For congressional opponents of the federally chartered Export-Import Bank, Boeing is the bugaboo held up as a reason to kill the bank, which guarantees loans made to foreign customers of American businesses.
One of those businesses is the aerospace giant, which is able to sell many of its aircraft to overseas buyers who might not be able to get a loan if it weren’t guaranteed.
The “Ex-Im,” as it’s called, is crony capitalism at its worst, say Republican critics — many of whom don’t seem to have a problem running interference for Big Oil and other industries. They apparently ignore the fact that thousands of smaller companies also benefit from being able to sell more of their products overseas thanks to the Ex-Im, and that many states — Washington, in particular — rely heavily on such trade inducements.
Republicans used to be reliable supporters of the 81-year-old business-boosting Ex-Im. But unfortunately it’s been caught up in the anything-Obama-wants-we’ll-oppose psychology that grips the GOP-controlled Congress.
Unable to muster filibuster-proof vote majorities to overturn the Affordable Care Act or President Obama’s immigration policies, many Republicans see the Ex-Im as an easier battle. All they have to do is refuse to let it come to a vote. And several Republican presidential hopefuls have signed on against the Ex-Im, hoping to ingratiate themselves with the red-meat wing of the party.
The bank’s critics say they don’t like seeing taxpayers subsidize corporations, but in fact the Ex-Im operates on fees charged to its users. It actually makes money for the U.S. Treasury — $6.9 billion in the past 20 years — while helping create or support manufacturing- and trade-related jobs in thousands of American communities. Can its critics point to another federal entity that does that?
If the Ex-Im isn’t reauthorized by June, foreign companies will still get money to buy products. They’ll just buy them from other countries through those countries’ export-import banks. China’s bank is four times the size of the U.S. bank. Already the acrimony over reauthorization has foreign competitors trying to lure potential buyers by telling them that they shouldn’t rely on the Ex-Im being around.
Big corporations like Boeing probably won’t suffer much. The ones that will be hurt most are smaller U.S. companies that rely heavily on foreign sales of their products, ones like Pexco — a 150-employee Fife manufacturer that sells its plastic traffic poles in 28 countries. The Ex-Im provides insurance that ensures Pexco doesn’t lose money if a foreign buyer fails to pay.
As the nation’s economy continues to slowly recover, killing an entity that promotes jobs and trade would be a penny-stupid, pound-foolish move.