Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2016, does not support reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank — the federal government-backed lending source that airplane manufacturer Boeing Co. and other state leaders are lobbying to keep going.
“I don’t like the idea that if the private banks cannot make loans, that therefore the government ought to make them,” Kasich said during a visit to Charleston on Wednesday.
He added, “the big guys always want ‘freebies.’ That’s what they want. I’ve been against corporate welfare from the time I was in Congress. If you’re going to reform welfare for poor people, you ought to reform it for rich people, too.”
The EX-IM Bank has become a political football this year that is dividing Republicans in the Congress and at the presidential primary level. It provides loan guarantees, loans and insurance to help foreign companies buy U.S. goods when commercial lending isn’t available. Conservatives have criticized the bank as a form of corporate welfare.
Boeing, which makes its 787 Dreamliner jets in North Charleston and Everett, Wash., is the 81-year-old bank’s top customer, though thousands of businesses use the bank every year.
The Senate is set to take up reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank in June, but it’s future is uncertain. Leading, but not all, South Carolina voices support its reauthorization. Among them are state and local chambers of commerce, as well as federal lawmakers U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, all Republicans.
During the 2014 fiscal year, the bank made or guaranteed 22 loans for commercial airline sales to 18 foreign countries totaling nearly $7.4 billion. That figure represents more than one-third of the $20.5 billion in financing the bank approved last fiscal year.
Critics say it’s not the government’s business to be doing such work. U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-5th District, opposes a reauthorization vote in the U.S. House, saying last week “just because the Senate votes on a piece of crap doesn’t mean we have to vote for it.”
Kasich, who spoke to members of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, said there are too many subsidies for “the Big Boys” already on the books in Washington.
“There’s a simple message here: If a bank will not loan me the money, why should the taxpayer loan me the money?,” he added. “What does that say of the prudence of the investment to begin with?”
Beyond his comments on the bank, Kasich, who served 18 years in Congress before going on to be elected Ohio’s governor, said he is still formulating his White House bid, adding that his decision hinges on both resources and mapping a path to victory.
He said he believes South Carolina, home to the nation’s first primary in the South on Feb. 20, remains fertile ground.
“I think here, it’s a matter of connecting,” he said. “I don’t think that there’s probably a lot of people that have a lot of organization in these early states,” he said.
Kasich is expected to formally announce his bid this summer.
David Wren contributed to this report. Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551