NBC's Mitchell Bashes GOP 'Idiots' Opposing Government Bank That Subsidized Drug Cartels, Solyndra

On her eponymous MSNBC program on Wednesday, host Andrea Mitchell slammed congressional Republicans for voting down reauthorization and funding of the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank: "If I'm sitting out there and watching this program, I would, you know, likely say right now these people in Congress are idiots." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Mitchell interviewed the bank's director, Fred Hochberg, and lobbed softballs: "What happens in the real world with an agency that is supposed to create jobs is going to have to lay people off if you don't get reauthorized?" What she failed to ask Hochberg about was the bank providing loans to companies fronting for Mexican drug cartels or to European companies hoping to buy solar panels from bankrupt solar energy company Solyndra.

The mission of the Ex-Im Bank is essentially to provide subsidies to foreign companies in order to encourage them to buy American goods. However, over recent years, the taxpayer-funded government agency has made some highly dubious loans.   

According to a 2007 report from WFAA Channel 8 in the Dallas/Forth Worth area (h/t to Tim Carney of The Examiner), the Ex-Im Bank made $234 million worth of loans to Mexican small businesses between 2002 and 2005 that were actually phony companies setup by violent drug cartels.

In June of 2011, mere months before filing for bankruptcy, Solyndra announced the completion of a solar panel project in Europe that was only made possible by the Ex-Im Bank providing a $10.3 million loan to the European company that purchased the panels. That taxpayer-backed loan was in addition to the 500 million taxpayer dollars that were given to the now-defunct solar company by the Obama administration.  

In an instance that seems to directly contradict the bank's claim of being a job-creator, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal detailed how its providing subsidies to foreign companies has damaged American businesses (via HeritageAction.com):

But this [export] subsidy means that foreign airlines can then buy newer aircraft more cheaply than their U.S. competitors. This gives them an advantage in the global air transportation market. In a letter to Congress last month, Delta estimated that ExIm cost the U.S. airline industry up to 7,500 jobs and $684 million a year.

On Wednesday, Mitchell denounced Senate Republicans for playing politics on the issue: "As best we can understand, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell himself explained his opposition is rooted in politics, the fact that this reauthorization for the Ex-Im Bank was attached to the jobs bill."

She whined to Hochberg:

You had Republican support, you had Democratic support. Yet, because of the convoluted politics of now, and it was attached to the jobs bill and this involved what was happening on the House side, basically you lost this vote and to the surprise of – of Senate Democrats, it went down. Even though the Senate Republicans really supported it, they switched their votes, voted against it. That's a mess.

A simple Google search could have provided Mitchell with plenty of reasons behind conservative opposition to the controversial government agency.

Mitchell concluded the segment with these fawning words of encouragement to Hochberg: "You're going to stay on this, I mean, it's why people hate Washington. I don't want to just say that too loudly, but people do hate Washington. Not you, not what you're trying to do and all of your great colleagues there at the Ex-Im Bank."


Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's March 21 interview with Hochberg:

1:48PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: For the first time since it was created back in 1934, 78 years ago, the nation's Export-Import Bank is at risk of losing its funding. That means, if not fixed, it will have to cancel contracts, future contracts, and in effect, start shutting down in a matter of weeks. The bank claims it is a jobs creator, floating loans for companies that do business with the United States. As best we can understand, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell himself explained his opposition is rooted in politics, the fact that this reauthorization for the Ex-Im Bank was attached to the jobs bill.

Fred Hochberg is director of the Export-Import Bank. You had Republican support, you had Democratic support. Yet, because of the convoluted politics of now, and it was attached to the jobs bill and this involved what was happening on the House side, basically you lost this vote and to the surprise of – of Senate Democrats, it went down. Even though the Senate Republicans really supported it, they switched their votes, voted against it. That's a mess. But what happens? What happens in the real world with an agency that is supposed to create jobs is going to have to lay people off if you don't get reauthorized?

FRED HOCHBERG: Well, Andrea, we have an agency since 1934 that creates jobs, pays for itself, and generates profits for the U.S. taxpayer. That's why it deserves U.S. – that's why it deserves bipartisan support. Creating jobs, not only at no cost, makes money, and is totally independent. There's no subsidy, fully paid for by the customers who use the bank.

MITCHELL: At the same time, because it is an export-import bank and there are some people, some Tea Party supporters and others, who think it's a bad deal because it's dealing with foreign companies. You are helping foreign companies do business with the United States.
        
HOCHBERG: We're helping foreign companies buy U.S. goods because I would prefer them to buy U.S. goods and create jobs in America than to buy Chinese goods or Korean or Japanese or German goods. We're in the most competitive marketplace we've ever been in, and the fact remains there are 80 export credit agencies around the world supporting their companies as they compete with U.S. companies. We can't unilaterally disarm and not help U.S. companies complete in the global market.

MITCHELL: But just to play Devil's advocate here, if we're really going to be competitive in the outside world, why don't we create the best stuff so that everyone wants to buy our stuff, our apples, our whatever, and therefore, we don't need the help of the Export-Import Bank.

HOCHBERG: Well, we have the best stuff, I agree with you entirely. But, if somebody down the road is offering 0% financing, or cut-rate financing, and we have no financing, you tell me where you're going to buy those goods and services. So, what we do at the Export-Import Bank is to level the playing field, let's take financing out of the picture. So we provide the same financing to our exporters that foreign governments do, so that the customer can decide which is the best product.

MITCHELL: If I'm sitting out there and watching this program, I would, you know, likely say right now these people in Congress are idiots. Now, you can't say that because you need to testify in front of them, but they're idiots. Republicans support this. Democrats support it. Yet it goes down because of what it was attached to? I mean, how do we explain this in the real world?

HOCHBERG: I mean, Andrea, we almost shut down the government three times last year, twice about the budget, once about the debt ceiling. You know, we had to raise the debt ceiling. We need to pass a budget, so we're in a very contentious time.

MITCHELL: You're going to stay on this, I mean, it's why people hate Washington. I don't want to just say that too loudly, but people do hate Washington. Not you, not what you're trying to do and all of your great colleagues there at the Ex-Im Bank. Thank you, Fred.

HOCHBERG: Thanks for having me on the show.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC