Saturday, August 1, 2015

How Republicans Grew to Hate Business: The Ex-Im Bank Story

How Often Republicans Used to Hate Business: Until Now 

Today's New York Times carries a column by Joe Nocera about the efforts of conservative Republicans to kill an agency of the federal government called the Export-Import bank. Among the startling quotes, one came from the CEO of Boeing who said about the effort to kill the Ex-Im bank:  "I never thought I'd see the day that U.S> companies would, in effect, be penalized for not setting up shop overseas and, in the case of Boeing, expanding our domestic production and work force by billions of dollars and thousands of jobs." 

What he is talking about is that if Boeing moves offshore, they have access to loans which would be denied in the U.S. if the Ex-Im bank is shut down.

Now, I am the first to admit, I know nothing about banking and business, but it is a strange thing to see a CEO of a big American corporation complaining about Republicans in Congress. The Republicans were supposed to be the party of big business.  Caterpillar's CEO isn't any happier. Both companies export hugely to the rest of the world, and in dollars, Boeing is the top American exporter.  

Small businesses are also helped by the Ex-Im bank when buyers in Afghanistan or India wants a loan to buy from an American company. And when all those little shops in Pennsylvania or New Hampshire which make parts for a GE and GE exports lag, the effect ripples downstream.

Reading Hedi Heitcamp's (D-ND) say this is "Mind boggling idiotic" my own brain started to boil.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp

But I have learned something, over the years. One is that I tend to boil over and fulminate, when I should learn from Maud. Now, I ask myself, not "What would Jesus do?" but "What would Maud do?"  Would Ms. Maud explode in outrage over the mind boggling idiocy of these Congressional Republicans? Would she fulminate? Would she rage about a banking system she knew nothing about?  No, she would go to the internet and she would read and she would learn and only then would she explode. Or not, depending on what she found.

So I went to the net and started reading about the Ex-Im bank and tried to read what its detractors say.  Aude alterum partum, Hear the other side.

You know: you learn; you grow.

So why does the new majority leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, say this?
 “It’s something that the private sector can be able to do,” McCarthy said on Fox News Sunday. “One of the biggest problems with government is they go and take hard-earned money so others do things that the private sector can do...I think Ex-Im Bank is…something government does not have to be involved in. The private sector can do it."

The more I read, the more it looks like this:  The new Republicans in Congress believe everything the government does could and should be done better by anyone but government, to wit, the vaunted (and sometimes imaginary) PRIVATE SECTOR. So if there were no Ex-Im bank, private banks would do the lending and better.

But would the private sector pick up the slack if the Ex-Im bank went away? What people at Boeing and in the business community are saying is: Not likely. When the motive for the lender is maximizing profit, a lot of loans don't get made if the bottom line does not look attractive enough; but with a government, non profit agency, if the number of jobs created, the positive effects on the American economy are factored into the equation, the loan gets made and the production lines roll.

We, of course, have seen the corrosive effects of the bottom line mentality in medicine for years where all considerations of patient convenience, patient safety, patient comfort have been shoved aside and quarterly profit statements substituted.  An obvious example is the two year shuffle: in corporate medicine doctors are given a two year contract and when their time comes to renew, their salaries are cut in half and so they leave.  So patients are faced with constant turnover in their doctors, with doctors who are re learning them.  Turnover is not a problem for the bottom line for the healthcare corporations, only for the customers, but since 90% of patients are seen by corporate doctors, the patients really don't have better choices elsewhere. The private sector in action.

In the end, I'm convinced the Republicans in Congress who are set to kill the Ex-Im bank are, as the good Senator from North Dakota says, idiotic. They are idiotic because they cleave to the new mantra of the newly ultra right Republican party: The only good government is a dead government. 

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