Sea Change: Citizens Beat Wall Street And Multinationals In Congress

Dave Johnson

Something unusual happened Friday. Regular Americans were able to beat Wall Street and the giant corporations in Congress, winning a battle over “fast tracking” so-called “trade” agreements. This sort of thing just doesn’t happen very often, but it has been happening more and more lately.

A sea change is taking place. What Politico described as “strong progressive winds” are blowing more and more politicians into the progressive corner. There is broad public opposition to the corrupt, corporate-dominated politics of our country, people are speaking out and making their wishes known, and that is starting to make a difference. This time The Money didn’t win.

Sea Change – Wind At Our Backs

The public is fed up with a government that pushes policies that enrich a few but don’t work for most of us. Since the “Reagan Revolution” we have been bathed in corporate/conservative “trickle down” ideological policies 24/7. They tell us that the “job creators” should get breaks and subsidies and “they” will provide “us” with jobs. This has turned out great for about 1 percent of us, but not so much for the rest. Their tax cuts for the rich and corporations combined with cuts in the things government does to make our lives better; their “free trade” policies that broke unions, closed factories, laid off millions and stopped raises; their deregulation of the giant corporations; their refusal to maintain and modernize infrastructure; their privatization of public services; their “corporations are people” nonsense enabling unlimited corporate money to corrupt our elections and our elected officials; and all the rest of their neoliberal, wealth-worshipping crap has hurt so many of us.

People are finally seeing through the smokescreen of “market solution” propaganda and are starting to demand elected officials instead start being on their side. People who analyze and write these things are seeing this uprising developing and crystallizing around the fight to block the fast-tracking of TPP. A few examples:

In a Monday column (that links to a post I wrote) Paul Krugman writes that Democrats believe “… the political wind is at their backs.” “The Democratic Party is becoming more assertive about its traditional values.” … “Democrats are adopting ideas that work and rejecting ideas that don’t, whereas Republicans are doing the opposite.” … “[S]omething important is happening, and in the long run it will matter a great deal.”

Earlier Krugman tied this sea change to “trade” in particular, in “Decline and Fall of the Davos Democrats” (emphasis added):

…[T]he overall selling of TPP … has been all lectures from Those Who Know How the Global Economy Works — the kind of people who go to Davos and participate in earnest panels on the skills gap and the case for putting Alan Simpson in charge of everything — to the ignorant hippies who don’t. You know, ignorant hippies like Joseph Stiglitz and Elizabeth Warren.

This kind of thing worked in the 1990s, when Davos Man actually did seem to know how the world works. But now Davos Democrats are known as the people who told us to trust unregulated finance and fear invisible bond vigilantes. They just don’t have the credibility to pull off arguments from authority any more. And it doesn’t say much for their perspicacity that they apparently had no idea that the world has changed.

TPP’s Democratic supporters thought they could dictate to their party like it’s 1999. They can’t.

Friday’s defeat (for now) of fast track showed how the public is starting to hold politicians’ feet to the fire, demanding that they work for We the People. John Nichols at The Nation, in “The TPP Fast-Track Vote Wasn’t About Obama, It Was About Failed Trade Policies“:

America is moving beyond the point where a politics of partisanship or personality is sufficient to secure support for “free trade” policies that have not worked and that will not work.

The free-trade model that has been promoted for decades by Democratic and Republican presidents, along with Wall Street interests and multinational corporations, has failed American workers and communities—and millions of Americans who were part of the president’s winning coalitions in 2008 and in 2012 recognize this.

David Dayen at Salon, in “The Democrats’ TPP rebellion just drew blood: Everything you need to know about today’s shocking vote“:

Trent Lott used to say that you can’t pass trade deals in even-numbered years, when the public actually might be paying attention. That’s what is likely to happen with more delays. So the clock is the ally of those who oppose the trade deals, and the more they draw it out, the more difficult the climb becomes.

Lori Wallach, in “Fast Track Down“:

Friday’s outcome was a testament to the strength and diversity of the remarkable coalition of thousands of organizations that overcame a money-soaked lobbying campaign by multinational corporations and intense arm-twisting by the GOP House leadership and the Obama administration. The movement now demanding a new American trade policy is larger and more diverse than in any preceding trade policy fight. It includes everyone from small business leaders and labor unions to Internet freedom advocates and faith groups to family farmers and environmentalists to consumer advocates and LGBT groups to retirees and civil rights groups to law professors and economists.

“Trade” Deals That Are About Wall Street Overcoming Democracy

The Wall Street/multinational corporation “trade” deals are about getting around democracy so they can lower the wages they have to pay, not pay for environmental protection and get government out of the way of their profits with their meddlesome regulations that protect health and safety and citizens.

Fast-tracking these agreements is a way around democracy to get the Wall Street/multinational corporation “trade” deals enacted.

This pesky “democracy” problem – “government interference” getting in the way of profits – was the reason corporations put together our rigged trade processes in the first place. If open, transparent debate in Congress won’t give you what you want, then slip it into secret, corporate-negotiated “trade” agreements and use a rigged “fast track” process to tie Congress’s hands and keep our representatives from being able to “meddle” with the result. (“You can’t get a trade deal done if Congress can change it.”)

But past “trade” deals have made things so bad now for so many Americans … all people have to do is look around to understand that these “trade” policies – written of, by and for the giant multinational corporations – haven’t worked for most of us. So-called “free trade” has closed so many factories, cost so many jobs and devastated entire regions of the country. Just drive around the Rust Belt and look at how many towns have an old fenced-off, broken-window, closed factory surrounded by a decrepit downtown and boarded-up houses where the factory’s workers used to live.

Then visit an area where the executives and investors live. Look at the giant estates they purchase with the wages that used to go to the factory workers and the stores where they shopped…

It’s so visible now that people can see it right through the 24/7 smokescreen of propaganda on the one hand and media blackouts of real information on the other.

Let’s Try A Different Way

We have turned a corner. We stopped fast track (for now). Now that people are catching on, Wall Street and the CEOs will have to find another way around democracy to fast-track agreements that let them ship factories and jobs out of the country, weakening our economy and democracy. (P.S.: Take a look at the Populist Majority website tracking public opinion.)

Maybe, just maybe, we can trigger a new kind of debate, in which We the People participate and “stakeholders” like labor representatives and environmentalists and consumer groups and democracy groups and LGBT groups and health groups and food safety groups and faith groups and all the rest of us join the business groups in seats around the negotiating table to come up with a new economic agenda that works for all of us, not just for a few.

This fast-track battle has been won but the bigger TPP/”trade”/trickle down Wall Street/”job creator”-vs-the-rest-of-us fight is just beginning. Don’t stop the pressure, the calls, the visits to representative’s offices, telling people about it and everything else you have been doing. It’s working and we can turn this back. We can demand a real debate over how our country should do business.

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