Diary

Corporate America’s Very Own Obama Phone: The Export-Import Bank

The recent debate surrounding the extension of The Export-Import Bank illustrates that the attitude of entitlement is not restricted to individuals demanding government assistance, but that it includes some of the largest U.S. corporations as well.  High ranking corporate executives expecting federal backing for their businesses are starting to sound remarkably similar to individuals seeking freebies from the government.

During the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, the media ran footage of some individuals who said they were supporting Barack Obama for the simple reason that he was going to give them free stuff.  In 2008, following an Obama campaign rally, an excited Peggy Joseph proclaimed, “I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car, I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage!”  She concluded, “If I help him, he’s going to help me!”

Joseph did not get what she was expecting from Obama. In “There’s No Place Like Utopia,” the documentary by Joel Gilbert, she expressed disappointment with the president.  Responding to a question on whether Obama had in fact helped her pay for these items, Joseph responded, “Absolutely not! Mortgage got worse and gas prices got higher … At that time we needed a change but a change for the better, not the worse.”

While Peggy Joseph became disenchanted with Obama, the president, with significant help from D.C. insiders, delivered free stuff to corporate America by extending the Ex-Im Bank.

The Ex-Im Bank was rescued in September by the usual inside-the-Beltway tricks. With momentum building to kill the government sponsored bank, its extension was bundled into a must-pass continuing resolution bill that funds the federal government through December 11. The continuing resolution signed by Obama on September 19 also extends the Ex-Im Bank’s charter until June 30, 2015.

Including the Ex-Im Bank’s authorization in the continuing resolution allowed members of Congress to avoid a public up-or-down vote on the bank. Hiding behind votes for complex mega-bills is Congress’ favorite way to prevent accountability.

It’s important to note that the president’s support for the Ex-Im Bank is a total reversal from the position he held as a presidential candidate. During a 2008 campaign speech, Obama described the Ex-Im Bank as a “little more than a fund for corporate welfare,” when listing a series of government programs that are not working.

The attitude of entitlement anticipating continued government support was expressed by General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and Boeing executive Timothy Keating. Needless to say, Boeing and GE are two of the biggest beneficiaries of Ex-Im Bank. Speaking at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit about the importance of the bank to support business investment in Africa, Immelt arrogantly said, “And the fact that we have to sit here and argue for it, I think, is just wrong.”

Keating was equally disturbed that Boeing had to defend the charter of the Ex-Im Bank.  According to The Hill, Keating called the effort to kill the bank, “a fit of ideological road rage,” and whined, “the temporary extension recently enacted, in many respects, leaves us worse off than before.” He is concerned that the politics in June may be worse than now.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has mounted a major effort to make sure Keating’s worries don’t become reality next year. The Chamber backed establishment Republicans during the recent primaries, and Ex-Im Bank supporters [mc_name name=’Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C000567′ ] (R-MS) and [mc_name name=’Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001148′ ] (R-ID) received significant financial help from the Chamber.

According to the Sunlight Foundation, the Chamber spent $1,250,000 to back Cochran over challenger Chris McDaniel. Similarly, in the Republican primary battle in Idaho the Chamber dedicated $450,000 to support Simpson against challenger Bryan Smith. The Chamber’s money helped both Ex-Im supporting establishment candidates win, likely securing future votes to keep the government bank open.

In addition to its financial influence, the Chamber has an action center page on its website that urges individuals to contact their member of Congress, urging them to extend the Ex-Im Bank beyond next June.

Big government spending has created an attitude of entitlement throughout our nation, encompassing both big business and individuals. Yet, while the corporate entitlement attitude seems fixed, individuals can recognize the problems with government dependency. After the media coverage following her expectations for Obama to pay for her daily needs, Joseph did some research and discovered that she was wrong, and now recognizes the importance of self-reliance.

Too bad corporate leaders such as Immelt and Keating don’t have the wisdom of Peggy Joseph.