For the last several weeks Senator Mary Kathryn “Heidi” Heitkamp has been excoriating conservative Republicans for their opposition to the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im). Established during the Depression by Franklin Roosevelt, Ex-Im has become a leading symbol of crony capitalism. Its purpose is to guarantees loans for foreign companies to buy U.S. goods.
Predictably, Heitkamp has proclaimed her concern for “small businesses” that might be injured by the end of this corporate welfare program, but as Veronique de Rugy writes for the Washington Times:
“Contrary to lobbyist talking points, the Ex-Im Bank is firmly in the “big business” business. On the domestic side, 40 percent of its activities benefit one giant company: Boeing. Over 60 percent of the bank’s financing aids 10 giant beneficiaries, like Caterpillar, Bechtel, and General Electric. On the foreign side, the cheap loans go to state-owned companies like Pemex, the Mexican government’s oil and gas giant.”
Long ago, back when liberals opposed corporate welfare, it was easy to find Democrats who opposed the Ex-Im bank. And it is still far too easy to find Republicans who will support it today. Back in 2002 Congressman Bernie Sanders opposed the Ex-Im bank asking why American taxpayers should provide “huge subsidies and loans to the largest multinational corporations in the world.” Before that the criticism was even more harsh. David Dayen jokes at the left-wing Salon that:
“Pre-Internet liberals might want to get out their back issues of the Nation and Mother Jones at this point to jog their memory, for they will see article after article condemning the 80-year-old institution as a slush fund that allows the government to fund a series of nasty activities.”
Corporate welfare, like conventional welfare, concentrates power in the hands of the government as the recipients become increasingly dependent on the government’s largess. There was a time when Democrats made a pretense that this was an unintended consequence of the welfare state and that the real goal was much more noble. But in today’s Democrat party stability is prized much more highly than their old talking points about equality or fairness.
Mary Kathryn “Heidi” Heitkamp is happy to take donations from unions and to run an entire campaign around envy but when it comes down to legislating she, like the rest of her party, is a reliable vote for any increase in the role of government. If that happens to be a taxpayer funded hand out to large corporations who will finance Democrat politicians then that’s just icing on the cake.