Editorial: Export-Import bank shouldn't be tea party trophy

Congressman Steve Israel, Fred Hochberg, president of the Congressman Steve Israel, Fred Hochberg, president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and Richard Kiss, CEO of Kiss Products on the company's manufacturing floor. (May 13, 2013). Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan Photo Credit: Newsday

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The U.S. Export-Import Bank is a sleepy federal program that never caused controversy in Washington until controversy became the name of the only game in town. Founded in 1934, the bank supports exports of U.S. businesses by granting loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance to foreign buyers of American products. About 60 nations have similar institutions.

For decades the program was popular with both political parties. In 2012, however, supporters had a tough fight on their hands before finally getting it renewed. Tea party Republicans in the House of Representatives turned on the bank, calling it big government in the service of crony capitalism and saying it distorts the free market by picking winners and losers. Republicans are particularly incensed over the bank turning down projects that would have created jobs here because of environmental concerns, but funding ones that led to serious increases in pollution or greenhouse gases in other nations.

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Opponents also argue that most of the benefits of the bank go to huge corporations that don't need help with financing. This is true in some cases, but in many others it is not.

Ex-Im has backed $1.7 billion worth of exports from 50 Long Island businesses since 2007. They include manufacturers like Amana Tool Corp. of Farmingdale, food companies like Good Health Natural Foods in Northport, and high-tech service providers like Melville's CosmoCom.

The bank's authorization runs out in two months, and lawmakers need to renew it. While it has its faults, the bank makes money and keeps our companies on an equal footing with those in other countries. That saves jobs. It's worked for us for eight decades without a problem. Supporters of this divisive brand of politics, which wants a win against big government, shouldn't be allowed to destroy that.

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