One area where a lot of us populist progressives agree with at least the rhetoric of the Tea Party is the issue of subsidies to big business. Case in point: the Export-Import Bank. A recent Chicago Tribune piece touched on this topic. Reporter Gregory Karp asks this critical question: “Do high-end foreign airlines get unfair advantage in U.S.?” He goes on to describe the expanding services foreign airlines such as Emirates and Qatar are offering in the US. He writes that domestic airlines “…operate at a disadvantage because some foreign airlines receive government subsidies, have lower labor costs and don’t deal with U.S. regulations, some of which hamstring the growth of domestic airlines.”
This is absolutely true and has not received enough attention in the media. The US government’s Export-Import Bank has been providing financial subsidies to foreign companies, including Emirates and Qatar, giving them a leg up on domestic companies. These foreign companies often have terrible human rights track records — yet our government is still giving them a competitive advantage.
Emirates has a long and well-documented history of anti-LGBT behavior. News accounts of the company’s policies reveal several instances in which the airline has taken action against LGBT individuals — even while trying to market itself to gay travelers. The UAE, where Emirates is based, prohibits “homosexual acts,” which can lead to up to 10 years in jail. The airline reportedly circumvented anti-LGBT discrimination laws in California and banned a book featuring a gay character during its inaugural international literature festival.
Qatar has policies in place that harshly discriminate against women. The airline forbids any member of the cabin crew, the vast majority of whom are female, from marrying during the first five years of employment. In addition, Emirates has a policy whereby female cabin crew that become pregnant in the first three years have to leave. And last year, the airline was criticized for forcing women to ask permission from the company before getting married.
Thankfully, these actions would not be tolerated by the Obama administration here in the United States; yet, amazingly, that same administration happily allows Ex-Im to benefit Emirates and Qatar. It is time to look at the competitive edge we give foreign companies and ensure that they meet the same standard we ask of our own hometown companies and citizens.