Feature

Corporate welfare queens

Republicans who assail those “dependent upon government” should turn their sights on corporate America.

James SurowieckiThe New Yorker

Republicans who assail those “dependent upon government” should turn their sights on corporate America, said James Surowiecki. Companies of all stripes and sizes rely heavily on government giveaways for their profits. Energy companies, for instance, lease about 80 million acres in the U.S. and “keep the lion’s share of the profits from the oil and natural gas that they pump out.” The telecom industry has benefited enormously from the government’s gift of “swathes of the digital spectrum worth tens of billions of dollars” in the 1990s. And mining companies still lease land for just $5 an acre under an 1872 law and pay no royalties at all on the gold, silver, and uranium they find. Add the tens of billions of dollars of subsidies, import quotas, tax breaks, and beneficial regulations that Washington doles out to companies, and what you might call the “corporate welfare state” has only expanded over the past few decades. “Some of these giveaways arguably do a lot of good.” But companies that benefit “are just as dependent on the government as the guy who gets the earned-income tax credit.”

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