Putting Our Nation’s Economy Before Politics | Commentary

Posted July 11, 2014 at 3:37pm

The American people believe jobs, a dysfunctional government and the economy in general are the most pressing issues facing the country, according to Gallup’s most recent monthly poll.

These issues have ranked continuously at the top of the “most important problem list” since the beginning of 2014, and will likely remain high priorities through election season.

With this in mind, members of Congress should consider how their decisions are lining up with voters’ priorities. A good place to start would be by supporting the reauthorization of a federal agency that accounts for thousands of American jobs and grows our nation’s economy. This agency is the Export-Import Bank, and it’s no surprise that it has been backed with bipartisan congressional support for the past 80 years.

The Ex-Im Bank is our nation’s official export credit agency, and it assists in financing exports from thousands of American companies each year. As we continue to look to our business community to help our country regain its strong financial footing, it’s crucial that employers have the ability to expand and grow abroad. The Ex-Im Bank is a vital tool in ensuring a level playing field for American manufacturers competing in foreign markets, as there are more than 60 official export credit agencies in other countries helping our foreign competitors aggressively pursue market share. The agency also helps small and medium-sized manufacturers enter emerging markets where their products are in demand, but financing capabilities are limited.

In 2013 alone, the Ex-Im Bank helped to facilitate more than $37 billion in U.S. exports. In turn, these exports supported about 205,000 American jobs at more than 3,400 companies, mostly small businesses. In fact, almost 90 percent of the Ex-Im Bank’s transactions directly benefitted small manufacturers, and tens of thousands of other small businesses that supply products to large exporters indirectly benefitted.

For example, Price Pump — a small California manufacturer of agricultural pumps — depends on the Ex-Im Bank for export credit insurance. The insurance reduces nonpayment risk enough to give Price Pump the confidence to sell its product overseas and expand to new markets. Since Price Pump began its relationship with the Ex-Im Bank 12 years ago, the company has expanded its exports into Europe, South America, Southeast Asia and Africa.

In addition to the support the Ex-Im Bank provides manufacturers, it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. It actually continuously serves to offset our federal deficit, earning more than $1 billion for the U.S. Treasury last year — mostly through fees from foreign customers.

It’s easy to see why the Ex-Im Bank was reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate in 2012. However, its charter again needs to be reauthorized. Just months before the current charter’s expiration date, some politically motivated lawmakers have recently accused the Ex-Im Bank of interfering with the private market. This is simply not the case. Unlike other foreign agencies that subsidize certain companies, the Ex-Im Bank complements the private sector through loan guarantees that allow foreign buyers of U.S. goods to secure affordable private-sector funding.

The Ex-Im Bank also has an outstanding record of assessing risk, with an incredibly low default rate — currently at 0.211 percent.

The Ex-Im Bank is one of the rare agencies that traditionally has earned widespread approval from Congress because it provides support to America’s backbone and No. 1 job creator: small manufacturers. It’s not only vital to the growth of small and medium-sized manufacturers in the United States, but 1 in 3 manufacturing jobs depends on exports, according to the White House.

American citizens are making it clear to Washington that their No. 1 priority is creating jobs and boosting the economy, so it’s hard to believe a member of Congress wouldn’t vote to reauthorize an agency that has assisted in creating or sustaining more than 1.2 million American jobs since 2009. The bottom line is that without the Ex-Im Bank’s support, American businesses, employment and the overall economy will suffer. Reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank’s charter before it expires at the end of September is one thing our “dysfunctional government” should be able to stand behind firmly.

Blanche Lincoln is a former senator from Arkansas. She is the founder and principal of the Lincoln Policy Group.