The Corner

Economy & Business

Marco Rubio Is Right about Ex-Im

Last week, Senator Marco Rubio — not only a prominent GOP senator but also a candidate for president in 2016 — came out strongly against the Ex-Im Bank. Within hours, the pro-Ex-Im lobbyists were sending e-mails all over the Hill trying to debunk the senator’s arguments against the bank. Time for some debunking the debunkers?

One email entitled “Setting The Record Straight: Rubio is Wrong About Ex-Im” reads like this: 

Today on a conference call with Americans for Prosperity leadership, Senator Marco Rubio made false claims about the Ex-Im Bank, misrepresenting an agency that actually supports over 850 companies and 52,000 jobs in his state of Florida.

Here’s one big problem with these numbers: They represent total jobs and companies supported from 2007 to 2014. That’s right — over eight years, not just this year. So on average, Ex-Im says it’s supporting about 106 exporters per year and 6,500 jobs per year in Florida. Now, let’s say you’re still impressed that, in a given year for Florida, Ex-Im supported 107 exporters and only 7,000 jobs.

But even this isn’t really the case. Here’s some data from just 2014:

In 2014, Ex-Im, according to its own site, supported 339 exporters from Florida.

There were over 61,489 exporters in Florida that year. So  most of them — 99.5 percent, in fact — exported without the help of ExIm​

In 2014, there were about 44,508 companies in manufacturing in Florida, and 270,473 U.S. jobs supported by exports. The theoretical 6,500 jobs supported by Ex-Im is just 2.4 percent of the total export jobs in the state.

Some more numbers: In 2014, ExIm supported $1 billion in export value, while Florida businesses exported $58.6 billion worth of good and services.

That means, in 2014, ExIm backed only 1.71 percent of Florida exports. 98.29 percent of Florida exports happened without Ex-Im subsidies. 

The e-mail continues:

Companies like DemeTech in Miami and Southeast Hay Distributors in West Palm Beach have spoken out, saying an Ex-Im shutdown puts Florida jobs at risk. However, Rubio’s statements indicate he isn’t listening.​

I think Rubio is listening fine — he’s just also listening to the victims who suffer from the unfair competition supported by Ex-Im.

The Ex-Im Bank places the 98+ percent of unsubsidized Florida businesses at a competitive disadvantage: It subsidizes competitors’ costs and artificially boosts their profits. Unsubsidized firms, meanwhile, find it harder to attract capital and expand their businesses, even if they produce a superior product or service. The subsidized get richer and the unsubsidized get poorer.

The e-mail continues with the same debunked arguments we’ve heard before: The “205,000 jobs” that it claims to have supported last year amount to fewer than 2 percent of all export-related jobs in 2013. And besides, the number is likely overstated: The Government Accountability Office has criticized Ex-Im for failing to consider the downsides to the bank’s activities.

A final note, to other lawmakers: With almost no exception, the data in your state looks very much like the data for Florida. Take a hint from Marco Rubio.

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

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