Big businesses are Export-Import Bank’s biggest clients

One of the driving arguments behind authorization of the Export-Import Bank is the agency helps American businesses promote their goods across the global. This, supporters argue, includes helping smaller firms which would otherwise be able to compete.

In its statement of support for the 2012 Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argued that that the federal agency is “especially important to small- and medium-sized businesses, which account for more than 85 percent of Ex-Im’s transactions.”

“Failure to enact this bill,” the Chamber ominously warned, “would put at risk the nearly 300,000 American jobs at 3,600 companies that depend on Ex-Im to compete in global markets.”

But a recent look at the Export-Import Bank’s finances in FY 2013 finds that the biggest beneficiaries of the agency’s largess were larger business, in fact, some of the United States most recognizable names.

“[T]he Bank truly lives up to its nickname, ‘Boeing’s Bank.’ Boeing was by far the biggest exporter beneficiary of all Bank activity, raking in over $8 billion in assistance during FY 2013,” wrote Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center. “The Bank’s second top overall exporter beneficiary is alarming: the Bank’s data simply lists several exporters as ‘Unknown.’”

“Other heavy hitters include General Electric, which enjoyed roughly $2.6 billion in assistance; Bechtel Corporation, netting a healthy $1.8 billion in support; ‘various US companies,’ another mysterious bunch, enjoyed almost $850 million in vague government benefits; and Caterpillar’s $1.35 billion in total benefits was boosted by a $1.3 billion loan guarantee to subsidiary Solar Turbine Corporation,” she noted.

Boeing, an aerospace and defense contractor with more than 168,000 employees, was the top recipient of loan guarantees from the Export-Import Bank, hauling in nearly $8 billion. Caterpillar, a large heavy equipment manufacturer, was a distant second, receiving $1.3 billion in loans. General Electric, which brought in some $1.2 billion, was close behind.

Small businesses accounted for just $200 million of the Export-Import Bank’s FY 2013 loan guarantees.

The Chamber’s claim that small and medium-sized businesses are beneficiaries of Export-Import Bank’s largess is belied by the data presented by the Mercatus Center. Still, supporters plan to make a push for reauthorization of the bank this year.

“These special interests do not mince words about their intentions,” de Rugy noted. “Lobbying and industry organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Aerospace Industries Association, and the Nuclear Energy Institute announced last week that they will launch an ‘all-hands-on-deck effort’ to keep the Bank open for the benefit of the businesses they represent.”

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) has made it clear that the Export-Import Bank faces an uphill battle for reauthorization this year. He’s called the bank the “face of cronyism,” and blasted its request to raise the lending cap to $160 billion, recently saying, “Only in Washington can a taxpayer-subsidized program whose only purpose is to pick winners and losers ‘fail upward’ by requesting more money.”

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