Thanks to our new threaded-notes feature, you should see all previous installments in this series below. The purpose of this one is to give some answer to the question “Why on Earth should I spend two seconds thinking about the Export-Import Bank??” for the 99% of the U.S. population that has never previously spent even a single second that way.
Here’s why: you could think of it as a parallel to the immigration debates, or in different ways to the culture wars, or the impending struggle over shutting down the government, or other extremism-vs.-centrism pressures in national politics and within the GOP. In all these cases, we have real-world trends that indicate one thing, and fevered political rhetoric that indicates another.
In immigration, the real world trends are:
- illegal immigration from Mexico has long been falling;
- in a number of recent years more people have moved from the United States to Mexico than the other way;
- immigrants (legal and illegal) have lower rates of criminality than native-born Americans; and
- the process of assimilating outsiders, which has always been disruptive throughout U.S. history (involving German and Irish in the mid-19th century, Eastern Europeans after that, Chinese before and after, a broad sampling of the world’s people since the 1964 reforms that reduced the preference for white-European immigrants; Latinos through the southwest; refugees from the Soviet empire and Cuba and Vietnam and Somalia and elsewhere), has overall been a tremendous source of American economic and cultural success and vitality. There is no evidence that the assimilative process is proving less effective now than it was in the 1840s or the 1880s or at other high-inflow times.
But immigration as it appears in the GOP debates is a two-minutes-to-midnight threat to everything precious in the country. (“They’re sending rapists” etc.)
So too with ExIm! In reality it makes money for the federal government (let me repeat that: it pays money into the federal treasury, rather than drawing it out); it matches in much less intrusive ways what other governments do; it gives no evidence of causing serious distortions in market workings; and it has been part of the successful ecosystem both for some of America’s largest and most generally admired tech giants (Boeing, GE) and also the smaller-company supply chain they buy from. Presidents of both parties have supported it. Through the George W. Bush era funding measures passed the House and Senate by unanimous or overwhelming votes.