Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

George Will: The Export-Import Bank's Grip

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

George Will: The Export-Import Bank's Grip

Article excerpt

Conservatives' next disappointment will at least be a validation. The coming reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank will confirm their warnings about the difficulty of prying the government's tentacles off what should be society's private sphere.

The bank mirrors the market-distorting policies of foreign governments. These policies favor those countries' exports that compete with America's. Much of what the bank does is supposedly to "level the playing field."

When Fred P. Hochberg, the bank's chairman and president, defends it, an old joke comes to mind: A pastor officiating at a man's funeral asks if anyone would like to say something about the deceased. After a long, awkward silence, a voice shouts: "His brother was even worse." South Korea, Hochberg says, provides "four to five times more export support than we do." Thus does sound policy get defined down.

The bank has been reauthorized 16 times since it was created in 1934 as a filigree on the New Deal program of politicizing the allocation of resources. The bank and its current authorization would expire in June, if Congress would just do nothing. But the bank will be reauthorized because it has bought longevity.

Congress is controlled by Republicans rhetorically committed to clarifying the blurry boundary between the public and private sectors. But many Republicans have in their districts or states some businesses that benefit from the bank's loans, loan guarantees and insurance.

The bank makes nearly 90 percent of its transactions with small U.S. firms to spread its largesse across the country. So, many Democrats, too, have dependent constituents. Besides, progressives consider government permeation of the economy inherently good. Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- rhetorical scourge of Wall Street, big banks, the 1 percent, etc. -- supports Ex-Im, even though it helps to fatten seven- and eight-figure compensation packages for the leaders of some large America firms. …

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