The Budgetary Cost of Privilege

The estimated cost to taxpayers of corporate welfare was roughly $56 billion in fiscal year 2016. This number includes direct and indirect subsidies to large corporations, small businesses, and industry organizations. The assistance comes from programs in various areas of the budget, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development.

Any budgetary cost of corporate welfare spending systematically and grossly understates the cost of corporate welfare. Indeed, some of the programs listed in the table confer advantages with what appears to be little or no budgetary impact. There are also numerous other ways that certain government policies benefit particular commercial interests but are not accounted for on a list that focuses exclusively on the budgetary impact of privilege.

Beyond its budgetary costs, corporate welfare violates the bedrock American principle of equality under the law, introduces unwelcome distortions into the economy, fosters corruption and cronyism, and undermines markets when policymakers attempt to pick winners and losers.

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