The Corner

Economy & Business

The Firms That Will Supposedly Shed Jobs if Ex-Im Dies Have Billions and Billions in Backorders

“There are thousands of jobs on the line that would disappear pretty quickly if the Ex-Im Bank were to disappear,” Speaker John Boehner warned us a few weeks ago. At the time, I explained why this was nonsense. However, considering that this job argument is a recurring one, I think it’s an issue worth revisiting.

The main thing to remember is that fundamentally, export subsidies do not “create” or “support” jobs — they redistribute them from unsubsidized firms to subsidized ones. In other words, for each beneficiary, there are many victims out there. They may not have lobbyists and press offices working for them, but they count too. Further, the jobs numbers touted by bank officials are dubious, at best, and have been roundly criticized as misleading by the Government Accountability Office, among others.

Just as important, the idea that failing to reauthorize the bank’s charter will lead to the instant disappearance of jobs at Boeing or its small suppliers flies in the face of the data. As Diane Katz of the Heritage Foundation and I explain in a new analysis, the expiration of the Ex-Im Bank charter will have no effect — none — on the financing of deals that already have been approved. The bank will simply be unable to extend new loans. And the biggest beneficiaries of Ex-Im subsidies happen to have billions of dollars of backorders — including from existing Ex-Im deals — that will keep workers busy for years to come. Check out this chart:

As we write:

The chart above uses data from the Ex-Im Bank to display some of the top beneficiaries for all Ex-Im Bank transactions between 2007 and 2014, and backlog information from the companies’ annual reports. The blue bars show that the Ex-Im Bank lives up to its nickname of “Boeing’s Bank.” The aviation giant is the biggest beneficiary, by far: the bank has provided $66.7 billion in subsidized financing to foreign purchasers of Boeing planes.

General Electric also ranks among the biggest beneficiaries, with $8.3 billion in export assistance, while Bechtel Corp. benefited from $5.2 billion in support. The $2.2 billion in Ex-Im Bank financing that has benefitted Caterpillar was boosted by the $2.7 billion loan guarantee to its subsidiary Solar Turbine Inc.

The red bars show the companies’ backlogs, as reported in their latest annual report. Boeing Co. posted a “record” backlog of $441 billion (in 2013); General Electric Co. recorded a backlog of $261 billion (in 2014); Caterpillar Inc.’s backlog is $16.5 million (in the first quarter of 2015); and Bechtel Corp. posted a “strong” backlog of $70.5 billion (in 2014).

In other words, relax — this is one more reason why we shouldn’t worry that jobs will disappear if the bank’s charter expires. And letting it expire will, of course, be a win for taxpayers, who are ultimately on the hook for a total of $140 billion if bank reserves fail to cover defaults . . .

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

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