WASHINGTON – Kristin Hedger has a simple plea for Congress: Save the Export-Import Bank. Her family-owned company of about 350 employees in Killdeer, North Dakota, depends on the bank, but this week the independent agency is out of business. The Ex-Im Bank’s charter expired after a relentless Republican-led campaign smeared it as the embodiment of corporate welfare and government waste.
Starting Wednesday, the bank will no longer issue new loans, until Congress acts to reinstate its authority to offer financial assistance to foreign entities that purchase American-made products.
Hedger’s Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing (KMM), headquartered in a town with a population of 751 people, makes parts for airplanes. Its biggest customer, Boeing, purchases electronic components from KMM and puts them in the cockpits and wings of some of its best-selling planes. Some of Boeing’s foreign customers, in turn, use the Ex-Im Bank to finance the purchase of planes. And with the aid of those low-interest loans, Boeing – and by extension Hedger’s company – remain more competitive in the global aircraft market against the likes France’s Airbus.
“These are small, heartland towns, and generally we’re the biggest employer in our towns,” says Hedger, who runs four manufacturing facilities in the state. “It’s important that while we recognize we’re heartland communities, we’re competing against the whole international competition scale.”
Ex-Im Bank is exactly the kind of pro-business, made-in-America program that should inspire praise from Republicans and Democrats alike. President Barack Obama now supports the bank, but Congress – led by an organized and deliberate effort from conservatives and outside groups including the Koch brothers-funded Americans For Prosperity– didn’t pass legislation before the deadline to reauthorize the bank.
The story of how the Export-Import Bank became the most hated agency in Washington extends far beyond the Beltway. The Ex-Im Bank serves a mostly esoteric function, issuing low-interest loans to foreign entities to buy American goods. It was created in 1934 by Franklin Roosevelt and has for the most part remained non-controversial ever since, largely because it doesn’t cost the American taxpayer anything. In fact, in the last decade the bank contributed $6.4 billion in surpluses to reduce the national deficit.