Google Chairman Eric E. Schmidt will testify at an antitrust hearing today before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. The subject of the hearing: “The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?” Not surprisingly, Google competitors — at least three of whom are also expected to testify — say the latter, claiming the company limits its competitors by favoring its own affiliated websites through its search engine. From my very preliminary reading on the subject (and from my very great reliance on Google on a daily basis), I tend to say the former.
But, for what it’s worth, Schmidt himself doesn’t seem concerned about the hearing whatsoever. He’s even said he’s looking forward to the “opportunity to communicate what [Google is] doing.” More than likely, he’s unconcerned because Google does serve its users well — but he might also be nonchalant because he’s covered his political bases. According to The New York Times:
As antitrust scrutiny has intensified, Google has ramped up its lobbying efforts in Washington and its communications campaigns nationwide. The company has shown television ads in some markets … that trumpet Google’s role in helping small businesses and creating jobs.
Plus, as an outspoken supporter of President Obama, Schmidt just this week hyped the need for short-term stimulus measures of the sort the president has proposed.
“The economy is, today, stuck behind the power curve. It needs a lot of encouragement,” Schmidt told “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour. “It needs not just something like the jobs bill, but also significant government stimulation in terms of buying power and investment. Otherwise, we’re set up for years of extraordinarily low growth in the economy and no real solution to the jobless problem.” …
“You have a situation where the private sector sees essentially no growth in demand,” Schmidt said. “The classic solution is to have the government step in and, with short-term initiatives, help stimulate that demand. If they do it right, they’ll invest in income and growth-producing things, like highways and bridges and schools, new opportunities for the private sector to go then build businesses.”
I disagree with Schmidt on the need for short-term stimulus (the definition of insanity and all that), but I did, at least, appreciate the comments he made in favor of creative destruction:
Schmidt dismissed the idea that greater efficiency and new technology have created structural changes to the economy that have replaced workers unable to re-train for new higher-skilled jobs. …
“That’s been true for 100 years. It’s been true of the industrial era for the last, literally, century,” Schmidt said. “And over and over again, American ingenuity has meant that the people who were displaced were able to find new jobs in these new industries.
There’s every reason to believe that if the political system could come to a consensus around stability, solving these short-term problems and get the investment that I’m describing, that we can take care of the rest.”
In other words: No, Mr. President, ATMs did not cause our 9.1 percent unemployment. But Schmidt was careful to couple his praise for industrialization with a call for “investment,” that key word of the president’s. As well he should. He’s got a Democrat-led Senate subcommittee to win over.