It’s amazing at times how flexible a politician’s opinions may be. President Obama has provided his latest example of this political axiom with his recent statement on the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
Here’s Candidate Obama in 2008:
"I am not a Democrat who believes that we can or should defend every government program just because it’s there… the Export-Import Bank [has] become little more than a fund for corporate welfare."
More recently – just last week – here’s President Obama:
"House Republicans can help by reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank… That is the right thing to do. It’s pretty straightforward. And you business leaders can help make clear that it is critical to U.S. business."
Candidate Obama had it right – the Export-Import Bank was, and is, essentially a fund for corporate welfare. The overwhelming majority of its loan guarantees and funding goes to a small number of enormous, profitable corporations so that foreign entities can buy those companies’ good more cheaply.
If the Ex-Im Bank’s mission hasn’t changed, then what has? It appears the answer is conservative resistance towards Ex-Im, which has led House Republicans as senior as Paul Ryan and new Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to support letting the bank expire. Or perhaps the influence of the big money behind Ex-Im is just too much to resist.
Regardless, if he can put aside for a second his reflexive disdain for doing anything conservatives might also approve of, President Obama could seize upon an opportunity here. An opportunity to lead, and to join with unlikely allies against the corporate welfare that he has claimed to despise.
And if not, Congress can (and should) lead for him, by letting the Ex-Im Bank expire on October 1st.