Turnips for the TransPacific Partnership

I’m suffering from cognitive dissonance again. I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising. I’m working on my dissertation, using a critical theory methodology, which involves—oh, this is a surprise—pretty intensive critical thinking. And I’m surprised at what politicians will try to get away with.

So which side of the turnip truck did I fall off of this time? And, really? My friends know me to be fairly cynical.

It’s just I expect some plausibility in what people say, even if they’re wrong, even if they’re misinformed, even if they’re deceptive, even if they’re out and out lying. And of course, this is a problem. I expect to be treated like an intelligent human being.

I guess the process of getting a Ph.D. is going to my head. I must be being insufferably arrogant to imagine that politicians should at least refrain from treating their constituents like absolute idiots.

On the other hand, when one considers said constituents, I suppose that just shows how delusional I am.

At issue is President Barack Obama’s campaign to obtain ‘fast track’ trade authority to submit the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) treaty for a simple up-or-down vote, with no Congressional amendments allowed. He’s running into some difficulty:

“This White House has failed to convince a single Democrat leader in Congress to stand with the president on trade,” [House Speaker John] Boehner [a Republican] spokesman Cory Fritz said. “If [presumptive Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary Clinton can do a better job of helping get Democrats to join with Republicans to pass pro-growth trade agreements, the president ought to get her on the phone right now.”[1]

It seems there’s enough opposition on both left and right that the corporate lackeys in Congress might not have the votes to get this through.[2]

Mr. Obama insisted that “this is the most progressive trade deal in history” and he scorned critics who have said it would undermine American laws and regulations on food safety, worker rights and even financial regulations, an implicit pushback against Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, although he did not cite her by name.

“They’re making this stuff up,” he said. “This is just not true. No trade agreement’s going to force us to change our laws.”[3]

The trouble with Obama accusing his opponents of unfounded speculation is that he won’t make the deal public. Which is to say, he won’t point to just how “American laws and regulations on food safety, worker rights and even financial regulations[4] will be protected.

We’ve been hearing for a while now, based on leaked drafts,[5] that TPP will allow

individual corporations to directly sue governments—not in our courts, but in extrajudicial tribunals where three corporate attorneys act as “judges,” and these guys rotate between being the judge and being the guys suing the government for the corporation. They’re empowered to give unlimited cash damages from us, the taxpayers, to these corporations for any government action—a regulatory issue, environment, health, safety—that undermines the investor’s expected future profits.[6]

But Obama won’t answer this substantively. And he expects us to trust him. According to his spokesman, Josh Earnest, he has “scratched and clawed to protect the interests of middle-class families all across the country.”[7] Never mind that the credibility of so-called “free trade” (“free” for whom?) agreements in protecting U.S. jobs is near zero.[8] We’re just supposed to trust him.

So where’s that turnip truck? I think I need to climb back on.

  1. [1]Vicki Needham and Jordan Fabian, “WH takes on Reid over trade,” Hill, May 5, 2015, http://thehill.com/policy/finance/241097-white-house-takes-on-reid-over-trade
  2. [2]Vicki Needham, “Whip List: Dems bucking Obama on trade,” Hill, May 5, 2015, http://thehill.com/policy/finance/trade/241114-whip-list-dems-bucking-obama-on-trade
  3. [3]Peter Baker, “Obama Accuses Democrats of Distorting Facts on Trans-Pacific Trade Pact,” New York Times, May 8, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/09/business/nike-to-create-jobs-if-trans-pacific-partnership-is-approved.html
  4. [4]Peter Baker, “Obama Accuses Democrats of Distorting Facts on Trans-Pacific Trade Pact,” New York Times, May 8, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/09/business/nike-to-create-jobs-if-trans-pacific-partnership-is-approved.html
  5. [5]Zach Carter, “Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing new Corporate Powers and Broken Campaign Promises,” Huffington Post, June 13, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html
  6. [6]Lori Wallach, quoted in Democracy Now! “‘A Corporate Trojan Horse’: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws,” October 4, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/4/a_corporate_trojan_horse_obama_pushes
  7. [7]Josh Earnest, quoted in Vicki Needham and Jordan Fabian, “WH takes on Reid over trade,” Hill, May 5, 2015, http://thehill.com/policy/finance/241097-white-house-takes-on-reid-over-trade
  8. [8]Democracy Now!, “NAFTA at 20: Lori Wallach on U.S. Job Losses, Record Income Inequality, Mass Displacement in Mexico,” January 3, 2014, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/1/3/nafta_at_20_lori_wallach_on; Dave Johnson, “NAFTA At 20: 1 Million Lost Jobs, 580% Increase In Trade Deficit,” Campaign for America’s Future, December 30, 2013, http://ourfuture.org/20131230/nafta-at-20-1-million-lost-jobs-580-increase-in-trade-deficit; Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, “NAFTA at 20,” Public Citizen, January, 2014, http://www.citizen.org/documents/NAFTA-at-20.pdf; Yves Smith, “Administration Peddling Increasing Blatant Canards on Proposed ‘Trade’ Deals,” Naked Capitalism, January 6, 2014, http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/01/administration-peddling-increasing-blatant-misdirection-proposed-trade-deals.html

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