Saturday, August 6, 2016

Obama's Defense Of TPP: Wrong Move At Wrong Time

Stand with Senators Sanders, Warren, and Brown: President Obama must release full text of TPP
Sometimes - despite batting on a "losing wicket" - one has to give props. In this case they go to Obama for his defense of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal three days ago. Thus, while being the absolute wrong political move at the time he stood side by side the PM (Lee Hsien Loong) from Singapore :
Image result for Singapore PM

and, as if Mr. Long was peering into his mind, delivered perhaps the most robust and spirited arguments on behalf of this now moribund deal.

Make no mistake that other than in Obama's mind this deal is dead on arrival. With both candidates putatively against it (and they dare not do otherwise with so much of their political support hinging on it) there is neither Repub or Demo in favor or voting for it. Politically, it's as toxic as ingesting a cyanide capsule.  That Obama still believes there's a path to passage is incomprehensible, especially now that Hillary VP pick Tim Kaine has ditched it and no Reep lawmaker wants to touch it with the proverbial ten foot pole.

Yet Obama insists he "is still President" and plans to do that and more.  Well, maybe there is another parallel universe where that happens but not this one.

The sustained resistance to the TPP has led many pundits from all the major elite news sources (WSJ, NY Times, Financial Times etc.) to question what's wrong with Trump and Sanders' supporters but their own news sources have vindicated their negative take. For example the Times three days ago, ran a piece explaining how the benefits of  past trade deals (including NAFTA)  have only redounded to roughly the top 35 percent. That means 65 percent either broke even or lost.

Jobs, in fact, have not been created - at least the decent paying ones beyond barista, Uber driver and burger flipper- and money has continued to flow out to support overseas services and manufacture.  Even the so-called "rosy" econ stats have turned out to be dodgy as reported in a recent Denver Post Business analysis ('Economic Data Miss Big Picture', June 12, p. 3K). The Post noted, for example, that the number of full time jobs has risen only 1.3 percent since 2007. By contrast, part time positions are up 12 %.

Meanwhile, incomes for the "average U.S. household" ticked up 0.7 percent from 2008 to 2014 after taking inflation into account, though the Post observes (ibid.):

"But even that scant increase reflected mainly the rise in incomes for the richest tenth of households which pulled up the average"

Most recently, the latest jobs report noted 255,000 added, included in fields as diverse as finance (18,000), professional and business services (70,000) and health care (43,000). And yet despite the growth in jobs the actual economic growth only clocked in at 1.2 percent in the 2nd quarter. The main reason? Most job wage increases with benefits and wages still only trickled down to a relatively small fraction of the working population.

In other words, unraveling the stats, most workers in the aggregate barely broke even or lost ground - certainly if only the richest tenth could make just a fractional percent increase difference. (Bear in mind the richest tenth features average incomes of $1- 1.5 million each). The take accompanying the new jobs report was that there exists a "disconnect between business investment and hiring at home". In other words, corporations are more inclined to invest overseas than in new and better jobs domestically.

So it's no surprise a lot of Americans (many of whom are Sanders or Trump supporters) haven't been feeling the joy or "greatness" heralded at the DNC. And given they haven't felt that oomph via incomes, it's no surprise they be foursquare against the TPP which stands to make their lives and those of their offspring even worse.  How so?

If passed, the TPP would expand trade over the 12- nation Asia-Pacific region - particularly removing tariffs and investment barriers. For nations like Singapore and Vietnam it's terrific, for citizens of the U.S. not so much.  For one thing, the Neoliberal order would now seat the 'dictator'  of the  marketplace  everywhere. Specifically, with the backing of big corporations such as  Halliburton, global fracking would be literally unstoppable. For example, all local bans on fracking as well as New York's ban could conceivably be challenged since the TPP would allow foreign governments to sue if fracked oil or gas quotas were not met. 

Meanwhile, Monsanto (prime producer of GMO seeds and foods) would have carte blanche over the global food supply even as Obama last Friday signed the DARK act, denying Americans the right to know what the fuck is in their food.

See, e.g.


On Friday, President Obama signed bill S.764 into law, dealing a major blow to the movement to require GMO labeling. The new law, called the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" (DARK) Act by food safety groups, has at least three key parts in it that undermine Vermont's popular GMO labeling bill and make it nearly impossible for you and me to know what's in our food.

The law claims to set a federal labeling standard by requiring food producers to include either a QR bar code that can be scanned with a phone, or a 1-800 number that consumers can call to find out whether a product contains genetically modified ingredients.  But according to the Institute for Responsible Technology, this bill doesn't require most processed foods to have a label, the bill defines genetic engineering so narrowly that most GMOs on the market don't qualify..

So basically, Obama "set the table" in expectation of the TPP's  passage. Your only hope to avoid unknowingly eating GMOs then will be to totally go organic and hope there isn't some hidden provision in the TPP (assuming if by some stretch it passes) that allows member nations to sue the U.S. for offering a food class they can't afford to produce.

Nor is this mere aimless conjecture. We know from what's been revealed thus far. Hence,  according to Public Citizen, we know that the "TPP could ship millions of good-paying US jobs overseas.  We also know that the TPP could increase the costs of health care and medicine, while hurting health and safety standards . Overall, as with NAFTA before it,  the TPP will weaken domestic environmental regulations while boosting corporate power's leverage in global markets. Also, it will pressure lower wages in the U.S. since workers here will have to directly compete against workers in Vietnam who may only earn 68 cents an hour. Thus, like NAFTA, the pressure will be on to expedite a rush to the bottom - with corporations using labor in the cheapest trade partners opposed to more costly home-grown.

Also the Environmental chapter sets a terribly low bar with the measures falling way below U.S. standards for trade deals. Interested people can find out more at:

Given the forces and major party candidates arrayed against the TPP, Obama's best move now would be to drop his crusade for passage. In the end it can only hurt the Dems and Hillary, especially if the unraveling Trump decides to use it against the D-ticket. The Republicans in the Senate also are in no disposition to help pass it, given so many of the GOP base are enraged against global trade deals.

The best bet for Obama is to drop pushing aggressively for TPP passage as part of his legacy and let Hillary carry the potential torch forward. In the latter case to perhaps "flip" later as  The Washington Post  reported  Virginia guv Terry McAuliffe blurted a week ago: i.e. "she will support the Trans-Pacific Partnership once she's in the White House". . Of course, in that case Hill might end up the first Dem one term president since Jimmy Carter.

See also:

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