On Tuesday, bipartisan members of Congress struck a deal that included renewal of the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank into the five-year, $305 billion highway funding bill. What export financing and transportation highway funding have in common is anyone’s guess, but this is exactly why Americans distrust Washington. These political games revived government-sponsored crony capitalism that no one needs and many agree is a waste of taxpayer resources. In today’s hyper-partisan Congress, it seems the only thing our elected officials seem to agree on is more corporate welfare for Fortune 500 companies at the taxpayer’s expense.
It’s all but inevitable now that the corrupt Ex-Im Bank will be resurrected from the dead. Boeing and GE must be giving a sigh of relief. They’ll still be able to count on their golden goose to fund $10.9 billion dollars’ worth of loan guarantees, with $8.3 to Boeing and $2.6 to GE last year. It’s called “Boeing’s Bank” for a reason; they alone consistently receive 40 percent of Ex-Im’s total authorizations and received a staggering $66.7 billion from 2007 to 2013. And, just think, Boeing and GE only had to spend $46.9 million to lobby on the bank’s behalf.
The worst part of this reauthorization is that it won’t even include any reforms. Ex-Im for years has been plagued with corruption and mismanagement, and 74 corruption cases have been brought forth by the Office of Inspector General since 2009. A staggering 46 people have been convicted of defrauding the bank, and four employees were “suspended or removed” for collecting gifts and kickbacks last year, according to The Wall Street Journal. If this were any other government agency or taxpayer-backed institution, heads would be rolling.
Ex-Im was created as part of FDR’s New Deal to promote exports. It was never intended to be the piggy bank for giant corporations, but was created to help American small businesses who had no other source of lending available to them to compete overseas. But today, Ex-Im is a revolving door of special interests securing sweetheart deals and political pet projects. That’s why in June, free-market conservatives in Congress who oppose government handouts for corporations finally had enough and let the bank expire. That led to exaggerated headlines and massive lobbying campaigns throughout the summer and into the fall – causing Congress to cave.
There is a multitude of alternative export financing available today for companies in the international marketplace, and the Ex-Im Bank supports only 2 percent of our country’s total exports. When 98 percent is able to get by just fine, there is no reason to be picking winners and losers and subsidizing the lucky few. Boeing and GE are more than capable of financing themselves or procuring loan guarantees from alternative sources in the private sector, instead of loans backed by taxpayers.
Clearly, Washington elites are out of touch. When there are so many important issues Congress should be negotiating and coming together on, their only areas of agreement come when big businesses fills their campaign coffers. Actually, come to think of it, that’s nothing new.
David Williams is President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.