This is an urgent warning that the country’s big-corporate elite are about to try to push something called “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority through Congress, in preparation for pushing through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) corporate “investor rights” agreement. (Note that I did not write “trade agreement” because most of TPP is something else entirely.)
People need to “get it” about just how dangerous this is. Fast Track and the current TPP — as it appears to be negotiated — should be as much of an electoral test for progressives as Social Security is. We have to make Fast Track a line that cannot be crossed. This is all about democracy vs big-corporate dominance of our economy and society.
1) Fast Track is about bypassing democracy and Constitutional government so the giant multinationals can do a huge PR effort to push this TPP agreement through. Fast Track means Congress can’t make changes to the agreement and has to pass it in a rush — so democracy and our representatives can’t meddle with what the Serious People have laid out for us.
2) The agreement itself is also about getting democracy and government power out of the way of the big corporations. It actually sets (certain) corporate (“investor”) interests above the law of any country. For example, word has leaked that TPP negotiators are arguing over whether to prevent countries from running anti-smoking campaigns, because this interferes with tobacco-company profits. One side says this is going too far and they should “carve out” tobacco from the agreement, the other side says carving out tobacco sets a precedent of allowing governments to protect their citizens from other things corporations might want to profit from. This should tell you all you need to know about why Fast Track must not pass, enabling them to push TPP through with no changes.
3) Fast Track is about continuing a rigged process designed to come to certain conclusions to benefit a few people. TPP was negotiated between corporations by people in government who can leave government to receive lucrative paychecks from the corporations. An agreement negotiated without other stakeholders at the table means those stakeholders are ON the table. Labor, human rights, consumer groups, environmental groups were not at the table, only LARGE and already-dominant corporate interests. (This also means that smaller companies, potential innovators and competitors, etc. are at a disadvantage.) This is really about the elites and billionaires who own things now locking in their dominance.
4) A trade agreement doesn’t have to be bad. A real “trade’ agreement could lift the world’s economy, instead of making exploitation of labor and the environment into a competitive advantage. (“Shut up our we’ll move your job out of the country, too.”) But with all of the stakeholders at the table, we could work out a way around the low wages and lack of environmental protections in some countries. (Make it a trade violation to say “Shut up our we’ll move your job out of the country, too.” Make it a trade violation to lower costs by allowing pollution. Make it a trade violation to block union organizing or deny unemployment benefits or do other things that push wages down. Make it a trade violation to have a continuing trade surplus.)
5) Also, a good part of TPP is that it is an agreement that works out how to confront China. Unfortunately the current process appears to make this about the billionaires who are threatened by China, not about democracies getting together to overcome the way China turns a lack of worker and environmental protections into a competitive advantage.
6) Note that we don’t really know what is in TPP because it is secret. There have been leaks and things do not look good. But the fact that We the People haven’t even SEEN it should by itself mean that Fast Track must not be allowed to pass. How can we agree to “fast track” a process to pass an agreement we have not been allowed to see?
I’m going to just repeat here some charts I posted the other day in the post, Enormous, Humongous Trade Deficit And The Decline Of The Middle Class:
Here is a chart that tracks our country’s balance of trade.
Funny thing, this happens at the same time as working people stopped getting a share of the gains from growing productivity in our economy.
Finally, a chart of both the trade deficit and labor’s share of the benefits of our economy.
Now, for fun, find the same time period on this chart of Wall Street’s share of the economy, and look at what happened at the same time as the trade deficit shot up.
And for even more fun, here is a Heritage Foundation chart of the US debt. Note the dates.
Public Citizen Trade Watch recently posted Members of Congress: Fast Tracking the TPP is a Non-Starter with a video. (Also, see “Study: ‘Trade’ Deal Would Mean a Pay Cut for 90 Percent of U.S. Workers)
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has good material on this and one of the world’s leading experts Rob Scott:
paper: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Be Much Worse than the Over-Hyped Korea Deal
Blog: House Signals Opposition to Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership
Demand Progress and other organizations are driving calls to Minority Leader Pelosi this week to urge her to oppose fast track.
Credo Action petition, “Defend the Internet. Stop the TPP.”