If you take federal money, you lose credibility in complaining about regulations

Advocates of free enterprise often find it hard to convince business to stop taking corporate welfare and lobbying for regulations that crush competitors. After all, so much free-market talk swirls around the right to make a profit, so why should we begrudge businesses lobbying for policies that are profitable?

Today's Washington Post story on Mitt Romney's visit to a factory gives one hint as to why businesses should eschew subsidy suckling:

Romney, the early front-runner for the Republican nomination, and the factory’s owner see government as the problem — stunting growth at every turn with stringent environmental and labor regulations, a new health-care law, and trade policies that they say disadvantage U.S. companies.

 

Yet it’s been the government — and Obama’s policies in particular — that has helped propel Screen Machine’s growth at its sprawling new headquarters here, even during the recession. The company, which builds heavy-duty crushing and screening machines used in construction, mining and recycling, received four stimulus awards totaling $218,607. It is also benefiting from a 10-year deal with local and state governments to not pay taxes on its property, equipment or inventory, according to public records.

And Screen Machine, which is expanding its global sales, recently won a federal contract to deliver its machines to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

See what happened there?

So if someone offered Screen Machine a tradeoff — deregulation & tax cuts in exchange for eliminating subsidies — would Screen Machine take it? I don't know. But well-run companies with something good to sell would take that deal.

But this deal isn't simply hypothetical — your credibility in arguing for deregulation and lower taxes is inversely proportional to the degree you pocket taxpayer lucre.

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