The Export-Import Bank was mostly dead before being resurrected in 2015 as a shell of its former cronyist self, but now Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) is aiming to finish it off.
With a handful of Republican cosponsors backing him, Amash on Wednesday introduced the Export-Import Bank Terminiation Act of 2019. The bill would permanently close the federal credit agency that boosts foreign sales of politically favored corporations. Aircraft maker Boeing is the biggest beneficiary of the bank's taxpayer-backed largesse, receving as much as 70 percet of all Export-Import Bank loan guarantees and 40 percent of all handouts in some years, while GE, Caterpillar, and the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation are other common beneficiaries.
"The Export-Import Bank is a prime example of Washington's addiction to political cronyism," Amash said in a statement. "Instead of allowing businesses to compete in a free market, politicians pick winners and losers. Meanwhile, taxpayers assume the financial risk for the bank's federally backed loans while a few corporations pocket the profits."
The main beneficiaries of the Export-Import Bank's cronyism have done just fine for the past three years, during which time the bank has operated at far less than full capacity and has been blocked from handing out loans of more than $10 million. That should be a signal that the bank is not necessary, and that it could be abolished without hurting the economy.
"It shows that the world will continue to produce commercial planes even if Airbus and Boeing sales aren't subsidized by taxpayers," Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and a Reason columnist, wrote in 2017. "That's because the foreign airlines that received Ex-Im's cheap loans could typically get credit and find lenders without an Ex-Im guarantee, could afford to buy planes without the subsidies, and didn't decide to buy a plane based on the existence of the subsidies."
Fiscally conservative Republicans, including Amash, have been waging war against the Export-Import Bank for years. The bank was briefly shut down when its charter expired in July 2015 during a congressional budget fight. Democrats used a discharge petition to restore the Export-Import Bank's lending authority in December of the same year.
Since then, the Export-Import Bank has operated without a quorum of members necessary to approve larger loans. Still it shambles on, a cronyist zombie. Congress now has a chance to put it out of its misery.