I hope my readers don’t need to be reminded of the policy reasons the Trans Pacific Partnership is a bad deal. It would make this piece about 4 times as long. Instead I’ll focus some on the political issues. Remember, Barack Obama has already declared that he’s going to seek passage during the Lame Duck session of Congress which lasts roughly from shortly after the election to January 3rd, 2017.
His hope is that he can cobble some kind of skeevy majority out of defeated and retiring Congresspeople and shameless traitors who won’t have to face voters for at least 2 years.
Both Presidential Candidates are against it with Clinton, as recently as Thursday, declaring-
It’s true that too often, past trade deals have been sold to the American people with rosy scenarios that did not pan out. Those promises now ring hollow.
I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president.
On the other hand she appointed pro-TPP Tim Kaine as her running mate (a position he has since renounced) and pro-Fracking as well as pro-TPP Ken Salazar head of her transition team. Many TPP opponents say that she should challenge Obama on it directly, requesting that he not send a bill during the Lame Duck Session and lobby Democratic Congresspeople against it personally. Trump’s position, whether you believe him or not, has been unequivocally against it from the start and since it’s one of the few issues on which he’s gaining traction you can only expect that he’s going to continue to emphasize it with increasing fervor.
The targets on the Democratic side are the “28 House Democrat(s)… who—in spite of opposition from most Democrats and hundreds of labor, consumer, LGBT, health, human rights, faith, democracy and other civil organizations—voted for the ‘fast-track’ trade promotion authority (TPA) bill that ‘greased the skids’ for the TPP by setting up rigged rules that will help TPP pass.”, including the loathsome, traitorous, and feckless Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
12 Republican House members who voted to approve fast-track authority for trade agreements have announced their opposition to the TPP, including Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), a Senate candidate in Louisiana and the chairman of the Friends of the TPP congressional caucus. In the Senate, Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), ardent free-traders facing tough reelection battles, have announced their opposition to the deal.
Edward Alden, a trade expert at the Council on Foreign Relations says it’s all about pursuing an aggressive economic containment of China, whom we are also threatening militarily, although no one has articulated why this is a good idea except from the standpoint of asserting unlimited United States hegemony which is failing because of the 40 year bankruptcy of the Neoliberal Agenda and the inbred incompetence of the elite apparatchiks who advocate it.
“It’s about the architecture going forward,” says Alden. “China would like to see a very different set of trade rules. If TPP fails, the rest of the countries in Asia will have no choice but to go in the direction that China wants to move. The irony of it all is that opposing TPP will probably help China most.”
For the White House, this is the biggest reason to keep battling for TPP. If China seizes control of the Asian trade agenda, then it could quickly assert political and security dominance over the region and leave Obama’s “pivot” toward the region in tatters.
But few insiders think Clinton or congressional Republicans, much less Trump, will drop their opposition. “The idea that we are going to sacrifice manufacturing jobs to suit some esoteric foreign policy goal is just really not going to fly,” one senior DC lobbyist said.
Gee. Politicians keep their campaign promises? I would hope so.
Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and author of Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy has some deeper and more sinister motivations in mind.
Obama’s TPP campaign could drag down Democrats
By Mark Weisbrot, The Hill
August 20, 2016, 08:03 am
Trump is far behind Clinton in the polls, and it seems unlikely that Obama would have launched a public campaign of this magnitude for the TPP in the heat of an election season if the race were looking like a serious contest. But there is more at stake: millions of potential Republican voters will stay home in November if Trump is losing by a wide margin. Many others will stay home simply because they don’t like him. But many of these disaffected voters could be rallied to the polls if they think that Clinton, and her party, are going to bring them another failed “trade” agreement. (On the other side, some potential Democratic voters could abstain or switch sides for the same reasons). All this could make the difference between the Democrats taking the Senate, and in a big enough landslide, even the House of Representatives.
Why is Obama willing to risk so much to get the TPP passed this year? Many press reports insist that it is because he wants it for his legacy. It is strange to think that he would want such an unpopular agreement for his legacy. There are less flattering reasons that seem much more plausible.
The “fast-track” legislation that allows Congress only an up-or-down vote on the TPP, considered essential to its passage, was approved in June 2015 by just a 10-vote margin in the House of Representatives. Only 28 Democrats voted with their president, and they have since come under increasing pressure not to repeat their vote for the TPP. Meanwhile, nine Republicans who voted for fast-track have publicly stated that they will vote against the TPP.
So it is looking like a very close vote. (For procedural and political reasons, Obama will not bring it to a vote unless he is sure he has the necessary votes). Now let’s look at one special group of Representatives who can swing this vote: the actual lame-ducks, i.e., those who will be in office only until Jan. 3. It depends partly on how many lose their election on Nov. 8, but the average number of representatives who left after the last three elections was about 80.
Most of these people will be looking for a job, preferably one that can pay them more than $1 million a year. From the data provided by OpenSecrets.org, we can estimate that about a quarter of these people will become lobbyists. (An additional number will work for firms that are clients of lobbyists).
So there you have it: It is all about corruption, and this is about as unadulterated as corruption gets in our hallowed democracy, other than literal cash under a literal table. These are the people whom Obama needs to pass this agreement, and the window between Nov. 9 and Jan. 3 is the only time that they are available to sell their votes to future employers without any personal political consequences whatsoever. The only time that the electorate can be rendered so completely irrelevant, if Obama can pull this off.
But that is still a big “if,” because we still have elections, and Obama has to consider what his campaign to pass the TPP will do to the Democratic Party — or at least he should. On the other side, he has most likely gotten the message that a failure to go all-out for the TPP would cause some big money to shift from the Democratic Party to the Republicans. The most powerful corporations in the country, as well as many actors in the “national security state,” want this agreement very badly. It is a coalition of everybody who is anybody.
Except for the people.
It’s ironic because one of the main purposes of the TPP, like previous “trade” agreements including the World Trade Organization, is to bind the United States to a set of rules that our political leaders would have difficulty putting into law in the U.S. These include raising pharmaceutical prices by strengthening and lengthening patent protection; allowing corporations to sue the government for regulation that infringes on their profits; and undermining public health and environmental protection, and financial regulation. So by corrupting democracy for this one big, lame-duck vote, our politicians can undermine and limit democracy for many years and even decades to come.
Well, I don’t know if I’d call it “ironic”. I’d call it treasonous corruption but tomato tomato.
In case you’re interested in other things Mark Weisbrot has to say there’s a 3 part series at The Real News where he discusses his new book.
And, since we’re talking a lot about the IMF, this bonus piece featuring Bill Black-
Okay, so here’s the 30 second background. IMF stands for International Monetary Fund. It’s an international group that is supposed to assist countries that are suffering an acute financial crisis as opposed to the World Bank which is supposed to help folk more generally in development. And by tradition, the World Bank is run by an American and the IMF is run by a European. In this case by a series of French Politicians, currently Madame Lagarde and it’s the IMF and she have gotten into a series of major embarrassments recently.
First, she is being charged with a crime while she sits as head of the IMF and this crime is under French law. From her role earlier as a minister in the French government where there was a suit emerging against a bank and that bank got into enough economic trouble that it was bailed out by the French government, became a public bank and Lagarde allowed claimants against this bank who were political allies of her and her party to sue the French government. Not in court with the normal defenses you would have but through an arbitration system where unsurprisingly the French lost big time. This is ultimately reversed by a court. But this is seen as a scandal in which she attempted to bailout a major creditor by intervening to help them take an action that she should’ve been moving exactly the opposite direction to protect French funds. So it’s a weird crime from US perspective and the charge is negligence as opposed to deliberate crime. But it’s still obviously a major embarrassment.
Second big thing. The IMF has long been criticized, including by a Nobel Prize winner in economics, as being staffed, and I quote, “by third-rate economists”. And has been traditionally, while supposedly helping nations in economic crisis, it has been a very neoliberal hammer that says, hey actually we’re going to force your head of state out of state. And hey we don’t like a whole bunch of policies that you have that we think are not good for other European nations and such and so you are going to change all those policies.