Hidden amongst a great (and very funny) review of the battle over net neutrality, comedian John Oliver pretty much nails the first rule of subsidies -- or more precisely, the first rule of getting and keeping large subsidies:
"If you want to do something evil, put it inside of something boring."
Even if you never understand the tax code, or government loan guarantees, or the complex nuance of Renewable Fuel Standards, remembering John's rule will take you far. I've discussed it before as the "eye glaze" effect: the more a policy makes your eyes glaze over when somebody is trying to explain it to you, the more likely it is that billions of dollars are shifting hands as you doze off.
How did Oliver stumble upon a central tenet of energy subsidies during a routine about net neutrality? Simple: they are both about using the power of government over markets to shift resources to a well-connected, concentrated economic interest group.