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Triumph of Crony Capitalism: Export-Import Bank to be Renewed (probably)

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  Presidential Towers with a Benjamin

Presidential Benjamins

We’ve mentioned the Ex-Im Bank before, at least once, with my solution being to limit tax-payer subsidized loans to businesses who have annual gross income less than $1,000,000, with the thought that perhaps mega-corporations like Boeing and GE could get loans on their own, without involving the Ex-Im Bank. Unfortunately, Corporate Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer are as happy with the idea of crony capitalism as his counterparts among the Republicans, and it looks like the bank is going to continue business as usual. Money triumphs over common sense, again…

The U.S. Congress probably will reauthorize the Export-Import Bank before its charter expires in two months, adding tools to crack down on misconduct by employees, a Republican House committee chairman said.

“It’s an important agency, but it clearly has corruption problems,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa of California said yesterday in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

The 80-year-old bank is facing its toughest test as it seeks reauthorization before its financing powers end Sept. 30. Manufacturers such as Boeing Corp. as well as Wall Street banks back the lender, while the Republican-leaning Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth, oppose the bank as “crony capitalism.”

(click here to continue reading Export-Import Bank to Win Renewal, With Changes, Republican Says – Bloomberg.)

Golden Plowshares
Golden Plowshares

David Sirota writes:

In politics, as the old saying goes, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies – there are only permanent interests. Few policy debates prove that truism as well as the one now brewing over the Export-Import Bank — a government agency providing taxpayer subsidized loans to multinational corporations.

This tale starts 15 years ago when my old boss, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, was trying to construct a left-right coalition to reform the bank. While a few libertarians were willing to voice free-market criticism of the bank, the impetus for reform was primarily among Democrats and the left. Indeed, Sanders’ failed 2002 amendment proposing to restrict the bank’s subsidies garnered only 22 Republican votes but had 111 Democratic backers — mostly progressive legislators who, in the words of Sanders, saw the Ex-Im Bank program as “one of the most egregious forms of corporate welfare.”    

…By 2008, the progressive-themed criticism of the bank had become so central to Democrats’ agenda that Barack Obama used a presidential campaign speech in 2008 to lambast the bank as “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”

Fast forward to the last few years. In 2012, Democrats rammed a bill reauthorizing the bank through the Senate, and Obama held a public ceremony to sign the reauthorization bill into law. At the same time, Republicans provided most of the congressional votes against the bank. And now, in the last few weeks, the GOP’s new House majority leader is threatening to block the next authorization bill and thus completely shut the bank down.

This tale is not just another “I was for it before I was against” anecdote. It is also a bigger parable providing a two-pronged lesson: Partisan politics can abruptly shift; yet money politics almost never changes.

(click here to continue reading Corporate Welfare’s Quiet Enablers: How Democrats Pander to Big Business | Alternet.)

More Spare Change
More Spare Change

A little back-story from a David Dayen report in Salon:

But pre-Internet liberals might want to get out their back issues of the Nation and Mother Jones at this point to jog their memory, for they will see article after article condemning the 80-year-old institution as a slush fund that allows the government to fund a series of nasty activities. Here’s one from 1981 (“The Ex-Im helps sell nuclear reactors to dictatorships like the Philippines”). Here’s another from 1992, about the Reagan administration using Ex-Im to funnel loans to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during their war with Iran. Even more recently, in 2011, Mother Jones reported on how Ex-Im loan guarantees helped build one of the largest coal plants in the world, in South Africa. (Ex-Im subsequently announced it would stop facilitating coal plant production – but only in December of last year.)

Ex-Im wasn’t just a minor annoyance, but a lefty cause célébre. Here’s Sen. Bernie Sanders, back when he served in the House, eviscerating Ex-Im on the floor in 2002, when it came up for reauthorization then. Sanders asked why American taxpayers would provide “huge subsidies and loans to the largest multinational corporations in the world, who pay their CEOs huge salaries … and companies take this money from the taxpayers and say, thank you very much, and oh by the way, we are laying you off because we are going to China and hiring somebody at 20 cents an hour.”

Sanders crafted bipartisan legislation to reform Ex-Im to better protect manufacturing workers, but the bill’s markup got canceled at the last minute. “My suspicion is that the moneyed interests who like the Export-Import Bank as it is right now sent down the word from the top that that markup never take place,” he told his House colleagues.

Back then, liberals highlighted how Enron, the failed energy giant, benefited from $675 million in Ex-Im loans. In 2002, Sanders also pointed out that Ex-Im gave an $18 million loan to a Chinese steel mill, which was later on accused of dumping steel into U.S. markets and hurting U.S. workers. And it was common just a decade or so ago for lefties to call Ex-Im the “Bank of Boeing,” because close to 60 percent of all Ex-Im loans facilitated their aircraft sales. Sanders in particular pointed out that Ex-Im aid for a Boeing sale to the Chinese military ended up displacing workers, as some manufacturing for the aircraft moved from Wichita to China. “The Export-Import Bank is helping General Electric ship jobs to Mexico … helping AT&T ship jobs to China. And on and on it goes,” Sanders concluded.

And Sanders certainly did not believe that financing for multinational trade deals would dry up without Ex-Im. He questioned the head of the bank in 2004, asking, “General Electric, which itself is one of the largest financial institutions in America, cannot get loans anyplace else but from the taxpayers and the workers of America? Are you going to tell me with a straight face that GE is a struggling small business, a minority business in the barrio of New York, and they just cannot find financing?”

(click here to continue reading Wingnuts and liberals’ bizarre role reversal: Why Export-Import Bank politics are so perverse – Salon.com.)

Stay tuned, Congress is about to go on recess until September, I doubt this will be settled until then, at the earliest…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 29th, 2014 at 8:51 am

Posted in Business,politics

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