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Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals

In 2000, when the Clinton administration was intent on breaking up Microsoft, CEO Bill Gates said his company only looked unassailable. Microsoft, he said, was actually vulnerable to being toppled by any number of as-yet-unseen Davids. Government anti-trust lawyers — and much of the country — scoffed. Just a few years later, in walked Google.

Driving the news: Now Google seems unassailable and, against fierce criticism that it is far too big, CEO Sundar Pichai is arguing much the same as Gates — that his company only seems impregnable.

"There’s a lot of competition amongst big companies. ... For the first time, I think there is more international competition than ever before, and I think that’s going to hold true."
— Pichai, to Axios

The backdrop: Bigness in corporate America is under increasing scrutiny by regulators and scholars who link it to stagnant wages and anti-competition. Together, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet, Google's parent, make up 1% of the companies in the S&P 500, but nearly 15% of the wealth.

But in interviews this week, when Axios asked Pichai and Gates how they are reckoning with the backlash against bigness, they defended it.

  • Gates warned against slamming bigness for its own sake. No big company in the U.S. — in fact, no industry — merits anti-trust action, he argued.
  • Pichai offered a patriotic defense: "There are some advantages of big companies, which is we do invest for the long term in foundational technologies," he said. "Areas like AI or quantum computing, all this will no doubt ... end up being big drivers of U.S. leadership, economic growth."
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Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Obama speechwriter fears Biden unity drive is one-sided

Cody Keenan (right) is shown heading to Marine One in December 2009. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."