The Export-Import Bank is fighting for its life on Capitol Hill. To both advocates and opponents, one key bone of contention is jobs specifically, how many does Ex-Im add, subtract or multiply? The pro-Ex-Im forces tout the figure of 205,000 jobs "supported" in fiscal 2013 by the agency's loan guarantees and other financing for U.S. sales abroad.
Prior to a recent hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, a pro-bank group gave to each member of the panel a card on which was printed a summary of the jobs impact for his or her congressional district. To take one example, the card for Rep. John K. Delaney, D-Maryland, claimed that, between fiscal 2007 and 2013, Ex-Im had "supported" $379.3 million worth of exports and 2,423 jobs at 15 firms in his district, which stretches from Gaithersburg to the Western Maryland panhandle.
It's eminently plausible that Ex-Im helps maintain a level playing field for big U.S. firms in the heavily politicized and subsidized global market for jets, power plants and other capital goods. But when it comes to jobs, well, just how rigorous are the estimates, really? Congress ordered a study of that very question when it last reauthorized Ex-Im in 2012. In May 2013, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) produced its verdict: Meh.