Reopen bank; keep jobs here

When the teller at your bank puts up the “next teller” sign, you, of course, move to the next window.

If all the tellers closed their windows you’d give serious consideration to moving your accounts to the next bank, which is essentially the decision some conservative Republicans in Congress have forced by refusing all summer to allow a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, the federal agency that guarantees loans for international companies purchasing American-made products.

The three-day visit this week by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Everett, including his arrival at Paine Field and a tour of Boeing’s Everett plant, provided Xi the opportunity to announce Chinese airlines would order 300 planes from Boeing. Boeing made its own announcement: It will build a finishing facility in China where 737s will be outfitted with interiors and painted with their airline livery.

The announcement was criticized by some, in particular state Reps. June Robinson, D-Everett, and Strom Peterson, D-Mukilteo, as another example of Boeing moving jobs out of Washington while taking advantage of state tax breaks. Boeing, no doubt, sees it differently, more as a way to further cement a relationship with China, a country that over the next two decades is expected to add more than 6,000 new airplanes to its airline fleets.

But the fact that Congress has put up the “next bank” sign also likely figures into the decision.

When Congress allowed the bank’s charter to expire in late June, Boeing Chairman Jim McNerney warned that Boeing could ship “key pieces” of the company overseas where it can get that financing if the U.S. bank is not reauthorized. A 737 finishing plant might not be a “key piece” in McNerney’s mind, but it represents what could be a placeholder for more pieces in the future.

Unfortunately, McNerney made more of an impression with the threat, and a negative one at that, among his employees than he likely did with Congress. More effective, we think, would be for Boeing to withhold campaign donations to certain members of Congress, as the National Association of Manufacturers has done.

To review: The Export-Import Bank has been in operation for 80 years, providing loan guarantees between American manufacturers and foreign buyers that promote U.S. exports. The bank is self-supporting and generates income for the U.S. Treasury, earning more than $3.4 billion for the government since 2005. It has assisted exports from small, medium and large businesses and promoted jobs in the U.S. In Snohomish County that means Boeing, of course, but also Outback Power Technologies in Arlington, Cobalt Enterprises in Granite Falls, Fluke Corp. in Everett, Vista Clara in Mukilteo, and Connelly Skis in Lynnwood. Between 2007 and this year, the Ex-Im Bank supported more than $130 billion in exports from 227 Washington state businesses.

Tea party conservatives have criticized reauthorization of the bank as corporate welfare, but the bank provides a service that the private sector has seemed reluctant to provide.

President Xi’s visit to Washington state and Washington, D.C., is the latest example of how intertwined the global economy has become. There will be constant economic pressure for Boeing and other companies to offer jobs in exchange for future business.

All the more reason why Congress needs to restore the advantage we had in a tool that eases the way for exports of American-made — Snohomish County-made — products, and the jobs they represent.

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