Sheldon Richman on the amazingly inefficient US tax code and some of the ways it got that way:
When Congress and President Obama came up with their beyond-the-last-minute deal to put off addressing the coming fiscal crisis, The Wall Street Journal turned the spotlight on a little-noticed, yet too typical aspect of Washington’s machinations: “The bill’s seedier underside is the $40 billion or so in tax payoffs to every crony capitalist and special pleader with a lobbyist worth his million-dollar salary. Congress and the White House want everyone to ignore this corporate-welfare blowout,” the Journal reported.
So a bill that was represented as the first steps toward fiscal responsibility (try not to laugh too hard) contained billions of dollars in corporate welfare. And it was a bipartisan affair.
[. . .]
Manipulating the tax code to benefit particular interests has obvious appeal for politicians — it’s a source of power and influence — and a code that did not permit such manipulation would be much less attractive to them. Outright cash subsidies from the taxpayers, while not unheard of, smacks too much of cronyism and is more likely to alienate taxpayers. But complicated exceptions written into the tax laws can be presented as creative governance on behalf of the public interest. But it is cronyism as offensive as outright subsidies.
[. . .]
Corporate welfare is not primarily about lowering taxes. That would be a worthwhile goal, of course, and could be achieved simply by slashing tax rates and simplifying the code. But when taxes are lowered selectively by writing complicated exceptions into the law, the goal is to bestow privileges on cronies, not to reduce the burden of government on all. Corporate welfare, among its many sins, violates equal protection under the law.