Recently, Republican Senator Ted Cruz and his colleagues on the far right called their successful efforts to block renewal of the charter of the U.S. Export-Import Bank an "important victory." Unfortunately, their "victory" may cost many Americans their jobs. It may cause small businesses to go under. It may cost thousands of American exporters, large and small, a vital competitive edge. Calling this a "victory" requires some pretty remarkable mental gymnastics. Most who follow the issue, business and labor, Democrats and even some Republicans, are viewing this as a serious, self-inflicted economic wound.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank, otherwise known as the Ex-Im, was created to help level the playing field for American exporters and to help U.S. businesses get financial services such as loans and credit guarantees that they needed in situations when private banks wouldn't or couldn't be of help. The regular renewal of Ex-Im's charter has been a non-issue for 81 years and Congress has renewed its charter 16 times under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. But exterminating the Ex-Im has become the "be-all and end-all" for the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.
The far right has gained a disproportionate amount of power in the Republican Party these days. And their cherished "victory" in pursuit of imposing an ideological purity on our economic policy is going to have real world consequences for many American workers and small businesses.
So, to help you sort it all out, here are the top 10 facts you should know about the Ex-Im Bank:
- Exports play an important role in the U.S. economy, supporting nearly 12 million jobs in 2014.
- American exporters need the Ex-Im Bank because there are approximately 85 foreign export credit agencies, in more than 60 countries, working aggressively to provide the export businesses in their home countries with a financing advantage over U.S. companies.
- Every one of the top 10 exporting countries in the world has a banking facility similar to our Ex-Im Bank. Even small countries like Trinidad and Tobago and Luxembourg have Ex-Im-style banks.
- If our Ex-Im Bank is allowed to die, American exporters are going to be at a competitive disadvantage. It would be an act of unilateral economic surrender.
- That means American exporters may lose business. And that means American workers may lose their jobs. Since 2009, our Ex-Im Bank has supported an estimated 1.3 million jobs.
- The private sector simply would not be able to take over for Ex-Im. According to leaders of the Financial Services Roundtable and BAFT, "Without Ex-Im Bank programs, commercial banks often could not provide the required financing, resulting in lost sales for their corporate clients and lost jobs for employees at those companies."
- Our competitors are cheering the fact the US Ex Im may no longer exist.. Recently, the Export-Import Bank of China's chief country risk analyst told reporters that the demise of the U.S. Export Import Bank was "[...] a good thing" for China.
- Ex-Im doesn't cost taxpayers anything. It pays for itself by charging fees and interest. Actually, it makes money. Since 1992, Ex-Im has sent nearly $7 billion to the Treasury, including $675 million last year, helping to reduce the deficit.
- For decades, Ex-Im has been supported by Republican leaders. President George W. Bush said that Ex-Im "helps advance U.S. trade policy...and create jobs here at home." And President Reagan noted that it "contributes in a significant way to our nation's export sales."
- The Ex-Im Bank is strongly supported by a wide array of business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Small Business Association.
If an up-or-down vote on Ex-Im reauthorization were allowed today, it would pass easily with strong bipartisan support. More than 240 House members, both Democrats and Republicans, cosponsor legislation that would reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank. It only needs 218 votes to pass. But the ideologues of the far right have blocked a vote. And they are calling that - a "victory."
It's a "victory" that may cost many Americans their jobs. I don't know how many more "victories" like this the American people can afford.