Top 10 Big Business-Big Government Ripoffs

Ranked by Timothy P. Carney, author of "The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money."

10. State Licensing Boards
Most folks agree pilots should be licensed, but florists and interior decorators? In Louisiana, you cannot legally arrange flowers for a living unless you pass the test administered by currently practicing florists—no wonder most applicants fail.

9. Pork-Barrel Spending
Someone has to build the Bridges to Nowhere and the Robert Byrd Highways. Is it a coincidence that these contracts go to campaign donors?

8. Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
This 1998 legal settlement was basically a tax hike that has disproportionately hit the smaller tobacco companies—who were never even sued. Now the states are hooked on tobacco payments and help Philip Morris fight off private lawsuits.

7. Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
The pharmaceutical companies benefit from this GOP-created monstrosity more than seniors do. The losers: taxpayers.

6. Kyoto and CO2 Limitations
The UN’s treaties and John McCain’s bills all would curb our ability to use fossil fuels, while driving up energy costs and boosting the bottom lines of clever companies such as DuPont who have invested in worthless “CO2 credits.” The Kyoto Protocol was Enron’s top policy goal in Washington.

5. Export Subsidies
The Export-Import Bank has subsidized Chinese nuclear proliferators and GE’s moving a factory to Mexico. A majority of the agency’s loan-guarantee subsidy goes to Boeing.

4. The Death Tax
Warren Buffett and the life insurers love this tax that drives millions of dollars every year to estate planning and has forced family-owned businesses, such as Dairy Queen, to sell out to Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

3. Eminent Domain for Corporate Gain
When the five liberal Supreme Court justices sided with big developers and greedy governments in Kelo, this legalized theft was enshrined—and now nobody’s property is safe.

2. The Sugar Program
The Fanjul family in Florida has greased the skids with heavy donations to both parties, and American families suffer: We pay twice as much as the rest of the world for our sugar, thanks to the subsidies and quotas that guarantee the Fanjuls a high price.

1. Ethanol
Special tax breaks, handouts, tariffs and now a federal mandate add up to a huge subsidy for this inefficient corn-based fuel that is driving up gasoline prices. With 25% of the country’s ethanol, well-connected agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland pockets a huge chunk of the profits.