“It is a great day for the big money interests, not a great day for working families.” – Bernie Sanders
“This is a day of celebration in the corporate suites of this country, to be sure.” – Sherrod Brown
Today it’s easy to converse and intellectualize about how the United States doesn’t behave like a democracy, as there is so much material to draw upon, but it’s surreal to watch as such a profound and explicitly anti-democratic measure — with a few minor hiccups — flies through Congress on the way to the President’s desk.
“The trade battle is over,” declare Lauren French and John Bresnahan, writing for Politico. Their declaration is premature, but their pessimism is understandable.
While the American working class is still licking wounds inflicted by NAFTA, “NAFTA on steroids” — the Trans-Pacific Partnership — is not far from being imposed upon a significant portion of the world, in the face of mass public outcry, as the Senate has voted to approve fast track authority, which gives President Obama extensive power in the process of making his coveted TPP into the law of the land.
The popular anti-TPP protest was barely acknowledged — and its significance barely noticed — except by a minority of dissenters, showing how contemptuous much of Congress and the White House are of democracy as a core principle of our society.
As has been stressed extensively, but cannot be stressed enough, details of the negotiation and of the contents of the “trade deal” have been kept secret from the public, while members of Congress, “special advisors,” and representatives from massive corporations are the only ones allowed to examine the contents of the deal.
Once the formalities are done with, the public and Congress will have “weeks or months to study it,” according to an Associated Press report, before finally tallying a vote.
For now, the public and opposition groups can rely only on Wikileaks to understand fragments and unofficial aspects of the deal.
President Obama, along with most Republicans and “pro-trade” Democrats, maintained an unabashedly clear message throughout: This deal will be good for everyone. “Trust us,” they said, as if “trust” can ever exist within today’s political environment.
Democrats were more skeptical, but eventually enough were sold — bought? — and the Senate is set to approve the passage of “fast track,” which makes the implementation of the TPP appear far more likely (not inevitable, but more likely).
Here’s The New York Times on the implications of yesterday’s vote:
With congressional support for “fast track” authority, the president can press for final agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a legacy-defining accord linking 40 percent of the world’s economy — from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia — in a web of rules governing Pacific commerce. His administration can also bear down on a second agreement with Europe — known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — knowing that lawmakers will be able to vote for or against those agreements but will not be able to amend or filibuster them.
And then there’s the crucial bit:
The Atlantic agreement is not expected to be completed until the next administration is in office, but the trade negotiating powers would stretch for six years — well into the next presidency.
Together those two accords would put much of the globe under the same trade rules, not only lowering tariffs and other import barriers but also creating new standards for Internet access, intellectual property and investor protections [emphasis mine].
The words “under the same trade rules” essentially mean that US corporations will have even more comprehensive control of the global economy, a disaster for workers and for the environment.
The people have been thrown under the bus, once again. We shouldn’t be fooled by the “dislocated worker bill”; I can’t be sure, but I don’t think it would be irrational to expect the measures protecting workers and their families to be underwhelming at best, if history is any guide.
As if it wasn’t abundantly clear before, it should now be no difficult task to see who our elected officials truly represent.
This isn’t about being “pro” or “anti” trade, this is about being “pro” or “anti” democracy. If you are pro-democracy, within both the political system and the economic system, then you oppose this deal on principle, because of the fact that the negotiations have moved forward without public input.
Congress and the White House should just come out and say what they clearly feel, judging by their actions: The public’s opinion doesn’t matter. “We know what’s best for you, and if you don’t like it, too bad.”
Instead, they maintain an air of populism, offering assurances that they are working hard for their constituents.
The problem, of course, is that their constituents are not the people, they are the business class, the massive corporations, those who, in Adam Smith’s words, “have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”
When the inexcusable and anti-democratic veil of secrecy surrounding the TPP is finally lifted, and the American people see what is actually in the agreement, they are going to force their representatives in Washington to vote that deal down.