Let the Ex-Im Bank fail
Neither you nor I can open an account at the Export-Import Bank in Washington, but major U.S. exporters and foreign buyers of those exports can and have. The list of the bank's largest clients includes global business behemoths like Boeing, John Deere, Ford Motor Co. and Merck (in pharmaceuticals) and Bechtel (in engineering). China, Saudi Arabia and other destinations of American exports also are on the list.
A legacy of FDR's New Deal, the Ex-Im Bank was created at a time when the Great Depression and protectionist international trade regulations (the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 is the chief culprit) had caused American exports to shrink dramatically. Agriculture was hit particularly hard by that manmade economic disaster. The Ex-Im Bank was supposed to help prop up domestic farm prices by subsidizing agricultural exports to Europe and other overseas markets.
Fast-forward to 2014, when Congress will consider legislation to “reauthorize” the bank's charter, which expires on Sept. 30. Last year, the Ex-Im extended roughly $27 billion in loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance to both domestic and foreign companies in order to promote exports of American goods overseas, bringing the bank's total contingent liabilities to about $140 billion.
The Ex-Im Bank supplies credit to U.S. companies to “facilitate” exports by guaranteeing any loans exporters offer to purchasers in foreign nations buying American goods. Because every dollar of the money obligated by the Ex-Im Bank is backed by the “full faith and credit” of the federal government, the overburdened American taxpayer is on the hook if any borrower fails to repay.
Boeing — one of only two assemblers of long-distance commercial aircraft in the world — hardly needs a U.S. government guarantee to sell its planes to China, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Nor do the state-owned airlines in those nations need such guarantees to buy them. True, Boeing's main competitor, Airbus, is a government-financed enterprise, but because European taxpayers bankroll Airbus is no reason for the United States to bankroll Boeing.
Somewhat ironically, the Ex-Im Bank's reauthorization may be in trouble not from opposition by taxpayers or some economists, but because of labor unions' resistance.
A recent editorial in the Detroit News reports that miners and the companies that employ them in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are outraged by a loan to an Australian iron ore producer to subsidize the purchase of equipment because it threatens a shift of mining jobs to the Antipodes. Delta Airlines and the American Pilots Association also have sued the Ex-Im Bank for granting guaranteed, low-interest loans to foreign airlines, which give them a competitive advantage over U.S. air carriers.
It is a truism of international economic theory that “imports pay for exports.” When Americans buy goods from suppliers overseas, those suppliers in turn earn dollars that can be used to purchase goods manufactured in the United States.
Any public policy that interferes with the free flow of international commerce (whether it subsidizes exports or penalizes imports) makes the world poorer.
William F. Shughart II, a research director and senior fellow of The Independent Institute, is a professor in public choice at Utah State University.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- With most starters resting, Steelers turn in lackluster loss at Heinz
- West Jefferson Hills schools closed after bomb threat
- Steelers laud decision, praise Brady for taking on Goodell
- Experts warn Kane’s Haiti trip might jeopardize any case from 2014 wiretap
- Gay couple receives marriage license from controversial Ky. clerk’s office
- Vick supporters, opponents demonstrate before Steelers’ game, but coexist
- Steelers notebook: Thomas, Moats only starting defensive players to see action vs. Panthers
- Belle Vernon woman visits ship like lander she helped build as WWII welder
- Truck hits teen cyclist, goes over Brighton Heights hillside
- Liriano struggles as Brewers complete sweep of Pirates
- Pittsburgh schools chief Lane stepping down next summer