The Import-Export bank, a government-run financial entity that provides low-interest loans to foreign groups seeking to import goods from US companies, has become a bogeyman of the conservative right.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a darling of grass-roots Tea Party conservatives, takes to the pages of USA Today to lay out the case against an 80-year-old institution few Americans know much about.
He argues the bank is a “corporate welfare fund” and a sop to foreign corporations and governments, many of whom are hostile to US interests.
“Americans shouldn’t be forced to finance those who are actively working against them, as a basic matter of prudence,” he writes. “The Export-Import Bank operates outside of common sense.”
He goes on to contend that the bank is rife with fraud and is needlessly exposed to risk in a few key industries, such as aviation.
Congress is currently considering whether to reauthorise the bank. Mr Cruz lays down a challenge to his fellow conservatives:
“The debate over keeping it open will be a telling one.
“Those siding with foreign corporations, lobbyists and crony politicians will be on one side. Those fighting for the values and interests of American workers will be on the other.”
On the left, the bank isn’t being given much of a defence. Its most ardent supporters, it seems, are the export-focused business interests that benefit from the loan subsidies.
As this map shows, its benefits are primarily limited to a few states – Washington (home of airline manufacturer Boeing and by far the largest beneficiary), tech industry giant California and, interestingly enough, Mr Cruz’s Texas.
A flashpoint for a US-Russia war? – The US is supporting a Ukrainian government siege of Donbass that is escalating the crisis in the eastern portion of the country, according to the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stephen F Cohen. The end result could be a full-scale conflict with Russia.
The US is considering supplying the Ukrainian military with information about the position of rebel military equipment. In effect, Heuvel and Cohen write, Ukraine has become a US military proxy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will never let Donbass fall to the Ukrainians and, by implication, to US influence, they write. If need be, the Russians will respond with a full-scale military intervention.
“If the hawks on both sides prevail, it might well mean full-scale war,” they write. The solution, they say, is an immediate cease-fire and a robust debate in the West about dangers of continued meddling.
A leader exceeding his authority? – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Administration is undermining the country’s laws, which is contributing to the “deterioration of Japan as a nation,” according to Hosei University Prof Jiro Yamaguchi in Japan Times.
Yamaguchi’s ire is directed at Mr Abe’s cabinet-level decision to alter restrictions on the nation’s Self-Defence Forces.
“If the content of norms and rules of a nation can be freely changed by those who interpret them, the nation is no longer under the rule of law; it’s under the rule of man,” he warns.
The Abe administration is acting unilaterally because it cannot get its way through the legislature, Yamaguchi writes. Because they cannot win the game, he concludes, they are changing the rules – no matter the cost.
US and UK supporting continued oppression – The Colombian government says that peace talks with the rebel group Farc are promising, but the citizens say the violence and repression continue, according to the Guardian’s Seumas Milne.
“It’s the Colombian state and military, responsible for decades of dirty war and the worst human rights record in the hemisphere, that the US and British governments stand behind,” writes Milne.
Despite continued oppression and an intolerable human rights record, the US and UK governments support Colombian actions because the country is rich with resources, says Milne.
Change in Colombia “demands support for those genuinely trying to make it happen – and for the global powers that preach human rights to end their backing of repression and terror on an industrial scale”, concludes Milne.
More than lemurs at risk – Globalisation and Mother Nature are impeding the future of Madagascar, according to the New York Times’ Thomas L Friedman.
Chinese businessmen are conspiring with corrupt officials to plunder the Madagascar economy, he writes. Meanwhile, the population of the island is growing, and natural resources are running out.
The country’s new, democratically elected president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, is Madagascar’s best chance for positive change, he says. The path to prosperity lies in preserving ecosystems and attracting tourism.
“But that requires good leadership, and good leaders today – anywhere – are the rarest species of all,” he concludes.
BBC Monitoring’s quotes of the day
Arab commentators offer their views on the situation in Libya, where rival militias are tearing the country apart while an apparently helpless government looks on.
“Libya is breathing with a punctured lung having been infiltrated by militias that choked the country with smoke from the heavy use of cannons and bullets, and caused the death of many and the injury of dozens, prompting many Libyans to flee to neighbouring countries.” – Editorial in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Watan.
“There are two options for the militias: the first one is to lay down their weapons and engage in negotiations with each other before it is too late. The opportunity is now ripe for these militias and armed factions, and they have to exploit it and save their country. The second option is to confront the international community.” – Editorial in Saudi-owned Al-Sharq al-Awsat.