House Republicans like to portray themselves as business friendly, but they are currently preventing the re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank, which will cease to exist on September 30 unless action is taken. Opposition to the bank is motivated partly by ideology. According to a Dallas Morning News website, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling sees the Bank as “the face of ‘crony capitalism’ and proof that Washington has been captured by elites.” Hensarling chairs the House Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bank.
Fear of the Tea Party is another factor in Republican opposition to the bank. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was an ExIm Bank supporter, but his defeat in a Virginia primary by Tea Party candidate Dave Brat has made other Republicans wary. California congressman Kevin McCarthy, who has replaced Cantor as majority leader, used to back re-authorization, but has now withdrawn his support. Speaker Boehner, once thought friendly to the bank, has declined to endorse re-authorization and refused to schedule a vote on the issue. If Boehner were to allow a vote, the bank would survive because a large majority of Democrats, who are truly business-friendly, would approve re-authorization.
The Export-Import Bank helps U.S. firms compete in global markets partly by selling insurance that protects exporters against political risks, such as a coup that might prevent the transfer of funds; and commercial risk, such as a refusal by the purchaser to pay the bill. This means that companies can offer credit terms to overseas buyers and not demand cash in advance or complicated letters of credit through banks. The Bank also offers lines of credit to U.S. companies to help finance the production of goods for export, and it provides financing to foreign companies so that they can buy U.S.-manufactured goods.
It’s true that major U.S. corporations, such as Boeing, Caterpillar, and General Electric benefit from the risk insurance and credit lines the bank offers. These companies are up against heavy competition from foreign manufacturers that receive support from similar banks in their own countries. China has an export-import bank. So do South Korea, Japan, and a host of other countries. Airbus, Boeing’s chief competitor, receives strong support from several European governments. Boeing, Caterpillar, and General Electric are major contributors to U.S. prosperity as well very large employers, but Republican opponents of our own ExIm Bank would have them compete in global markets with one hand tied behind their backs.
The ExIm Bank doesn’t just help big business. Over the years 2007-2014, more than 4,900 small businesses have received help in exporting. A Global Access for Small Business initiative was launched in 2011.
A total of $236 billion in exports has been supported from 2007-2014, including $7 billion in exports from 271 firms in New York State. Dresser-Rand in Olean and Painted Post, Emerson Power and Stork H&E Turbo Blading in Ithaca, Goulds Pumps in Seneca Falls, and LaFrance Equipment in Elmira are among the beneficiaries.
Whether Speaker Boehner will let common sense prevail and allow a vote on re-authorizing the ExIm Bank remains to be seen. Whatever happens, it’s clear that voters in New York’s 23rd have no interest in allowing a party that plays Russian roulette with the bank and the economy to remain in control of the House. That’s one more reason to vote for Martha Robertson in November.