How and Why the Freedom Caucus Killed 350 American Jobs

Just twenty-two months ago, the Waukesha, Wisconsin General Electric factory was flourishing.

It was churning out gas engines on the regular and putting hundreds of American machinists to work.

In fact, the factory was doing do so well that President Obama came to town to praise it as an example of how American manufacturing was finally bouncing back after the Great Recession.

But then in September of this year, GE suddenly announced that it was closing the Waukesha facility and moving its 350 jobs across the border to Canada.

That’s right, Canada!

Which raises the question: Why would a proud American company like GE move one of its most famous factories, one that the President publicly praised, to, you know, Canada?

The answer to that question is actually pretty easy.

GE moved its factory Canada because Republicans killed the Export-Import bank.

Formed in 1934 to help finance and subsidize American trade abroad, the Export-Import bank was, for most of its history, pretty uncontroversial.

And for good reason too.

Since it gave money to foreign companies to help them buy American products, the Bank helped support hundreds of thousands of good American jobs.

And since the money that it gave out came in the form of loans, so those countries had to pay us interest to buy our manufactured goods, it also made a $1 billion profit for Treasury Department.

So, help make American companies more competitive abroad, support jobs at home, and make money for the government - sounds like a win-win for everyone involved , right?

Not according to the Tea Party.

This year hard-right Tea Party members of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives successfully blocked the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, on the grounds that it was “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism.”

And so, on July 1 of this year, the 81-year-old bank’s charter expired, leaving its future in limbo.

This left the United States pretty much alone in the developed world as a country without a functioning export bank, so companies started moving their American factories to countries that do have export-import banks.

One of those companies was General Electric, which decided to move that Waukesha, Wisconsin factory to Canada because Canada, like most developed countries, has an Export-Import Bank-like institution.

If this whole saga were a murder mystery, the Tea Party or House Freedom Caucus would be the guilty villain.

It let the Export-Import Bank expire, and, in doing so, killed the Waukesha, Wisconsin GE factory and its 350 jobs.

But like all good murder mysteries, the story of who killed the Waukesha, Wisconsin GE factory has a twist.

And that twist is the fact is the fact that the Tea Party and House Freedom Caucus were apparently acting as hit men for a much bigger interested party: the Koch brothers.

How do we know this?

Well, for one, we now know, thanks to Politico, that the House Freedom Caucus is pretty much wholly owned by the Kochs.

The two leading donors to the so-called Freedom Caucus are Koch Industries itself and the Club for Growth, a major Koch-affiliated group, so anything the House Freedom Caucus does will, presumably, in some way or another, benefit the Koch brothers and their fossil fuel empire.

So that’s the Koch connection, but what’s the motive?

Why did the Kochs apparently order the House Freedom Caucus to kill the Export-Import Bank?

Could it be because the bank cuts into the domestic fossil fuel industry's - which presumably includes Koch Industries - bottom line?

As The New York Times reported over the weekend, two scholars from the Koch-backed Mercatus Center recently put out a study that looked at the largest buyers of exports supported by Export-Import Bank financing and found that the top 10 were all either foreign oil companies or airlines. The [Koch-funded] authors singled out the subsidies to foreign oil companies: “The federal government,” the report said, “doubly disadvantages U.S. energy firms — through Washington’s excessive regulation and Ex-Im Bank subsidies to U.S. firms’ foreign competitors.”

In other words, the Export-Import bank makes rival fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP more profitable than Koch Industries.

So there you have it, Sherlock.

It looks like the Kochs had the House Freedom Caucus take out the Export-Import Bank to slightly increase the profitability or competitiveness of their own fossil fuel empire, American jobs be damned.

Another neat little trick courtesy of the Koch-Freedom Caucus is shutting down the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports parks, beaches, bike paths, playgrounds, and all sorts of other public areas. It turns out that the Land and Water Conservation fund - as Timothy Egan points out in the New York Times - is funded by a very tiny tax on oil pumped out of the ground from public lands. It's how domestic oil companies pay us all for their ability to extract oil from public lands we all own.
And, surprise, Republican congressman Rob Bishop - who has the oil and gas industry as his largest contributor according to Open Secrets - has pretty much singlehandedly killed the fund. No more tiny tax on fossil fuel dynasties in America.

If you want to know what the Koch-Freedom Caucus cartel is up to next, just ask what would be of greatest benefit to the Koch Brothers and their company. And, if the reporting in the New York Times and other outlets is true, just for clarity, shouldn't we be calling it the "Koch Caucus"? Or at least, the “Koch's Freedom Caucus”?

It's high time to bring some sunlight to the activities of those Republicans in congress who are largely owned by, and serving on a daily basis, billionaires and their businesses, instead of average working Americans.


Darryl B's picture
Darryl B 7 years 32 weeks ago

This may not be the proper place to comment. I have been on FB and i am very upset about the moderators comments. I feel that Bernie Sanders is losing support because of the moderators comments. If i see more comments attacked i will lose support for for Sanders who i have been listening to on your show for years. I wanted to show one of the moderators comments to something and everything has been deleted now. Bernie Sanders needs to stop the censorsoring of his supporters. Freedom of speech should be allowed. I agree that comments should be encouraged to be civil but not attacked or censored.

Johnnie Dorman's picture
Johnnie Dorman 7 years 32 weeks ago

There's no other way to say it. Those in our country like the Koch brothers and the Tea Party Republicans are the number one enemies of the U.S. citizenry.

cccccttttt 7 years 32 weeks ago

Excellent detective work by Tom.

"Follow the money to find the motive".

However, this tale will be often repeated as

US congressional rules allow a well funded

minority to have their way or shut the place down.

The parlimentary democracies of Europe, Japan, and Israel

appear to govern for the majoriity despite the tactics of

many such groups.


w1ders's picture
w1ders 7 years 32 weeks ago

Let us have that political revolution Senator Sanders speaks of. Bernie 2016!

fbacher's picture
fbacher 7 years 32 weeks ago

The meme "there's no such thing as a free lunch" is very strong, as is the "magic of the free market." But these are contradictory. People can't "create wealth" if you "can't have a free lunch."

These memes underly much conservative thinking.

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From Unequal Protection, 2nd Edition:
"Beneath the success and rise of American enterprise is an untold history that is antithetical to every value Americans hold dear. This is a seminal work, a godsend really, a clear message to every citizen about the need to reform our country, laws, and companies."
Paul Hawken, coauthor of Natural Capitalism and author of The Ecology of Commerce
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Thom Hartmann is a literary descendent of Ben Franklin and Tom Paine. His unflinching observations and deep passion inspire us to explore contemporary culture, politics, and economics; challenge us to face the facts of the societies we are creating; and empower us to demand a better world for our children and grandchildren."
John Perkins, author of the New York Times bestselling book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Through compelling personal stories, Hartmann presents a dramatic and deeply disturbing picture of humans as a profoundly troubled species. Hope lies in his inspiring vision of our enormous unrealized potential and his description of the path to its realization."
David Korten, author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning, and When Corporations Rule the World