Robert A. Levine 6-29-16
One would think that one of the most important jobs of the House and the Senate is to enhance the American economy and improve employment. However, there is one senator who single-handedly is doing what he can to damage the economy and see to it that jobs are sent abroad. The senator is Richard Shelby of Alabama, the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee who obviously has no concept of economics and should not be in the important position he was given by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans. He claims his mission is to cut “corporate welfare” and he will not retreat from the stance he has taken.
He is hurting the economy by interfering with the functioning of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), a government agency that has been in place and operating since the Depression. For a year, Senator Shelby has blocked the Ex-Im Bank from helping to finance sales of American products worth over $10 million to foreign countries. These loans and insurance over the years have actually earned money for the bank and American taxpayers, but a small risk of default may exist. However, every other major manufacturing country provides export loans to nations buying their products. The failure of the Ex-Im Bank to do the same puts American firms at a competitive disadvantage when trying to sell big ticket items, like airplanes, nuclear plants, turbines, and so forth. China has the biggest credit export program.
Because of Shelby’s intransigence, GE has already moved thousands of American jobs abroad to nations such as France, Czech Republic, Hungary, Britain, and China, whose governments were willing to provide the necessary loans. Boeing has lost contracts for satellites and planes to other bidders because the Ex-Im Bank would not provide the necessary loans. The company is now negotiating with Britain to finance some of its planes using Rolls-Royce engines instead of American made engines. Other companies needing the loans include Westinghouse, John Deere, and Caterpillar. Boeing has plants in Alabama which could lose jobs if Senator Shelby continues his war on the bank, but this does not seem to move him.
Originally, Republicans in Congress were refusing to renew the charter of the Ex-Im Bank, which would have put the bank out of business. But after half a year, supporters were
able to restart the bank in December 2015. However, it could only approve loans below $10 million, which make up about a third of the bank’s business. For loans above that sum, a quorum of members of the bank’s board have to vote in favor. Shelby, as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee has stymied that from happening by not allowing President Obama’s nomination of a third member of the five person board to be confirmed by the Senate, holding it in limbo in his committee.
Among the future deals that will be lost if the Ex-Im Bank does not begin operating normally are the sale of one hundred airplanes to VietJet by Boeing and six nuclear reactors to be constructed for India by Westinghouse. But Senator Shelby will not budge, not caring about the loss of jobs and the effect on the economy by his actions. How this is corporate welfare when the bank makes money is not clear, but far right conservatives have strange notions about the functions of the government and what it should and should not do. The conservatives in Congress were perfectly willing to provide major subsidies to large corporate farmers in the recent past as these states were important to them politically.
Democrats in the Senate tried to bypass Shelby’s committee to bring the nomination to the floor recently, but unanimous consent is needed for this move. Shelby would not agree, so the nomination remains bottled up in his committee even though most Republicans in addition to Democrats want the Ex-Im Bank to function. And American jobs are being sent abroad and the economy bolstered in other nations because of one senator’s obdurate stupidity.
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