repairs.

And — excuse me — what’s happened was a lot of these companies said, “You’re right.  We’re going to voluntarily do it.  You don’t have to order us to do it.”  And voluntarily said, “We’ll do it.”

For example, Apple and Microsoft are changing their policies so folks will be able to repair their phones and laptops themselves — although I’m not sure I know how to do that.  (Laughter.)

I — when I have any problem with my phone, I call my daughter.  (Laughter.)

But it’s going to make it easier for millions of Americans to repair their electronics instead of paying an arm and a leg to repair or just throwing the device out.

Hearing aids.  Roughly 48 million people suffer from hearing loss in America — 48 million.  But to get a hearing aid, folks have to get — go see a specialist and then get a prescription and then they pay thousands of dollars for a pair of hearing aids.

But the big part is why only — that’s a big part of why only one in five people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually use one.  And so, my competition executive order changes that.

In October, the Food and Drug Administration released a new proposed rule that would make it possible for hearing aids to be sold over the counter without a prescription.

We expect this is going to lower costs for hearing aids from thousands of dollars to — literally to hundreds of dollars, saving people hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

And people will — can pick them up at a local pharmacy, saving time and money, and helping the tens of million people with hearing loss who don’t have hearing aids now.

Third area: mergers.  In too many industries, big companies — big companies can use their power to squeeze out smaller competitors, stifle new competition, raise prices, reduce the choice for customers, and exploit their workers.

Well, I’ve said it before: Capitalism without competition is — is not capitalism; it’s exploitation.

So, the Department of Justice and other agencies with oversight authority have ramped up their efforts to scrutinize these mergers.  It includes challenging or blocking mergers that are bad for the economy and your pocketbooks.

For example, the Department of Justice just took action to block a mega-merger that would have resulted in two brokerages dominating the insurance industry, which would result in customers having fewer choices, higher prices, and lower-quality services.

The bottom line: This isn’t just about quick wins.  It’s about reversing decades of concentration that have hurt workers, consumers, and small businesses.  It didn’t happen at any one time.  It’s been over a period of time now — a long time.

This is just the beginning, though.  In the coming weeks and months, Americans can expect to see more — more protections for farmers and ranchers selling products like beef, pork, and poultry; more options and better prices for consumers; more clarity on the actual price you’ll pay for high-speed Internet services and airline tickets. 

We’re also going to keep pushing on other priorities and — from my executive order, like addressing the non-compete clauses that affect one in five workers.  One in five workers have to sign a non-compete clause. 

It stunned me that’s how this — as Brian will tell you, this is how this came about, really — this whole competitive council.  I knew all what was going on, but when I realized how many people out there with no special insight to having access to patents or anything else had to sign a non-compete clause — people making hourly wages — all designed to keep prices down for — or to keep wages down and prices up.

But one in five workers at a given — and gave them, the company, the power over their careers.

The bottom line is: Our economy shouldn’t be about people working for capitalism.  It should be about capitalism working for people, for everyone.

Now I’m going to turn this over to Brian so we can get this meeting started.  But, again, thank each and every one of you here on this council.  I really mean it. 

You know, I think even when we decided to do this council, some of you — you all thought it was a good idea, but I’ll be — I’d be surprised if some of you didn’t go, “Whoa, I didn’t realize how restrictive some of this was — how restrictive some of this was.”  But you’re going to make a difference in ordinary people’s lives.  Ordinary people’s lives are going to make a difference. 

So, anyway, Brian, the floor is yours.

MR. DEESE:  Thank you, sir.  We’re going go and give the press corps a moment to exit, and then we’re going to start our meeting. 

Q    Mr. President, can you give us a brief update on your call with European leaders on what’s happening in Ukraine today?

THE PRESIDENT:  The only reason I don’t like doing this is you never report on why I’ve called a meeting.  And this is really important. 

I had a very, very, very good meeting.  Total unanimity with all the European leaders.  We’ll talk about it later. 

Thank you.

MR. DEESE:  Thank you.

Q    Will you send troops to Ukraine, sir?

Q    Why are you sending 8,500 troops to Ukraine, possibly?

Q    Will you take questions on inflation then?  Do you think inflation is a political liability ahead of the midterms?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, it’s a great asset.  More inflation.  What a stupid son of a bitch.

5:18 P.M. EST

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