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One policy issue that should unify individuals of all political persuasions is opposing corporate welfare. Progressives tend to oppose big corporations while conservatives and libertarians despise big government. The truth is that big corporations and big government go hand-in-hand. Washington Examiner writer Timothy Carney states that, “as the federal government has progressively become larger over the decades, every significant introduction of government regulation, taxation, and spending has been to the benefit of some big business.” We must stand together and call for an end to all forms of corporate welfare.
People often mistakenly assume that supporting free markets or laissez-faire capitalism means being pro-business. In French, laissez-faire literally translates to “let do” which broadly means leave it alone. True supporters of free markets advocate separating corporations from the state. This means rejecting any government handout, protection or special privilege to any corporation. In a free society, businesses must sink or swim on their own merits. Every business must compete with each other through innovation and entrepreneurship. We are pro-freedom not necessarily pro-corporation.
Another popular misconception is that most corporations lobby for less government regulation. That’s far from the truth. In fact, big corporations generally lobby for more government regulation in their industry. The Big Tobacco company Phillip Morris aggressively lobbies for heightened federal regulation of tobacco products and advertising. Companies such as McDonalds, Starbucks and Kraft have spent millions of dollars lobbying for food “safety” regulation bills. And energy companies like Duke Power have lobbied for cap and trade programs that would benefit their bottom line at the expense of consumers, who would face soaring electricity prices.
Why do big corporations lobby for more regulation? As Matt Ridley notes, “they are addicted to corporate welfare, they love regulations that erect barriers to entry to their small competitors.” Government regulation championed by major corporations is far more likely to significantly hurt their smaller rivals. Politically connected big corporations are fully aware that these harmful regulations will help to wipe out their competition. And that’s the plan.
Big corporations are often hostile to free enterprise. The late Noble Prize winning economist Milton Friedman once wrote, “business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger.” In this big government era, it’s become easier for businesses to profit through the halls of Congress rather than the marketplace. We reject crony capitalism in which the success of a business is determined by their closeness to government officials. What’s good for businesses isn’t always good for taxpayers and the cause of freedom.
The Pentagon budget is probably the most susceptible to corporate welfare. It’s unfortunate that Department of Defense spending has long been isolated from serious scrutiny. Military spending has doubled over the past decade when adjusted for inflation. Powerful special interests benefit from our heavy military spending. Most notably, the nation’s “Big Three” weapons makers—Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman—are cashing in big time.
An all-too friendly relationship has developed between defense contractors and government officials. As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in his farewell address, “we must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes." It is impossible to reduce the size and scope of the federal government without tackling the bloated defense budget.
Big government is in bed with big business. Let’s put a rest to the misconceived notion that pro big business necessarily means free enterprise. Tim Carney writes that “big business and big government prosper from the perception that they are rivals instead of partners (in plunder.) The history of big business is one of cooperation with big government.” Perhaps all of us share common ground on the issue of corporate welfare. In order to put an end to corporate welfare, we must drastically shrink the size and power of government. Businesses should compete for profits in the marketplace and not in the halls of Congress.