by Chad Nelson
Bipartisan criticism of the Export-Import Bank is all the rage these days, after new Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy spoke publicly about his intention to end its very existence. From the standpoint of a libertarian, the criticism and the shedding of light on such a blatant corporate welfare scheme should be welcome news. Even a lot of mainstream media outlets have latched on to this populist issue du jour. Fox Business’s Stossel devoted an entire hour-long segment to the topic, presenting guests on both sides of the debate, with John Stossel attempting to rebut the ones who favor reauthorization of the bank. I repeat: all of this new anti-Ex-Im fervor is extremely pleasing, but it leaves this libertarian, and should leave truly reform-minded Americans, hungry for much bigger fish in need of frying.
It is not my intention to remake the case against Ex-Im. It has been well-made over and over again since McCarthy’s remarks. Those who continue to favor the bank’s existence have shown their true colors. And many of these remaining supporters are no surprise. To this crowd, any measure that stands to bolster the American War Machine is good, no matter the cost. These folks are almost not worth engaging in debate. Everyone has at least one of these creatures in their lives. You know: The ones who don’t really need to hear specific details about a government program, as long as it seems vaguely useful in killing foreigners and securing the oil underneath their feet.
No, the far more troubling types are those who loudly slam Ex-Im as crony capitalism, yet can’t bring themselves to critique the biggest and most deadly government-corporate partnership: War. These people will parade through the television and talk radio circuits harping on the failed, government-backed, 300-million dollar lizard farm, but wouldn’t be caught dead criticizing multi-billion dollar foreign wars.
If you’re lucky enough to catch them discussing the topic of war and how it fits into their Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Mentality, the most you’re likely to get is criticism over the President’s failure to ask for Congress’s permission, or some tripe about how the wars are simply “mismanaged”. Never is there real talk about the cost in lives, stolen taxpayer loot, blowback, or any of the other routinely negative outcomes of American Empire.
Most of these phonies count themselves members of the “Reform Conservative” movement, but there is nothing reformative about them. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are two shining examples of politicians who embody this duplicity. Politicians like Rubio and Cruz have been singing about making government smaller, less wasteful, more efficient and more responsive to constituents from time immemorial. These broad-brush claims are nothing new. But notice how in discussions of foreign policy, Rubio and Cruz only manage to criticize Obama’s foreign policy as an example of “failed leadership,” if not flat out advocating for more war. What they fail to realize in their tepid criticism of America’s foreign policy is that the world needs less American Leadership, not more or a better variety. Yet somehow, Rubio, Cruz and their compadres in Congress, with their stale foreign policy vision, are seen as the fresh, new kids on the block.
To be fair, there is an element in Congress who occasionally speak out directly against war. Rand Paul and Justin Amash are two of them. While these two often hedge their foreign policy statements, their flashes of unvarnished antiwar rhetoric are encouraging. But we must remain extremely skeptical of them, as with all politicians, realizing that rhetoric is just that, and should hold their feet to the fire when they revert back to run-of-the mill neocons. What would be truly encouraging is if Paul and Amash managed to be strong, limited government, antiwar opponents of a Republican president. No, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for this scenario to play out like some kind of theatrical performance, but that will be the true test for the antiwar, Reform Conservatives.
But back to the really evil ones. Many voters who see the Rubios and Cruzes in Congress as the antidote to Bush, Obama & Co. cling to their new Congressional heroes as the answer to big government. In doing so, they prove that they have learned no real lessons from the Bush and Obama nightmare administrations. The lesson that needs to be learned is that war is the umbrella under which all other egregious, big-government programs are allowed to thrive. Ex-Im is just one example of such a program. Criticism of all government is warranted, but war is the real trough at which the corporatist-welfare pigs feed.
So while libertarians should welcome allies of all shapes and sizes in their fight against government, including those pushing for an end to the Ex-Im Bank, these strategic partnerships need to be fostered in such a way that the half-hearted ally is engaged when he or she doesn’t recognize that a love of liberty necessarily equates to a strong, vocal antiwar position. Not until Reform-cons begin to speak out regularly, loudly and genuinely against American wars should they be taken seriously as change-agents. For myself, I’ll be extremely cynical until there is some actual Republican-on-Republican bloodshed over the war issue.