A President Dares Us Once Again.
In Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s story, “Alice in Wonderland,” young Alice is wandering through that magical fantasyland when she encounters a talking egg, which confused her by sprinkling clearly-misused words into the conversation. When she called him on it, Humpty Dumpty assumed his most arrogant pose and declared "When I use a word, it means just what I chose it to mean – neither more nor less."
How dare the girl call him on his abuse of language?! If he wanted to use a word to mean something it had never meant before, and would never mean thereafter, he would do so. No matter whether his abuse would enable his audience to understand him (surely that is the purpose of language, n’est ce pas?) or not; successful communication was not his goal. He just wanted to sound impressive, authoritarian, definitive… and he expected any audience, particularly someone so insignificant in his eyes as a little lost girl, to regard him with the appropriate awe, whether comprehending or not.
Perhaps too often in his fantastic life, the well-dressed egg was allowed to redefine the English language unchallenged. He could say this was that, and that was this, and his audience would nod politely, perhaps enthralled at his smile or his color or his clothing, not realizing that his abuse of words, and his assumption of unearned power, might have dire consequences for them all.
The World of Export Finance
President Barack Obama (D, Wonderland) has directed the Ex-Im Bank to start making loans to domestic companies making domestic purchases.
The Ex-Im Bank was chartered in 1934 to provide export financing to foreign customers of US manufacturers. Other industrial nations provide such government-assisted loans for good credit risks in countries with lousy banking systems, so the USA does the same.
Don’t confuse it with the World Bank, by the way; the Ex-Im Bank is no charity. It makes loans to good risks abroad, and has an astonishingly low default rate for international business (well under 5% historically, from what I’ve read!).
The Ex-Im Bank enters a transaction when the destination country’s local banks would charge 10 or 20 percent interest, so the buyer looks to the competing bidders to provide financing. The French, Chinese, or Australian bidders offer their government financing of four or five percent if their product is selected, and if an American bidder can’t do the same, he’s out of the game. The Ex-Im Bank therefore not only charges market rates (our market, not the third world’s) and so makes a profit, but it also enables our manufacturing sector to compete globally. This country imports way too much to give up on our export marketplace!
Well, in 2012, after eighty years of the Ex-Im Bank successfully and happily obeying its charter, President Obama has directed the Ex-Im Bank to violate it wholesale.
Instead of only loaning to good foreign risks, he wants them to loan to American companies (in competition with American banks). Instead of only making loans attached to, and collateralized by, American export shipments of physical goods, he wants them to make start-up loans, short-term finance loans, bridge loans, that have nothing to do with export shipments (though they might help the companies become exporters, in the same way that if you give me a bottle of Gatorade and a pair of Reeboks, maybe I’ll become an Olympic track star).
We all know that there’s a federal agency already in place for the sort of thing he’s talking about: the Small Business Administration. If companies want loans, they can go to a bank; we have thousands of them. If banks don’t think they’re a good enough risk in this Obamacized economy, the companies can turn to the SBA. And if the president doesn’t think that the SBA has enough capitalization to support all of them, he can ask Congress to authorize more capital for them to work with.
So why the Ex-Im Bank instead? Why does this president want to force a government-chartered bank to break its charter to loan only on export shipments to foreign customers, and to instead loan to domestic customers with only the most ephemeral connection to exports? There must be a reason.
The old “Bait and Switch”….
This is not the first time that government entities have chosen, or been directed, to exceed their authority or utterly disregard their intended purposes. Both from internal scope creep and from external direction, government bureaucracies in America have been losing their way for years.
Grammar schools stopped focusing exclusively on “reading, writing, and arithmetic” decades ago, and instead they have to fill their day with gym, sex ed, recycling studies (they call it earth science, but we all know what they mean), and politicized history (spending more class time on American Indian history than they do on European history; spending more time on the need for CFL light-bulbs than on the Constitution). Is it any wonder that our test scores are declining? It’s the government schools that have broadened their scope, ever diluting their appropriate concentration, ever diminishing their students’ test results as a result.
The Department of Energy was established to help develop domestic energy production, with the goal of making the nation more energy-independent. 35 years later, the department not only shuts down efforts to build the pipelines, drilling rigs, and mines that would contribute to such independence, it reaches into our homes and factories to shut down production lines that make too invigorating a showerhead or too cost-efficient a light-bulb.
What have they been trying to do to the military for years? The Clintonistas sent American soldiers to be part of UN missions, and they have them passing out candy and helping build schools rather than firing on terrorists as they ought. To the left, the military exists as an opportunity to show gays and straights how to bunk together peacefully, to show stodgy conservatives how to tolerate differences in ability between strong men and small women regardless of what it does to battlefield effectiveness, how to perform countless other social experiments while still maintaining the discipline to be a somewhat credible fighting force when called upon.
Consider boards of election, down at the state and local level; what are they for? They manage the election process, making sure that the voter rolls are kept up to date, that names are removed after people move or die, and that false registrations are hunted down and prosecuted. Right? Sadly, no. Too often, boards of election are there to add a layer of bureaucracy to stymie efforts to update the voting rolls; they are sometimes there to facilitate vote fraud, and to oppose reforms (such as Real ID) with every fiber of their being. The vote fraud so massive in so many states turns this participatory republican system of ours on its head.
What was the FDIC designed to do? To regulate banks, to make sure they follow appropriate lending guidelines, maintain the right internal controls, the right ratio of reserves, loans, and savings, etc. But what do they do today? The FDIC has become a mixture of regulator, insurer, and bundler, as they close one bad bank they fold it into another bank… and as the bank failures increase, more and more bad banks get merged into good banks. The ultimate conclusion isn’t hard to see; federal policy is now to weaken banks by folding messes into good ones, ever weakening the entire nation’s financial structure. How else can you read it?
What does Obamacare purport to do? To cure sick people and save money. What is it really doing, already? Promising to deny care and to raise prices. Health insurance has gone up by greater rates, employers are dropping the benefit, it’s contributing to unemployment in virtually every sector (yes, EVERY sector… many who supported Obamacare lost their jobs in November 2010 as a result, and many more will do the same in November 2012).
Now the latest effort is to take an agency that exists for export funding and twist it to produce domestic business funding, the job of business banks. It’s not the job of federal government, but even if it were, it wouldn’t be the job of the Export-Import Bank!!!!
Why? Why direct agencies and bureaus away from the jobs for which they were created? In none of these have they changed the charter of the agencies; they make their changes slowly, almost without notice.
One day, a school is teaching dodgeball in the hour that used to be history class; now gym is mandatory and history is an elective. When did that happen?
One day DoE and the EPA were making sure new oil rigs were fitted with anti-pollution devices, the next day they’re ensuring that there simply will be no new oil rigs at all. One day the Ex-Im Bank was helping John Deere and Bucyrus export hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods to get some of our import-heavy economy’s money back from abroad, and the next day the Ex-Im Bank finds its export funds depleted in favor of competing with the First State Bank of Main Street on a domestic transaction that’s none of the Ex-Im Bank’s business!
From words to agencies.
It’s long been known that the modern Democratic party uses George Orwell’s “1984” more as a how-to manual than a cautionary tale. They have been practicing NewSpeak since before its publication in 1948.
They say “reproductive rights” when they mean “abortion on demand.” They lambaste the “lucky rich” when they mean the “60-hour-per-week small businessmen” who go years without taking a salary in order to give their businesses a chance to succeed. And they scream that “they value workers” when they really mean that they value no one but their shop stewards and union bosses.
And now they’re doing the same thing to government agencies. At this rate, we’ll never know what any agency does; their missions are being so warped by this administration.
Just as Humpty Dumpty abused language by using words for things other than their proper meaning, the American Left has made it their standard practice to abuse both the language and structure of government, using agencies for purposes reserved to other agencies… or to the states, or to the people.
In the fantasyland of the fairy tales, Humpty Dumpty came to a bad end. Let us hope that, when we finally come to the end of this story, the fantasyland of the Obama administration doesn’t leave the economy so shattered that all of our people and all of our institutions aren’t utterly unable to put it back together again.
copyright 2012 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade compliance lecturer. A former County Chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has now been a recovering politician for fourteen years and nine months (but like any addiction, you’re never really cured…)
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