Liberals usually like to condemn corporate welfare … unless that welfare comes in the form of protectionism. Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that a 2000 law, declared illegal by the WTO and repealed by Congress in 2005, is making a comeback thanks to the efforts of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV). The Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act allowed the U.S. corporations that make dumping complaints to take the punitive duties collected by the U.S. government for themselves, instead of allowing the fees to flow to the U.S. Treasury. Among the beneficiaries:

As of 2007, some $1.9 billion had been handed out to thousands of supplicants, from bee keepers to steel manufacturers. The lion’s share has gone to big business. A GAO report found that between 2001 and 2004, more than half of Byrd money went to five companies, and 20% went to just one, an Ohio bearings maker named Timken. In the 2007 rankings of 1,982 payees, Idaho’s Micron semiconductor company won the jackpot, with $37,938,402.

The losers in all this were the rest of us. That includes the American companies, as some told the GAO, which suffered or collapsed because they couldn’t compete with domestic rivals flush with Byrd cash. Also incalculable are losses to American exporters. When the WTO ruled the Byrd Amendment illegal, it authorized 11 of our trading partners, including those in the EU and Japan, to impose retaliatory tariffs on American products. Many duly slammed us. A revived Byrd would trigger more retaliation, and at a time when exports are the main source of U.S. growth.