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OPINION

Congress’ Target Bailout Bill Is Bad News

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/George Walker IV

A “sleight of hand” is a trick magicians use to deceive and manipulate audiences. It seems clear that some woke companies share the same talent.

When the Target Corporation climbed deep into the culture war by promoting and selling what many argue is sexualized clothing to children, the American people responded in disgust. As a result, the company has lost more than $10 billion in value. 

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As the #BoycottTarget movement began to catch fire, many politicians, including Ohio’s Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) proclaimed their fidelity to the boycotters. 

Vance, always one to tap into populist sentiment, suggested that Target had “decided to wage war on a large share of its customer base and tweeted that he no longer shops at Target. Likewise, Rep. Gooden declared that his family “won’t spend a penny more” at the chain.

But while the pressure they are paying to the #BoycottTarget movement is nice and all, it doesn’t change the fact that they are both sponsoring legislation that would completely undercut the financial pressures the nation is inducing on the woke retailer if passed.  

I don’t doubt Sen. Vance or Rep. Gooden’s motives. Both are strong conservatives. But the truth is that their Credit Card Competition Act would put tens of millions of dollars into Target and other leftist corporations’ corporate coffers.  

Target and other similar companies are aggressively lobbying to have Congress pass the bill, which would impose a cap on retailers’ credit card swipe fees, because they know that it would make large portions of these transaction fees — a corporate responsibility — banks and taxpayers’ problem instead of a problem of their own. This would help pad woke corporate America’s bottom lines, but it wouldn’t benefit anyone else. 

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While these companies are arguing that they will pass the cost-savings they receive onto consumers, we’ve seen this movie before, and it didn’t end as they promised. When Congress passed the so-called Durbin amendment to cap debit card fees in 2010, Sen. Dick Durbin (who also supports the Credit Card Competition Act) joined these corporations in telling consumers that the businesses would pass along the cost-savings onto them. Instead, the largest retail merchants pocketed over $106 billion and shared next to nothing with Main Street. Why should we expect anything different to happen if Congress expands this policy to credit cards?  

This glaring corporate duplicity points to a broader issue within today’s political landscape: the disconnect between corporate America’s rhetoric and actions that has fueled public disillusionment and mistrust in them. Over the last two decades, we have seen this play out over and over again. 

When President Obama demanded Congress “reign in Wall Street and the big banks” by enacting the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill, the big banks like Goldman Sachs that endorsed the legislation were the ones that ultimately benefited from his call to action. We have similarly watched Big Tech leaders like Mark Zuckerberg ask Congress to “regulate and protect” the tech industry in ways that would benefit Big Tech at its smaller competitors’ expense. These capital sleights of hands would make Houdini blush. 

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When people watch a magician, they expect to be tricked. Free marketeers in Congress like Sen. Vance and Rep. Gooden might not have the same expectation when dealing with big, private businesses today, but they need to start seeing their motives as less pure than they are presently. Their motives are often far more nefarious and smoke and mirrors filled than they appear, and their deceptive, anti-consumer tactics need to be stopped before it’s too late. 

Edward Woodson is a lawyer, political commentator, and host of "The Edward Woodson Show," which airs weekdays on WZAB and streams online at EdwardWoodson.com

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