Both Parties Should Oppose the Export-Import Bank

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) chairs the House Financial Services Committee. The Export-Import Bank’s reauthorization falls under his jurisdiction, and he has been one of the bank’s most consistent critics. He also called for closing Ex-Im in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, making a number of well-reasoned arguments. But his closing clarion call is rather narrow for my taste:

If Republicans can’t stand up to corporate interests in this skirmish, how will we ever stand up to the myriad special interests warring against adoption of a simplified, pro-growth tax code? How will we earn the moral authority to reform the social welfare state unless we first reform the corporate welfare state? Let the Democrats own corporate welfare by themselves.

I prefer a more ecumenical approach. Opposing corporate welfare is something on which both parties should agree—and outside the Beltway, they often already do. People favoring a level economic playing field should put pressure on Republicans and Democrats alike to end their cronyist habits, not just the GOP. After all, Ex-Im’s traditional critics come from the left, not the right. The two sides’ role reversal is a recent, and puzzling phenomenon.

Hensarling is doing some impressive yeoman’s work in getting his party on the right side of the Ex-Im issue, but that’s only half the battle—or slightly more than half, given the House’s current composition. Still, progressives are natural allies in the fight against Ex-Im, and for several decades they were the free market’s only allies in that battle. They should not be ignored.