Bipartisan Corporatism: Free Trade Edition

The slaughter that was the 2014 election leaves us once again with divided government. Come January, President Obama will have an entirely Republican-controlled congress for the remainder of his presidency. With Harry Reid no longer able to serve as Obama’s pocket-veto in the senate, we will get a chance to see what our elected leaders agree upon. Unfortunately, bipartisanship often means screwing over Joe Public.  You know, compromise.

Leaders of TPP members

A leaked draft of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) emerged last winter.  This along with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – dual trade agreements, details of which were fucking putrid (more on that shortly). Speed of respective negotiations given, deals could have simply been legally fast-tracked with simple up/down votes, and one or both could be signed into law at any moment. And that would have been that.

TTIP protest, London, 6Jul14
TTIP protest, London, 6Jul14

Emails were sent and petitions signed. Both TPP & TTIP needed to be debated at length in congress. Our representatives would have to go on record supporting these twin travesties, and the public would have a chance to see the gory details. Instead, silence. Word on the streets (…) at the time was that there would be no debate, and a finalized deal(s) would be fast-tracked and announced over the holidays (possibly in a Friday afternoon news-dump), attracting as little attention as possible.

Reagan_BoraxoNow when I was in school, we were taught about the tariff system, which we had for over two-hundred years. Apparently, at some point the very reasonable people decided that since globalization was kicking in, and workers in places like Mexico and Bangladesh could be paid in pennies, all of the multinational corporations would pack up and move American jobs abroad.

clintonHence, trade agreements. We will remove the tariffs, and they agree to improve working conditions, especially pay. This is meant to level the playing field, and unleash the economy! Unfortunately, these standards are rarely, if ever, enforced. Thus, trade agreements in practice result in American jobs being outsourced to the countries with whom we make these pacts. NAFTA, for example.

mcconnellWith the midterms past and holidays fast-approaching, Obama and his counterparts in congress – namely Mitch McConnell and John Boehner – are being asked on where they find common ground. Trade agreements are at the top of the list (with corporate tax cuts a close second, unfortunately).

Honestly, these dual debacles seem like some sort of crazy conspiracy crack-pottery. And as a caveat, still being negotiated and are therefore unfinalized. So what are the TPP & TTIP, and why are both political parties licking at their chops to push it through?

The TPP is a trade agreement being negotiated between the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, & Singapore (possibly China, India and/or Bangladesh). And TTIP between the US and the EU. The most critical aspect is the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism. This would establish an international court (appointed by corporations, not voters) which would have the jurisdiction to overrule laws passed in the nation-state signees.

TPP members

Far reaching in scope – from internet, financial, environmental, pharmaceutical, & agricultural regulations, to copyrights, intellectual property and patents.

Secretary Kerry at TPP negotiations, 8Oct13

You want to pass banking and financial market regulations to try and prevent another recession? Sorry. Want to ban fracking in your town or state? Too bad. Want to ban certain pesticides or GMOs from your food? Nope. Want patent reform so poor folks in third world countries can gain affordable access to pharmaceuticals and medical devices? Uh-uh. Want illegal downloading settlements to be set at retail price per song/movie? Well yes, you can have that.Download_link

You see, if a corporation can prove that your law hurts their bottom line, they can have your law overturned in an international court. So long, sovereignty.

Trade ministers of TPP members

In a vacuum, the TPP seems completely & utterly insane. How can it be justified? It can’t, which is why congress refuses to debate it.

Why are both parties allowing it to advance, largely unnoticed? And why are Republicans, who whine incessantly about the tyrannical dictator that is Obama, willing to simply hand him the keys without question (fast-track) on an issue as important as trade?

To partisans, there is a vast gulf between Democrats and Republicans. While this is true in many ways, they have one very important thing in common –  they all have to get (re)elected, which costs a shit-ton of money. This thanks to a string of disastrous Supreme Court decisions that have torn campaign finance regulation asunder. scotusRespective party leaderships instruct our representatives to literally spend the vast majority of their time begging wealthy people for money. They have little choice. Their political careers are based upon their ability to solicit large sums of money, so not only do they only hear the perspective of the wealthy, but they owe them for the continued existence of their careers. Their real job is fundraising, not governing.  bribePoliticians actually brag about how much legal bribery they can accrue, and the media cheers them on. Of course the media does, most of it go straight into the pockets of the corporate media conglomerates for all of those shitty ads. And that’s why they won’t tell you about shitty trade agreements, let alone the whys and hows of our broken political system – or the steps we can take to fix it.

Sensing a pattern here?

Vox

2 thoughts on “Bipartisan Corporatism: Free Trade Edition”

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