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Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I wish to make a few comments about free markets, free enterprise, and the role of government, particularly as it relates to the Export-Import Bank.

When people ask me if I am pro-business or pro-labor, I say I am neither. I am pro-freedom. Freedom is the only political principle that cannot be bent to serve special interests. Remember how 7-Up used to call itself the un-cola? Well, freedom is the un-special interest.

Freedom, protected by the Constitution and the rule of law, works for everyone. It allows everyone--left or right, young or old, rich or poor--to make their own choices according to their own values.

Government's job shouldn't be to tilt the field for one team or another but to guarantee a level playing field for everyone. That is why I am against forcing workers to join unions. I am against congressional earmarks for favored groups, government bailouts for Wall Street, and energy subsidies, both for oil companies and for green energy companies.

Let's look at recent events surrounding the Boeing Company, one of South Carolina's most important employers. As a South Carolinian, as an American, and as a guy who likes cool airplanes, I love Boeing. When Boeing's home State labor union ganged up with President Barack Obama's National Labor Relations Board to try to sue Boeing for building a new factory in north Charleston, I strongly supported Boeing's freedom to build factories wherever they please. More recently, dust has been kicked up over the extension of the Export-Import Bank, a Federal program that subsidizes American businesses' exports. Because Boeing receives export-import subsidies and because I favor winding down the Ex-Im Bank instead of increasing its budget, some asked if I went from being pro-Boeing to anti-Boeing. Neither. I am just being pro-freedom.

In both cases, my guiding principle is the same: liberty. Freedom isn't perfect, but it is fair. And any time government hands out favors, they are being unfair to someone. When Washington picks winners and losers, in the end taxpayers always lose, and the Ex-Im Bank is no exception. The Ex-Im Bank started out decades ago with a lending cap of $5 million to help American companies sell into a global economy that barely existed. Today, the cap has ballooned to $100 billion in a booming global economy. And what have the American people gotten for their money? They have gotten $10 million in loans benefiting the now bankrupt Solyndra, millions of dollars in loans to another solar company to sell solar panels to itself in another country, and $600 million in loans to Enron projects before Ken Lay went to prison--all this after Ex-Im has already sought its own $3 billion taxpayer bailout.

This isn't a criticism of an agency or an administration but of government subsidies in the first place. When government stays out of markets, businesses focus on their customers; quality improves, prices fall, and everyone wins. When government steps in, businesses turn their attention from their customers to their Congressmen and hire influence peddlers instead of innovators. Competition sags, the pace of innovation slows, prices rise, and product quality suffers.

Defenders say the Ex-Im Bank is needed because Europe subsidizes their exports, but Europe says the same about our Export-Import Bank. We are in a bidding war with other countries for the biggest subsidies. Still, exporters say the cost of doing business in America is too high to compete. I agree. We have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, so let's cut taxes. Let's reform our insane $1.75 trillion per year regulatory state. Let's reform education and liberate our children from failing schools and create a better prepared workforce for the future. Let's repeal the government takeover of health care and put an end to predatory lawsuits filed against innocent businesses. In short, let's fix the rules of our game to make all of our exports competitive rather than rigging them for one company or product at a time.

Our policies should make the United States the best place in the world to buy, sell, farm, manufacture, patent, invent, invest, innovate, and educate--for everyone in every industry.

Look at what today's ad hoc economic policymaking has done to America--where a collection of narrow special interests vies for the favoritism of discredited politicians while we mount unsustainable debt onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. That is what I am against. What I am for is a level playing field, a set of clear rules that guarantee the freedom of entrepreneurs to make and sell what they want, and the freedom of customers to buy what they want.

I am not for big business or big labor. I am for big freedom for everyone.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.


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