The Corner

The Ex-Im Bank’s War on Women

As the Washingotn Examiner’s Tim Carney reported last week, the Chamber of Commerce’s blog channels the spirit of Betty Friedan in their latest offering in defense of Ex-Im – ”The Export-Import Bank: Fostering the Spirit of Enterprise for Women.” With as much passion and factual grounding as a standard KCNA article, the Chamber touts Ex-Im’s “important role” for women-owned businesses in an effort to convince Congress to continue propping up the profits of the biggest U.S. exporters. Carney writes:

It’s the “Life of Julia: Corporate Welfare Edition.” Defenders of the Export-Import Bank have found a new approach to promoting its existence – just tie opposition to the government financier to the “war on women” narrative.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the foremost lobbying force for Ex-Im, recently posted an article on how crucial the bank is to women-owned businesses. Citing the chamber’s own research on women entrepreneurs, writers Stefanie Holland and Roberta Phillips note that “women-owned firms have grown at one-and-a-half times the rate of other small enterprises in the last 15 years and now account for nearly 30 percent of all new businesses.” 

“Ex-Im provides loans, loan guarantees, and export credit insurance to help cover financing gaps for American exporters,” the chamber wrote. “Last year the Bank provided financing or loan guarantees for $34.7 billion in U.S. exports and supported more than 200,000 American jobs.”

And the chamber is happy to note that “nearly 90 percent of Ex-Im’s transactions support the exports of small and medium-size businesses.”

Even more importantly, the chamber wrote, “one in five of the Bank’s authorizations supported women- and minority-owned businesses.”

The Chamber of Commerce claims that 20 percent of Ex-Im’s authorizations support woman-owned (and minority-owned) firms.

Lest this faint praise begin to arouse your slight sympathies, I would like to remind you that – as I have noted before – the Ex-Im Bank’s data and interpretations should always be taken with a grain of salt.

Trust but verify, the saying goes, but Ex-Im is making it even harder to verify its own claims. The bank recently pulled down the public dataset that we had been using to examine its work. Luckily, my research assistant Andrea Castillo anticipated they might do this and saved a clean copy in June. (If anyone is looking for the data, please e-mail me and I would be more than happy to share it.)

Here’s what their data say. Ex-Im reports $154 billion in authorizations from 2007 to 2014. Of that, $1,565,363,877.82 was authorized for women-owned businesses. That’s a whopping 1.02 percent of all Ex-Im authorizations. 

Also, according to the data highlighted on www.exim.gov, between 2007 and 2014, the bank’s activities supported 8,499 exporters, 476 of which were “women-owned.” That’s 5.8 percent of firms supported by the bank. 

An institution that spares a meager 1.02 percent of its authorizations and 5.8 percent of all selected firms is a great friend to women? In reality, it looks like patriarchy is alive and well at the Export-Import Bank – a glance at their list of chairmen and presidents shows that only 3 of their 44 presidents and chairmen have been women — but it’s really cronyism that rules the roost.

According to the Small Business Administration, woman own roughly 30 percent of U.S. firms, 12 percent of businesses with employees, and 13 percent of minority businesses. That means that the bank’s support for women isn’t even on par with their involvement in the economy. Do Ex-Im supporters really think women are so stupid to fall for this obvious ploy?

Zach Carter at the Huffington Post concludes:

The Chamber of Commerce could have made its blog post correct by writing that it reached the 20 percent figure by excluding all of the bank’s subsidies to big businesses, with their multiple shareholders. But that wouldn’t have made reauthorizing the bank sound so beneficial to women and minorities.

Ex-Im needs women and minorities to serve as shields for their corporatism far more than women and minorities actually benefit from the bank’s work. Another one for the “Laughable Ex-Im Justifications” file.

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