These days, Congress can’t even get the easy stuff right.
The Export-Import Bank should be one of the easy decisions. Congress should re-open it for business without delay.
By providing financing for transactions that commercial lenders won’t or can’t touch, the bank helps U.S. businesses export their products, which means more American jobs. It doesn’t cost taxpayers anything — in fact it earned a $675 million profit last year and more than $7 billion over the past two decades. Here in Illinois, it’s helped 322 businesses export $5 billion worth of goods over the last six years.
What’s not to like? A federal agency that makes money while supporting well-paying jobs that otherwise would go overseas. We could use more agencies like this.
But spurred by conservatives who call the Export-Import Bank “crony capitalism,” Congress let its charter lapse on June 30. Since then, the bank hasn’t made any new loans.
Instead, what’s happened is that Boeing lost an $85 million satellite contract and was told not to bother bidding on another. Layoffs have already started in its satellite division. General Electric said it’s moving 400 jobs to France and 100 to Hungary and China and creating another 1,000 jobs in Europe. That companies said that was all due to pushing America’s Ex-Im Bank into limbo while more than 85 similar export credit agencies run by other countries are still open and eager for business.
Unilaterally dropping out of the competition for so much international business will cost America jobs. Companies often can’t use foreign receivables as collateral when seeking commercial bank loans — unless they have a guarantee from the Ex-Im Bank. Many bids for big overseas sales actually require export financing to even be in the running. G.E.’s CEO told the New York Times the company has $11 billion in potential deals that require export credit agency financing.
It isn’t just the big U.S. exporters that will be hurt. Large companies such as Boeing, G.E. and Caterpillar have many small American suppliers that also will suffer as international sales go down.
In its 81-year history, the Export-Import Bank has been mostly uncontroversial. It’s been renewed by Congress 16 times with bipartisan support. What’s changed is the climate in Congress, where some members are determined to score a political victory, even if the ultimate losers are American workers. If they really wanted to go after “crony capitalism,” they could target genuine corporate excesses. Why draw a bead on companies that keep jobs in America?
Follow the Editorial Board on Twitter: Follow @csteditorials