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Rick Perry: Killing the Export-Import Bank will help Republicans cut taxes on corporations

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In June 2014, then–Texas Governor Rick Perry wrote congressional Republicans begging them to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. "Every major economy in the world utilizes such an institution," Perry wrote. "Failure to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank would mean companies from other countries would likely get business that would otherwise have gone to American firms."

Supporters of the Export-Import Bank won the first round: in September, Republicans agreed to extend the bank's charter until June. But that means another fight over the Export-Import Bank is coming — and this time, Perry will be on the other side.

Perry isn't governor of Texas anymore. He's now running for president in 2016, and if he's going to win the Republican primary he needs to win over conservatives. Increasingly, conservatives don't like the Export-Import Bank — and now, neither does Perry.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Perry explains his change of heart. He credits the bank with helping 1,200 Texas companies finance more than $24 billion in exports, but says he's grown concerned over corruption in the institution, and is convinced that Republicans "won't have the moral credibility to reduce corporate taxes if we continue to subsidize corporate exports for corporations that already enjoy low effective tax rates, like General Electric and Boeing."

This is an innovative argument against the Export-Import Bank: the reason to kill it isn't so much that the Export-Import Bank does bad work, but that, in some indirect way, its elimination would help Republicans make the argument for lower taxes on corporations. And Republicans care a lot more about lowering taxes than about subsidizing exports.

There's a deeper bit of signaling here worth keeping an eye on, too. The Export-Import Bank has become a particular issue for so-called "reform conservatives," a group of influential conservative policy reformers whom Perry hasn't been particularly associated with. But he recently hired Avik Roy, one of the better known members of the reformicon set, and with this high profile flip-flop on the Export-Import Bank, it looks like Perry is going to make a real play for this faction of the Republican Party.

Perry won't be alone in opposing the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. One of his fellow 2016 hopefuls, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, opposes it, too. The Chamber of Commerce, a major support of the bank, is worried enough about Republicans turning on the institution enough that they're launching a major ad campaign in support of the bank.

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