Where is the left on corporate bailouts?

Conservatives have been leading the charge to end an outdated corporate welfare program. The question everyone should be asking is: where have all the anti-corporation liberals gone? 

We’re always told that Republicans are the Party of Big Business, forever eager to sell out ordinary middle-class families to the interests of megacorporations run by billionaire tycoons. And most people still believe it. But when it comes to ending actual corporate welfare, a lot of Democrats are mysteriously silent. Exhibit A: the U.S. Export-Import Bank. 

{mosads}The Ex-Im Bank is an 80-year-old, $2-billion boondoggle created as part of FDR’s New Deal program. It supposedly exists to support U.S. exports, but in reality it is “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” That quote, by the way, comes from then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008. He was right then, but big corporate lobbies have now convinced him that the bank is, in fact, a pretty good idea. And he’s not alone. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), well-known for standing against Wall Street bailouts and corporate cronyism when these issues were firing up the Occupy movement, has apparently taken leave of her populist principles in order to support special interests. “Democrats don’t like Wall Street bailouts,” she said in a speech last year. Don’t they, though? When Bloomberg Business asked her about the Ex-Im Bank, a spokesperson for Warren responded: “Senator Warren believes that the Export-Import Bank helps create American jobs and spur economic growth.” Since then, she has hardly uttered a word about the bank, apparently hoping we would all forget about it.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have also both expressed support for the Ex-Im Bank. What’s going on here? The Ex-Im Bank offers loans primarily to Boeing, General Electric, Caterpillar and other huge corporations that certainly don’t need the help. In fact, in 2010, General Electric posted domestic profits of more than $5 billion, yet claimed $3.2 billion in tax benefits, which Sen. Warren herself decried as unfair. 

The Ex-Im Bank also funds foreign companies that have no business receiving American tax dollars. It funds corruption and favoritism and special interests. Aren’t Democrats supposed to be against those things? 

Conservatives have chosen to tackle this issue because corporate cronyism flies in the face of our belief in free markets, free trade, and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars. But opposition to corporate welfare fits just as nicely into the liberal tenets of fairness, rooting for the underdog, and curbing corporate power.

The word “progressive” means moving forward, making progress, embracing change. Why, then, are progressive Democrats clinging to an 80-year-old failure that stands against everything they supposedly believe? 

The Ex-Im Bank Termination Act, to end the bank’s charter once and for all, has been introduced in the House by Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) — a Republican. To date, no Democrats have deigned to cosponsor the bill. Last year, the same bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) —another Republican. But Elizabeth Warren was nowhere to be seen on the issue. 

So, to Warren and all her progressive colleagues, I issue the following invitation: Come join us! We actually hate bailouts of big companies as much as you claim to. Let’s work together to stop the abuse of taxpayer money to prop up corporate behemoths. 

I know it’s hard to say no to those lobbyists and their fancy money, but I promise, it feels better to stay true to your principles and do the right thing. Think of what a progressive warrior you could be if you actually ended a crony bank that does all of the things you ought to oppose. 

The Ex-Im Bank’s charter expires at the end of June. If Congress does nothing, it goes away. With everything else on their plate, you would think that asking Congress to sit on their hands would not be that heavy of a lift. Unfortunately, there are a lot of powerful people with skin in the game trying to keep their juicy government subsidies. This gives us — both those of us on the right who believe in free markets, and those on the left who oppose corporatism — an opportunity to work together against a common enemy, and actually accomplish something real. Sen. Warren, where are you? We could really use your help.

Brandon currently serves as the CEO of FreedomWorks, a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. that mobilizes grassroots activists nationwide to fight for less government, lower taxes and more freedom. 

Tags Barack Obama Elizabeth Warren Harry Reid Hillary Clinton Justin Amash Mike Lee

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