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GUEBERT: Congress and its low batting average

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The Washington Nationals are the only team in the nation’s capital that’s anywhere close to league-leading this season. The Nats have been either in first or second place in the National League’s Eastern Division most of the year.

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Meanwhile up on Capitol Hill, a 15-minute walk north of Nats Park, Congress is putting together another horrible summer. It’s so awful that on June 19 a Gallup poll pegged Congress’s public approval rating at a lower-than-dirt seven percent.

In baseball terms that’s a .070 batting average.

You’d think a team with 21 times more players and 535 more self-described power hitters than the neighboring major league nine might reach the fences — or even first base — at least as often as, say, a blind sow finds an acorn. Golly, even Nat pitchers — pitchers! — are batting a collective .124, going into the All Star break.

Not so for this gang of trash-talking strikeout artists. Rusty gates swing better.

When they swing. According to current House data, this Congress will easily break all records for doing nothing — pass the fewest laws, acts and edicts — of any Congress in our nation’s history.

When they do swing, however, the result is mostly long foul balls: more than 50 failed House votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act but not one move on immigration reform, 2015 ag appropriations funding, personal and corporate tax reform, the nation’s fast-crumbling roads, bridges and waterways or needed new funding for the swamped, drowning Veterans Administration.

So what’s keeping Congress from taking up these overripe issues this summer?

Right now it’s a tea-powered effort to kill the 80-year-old Export/ Import Bank, the government agency that borrows money from the U.S. Treasury to finance low-cost loans to American firms selling wares around the world. The bank’s operating charter expires Sept. 30 and must be renewed for it to continue to operate.

But that’s in doubt. Conservative House Republicans claim the Ex/ Im is little more than “crony capitalism” because it provides government assistance to less-than-needy Big Biz that then interferes with global free markets.

One of those taking dead aim at Ex/Im is Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. His committee must vote to renew the bank’s charter before the rest of Congress can act. Hensarling’s boss, newly-elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who voted to renew the bank’s charter in 2012, now opposes renewal, also.

Big and small business alike, however, can’t explain the opposition. Yes, Ex/Im is a “government program,” but it’s one that works.

For example, in fiscal year 2013 Ex/ Im provided $27 billion of government backing for about $37.5 billion of overseas sales by U.S. firms. Those loans, 89 percent of which went to small businesses, says the bank, underwrote 205,000 American jobs.

Even at that, U.S. efforts are small potatoes compared to the collective might American sellers face around the world. According to June 2014 numbers, dozens of nations offer nearly $260 billion in government-backed export credit to U.S. competitors.

Moreover, Ex/Im not only doesn’t cost American taxpayers a nickel; its profits—nearly $1.1 billion in fi scal 2013 — go straight into the U.S. Treasury.

It’s a big deal in American ag circles, too. According to bank data, Ex/ Im supplied credit for $714 million of overseas ag-related sales in fiscal 2013. Most went to small, rural ag businesses like Hudson Pecan Co. of Ocilla, Ga., or Healthy Oilseeds, LLC, of Carrington, N.D.

Given the need for the Ex/Im at both the local and global level and its no-cost, highly profi table operation, why is Congress, again, wasting taxpayer time and money doing what shouldn’t be done — trying to kill the Ex/Im bank?

Because reason and fact, like Congress’s low batting average, play no role in today’s politics. It’s all about spitting bile and getting re-elected, not playing ball getting the work done.

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Alan Guebert
Alan Guebert is a syndicated agricultural columnist whose work is published Thursdays in The Daily Republic.
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