Today, the House of Representatives will consider the Electrify Africa Act (HR 2548). This bill creates "...a comprehensive United States Government policy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa to develop an appropriate mix of power solutions for more broadly distributed electricity access..." In other words, it forces the American people to pay (either directly through income taxes or indirectly via the inflation tax) for electricity projects in Africa.
In addition to being unconstitutional, programs created by this bill are little more than a form of corporate welfare. Many of the "development" projects financed by these programs are run by politically-connected US businesses who profit from these taxpayer-financed "investments" in "developing" countries.
HR 2548 ensures that US businesses will profit from "electrifying" Africa by giving a large role to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). OPIC is a US agency that provides insurance and other support to businesses investing in "developing" countries. OPIC thus distorts the marketplace by using taxpayer dollars to underwrite projects that could not get financing in the free-market. In addition, since OPIC provides "political risk insurance" to business, OPIC may remove incentives for some foreign governments to adopt beneficial political and free-market reforms in order to attract foreign capital.
Among the vital "development" projects financed by OPIC are the Istanbul Ritz-Carlton, and Citibank branches in Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan. OPIC is thus the type of program that the "Tea Party" Congress should be looking to eliminate not expand. But the Congressional leadership is not only not eliminating, or even reducing OPIC, they are using this bill as a vehicle to prevent a full Congressional debate on OPIC reauthorization.
Snuck into the end of this bill is 14 words reauthorizing OPIC until 2017. In order to make sure there is no real debate on OPIC or any other issue concerning this bill, it is coming up under "suspension of the rules," a procedure usually used for non-controversial bills. Under suspension of rules there are only forty minutes of debate, and no amendments are allowed. However, bills brought up under suspension require a two-third majority to pass. I am hearing that there is a growing rebellion on the Hill against this attempt to sneak OPIC reauthorized into law.
Campaign for Liberty members opposed to OPIC, and foreign aid in general, may want to call their representatives and ask that they oppose HR 2548.
Tim Carney has more information on this here.
Tags: Congress, Foreign Aid