Here is a good explanation of what the Export-Import Bank is and does. I’ve heard that name recently in the context of, shall we say, “what obscure and historically boring but very, very important part of the federal government does the Tea Party want to destroy next” stories, and was glad to come across this article.
It is essentially a federally owned but independently operated bank that guarantees loans made to people overseas who want to buy American goods. Most of these loans benefit small businesses, but the majority of dollars the bank guarantees go towards buying large American things like jets.
There is going to be a fight this summer in Congress over the re-authorization of the Bank, because, I gather, there is some concern on the far right that the Bank does something akin to tyrannical financial death-dealing.
And, I’m sure particularly vexing to the financially illiterate Tea Party zealots (the ones who aren’t outright liars) the Export-Import Bank turns a profit.
Yes, the Export-Import Bank could very well be the next goddamned fiscal cliff. Ugh. Its hard to say what would happen if the Ex-Im Bank is not re-authorized, (just like it was hard to predict what would have happened if the lunatics managed to run the Treasury into default during the fiscal cliff/shutdown a couple months ago) but it is probably safe and reasonable to say that now is not a good time to allow the Ayn Rand financial theorists to commit the still sluggish economy to rash experimentation.
It should be noted that many reasonable economists think the bank should be changed or dissolved, but not when the economy is a couple of missed jet sales away from slipping back into recession. Also, even if it is a weird and sort-of archaic protectionist mechanism, every other developed country has one and some, like China, do much more to boost their exports than we do. This is what we should worry about at the moment – competing with China – not getting rid of an institution that supports American workers AND generates revenue.