It turns out that issuing taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees for Boeing jets and other U.S.-made goods is very profitable. The Export-Import Bank of the United States, a federal agency, reported a $1 billion profit in the last year, the agency reported today.
Ex-Im has operated for years at no direct cost to taxpayers, which is why I didn't include it in my prescription for how conservative budget hawks should target corporate welfare.
The 10-figure profit is better than a taxpayer loss, but it's hardly an argument for keeping the agency. Here are three very quick points:
1) Taxpayers initially capitalized the bank, taxpayers have borne the risk, taxpayers funded the agency through appropriations for years — but taxpayers aren't getting the $1 billion. While I would like my $3.12 dividend check (or $18.75 for my whole family), that money goes to Congress to spend on something else.
2) If it's so darn profitable, why does it have to be a government agency? Some parts of Ex-Im are more profitable (financing jumbo jets) than others. That's definitely an argument for handing the profitable parts over to private financiers — then we can have a debate about whether subsidizing U.S.-made solar panels is a good use of taxpayer money.
3) Ex-Im won't be profitable forever. Fannie Mae didn't cost taxpayers money until it did. What if we get an aircraft bubble? Taxpayer will be left on the hook.