The Corner

Politics & Policy

Draining the Swamp Means Ignoring the Pressure of Cronies

As I noted last week, it’s apparently not enough that large U.S. companies have their own government agency, the Export-Import Bank, devoted to propping up their profits, they also want to pick the guy who runs this agency to make sure that business as usual will continue in the world of cronyism.

In this case, Boeing, GE, and other giant manufacturers are throwing a temper tantrum because President Trump picked former representative Scott Garrett to be the head of the Ex-Im Bank. See, Garrett was a staunch opponent of the Ex-Im Bank when he was in Congress, and he is exactly the kind of guy you would want there because he won’t be the kind of pushover we had in the past who can’t be trusted to watch over taxpayers’ money.

Cronies are very upset about the nomination and they are making their opposition known to the president. Politico reports:

President Donald Trump is reconsidering his nomination of former Rep. Scott Garrett to lead the Export-Import Bank and may drop him amid growing resistance from industry, according to West Wing aides and Trump advisers.

Garrett has become a political headache for the White House and its economic agenda thanks to intensifying lobbying against the nomination by companies that rely on the agency to guarantee loans for foreign buyers of U.S. exports. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has also been pressing for the president to dump him, according to White House officials. . . . 

If Garrett were to withdraw, it would come as a major relief to firms that rely on the bank, including Boeing and GE.

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons called out the administration in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week, saying Garrett’s confirmation would be “a terrible trade deal for our country.” On Friday, the Business Roundtable, a group representing the chief executives of the nation’s biggest corporations, announced that it could not support Garrett, either.

I have written about Timmons’s article in the Journal here.

But let me say it again: It would be a mistake for President Trump to withdraw Garrett’s nomination. Taxpayers deserve someone who is driven by a profound desire to reform the agency he is presiding over for the sake of the American people. This is particularly the case when the agency is serving powerful interests, picking winners and losers (and the losers are small companies, consumers, and taxpayers), and embodying the very swamp the president campaigned against.

Indeed, what kind of signal would it send about the president’s campaign promise to drain the swamp that is Washington, D.C.? Dropping Garrett would mean that the president is beholden to the interests of large corporations who want to protect their profits with the help of their connections in Washington. Seriously, the swamp is the marriage of the government to large corporations and that’s the unhealthy relationship the American people are sick and tired of. By allowing the Ex-Im Bank to function fully, President Trump is already following in the steps of President Obama, who also claimed the bank was nothing more than a corporate-welfare program for the powerful but reversed his position once in office.

The least the president can do now is sit a man at the head of Ex-Im who will try his best to minimize the damage to the economy that the program inflicts and alert Congress of any wrongdoing by its employees (e.g., if they inevitable try to grant loans to Iran to buy Boeing planes). Under no circumstances should the president listen to the cronies. Being “pro-business” doesn’t mean doing to bidding of corporations eager to protect their government handouts. That would be adding to the swamp instead of draining it.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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