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If It Ain't Broke, Break It: The Crisis Congress Continues

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For the past few months I've been writing about House Republicans' failure to make government work as part of a self-fulfilling prophecy about the role of government. Since their philosophy says that government should be small and/or government doesn't work, decisions are made to ensure it doesn't work.

The Tea Party was at it again, so the Crisis Congress continues. What is in their sight this time? Reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. Many Americans may not be familiar with the Export-Import Bank, but it has been supporting U.S. businesses and jobs since 1945. This independent federal agency provides financing to foreign entities to buy U.S. exports, which supports jobs and manufacturing here at home. Unfortunately, the "Crisis Congress" was ready to let the Export-Import Bank's authorization expire at the end of May. Without reauthorization, American exports and American jobs are at stake.

The House's Republican leadership argues that Export-Import Bank financing amounts to "corporate welfare" (which is ironic, given their total opposition to cutting subsidies for oil companies). What they don't seem to realize is that several other countries have similar agencies, including France, Germany, China, Brazil and India.

In fiscal year 2011, the Export-Import Bank estimated its activities supported about $41 billion in U.S. exports of goods and services, and supported 290,000 jobs. With unemployment running above 8 percent across the country, any agency that supports jobs is worth supporting in my mind, not terminating.

If the Republicans are serious about aiding small businesses, then they should be all about supporting the Export-Import Bank's mission. By number of transactions, around 85 percent of the Bank's activities aid small businesses. In my district in Minnesota, in 2010, the Bank provided financing supporting ten companies, eight of which were small businesses.

Some critics also worry that U.S. taxpayers are going to be on the hook if companies default on the Export-Import Bank's financing. But with a historical default rate of less than 2 percent, the Export-Import Bank is doing a pretty good job of being careful about its loans. That's better than the mortgage industry's track record, and we all know how that has played out.

The Republicans this week passed the misnamed "Small Business Tax Cut Act," which gives a 20 percent tax cut to businesses with less than 500 employees. This bill does not include any requirements that businesses create jobs or invest here in the U.S. and the impact on economic growth and jobs is "so small as to be incalculable." Plus, according to the Tax Policy Center half of the tax cut would go to the 0.3 percent of taxpayers with annual incomes over $1 million annually and only 16 percent of the tax cut would go to Americans making less than $200,000 a year.

So once again, for the Crisis Congress if there's a part of government that ain't already broke their plan is to just break it.