TPP? What happened?
President Obama’s personal and post-college history enforces the belief that he has always been a champion of the poor and the middle class. He has displayed a certain pragmatic reality while in office that upset most liberal and progressive purists, evident in his immediate abandonment of single payer in the Affordable Care Act and subsequently the entire scrapping of the public option.
A president is one man that promises. The presidency itself is an amalgamation of special interest, public interest, agencies, compromises, and unspoken realities. President Obama’s leading and defending of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is proof positive of that reality.
On April 15, Elizabeth Warren came out swinging against the TPP. She had the support of the unions and Sen. Bernie Sanders, among other liberals and progressives.
“No more secret trade deals,” Warren said. “Are you ready to fight? No more secret deals. No more special deals for multinational corporations. Are you ready to fight? Are you ready to fight any more deals that say we are going to help the rich get richer and leave everyone else behind? Are you ready to fight back?”
President Obama appeared on a panel on Chris Matthew’s Hardball. When asked why there is so much push back from liberals and progressives in his party, he said they simply did not want a trade deal.
“I love Elizabeth,” President Obama said. “We are allies on a whole host of issues. But she is wrong on this.”
President Obama went on to say that when he came into office, he asked himself what kind of trade deal he would like to see that worked for Americans. He said he wanted trade deals with countries to have strong enforceable labor standards, strong environmental standards, and reciprocal access to their markets.
While that sounds great, the reality of all trade deals thus far is that they have all failed in all those respects. They have made corporations and their stockholders rich as workers got displaced and underpaid.
President Obama’s biggest support is coming from Chamber of Commerce Republicans and corporatist Democrats like ex-Congressman Harold Ford Jr. These are the same folks who have generally been critical of the president’s more middle-class policies. If they are unanimously for the deal, it generally indicates the bill is biased towards a corporate elite, the plutocracy.
Demos President Heather McGhee had the most important statement that most in the debate generally miss, stated in the video above. Those promoting the deal purposefully do not discuss it.
“I would love for there to be a little more honesty about what this is really about,” McGhee said. “This massive deal is actually not about trade. It’s about 14 things and trade is the smallest piece of it.”
She then went on to discuss the Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision in which corporations can sue government if they pass laws that affect their bottom line. The suit is then resolved not by a court of law, but by an external body.
There are many other provisions that are detrimental, including fair use, patent laws, and many other provisions the president never speaks about materially affects us all.
If these trade agreements were really about increasing trade that would help workers, the environment, and business alike, why are unions and environmentalists not at the table? The answer is simple. These deals aim to maximize corporate profits. Any benefits for the environment and workers are secondary.
“Free trade” deals will never be good for America or any relatively high-wage country. It is basic arithmetic. An American engineer is no better or worse than a Chilean, Vietnamese, or any other engineer. The only difference is that the ones overseas will work for a lower wage. The fiduciary duty of corporations is profit maximization for shareholders. “Free trade” with countries that have low labor cost puts the American worker at a disadvantage. No amount of spin can change that. It is not a difficult concept and one wonders why the president gives the semblance of not understanding that.
One must conclude that there is something else happening. Is this some sort of bargaining? Or is this just a sellout of the middle-class? Is TPP an IOU from the corporatocracy for subsequent middle-class policy? If it is, then it is a lousy compromise. If it isn’t, then just like every previous president has done, the poor and middle class will be sold out.