(CNSNews.com) – Back in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama called the U.S. government's Export-Import Bank “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” But last week as he signed legislation reauthorizing the bank, President Barack Obama praised the banks for providing "critical suport" to major corporations such as Boeing and Dow Chemical.
“Over the past few years, I’ve met with a lot of business leaders and a lot of workers across America, from companies like Boeing to Dow Chemical to smaller companies that are also interested in accessing foreign markets,” Obama said Wednesday. “And they’ve told me how critical support from the Ex-Im Bank has been in competing more effectively in the global marketplace. As the head of the bank, we owe our thanks to Fred Hochberg, who is here on stage, for doing such an outstanding job.”
Congress voted last month to extend the banks charter for another two years, allowing it to continue to exist until at least September 2014. The legislation also authorized the bank to make or guarantee an additional $40 billion in loans--on the credit of U.S. taxpayers. Before the authorization the bank was limited to $100 billion in loans. Now, it can make up to $140 billion in loans.
The bank’s goal is to boost American exports by providing direct loans or loan guarantees to help foreign entities purchase goods and services from American companies.
Just as then-Sen. Obama did in 2008, conservatives in Congress have criticized the Export-Import Bank as corporate welfare.
In 2011, as CNSNews.com previously reported, Boeing alone received 38 percent of the bank’s financial assistance, equaling $12.4 billion (including $11.7 billion for the mother company and another $700 million for its Boeing Satellite Systems subsidiary.)
“Just to give you a couple of examples, Boeing relied on support from the Ex-Im Bank to strike a deal selling more than 200 planes to one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world,” Obama said at Wednesday's bill signing ceremony. “And that translates into thousands of jobs here in the United States. As long as our global competitors are providing financing for their exports, we’ve got to do the same. So I’m glad that Congress got this done. I’m grateful to members of both parties who came together and put the interests of the American people first.”
On Sept. 22, 2008, then-Sen. Obama denounced the Export Import Bank.
“I am not a Democrat who believes that we can or should defend every government program just because it's there,” Obama said. “There are some that don't work like we had hoped--like the Bush Administration's billion-dollar-a-year reading program that hasn't improved our children's reading,” Obama said. “And there are some that have been duplicated by other programs that we just need to cut back--like waste at the Economic Development Agency and the Export-Import Bank that has become little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”
Though a bill reauthorizing the bank passed with bipartisan support--including from Republican leaders in Congress--conservative Republicans opposed passage.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) compared the bank to the government’s subsidies to Enron, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the auto bailout.
“The push to reauthorize and increase the Export Import Bank is the latest example,” DeMint said in a March 30 statement. “Ex-Im, as it is known, is a federal program that gives politically appointed executives power to lend mainly to foreign companies that buy American products and services. Started decades ago with a lending cap of $5 million, like all federal programs it’s grown over time and now has a taxpayer subsidized $100 billion cap. Senate Democrats want to further expand it by 40% to $140 billion. Ex-Im also has specific mandates to subsidize politically-popular causes like green energy.”
DeMint said companies “should compete on a level playing field, so that success goes to those companies who offer the best products and services at the lowest prices.”
“In free market finance, we all benefit as businesses compete for investment that follows those with the best innovations, highest quality, at a price buyers are willing to pay,” DeMint said. “Not so with government-run finance where funding decisions are made more often based on politics instead of economics. That's why corporate welfare is so inefficient.”