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Roy Blunt often goes along to get along when it comes to lots of the crazy shenanigans that have characterized the Grand Old Party in recent years. Nevertheless, when he can do so without exciting the pitchfork brigade, he occasionally exhibits a functioning intellect. Blunt never forgets whose ax he’s in the Senate to grind and it has nothing to do with Tea Party bromides and libertarian fantasies. No, our boy is in Washington to do the best that he can for Montsanto, AT&T, Big Oil, King Coal, etc. Nevertheless, he’s not above making use of his colleagues’ ideological excesses when the occasion presents itself, as now seems to be the case with the silly conservative controversy over reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.

The Export-Import Bank. I know, very dry stuff. Nevertheless, Paul Waldman of the Washington Post describes the current conservative furor over the extension of its charter as “the heart of the battle to define conservatism, probably the defining ideological struggle of our time.” He summarizes the issues:

Almost out of nowhere, conservatives are suddenly campaigning against the Ex-Im Bank, which has to be reauthorized or its charter will expire in the fall and it will go out of business. If you want to get up to speed, here’s an explainer on the bank, but the quickie version is that the bank arranges loans to support U.S. exports, often by helping foreign companies buy U.S. goods. It doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything (the bank operates at a profit), but its critics say that it favors companies with political power.

Whether the Ex-Im Bank is good for the economy is a complicated question. But the bank’s effect on the economy isn’t what people are arguing about. Tea partyish conservatives have an ideological objection to the bank, not a practical one. They say it’s “crony capitalism,” so they want to kill it. While liberals have made similar arguments, today the White House wants it reauthorized, as do many congressional Democrats. The Republican leadership is caught in the middle, between its loyalty to business interests, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, which want to see the bank reauthorized, and tea partyers who have discovered in this issue a way to prove their independence from big business and their devotion to pure free markets. …

So the Export-Import Bank helps businesses and is basically harmless otherwise, costing taxpayers nothing. Why are folks who routinely defend oil company, agricultural and defense industry subsidies so worked up? As Waldman posits, the Tea Partiers:

… like to think of themselves as rebels fighting against the go-along-get-along culture of Washington, so an issue like this is a perfect way for them to show their independence and ideological purity. By opposing crony capitalism, they can say their commitment to free markets is so fervent that they don’t mind bucking big business, which tends to prefer markets whose rules are written to benefit them rather than markets that are truly free. And that most of them probably never heard of the Ex-Im Bank until a month ago makes it easier to oppose.  

Since it’s a relatively insignificant agency, Waldman notes, they can act like free-market heroes without stepping on any really big corporate toes.

So where does Roy Blunt get into the picture? Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin opened a door that is very near and dear to our Roy, one that leads to the wish-lists of Missouri coal giant, Peabody Energy:

The Hill reported on Saturday that a proposal from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would reauthorize the bank while reversing bank policies that prevent it from financing power plants that don’t adopt greener technologies.

The federally-run bank, which finances and guarantees some exports of U.S. goods, adopted the policies last year as part of President Barack Obama’s larger efforts to address climate change, The Hill reported.

The irony of it all. Some fools run around making noises abut “crony-capitalism,” which noises are then exploited by coal-compromised politicians like Manchin and corporatist bagmen like Blunt to do the capitalist cronies a great big solid.

And what about the fact that undoing the Export-Import Bank provisions will contribute to more carbon emissions from overseas sources? The ironies only compound. Blunt is on the record with the view that we have to be careful about enacting energy policies that could “drive jobs overseas to countries where they don’t care as much about what comes out of their smokestacks as we do.”  In fact, it’s the growing foreign, specifically Chinese and Indian carbon emission problem that folks like Blunt usually agonize about when asked why they can’t support carbon restrictions here – it just isn’t fair for the U.S. to take the big economic hit all by its lonesome they say, anyway our unilateral efforts “do little to address the global problem of carbon pollution” – even though we’re one of the biggest polluters.  Of course when a big time local campaign contributor wants to take their dirty fuel overseas unhindered, the same folks are Roy Blunt seems eager to help.