One of the most common refrains of the American left for decades has been their attacks on the corporate bogeyman they like to call “big business.” And in the political arena, by extension, Democrats just love to thrash Republicans as being nothing more than Big Business’ political tools. That line of attack has been around so long, it’s to be expected even in our ever-changing political landscape.
Remember Democrats’ gleeful tarring of Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat during the 2012 presidential election? Or who can forget the Occupy Wall Street protests, when squatters in public squares across America expressed a general frustration with individuals and companies who, in their view, made too much money?
Of course, this mindset is nothing new. In fact, the term “corporate welfare” – often employed to describe government’s cozy relations with big business – has been around since at least 1956, when it was employed by Ralph Nader. That term was also used in 2008 by a Democratic senator running for president, who singled out a government program to decry as “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”
The senator, of course, was Barack Obama, and the government agency was the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
Today, the Barack Obama of 2008 has some unlikely allies. The Export-Import Bank – or Ex-Im, as it’s known inside the Beltway – is being criticized by conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill who see it as an example of the crony capitalism that’s making it tougher for American employers to get ahead.
What’s more, it’s a classic example of government doing something the private sector is perfectly capable of handling on its own. The bank’s purpose is to provide financing to allow foreign companies to purchase American goods – amounting to a government handout to accomplish something the market is better equipped to undertake. And Ex-Im is known for being incredibly friendly to the Democrats’ hated “big business” – 60 percent of their financing goes to ten large corporations. The largest recipient by far is Boeing, which raked in 30 percent of total Ex-Im financing in 2013 alone. Hence, the Bank is colloquially known as “Boeing’s Bank.”
Here again we see Democrats railing against business on the stump, but pulling out all the stops behind the scenes to protect their pet spending projects and corporate welfare. This is the latest and most brazen example yet.
The bank’s charter is due to expireon September 30 and conservatives like House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) are eyeing ways to enact significant reforms or allow the charter to expire outright, effectively killing the bank.