Delta Is Right on the Ex-Im Bank -- Too Bad the Tea Party Is Its Biggest Ally

Tickers in this article: BA DAL
ATLANTA (TheStreet) -- Not to speak for Delta , but if I were espousing a political position and I found that most of my support was coming from Tea Party Republicans, I would take another look.

But even then, it's hard to find fault with Delta's opposition to some of the policies of the Export-Import Bank. The bank offers loan guarantees to Delta's foreign competitors, who can then buy Boeing aircraft at lower cost than Delta can buy the same aircraft.

The foreign competitors then use the aircraft to compete with Delta. Delta, consequently, employs fewer people than it might otherwise employ. Is that really an intended consequence of government policy?

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Boeing takes a different tack, saying that if the bank did not back loans to its customers, Airbus, its only real rival, would still have the support of three government export credit agencies, so airlines that need a government loan guarantee to secure commercial financing would simply buy their planes from Airbus.

In other words, they do it so we have to do it too.

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At first glance, this seems like a fairly simple dispute, matching two companies with different points of view. But the controversy over Export-Import Bank policies has turned into a Washington battle with political implications far beyond what a normal person would consider relevant.

The bank's charter expires Sept. 30. To continue to operate, the bank requires congressional approval. Like most Americans, I pity any entity that is placed in this position.

The Tea Party appears to think that the bank is a giant scam, in place to reward favored businesses with taxpayer money. The party accuses it of "crony capitalism," suggesting that it hands out money willy-nilly to big companies.

In fact, the bank uses loan guarantees to make it easier for foreign companies to buy American made-products, supporting American jobs. At little or no cost to American taxpayers, the bank vastly benefits the U.S. economy.

The debate over extending the bank's charter demonstrates how uniformed fringe pseudo-logic has somehow been embraced by large portions of a mainstream political party in what will surely be someday judged as a peculiarity of history.

But to say that the bank does important work is not to say that it should support one industry at the expense of another.