Revive the Ex-Im Bank

It didn’t take long for the damage inflicted by Congress’ refusal to fund the Export Import Bank to become evident: Hundreds of jobs moved overseas and millions in lost contracts and sales for American business.

The bank extends loans and government guarantees to help American companies, small and large, export their products and create jobs. It also offers financing for foreign buyers purchasing American-made goods.

For communities like Miami that thrive on foreign trade, the Ex-Im Bank is a vital agency. Its support for export sales in fiscal 2013 included $7 billion in Florida. Of that, $1.5 billion went to businesses in South Florida.

If you believe anti-government Republican populists in Congress, this is a form of “corporate welfare.” In the House, members who share that idea defied Speaker John Boehner in July by refusing to reauthorize the bank.

This bizarre behavior is the triumph of ideology over common sense. In a competitive world in which U.S. companies vie for business against foreign-owned firms supported by their own governments, the bank plays a necessary role. It’s hard to argue with John Engler, a former Republican governor of Michigan and current president of the Business Roundtable, who labeled bank opponents “economically illiterate.”

This week, General Electric said it plans to move 400 jobs to France, whose government counterpart of the Ex-Im Bank offered financing for gas turbines. It’s moving 100 other jobs to China and Hungary to get local credit for customers of its products.

Meanwhile, Boeing says it has lost at least two big foreign contracts to sell satellites to companies based in Singapore and Bermuda for lack of a government export-credit agency.

Opponents of the Ex-Im Bank are undermining America’s ability to compete for business overseas for the sake of scoring political points with conservative anti-government groups, and the damage is just beginning. Bank supporters must find a way to reauthorize the bank before more jobs are lost.