Here’s what America is being told about the Export–Import Bank (Ex–Im), so beloved by the likes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and other apologists of cronyism:
Ex-Im Bank contributed to deficit reduction by sending $1.057 billion to the U.S. Treasury in FY 2013.…
Over the past five years, the net amount sent by the Bank to Treasury was $2 BILLION.
Indeed, the bank’s purported profitability has been a major theme of proponents’ campaign to win bank reauthorization from Congress before its charter expires on September 30.
But in a major embarrassment for the bank and its allies—and a victory for government transparency and accountability—the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Thursday reported that Ex–Im programs actually operate at a deficit that will cost taxpayers some $2 billion in the next decade (in addition to the bank’s operating costs).
The bottom line: If forced to apply the stricter accounting rules required of private firms, Ex–Im would be overstating its profitability by $16 billion during the next decade: Instead of a 10-year surplus of $14 billion, the bank would incur a loss of $2 billion.
The difference between the accounting method used by Ex–Im and the more accurate method applied by the CBO in its report is in factoring for the risk of defaults related to the bank’s generous financing. The bank calculates its future revenue from loan repayments based on interest rates tied to Treasury securities. But unlike private banks, Ex–Im does not adjust the amount of anticipated revenue for changes in the market that will reduce future repayments.
And just what is Ex–Im doing with all that taxpayer money—which is expected to exceed $140 billion in outstanding liabilities by September 30?
It is doling out export subsidies to some of America’s most successful corporations, including General Electric, Westinghouse, John Deere, Caterpillar, Ford Motor Company, and Bechtel. In the last five years, Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company (with a market capitalization exceeding $91 billion), benefited from 197 Ex–Im deals totaling $48 billion.
The CBO revelations follow upon years of warnings from the bank’s inspector general as well as the Government Accountability Office that Ex–Im is mired in mismanagement, dysfunction, and risk. Allowing its authorization to expire should be an easy call for lawmakers.
There is no shortage of private investment: 98 percent of the $2.2 trillion in annual U.S. exports are financed without help from Ex–Im. And despite promises to clean up their act, bank officials persist in underestimating costs, misstating losses, and failing to maintain adequate capital reserves.