The "fast track" trade promotion authority vote in the House of Representatives could come this Thursday. If it passes, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is pretty much a done deal, even though it is still secret from the public.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has so far chosen to remain silent on fast track, refusing to take a position. This is her last chance.
Clinton Silent On Fast Track
Clinton's campaign has said the candidate is on a "listening tour" and will outline her positions and proposals in due time. Her campaign website so far does not even have an issues page.
Clinton has stated some great positions on immigration, voting rights and the "Fight for $15" minimum-wage battle. And she is showing a commitment to diversity, addressing the concerns of Latino groups, African-American groups, and others.
Clinton is scheduled to have her first real campaign rally on Saturday, June 13, and we can probably expect a more-detailed outline of positions and policies at that time.
One problem: the vote on Fast Track TPA could come on Thursday, two days before the rally. If the vote happens Thursday and fast track passes is essentially preapproves TPP. This vote is the whole ballgame. It won't matter what Clinton might say later about TPP, because Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations will do what it takes to make sure it will pass the Republican House and Senate. President Obama will sign it. And Bob's your uncle.
Clinton has so far executed an artful dodge on fast track, saying she is waiting to see what is in TPP before she makes up her mind. The problem with this is the fast track vote, possibly Thursday, seals the deal and pretty much guarantees TPP will pass when it is done. Because fast track ties their hands, at that point there is nothing Congress can do to change the agreement, and they have to vote in a hurry under the gun of well-funded extreme corporate pressure.
A Political Calculation?
Why is Clinton silent on this most-important vote? It is probably because the Clinton people are making a political calculation, balancing the base against the donor/elite/corporate class. They don't want to split from Obama during the primaries. Mostly, they believe voters have short memories and they expect the temperature on this to go down and her silence to be forgotten and forgiven as Republicans escalate their ridiculous attacks and smears against her. Are they right? Maybe.
This may well be the right move politically. Maybe things that come along between now and the election will outweigh the feelings the base has now about this. Maybe. But maybe not.
The Washington/elite/political/conventional wisdom class has been remarkably inept at gauging what the broad public is feeling since the financial crash. By and large these elites are people in jobs with good salaries, spending time with other well-paid, college-educated professionals, consuming elite news content geared toward the affluent upper-class consumer. This is a crowd that is barely noticing the struggle people in "the heartland" are experiencing as wages fall and jobs remain scarce. (They think the unemployment rate of 5.5 percent means it's good times out there. They don't get how many have given up, are working part-time involuntarily and/or have suffered huge wage cuts.)
Meanwhile "out there" 47 percent of Americans don't have $400 to cover an emergency expense. Half of people near retirement have no savings at all. The top 1 percent have gotten almost all of the income gains since "the recovery" began. Statistic after statistic – not felt by the Washington elite making the political calculations. And people "out there" get it that this is partly, probably largely because these trade deals sent the jobs and factories out of the country so a few people could pocket the wage differential.
One Side Or The Other – Not Both
Clinton is making a political calculation, trying to stay on the fence between the donor/corporate/elite class and the "base" of working people and progressives trying to do something about the terrible inequality that is killing the middle class and our democracy. But this is an either/or line. You can't be on both sides of this dividing line. You are either for Wall Street, the giant corporations and the billionaires – or you are on the side of the rest of us.
President Obama, the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and the giant corporations sell TPP as rewriting the rules for doing business in the 21st century. And they should know, they wrote it. They kept labor, environmentalists and other stakeholders away from the process and kept it secret. But the record of these corporate-dominated "trade" deals and the parts of TPP that have leaked tell us we can be pretty sure its passage will mean very bad things for working people and our democracy.
All of labor, all who identify as "progressives," most Democrats, legal scholars, faith groups, environmental groups, human rights groups and thousands of other organizations are solidly opposed to the secrecy, to fast track and the process that is delivering this "corporate coup." The Democratic "base" is adamantly and overwhelmingly against it. (Even the Republican base is against it but they and everyone else understands that the Republican "establishment" is bought-and-paid-for by Wall Street and the big corporations.)
This is big donors vs. the base. This is Wall Street vs. working people. This is Nike vs. New Balance. (TPP would reward Nike for offshoring so many jobs, and would likely force New Balance to give up on manufacturing in the U.S.)
This is one side or the other. For example, the American Action Network just announced it is spending $1 million dollars on ads supporting fast track trade promotion authority. Who are they? They are a right-wing front group that lobbies for:
● Decreasing regulation and weakening Dodd-Frank
● Opposing increases to the minimum wage
● Repealing Obamacare
● Draconian budget cuts and economic austerity
That is the crowd that is for Fast Track and is spending $1 million putting the screws on members of Congress to vote for it. Will Clinton come out against them?
Pick a side, candidate Clinton. Don't just tell us you are on the side of working people; show us. Will "the base" remember if Clinton wouldn't come down on their side? Maybe not ... but maybe.