The Export Import bank, which exists to allocate credit by criteria other than the market’s preference for efficiency, 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 in the congregation 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 “more than three times more export support than we do.” Thus does sound policy get defined down: Others are even worse, supposedly forcing us to emulate them.
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, as it should learn to do, nothing. But the bank will be reauthorized because it has bought longevity.
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