Who told Congress the following? “We oppose ALL subsidies, whether existing or proposed, including programs that benefit us, which are principally those that are embedded in our economy, such as mandates.”
And this? “[We don’t] view these as ‘benefits’ even if they are in industries we’re in. They are wasteful and market distorting, and allow other firms to run businesses that aren’t making money any other way.”
“The company owned by billionaire philanthropists Charles and David Koch, as well as groups frequently associated with the fraternal libertarians, are pushing Congress to let 55 tax breaks expire, including several that provide billions in tax relief for corporations such as Koch Industries.”
They are similarly opposed to regulatory cronyism that restrains competition and the sort of public largess favoring lucrative contract awards for large corporate entities. These are the same Koch brothers typically demonized by the Left (but not always), as if their political contributions were an effort to garner public subsidies. Clearly that is not the case. Moreover, Left-leaning billionaires such as Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros are far more prolific political contributors than the Koch brothers. And what do these corporatists want for their money? Surely not a smaller government; they’d like a big fat administrative state from which their many corporate interests can suckle.
Some kinds of subsidies are transparently wasteful, such as tax breaks for already-profitable businesses or bailouts to firms that have made bad decisions, or to firms in dying industries. More fundamentally, all public subsidies circumvent the unforgiving cost-benefit calculus imposed by the market, misdirecting resources via signals distorted by the visible fists of government. This often allows activity to continue that would otherwise be judged wasteful or unsustainable, or excessive investment of resources into particular activities. Self-interested politicians and public officials, however, often justify these subsidies by asserting the existence of external benefits unrecognized by market valuations. Too often, these assertions rely on value judgements. Regardless, the supposed benefits are never easily measured. Our experience with pervasive cronyism and waste in government should always lead us to insist on a skeptical evaluation of proposed subsidies. Rent-seeking behavior is usually at the root of such initiatives.