"Hope." "Change." "Yes, we can." "A new Washington." All are slogans expounded by then-Sen. Obama during his 2008 bid for the presidency.
In 2008, candidate Obama referred to the Export-Import Bank as "little more than a fund for corporate welfare." But after four short years, President Obama looks set to sign off on three more years and a $40 billion increase in that corporate welfare fund. Where is the change promised to Americans?
Ex-Im was established in 1934 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, primarily to make loans to the Soviet Union so that that relatively young and poor country could buy American goods.
In the nearly 80 years since, the official credit export agency of the United States has financed over $450 billion in purchases. Ex-Im allows the federal government to pick winners and losers in the market; and all too often, that leads to backroom deals and government cronyism.
Then-Sen. Obama was right -- we need to end corporate welfare. It is a heinous practice that gives money to a small number of politically connected companies while leaving taxpayers with the risk. It is therefore troubling that President Obama appears to have reversed himself on this issue for no apparent reason.
Most Americans would agree that it is wrong for big businesses to pass on the expense of doing business to taxpayers. The American taxpayer does not exist in order to keep businesses from failing. In fact, the biggest beneficiary of the Ex-Im Bank likely needs little help to thrive. More than $11.4 billion was provided to foreign airlines to purchase Boeing airplanes in just the last year.
But every bailout, handout and special interest giveaway comes with a real consequence -- a real cost to hardworking taxpayers and consumers. When big business gets a special break, that puts more of the tax burden on the rest of America. When politicians put their interests ahead of ours, we fall even further behind.
Hopefully, Obama will think back to when, as a senator, he rightly called the Ex-Im Bank a fund for corporate welfare. Hopefully he will think of all the companies that can't afford to lobby politicians and compete when U.S. trade policy is at the beck and call of foreign governments.
After the latest vote by the Senate to reauthorize and expand Ex-Im, President Obama has a choice. He can either take a serious step to end corporate welfare, by vetoing the reauthorization, or he can sign it, and show that he is just another typical Washington politician playing favorites.
Tim Phillips is president of Americans for Prosperity.