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Noah Smith

Ex-Im Bank Pays the U.S. Back

The Export-Import Bank helps U.S. businesses sell overseas, counters subsidies that other government offer their businesses and doesn't cost taxpayer.
Rick Perry is OK with the Export-Import Bank.                                                      
Rick Perry is OK with the Export-Import Bank.                                                      

When I was a teenager, a conservative group called the Eagle Forum started focusing its attention on my hometown. One of the things they demanded was that children be taught to read using a system called phonics, i.e. sounding out words. To everyone but the Eagle Forum, phonics seemed like an odd thing to focus on. No one besides them cared in the slightest. The push eventually fizzled out when it was discovered that our schools already used phonics, but I'm sure that had that not been the case, the Eagle Forum -- which, with its squawking ambushes, is more blue jay than eagle -- would have succeeded in getting us to switch, just to make them stop bothering us.

The Tea Party's assault on the Export-Import Bank reminds me a little of the Eagle Forum's push for phonics. A right-wing group convinces itself that some peripheral issue is really, really important, launches a crusade against it, and charges to victory before anyone else can even bring themselves to believe that anyone would possibly care. In the case of Ex-Im, the defenders -- who include Republicans such as Rick Perry -- may scramble in time to repel the blindside. But some damage will already be done, since firms that count on the Ex-Im Bank will now have to worry that the Tea Party hordes will eventually succeed in killing it. Even if Ex-Im survives, using it will now entail greater political risk.