As the presidential election draws near, consider something rarely discussed by the mainstream media or politicians: corporate welfare.
For all their whining about federal regulations, corporate America benefits greatly from many federal requirements besides direct subsidies for oil and natural gas companies.
Energy companies also lease 40 million acres of land onshore and 40 million offshore and keep the lion's share of profits from leased land. When prices are low the government encourages more drilling by providing "royalty relief" for leased land. When prices rise oil companies retain that relief and profit even more. It's a sweet arrangement that undermines free market competition and keeps gasoline expensive.
Ethanol production is driven by a federal requirement that 40 percent of the corn crop be diverted for ethanol. This windfall for farmers and refiners drives up food prices in exchange for highly questionable environmental benefits.
On it goes. The telecom industry was given billions in taxpayer money when it was awarded free swathes of the digital spectrum to encourage high definition television.
Mining companies can still use an 1872 law allowing them to lease federal land for $5 an acre and keep all of the gold, silver and uranium they find.
Extensive copyright and patent protection rights, coupled with expansions of intellectual property rights, have been a windfall to business, especially drug companies.
And then there's the tax code, designed as a windfall for rich; clever chaps like Mitt Romney who exploit every tax loophole and stash millions in offshore accounts.
When Romney talks about reducing the size of government and cutting regulations he is referring to regulations and programs that help the 47 percent of Americans that benefit from things like the earned income tax credit, military retirement and service-connected disability benefits, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and modest retiree checks and investments that barely pay the bills.
He isn't referring to the real corporate welfare queens; the fat cats who paid $50,000 a plate for dinner with Romney to make sure they will still profit from federal subsidies and tax loopholes.