One day after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton strongly underscored her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership in a speech in Detroit, President Obama officially started the clock on a lame-duck congressional vote on that agreement.
Politico has the story, headlined “Obama puts Congress on notice: TPP is coming“:
The White House put Congress on notice Friday morning that it will be sending lawmakers a bill to implement President Barack Obama’s landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement — a move intended to infuse new energy into efforts to ratify the flatlining trade pact.
The submission of the draft Statement of Administration Action establishes a 30-day minimum before the administration can present the legislation, but it is unlikely to do so amid the heated rhetoric of a presidential campaign that has depicted free trade deals as major job killers.
One of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s stronger economic appeals to working-class voters is his position on trade. Trump understands that people are upset that “trade” deals have moved so many jobs out of the country and he offers solutions that sound like he is saying he will bring the jobs back so wages can start going up again.
But a deeper look at what he is really saying might not be so appealing to voters.
Trump says the U.S. is not “competitive” with other countries. He has said repeatedly we need to lower American wages, taxes and regulations to the point where we can be “competitive” with Mexico and China. In other words, he is saying that business won’t send jobs out of the country if we can make wages low enough here.
Trump even has a plan to accomplish this. He has said the way to make U.S. wages “competitive” is to pit states against each other instead of using China and Mexico to do that. He has said, for example, that auto companies should close factories in Michigan and move the jobs to low-wage, anti-union states. After enough people are laid off in one state, he has said, “those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less.” Then companies will be able to “make good deals” to cut wages. He says that companies should continue this in a “rotation” of wage cuts, state to state, until you go “full-circle,” getting wages low enough across the entire country. Then the U.S. will be “competitive” with China and Mexico.
Yes, Trump Actually Said These Things
Trump discussed this in an August 2015 interview with The Detroit News headlined, “Trump suggests moving some car production from Michigan.“ In the interview, the subject of moving jobs out of the country because other places offer lower wages, “free or nearly free land on which to build, and fewer regulatory hurdles” came up. “Trump suggested one way to stop automakers’ expansion to Mexico is by moving some production out of Michigan to lower-wage states.”
He said U.S. automakers could shift production away from Michigan to communities where autoworkers would make less. “You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you’d do full-circle — you’ll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less,” Trump said. “We can do the rotation in the United States — it doesn’t have to be in Mexico.”
He said that after Michigan “loses a couple of plants — all of sudden you’ll make good deals in your own area.”
Trump has made similar arguments on other occasions. That same month The Washington Times reported, in Donald Trump: ‘Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country’, that Trump said the following, using the same state vs. state argument (emphasis added).
Saying the United States needs to be able to compete in a global economy, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Thursday having a low minimum wage isn’t a bad thing for the country.
“… I think having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country.”
… “It’s such a nasty question because the answer has to be nasty,” Mr. Trump said. “You know, we’re in a global economy now. It used to be people would leave New York state and companies would leave New York state or leave another state and go to Florida, go to Texas, go to wherever they go because the wages … you know, all sorts of different things.”
“Well now, it’s not leaving New York or New Jersey or wherever they may be leaving — now they’re leaving the United States, and they’re going to other countries because they’re competing for low taxes and they’re competing for low wages and they’re competing for all sorts of things …”
“So what’s happening now is people are shopping, companies are shopping. … They’re shopping their companies to [other] places, and we can’t have a situation where our labor is so much more expensive than other countries that we can no longer compete.”
Mr. Trump said if he wins the White House, he would “make us so competitive as a country.”
Again, in November 2015, The New York Times reported, in “Donald Trump Insists That Wages Are ‘Too High’“:
“We are a country that’s being beaten on every front, economically, militarily. There is nothing we do now to win,” said Mr. Trump, adding at another point that “our wages are too high.”
… “Our taxes are too high. Our wages are too high. We have to compete with other countries.”
Again and again, Trump says U.S. taxes, regulations and wages are too high for American companies to “compete.”
Trump repeated the same argument in his “Economic Speech” Monday at the Detroit Economic Club, saying that high taxes and regulations make America uncompetitive so businesses move away. He left out his – and every other Republican’s – position on wages.
Run The Country Like A Business?
Trump talks about how he is a “businessman” who is a great “negotiator.” He wants to run the country like a business.
But people who run businesses always push for lower taxes, fewer regulations and lower wages. Trump used to talk openly about his desire to cut all three, in order to make America more “competitive” with Mexico and China. Lately he only promises to radically cut taxes and regulations on businesses. Of course, he has learned to keep quiet about his desire to cut the third leg of that argument, wages.
But Trump is, after all, the Republican candidate. He is, after all, a businessman. He has, after all, openly expressed his wish to bring American wages down in the past and even voiced his plan to pit states against each other to accomplish that.
So we should, after all, understand that a Republican businessman who has made it clear that he thinks wages need to go down does not suddenly have the best interests of American workers at heart. He is also a politician, and in this one instance he has learned to keep his mouth shut, at least when it comes to his argument that wages are too high. That doesn’t mean his argument has changed.
Another presidential campaign means it’s time to bring back the “Latest Lie” series.
And here’s the latest lie. Campaigning in Nebraska Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said, “Well, we’re not going there, my friends. I’m telling you right now we’re going to write fairer rules for the middle class. And we aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class.”
Now Donald Trump is running an ad with a doctored transcript that says Clinton said, “And we are going to raise taxes on the middle class.”
Caitlan MacNeal explains at TPM, in “Trump Campaign Video Misrepresents Clinton’s Position On Taxes“:
The Clinton campaign told PolitiFact that Clinton said “aren’t,” not “are.” And a transcript of Clinton’s prepared remarks uses the line, “We aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class.”
CBS News reported that when the video is slowed down, it becomes more clear that Clinton said “aren’t.” And several reporters agreed with that.
Here is the Trump ad, you can clearly hear her say “aren’t” – but even so everyone knows what she meant:
Nice. Changing a word in a speech to make it sound like Clinton said the opposite of what she actually said. Will people fall for that?
Remember when President Obama said that businesspeople didn’t get there on their own, they had help, that they didn’t build the roads, bridges and other public facilities that they used for their success? Then Republicans took the quote out of context, claimed he said businesspeople “didn’t build that,” meaning they didn’t build their businesses. They actually built an entire campaign around that lie. Well, here they go again.
How many more days until this is over?
Tuesday was “Make America Work Again” day at the Republican National Convention. But this day wasn’t about making America work again for working people. This was, as always with conservatives, all about tax cuts for the rich and corporations, deregulation of oil and coal companies (and other paying corporate clients) and austerity cuts in the things government does to make people’s lives better.
There was nothing about how to actually make America “work again.”
Truth is, the economy has added 14.8 million private-sector jobs since the big Bush/Republican downturn of 2008.
Nonetheless, “Make America Work Again” day is described this way in the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) convention schedule announcement:
The Obama years have delivered anemic economic growth, the lowest labor-force participation rate in 38 years, and job-killing regulations and legislation like Obamacare. These policies are crushing middle-class families, and a Hillary Clinton presidency would merely be an Obama third term that would deliver the same poor results. Donald Trump is a successful businessman with a solid record of creating jobs and the experience we need to get America’s economy up and running … and get Americans working again.
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White, describing himself as a “fight promoter” (which is an appropriate description for the speakers at this Republican convention) began with an endorsement of Trump, saying, “He’s that guy, he shows up,” because Trump helped him promote fights as a business. “I’ve been in the fight business my whole life and Donald Trump is a fighter.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson gave a negative speech about Hillary Clinton and “Benghazi,” not about how to make America “work again.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey also gave a negative speech about Clinton’s email server and “Benghazi.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Businessman Andy Wist from Brooklyn, who has a waterproofing company, said that after eight years of President Obama he doesn’t see the American Dream. Donald Trump “is a leader … He will make America work again.” He didn’t say how.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said, “Benghazi.” Also, “ISIS.” And “We shouldn’t have to live in fear” while stoking the fear… Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Chris Cox of the National Rifle Association (NRA) spoke about how “you have to be able to protect yourself and your family.” Fear. “Imagine a young mother at home with her baby when a violent predator kicks the door in.” Fear. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Golfer Natalie Gulbis said that Trump helped her open a Boy’s and Girl’s club and told her to be fearless. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, known as the master of obstruction, said the cost of living has been rising out of people’s reach. “Emails.” “Benghazi.” “Hillary lies.” “Repeal Obamacare.” “Keystone pipeline.” “Defund Planned Parenthood.” He also pledged to continue to obstruct by not allowing a vote on Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is best known for his austerity budgets, the practice of literally taking money out of the economy to kill jobs and growth. His budgets demand cuts in Social Security, even privatizing Medicare. Ryan’s budgets make it impossible to invest in America. Ryan and Republican worldview, government spending bad, austerity.
Ryan said that Democrats are offering “a third Obama term brought to you by another Clinton.” He said the Democratic Party convention will be a “four-day infomercial of politically correct moralizing,” and then “from now to November we will hear how many ways progressive elitists can find to talk down to the rest of America.” He offered “a reformed tax code that rewards entrepreneurs.” He offered the poor “the dignity of having a job” but not how to accomplish that. Ryan said very little else about how to make America “work again.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said “enough of feeling less safe and less secure.” “Iran.” “ISIS.” “Chaos spreading across America and across the globe.” He said that “in a Republican agenda our enemies will fear us.” He called up the ghost of Ronald Reagan. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, known for blocking bridges and killing badly-needed infrastructure projects like the Hudson rail tunnel, launched into a harsh, negative attack of Clinton’s record and character. “Emails.” “Dismal record as Secretary of State.” “Violence and danger in every region that has been infected by her flawed judgement.” “ISIS.” “She never fights for us.” Christie said nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Tiffany Trump said her father’s “desire for excellence is contagious” and that he has always helped her be the best version of herself. Her father takes pride in all that she has done. He wrote “sweet notes” on her report cards. “Small loving acts help an enormous amount in times of grief.” Her father “is someone who will never tell you to lower your sights or give up your dreams.” “A man I am so proud to call my father.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Dr. Ben Carson said we are one nation under God. He said Hillary Clinton has as a role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer. “Think about that.” He also said nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Sajid Tarar of American Muslims for Trump? What? No, he didn’t say anything about how to make America “work again.”
How We Got Here: Obstruction And Sabotage
When President Obama took office the country was losing 850,000 jobs a month. Democrats controlled the House and Senate at the beginning of 2009 and with three Republicans votes — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — broke a Republican filibuster to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the “stimulus.” This chart shows what the stimulus accomplished:
But after the stimulus passed the Republican strategy since 2009 has been to vote as a unified block to obstruct and sabotage anything that might make the economy better, and then campaign for office on themes of government not working, and the economy not getting better. And here they are, using “Make America work again” as a theme at the convention. Calculated. Cynical.
May, 2014: Obama: GOP has filibustered 500 bills.
Here are just a few of the things they obstructed: (Note that the corporate media likes to say “the Senate” when Republicans filibuster bills.)
September, 2010: Bill on outsourced jobs fails Senate test, (“a Senate bill designed to end tax breaks for U.S. companies that move jobs and manufacturing plants overseas.”)
October, 2011: Republicans Vote to Keep Teachers, First Responders Off the Job (rehire 400,000 teachers, firefighters, paramedics and police officers.)
August, 2013: Bipartisan Transportation and Housing Bill Filibustered
October, 2013: Government shutdown over funding ObamaCare. This had a direct cost of $24 billion, reduced fourth-quarter GDP growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent.
April, 2014: GOP Filibusters Minimum Wage Hike
July, 2014: Republicans Again Filibuster Bring Jobs Home Act (stop tax breaks for moving jobs and production facilities out of the country.)
January, 2015: Sanders’ Solar Bill Blocked by Senate Republicans, (10 million solar home power systems.)
March, 2015: $478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked by Senate GOP
July, 2015: Senate blocks progress on highway bill
And for a finishing touch, just this month the Congress left for the summer, having done nothing to fight the Zika Virus or help with mosquito control.
Republican Platform Blames Obama For Results Of Obstruction
With the economy right where Republicans wanted it, their 2016 (draft) platform proposes “solutions.” The section “Rebuilding the Economy and Creating Jobs” begins with an anti-government screed: “Government cannot create prosperity, though government can limit or destroy it.”
It calls for a “pro-growth tax code.” This is codespeak for “tax cuts for the rich,” also known as “trickle-down economics.” The idea is that you redistribute society’s money to a few at the top, and they will use the money to give jobs to the peasants. But after Bill Clinton raised taxes the economy boomed, and after ‘W’ Bush cut taxes the economy tanked. Really tanked. Now Republicans want to do more of that. Go figure.
A 2012 study by the Congressional Research Service, titled “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945,” looked at the history of tax cuts and economic growth and concluded, “Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”
Repeat: Cutting top tax rates does not increase growth, but does increase inequality. Also known as “look around you at what has happened since Reagan.”
Then the platform calls for “A Competitive America.” By “competitive” they do not mean reducing the power of monopolies or breaking up the big banks. No, it calls for reducing high corporate tax rates and “regulatory burdens and uncertainty.” On top of that, it calls for a territorial” corporate tax system so corporations that move jobs, production and profit centers out of the country won’t have to pay any taxes at all. On top of that, Trump has called for letting corporations off the hook with an extremely low tax rate on “deferred” taxes on profits held in offshore subsidiaries. Corporations owe more than $620 billion in taxes on these profits, but would get to keep most of that. What about honest corporations that didn’t dodge their taxes using offshore subsidiary schemes? Too bad for them. And the government? It might be owed $620 billion-plus. But too bad, the Wall Street shareholders get to keep it.
Next up, “A Winning Trade Policy.” It’s hard to argue with this entire section that begins, “International trade is crucial for all sectors of America’s economy. Massive trade deficits are not.” The platform calls for trade agreements that protect U.S. interests and U.S. sovereignty and tough enforcement of violations of existing agreements, saying, “we cannot allow foreign governments to limit American access to their markets while stealing our designs, patents, brands, know-how, and technology. We cannot allow China to continue its currency manipulation, exclusion of U.S. products from government purchases, and subsidization of Chinese companies to thwart American imports.” It calls for transparently negotiated agreements in the interests of American workers.
Then a section sponsored by Wall Street, “Freeing Financial Markets.” It blames the 2008 crash on “the government’s own housing policies.” It demands repeal of the Dodd-Frank law regulating Wall Street, and abolishing the “dictatorial” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which protects consumers from financial fraud. (Trump has said he would “absolutely” repeal Dodd-Frank. Of course, he said that last year at the same time he said the economy was going to “burst”… which didn’t happen.)
What passes for housing policy calls for “a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.”
In “America on the Move” the platform calls for an end to mass transit programs and “repeal of the Davis-Bacon law, which limits employment and drives up construction and maintenance costs for the benefit of unions.” It calls for public-private partnerships (privatization) as a means to fix roads and bridges. It calls for privatization of Amtrak and ending federal support for high-speed rail. It calls for getting rid of unions in the Transportation Security Administration.
The platform calls for a return to “a metallic basis for U.S. currency.”
It calls for getting rid of laws that protect workers’ right to join unions, saying unions “limit workers’ freedom and lock them into the workplace rules of their great grandfathers.” It calls on states to enact Right-to-Work laws. It calls for eliminating the federal minimum wage.
Finally the platform elsewhere calls for just abolishing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Note – the only mention of manufacturing in the entire Republican platform is part of its complaint that unions are “designed to fit a manufacturing workplace” which is representative of a “1930s economy” of the past. (Unless you count an NRA-sponsored line condemning lawsuits against gun manufacturers.)
If You Want To Really Make America Work Again
Americans for Tax Fairness says:
“Congress should make U.S. corporations pay the $700 billion they owe in taxes on their $2.4 trillion in profits stashed offshore.
That kind of revenue would help us invest in our country’s future – creating economic opportunity for all of us and millions of good-paying jobs by improving schools, making college affordable, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges, building a green energy economy, researching new medical cures and so much more!”
Some people say that the Democratic Party doesn’t really stand for anything. Sen. Bernie Sanders pushed and pushed as a Democratic presidential candidate, and has achieved results that could change that.
The 2016 Democratic Party platform is a very progressive policy outline. It isn’t everything a Sanders supporter would want, but it does have a lot, and it offers an outline for a lot more progress than the country has seen in a very long time.
But a lot of critics are saying things like “So what?” “It’s just a piece of paper.” “No one reads it after the convention.” Meanwhile, much of the public believes that politicians only say what they need to say just to get elected and will betray them as soon as they take office.
There is a path to fixing this.
A Strong Progressive Platform
The draft of the 2016 Democratic Party Platform is surprisingly progressive. Robert Borosage wrote Monday, in “The Democratic Party Platform: Progress and Resistance“:
The platform incorporates Sanders’ language and push on a range of issues – electoral reform (where Clinton’s platform was also strong); criminal justice reform, including prohibition of the death penalty and an end to private prisons; shackling Wall Street, including a financial transaction tax and a pledge to break up too-big-to-fail banks and pass a 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act.
This weekend, the platform committee adopted a commitment to a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. Clinton’s new pledge to make in-state public colleges and universities tuition-free for those earning less than $125,000 and her concessions on health care – doubling spending on community health centers, allowing those over 55 to buy into Medicare, an expanded public option in Obamacare – will be written into the platform. The platform also endorsed expanding Social Security, even though it voted down a pledge to lift the cap on Social Security taxes.
These and other pledges led Clinton and Democratic National Committee spokespeople to spin the platform as the most progressive document in the party’s history.
Katrina vanden Heuvel lists the progressive accomplishments in the platform at The Washington Post:
Candidates are not bound to the party platform. Yet the platform is important as a measure of where the party assembled stands. For citizen movements in motion, the platform can provide an important measure to challenge Democratic Party candidates and state and local officials.
Concluding, she writes, “The ‘political revolution’ hasn’t been won yet, but there has been real progress.”
But you hear people say the platform is meaningless.
Enforce The Platform
Look at what we have here:
● A political party that people say doesn’t “stand for” anything.
● A cynical public that believes candidates make promises to get elected and then go back on those promises.
● A progressive movement that has organized and activated millions of people, building some real clout.
● A party platform that attacks many of the problems of the country in ways that will make all of us and the economy and the country and the political system better off if it is implemented.
What if … what if our progressive movement ties those elements together? What if progressives keep this platform from being just another meaningless piece of paper? What if progressives work to make the platform actually mean something after the election?
Make Them Do It
What if progressives work to enforce the platform after the election? What if progressive organizations and activists organize and rally people to support Democrats who honor the platform and to make political life unpleasant and untenable for those who go against the platform?
Progressives should make politicians actually stick to the platform. This would make the platform actually stand for something that the party could present the public and say “this is what we stand for and what we will do if you elect us.” This would fight public cynicism about politicians and parties. This would turn this platform into an organizing tool that merges our outside movement with elections and policy.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is likely to come up for a vote in the “lame-duck” session of Congress that follows the November presidential election. Will the Democratic Party vote to put the platform on record against this, or will corporate interests win out yet again? This is an either-or, whose-side-are-you-on moment that will define the election campaign.
If the Democratic National Committee does not put TPP opposition into the platform it will lead to a public, televised convention floor fight.
Will The Democratic Party Platform Oppose A Lame Duck TPP Vote?
This weekend the full Democratic platform drafting committee meets in Orlando. Delegates will be debating an amendment offered by columnist and progressive activist Jim Hightower, a Sanders delegate, putting the party on record opposing a vote on the TPP during the “lame-duck” session of Congress that follows the election.
The amendment calls for striking platform language that effectively blesses Democrats who “have expressed support for the agreement” and replaces it with this: “It is the policy of the Democratic Party that the Trans-Pacific Partnership must not get a vote in this Congress or in future sessions of Congress.”
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have all announced opposition to a TPP vote in the lame-duck session, but Wall Street interests, corporate groups like the Chamber of Commerce, many Republicans – and, unfortunately, President Obama – are pushing for this anyway.
Despite statements of opposition to the TPP from both Clinton and Sanders, a subset of the committee recently voted down the proposal to oppose the TPP. A majority of delegates (all Clinton backers) expressed concern that this would bring the party in opposition to President Obama.
If the committee does not put this into the platform this weekend, there will be enough convention delegates opposing the TPP to guarantee a “floor fight” – a televised debate and a vote – over this at the convention. The outcome is fairly certain because all Sanders delegates support this amendment, and it is almost unthinkable that Clinton delegates will vote against Clinton’s own stated opposition to the TPP.
Progressive Coalitions Deliver Petitions To Pelosi, Platform Committee
A coalition of progressive organizations on Thursday delivered hundreds of thousands of petition signatures asking House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to declare her opposition to a lame-duck TPP vote. The coalition includes organizations ranging from Campaign for America’s Future to People’s Action to MoveOn to CREDO to Daily Kos and Demand Progress.
On Friday, another coalition will deliver more than a million signatures to the platform committee itself, demanding that it add an amendment opposing a lame-duck TPP vote.
The coalition hosted a Thursday press call featuring radio and TV personality Ed Schultz. Shultz began the call, saying this is about support of middle-class families in this country. He said there has never been a more damaging trade agreement than the TPP. Speaking to the platform committee, he said, “If you are for American families and want to correct course of inequality you have to oppose this deal. … This is not about Obama’s legacy, this is about American families that are struggling.”
Also on the call, Murshed Zaheed, vice president and political director of CREDO said that its members have signed over 1 million petitions to stop the TPP, and have made over 50,000 calls. “There’s a reason every major presidential candidate opposes TPP,” he said. “TPP is an undemocratic corporate power grab.”
“This also a political battle,” said Campaign for America’s Future co-founder Roger Hickey. “Tomorrow we are hoping that members of the Democratic platform committee will amend the platform and put the Democratic Party clearly on record against a lame-duck vote. … Without this, it allows Donald Trump to continue to say Democrats are not serious.”
A Lame Duck TPP Vote Insults Democracy
The “lame duck” is a term used for the Congressional session between the election and the next Congress. People who follow politics understand that political accountability to constituents is at its absolute lowest at this time. Senators and representatives who have been voted out (many for supporting the TPP) and are looking for lobbying jobs, and those who were re-elected with corporate money and need to repay their donors, will be voting. Members who were elected because of their opposition to the TPP will not yet be sworn in and voting. This all happens two years before there is any chance for the public to hold members of Congress accountable.
With the TPP enormously unpopular, with candidates Clinton, Trump and Sanders all opposed, with 83 percent of Democrats in Congress voting against fast-tracking the trade agreement last year, the lame-duck Congressional session is the best chance for corporate interests to push TPP around the interests of democracy. So they are going to try to do exactly that.
The recent post, The TPP “Lame Duck” Push Insults Democracy, pleaded:
Leaders should care deeply about the will of the public, not scheme to subvert it. This push for a vote on TPP after the election is an insult to democracy. It is an insult to our economy. It is an insult to the candidates. It is an insult to voters. Don’t do it.
Whose Side Are They On?
It is clearly time for Democrats to decide and declare whether they are on the side of working people and the American middle class, or on the side of Wall Street, giant multinational corporations, the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate lobbying interests. They have to decide if they are on the side of the 99 percent 1 percent. They have to decide if they are on the side of protecting the environment or protecting corporate profits.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said they oppose the TPP. The Democratic Party platform should reflect this and go on the record that Democrats oppose a rigged “lame-duck” vote.
Donald Trump is selling himself as the champion of working-class voters. He says Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, are selling them out with trade deals. But Trump is just a fraud.
Unfortunately, President Obama is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Clinton is not confronting him for doing so.
That has to change – fast. Clinton must publicly, directly and loudly challenge President Obama and demand that he withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.
Trump’s Trade Speech
Trump’s speech on trade and “globalization” issues attempted to frame Clinton and Democrats as being on the side of the “Wall Street” forces that have pushed low-wage policies on working-class Americans. He is using the upcoming and hated TPP being pushed by President Obama as an example of this, saying Clinton is only “pretending” to oppose TPP in order to get votes.
From the speech:
The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our great American landscape.
But our workers’ loyalty was repaid with betrayal.
Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas.
Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.
[. . .] The people who rigged the system are supporting Hillary Clinton because they know as long as she is in charge nothing will ever change.
In Trump’s usage, the words “trade” and “globalization” mean one and only one thing: moving American jobs and factories to low-wage countries. This movement of jobs in recent decades, pitting American workers against exploited workers who are paid squat and can’t do anything about it, has been used as one lever to intentionally create unemployment, break the unions and force down wages. (Inflation panic leading to Federal Reserve interest rate increases, deficit scares leading to austerity — especially the refusal to spend on infrastructure – and obstruction leading to minimum wage stagnation are others.)
Trump is appealing to disaffected working class workers who used to vote Democratic, but have seen their jobs shipped out of the country and/or their wages cut or stagnate. These workers see Democrats as complicit in adopting free-trade deindustrialization policies. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pushed and signed by President Clinton, has become a catchall symbol of this disaffection with free-trade policies, but Democrats are generally seen as having done little to fight such policies.
President Obama contributed to the problem by campaigning with a promise to renegotiate NAFTA, then reneging on this promise once elected.
Trump also went after the Chamber of Commerce for their TPP support, implying they back Clinton. The New York Times reports:
Pressing his staunch opposition to trade deals, Donald J. Trump escalated his attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, saying it was “totally controlled by the special interest groups.”
“They’re a special interest that wants to have the deals that they want to have,” he told a packed arena at a rally here, to whoops and cheers. “They want to have T.P.P., the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the worst deals, and it’ll be the worst deal since NAFTA.”
[. . .] saying the Chamber was “controlled totally by various groups of people that don’t care about you whatsoever.”
Obama Pushing TPP As Election Nears
Clinton has said she is opposed to TPP, and opposed to letting TPP come up for a vote in the “lame duck” session of Congress that follows the election. But as Trump makes trade a centerpiece of his campaign, her opposition and trade focus has not been particularly vocal. She has not asked Democrats in Congress to oppose the TPP, and thanks to past Democratic betrayals many in the public just do not believe her.
Unfortunately, as the election nears, President Obama is pushing and pushing hard to get the TPP passed. Doing this directly conflicts with Clinton’s need to show that Democrats are on the side of working people and provides Trump with powerful ammunition.
Making matters worse, efforts to write TPP opposition into the Democratic Party platform were voted down – by Clinton delegates. Unlike Trump, Democrats do not appear to understand how much this matters to voters.
The recent “Brexit” vote should serve as a warning to Democrats to take issues like this more seriously. Working-class voters in the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) for reasons similar to the appeal Trump is making to working-class voters here.
Analyzing the “Leave” vote in “A Working-Class Brexit,” University of Kent Professor Tim Strangleman writes the following. As you read it, substitute “Democrats” for “Labour”, “Bill Clinton” for “Blair”, “elites supporting free trade agreements” for “remain”, “anti-TPP” for “leave” and “Trump” for “UKIP”:
Resignation, despair, and political apathy have been present in many former industrial regions since the wholesale deindustrialisation of the … economy in the 1980s and 1990s. The election of the Blair-led Labour administration … masked the anger felt in these areas as traditional labour supporters and their needs were often ignored, while traditional Labour supporters were used as voting fodder. Over the … years of Labour power, that support ebbed away, first as a simple decline in votes, but gradually turning into active hostility to the Labour party. Many embraced the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
…for unskilled workers with only a secondary school education, three decades or more of neo-liberalism has left deep scars socially, politically, and culturally, with little hope or expectation that anything would change for the better.
This opposition, so skillfully drawn on by the leave campaign, is in part a working class reaction not only to six years of austerity but also to a long and deep-seated sense of injustice and marginalisation. Most of the remain side, which was a cross party grouping, didn’t seem to understand this before the referendum and, even more depressingly, doesn’t seem to understand it fully now. A stock characterisation of working-class people who intended to vote leave was to label them as unable understanding the issues, easily manipulated, or worse, racist ‘little Englanders’.
Doesn’t this sound just like the working-class voters in places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and other “deindustrialized” parts of the country? These voters used to reliably vote for Democrats, the party that watched out for working people. Donald Trump is appealing directly to these voters. Democrats should not dismiss these voters as “ignorant” or “racist.”
Trump Is A Fraud On Trade
The Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Robert Scott, speaking to VICE, summed up why Trump only appears to have the correct analysis on trade:
“Like a drive-by shooting, he fires enough bullets, he’s going to hit some things that might look like a policy that works,” Scott told VICE. “But it doesn’t have a coherence.”
“The problem with NAFTA is that we failed to effectively help Mexico develop as part of the agreement,” Scott continued. A good model, he said, was what wealthier European nations did for their neighbors like Greece and Spain decades ago, pumping money into their economies to create new markets for goods, thus making a Pan-European economy possible.
“We could create such a vision and implement a truly united North American economy that worked for everybody but nobody’s put that on the table,” he said. “Certainly Trump is not talking about that—he’s talking about building walls.”
EPI’s president Lawrence Mishel goes further, pointing out who got us into this mess:
It’s true that the way we have undertaken globalization has hurt the vast majority of working people in this country—a view that EPI has been articulating for years, and that we will continue to articulate well after November. However, Trump’s speech makes it seem as if globalization is solely responsible for wage suppression, and that elite Democrats are solely responsible for globalization. Missing from his tale is the role of corporations and their allies have played in pushing this agenda, and the role the party he leads has played in implementing it. After all, NAFTA never would have passed without GOP votes, as two-thirds of the House Democrats opposed it.
Republican efforts to drive wages down are the real culprit here:
Furthermore, Trump has heretofore ignored the many other intentional policies that businesses and the top 1 percent have pushed to suppress wages over the last four decades. Start with excessive unemployment due to Federal Reserve Board policies which were antagonistic to wage growth and friendly to the finance sector and bondholders. Excessive unemployment leads to less wage growth, especially for low- and middle-wage workers. Add in government austerity at the federal and state levels—which has mostly been pushed by GOP governors and legislatures—that has impeded the recovery and stunted wage growth. There’s also the decimation of collective bargaining, which is the single largest reason that middle class wages have faltered. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is now more than 25 percent below its 1968 level, even though productivity since then has more than doubled. Phasing in a $15 minimum wage would lift wages for at least a third of the workforce. The most recent example is the effort to overturn the recent raising of the overtime threshold that would help more than 12 million middle-wage salaried workers obtain overtime protections.
Trump in his “trade” speech also called for getting rid of corporate taxes and getting rid of regulations on corporations. He also opposes having any minimum wage at all. Trump and the Republicans are hardly friends of working people.
Opposing TPP Must Be In The Democratic Platform
British elites were surprised when working-class voters decided to “Brexit” and “Leave” the EU. They had been more-or-less complacent about the anger that working people are feeling out there as jobs leave the country, wages are stagnant or falling, work hours get longer for those who have jobs, and the rich just get richer.
Voting against opposition to TPP in the Democratic platform shows that Democrats appear to have the same complacency on trade.
Democrats must get this right. They have to stand up for working people and demand that our trade policies start helping people instead of hurting them. That starts with Clinton demanding that the president withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.
Clinton must pledge to renegotiate all of our trade agreements, this time with labor, environmental, consumer, human rights and other “stakeholder” groups at the table. This is the best way to show the public that she is on their side.
Here are ways to help Democrats get to the right place on this, and put TPP opposition in the platform:
● Keith Ellison via Democracy for America: Will you sign my petition to the DNC’s Platform Committee and join me and DFA in asking them to adopt an anti-TPP amendment when the full committee meets in Orlando on July 8-9?
Also see Bill Scher, “Trump is a William McKinley Protectionist, Not a Bernie Sanders Populist.”
Imagine this scenario. We are in Russia, and voting is conducted by handing your ballot through a curtain. You are not allowed to look behind the curtain. You are never allowed to see the stack of ballots that was handed through the curtain. Then at the end of the day the ballots are destroyed and Putin comes out and announces who won.
Are you going to take Putin’s word for it?
This is exactly the scenario of our current computerized voting systems. If you have a voting machine and do not have a paper ballot that can be counted with independent observers verifying the count, you are really just trusting Putin to look behind the curtain and then tell you who won.
If you have a voting machine with a “paper trail” but not one compares the paper trail to the reported count you are still trusting Putin behind the curtain to tell you who won.
Even if you have paper ballots but they are counted by computers, and no one conducts an independent audit to test if the marks on the ballots match the reported results, you are still trusting Putin behind the curtain to tell you who won.
You should not trust any election unless the system allows anyone including you yourself to count the ballots. That is transparency. If you or someone you trust cannot examine the ballots you can’t trust it and why should you? No other system can be trusted. Billions and trillions are at stake in our elections so there are interests that will go to great lengths to make sure the elections go their way — if they an get away with it.
The question to ask about any election result is, was the process transparent and verifiable and if so DID someone verify it? Otherwise it’s Putin and curtain.
Going into the West Virginia primary, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come out in opposition to a “lame duck” vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This takes her beyond her previous statements mildly opposing TPP. Clinton also made a strong statement criticizing our country’s trade agreements in general.
As reported in The Hill, in “Clinton opposes TPP vote in the lame-duck session,” Clinton replied to a questionnaire from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, which consists of more than 25 labor, environmental and human rights organizations. When asked, “If elected President, would you oppose holding a vote on the TPP during the ‘lame duck’ session before you take office?” she replied, “I have said I oppose the TPP agreement — and that means before and after the election.”
There has been concern that TPP will come up for a vote in the lame-duck session of Congress after the election, and before the next Congress is sworn in. This special session enables votes with little accountability to the public. Members who have been voted out can vote in ways that help them get lobbying jobs and members who were re-elected with corporate money can reward their donors.
For some time now most of the people in this country have been under economic pressure. Pay is not going up very much or at all, while living costs keep rising. One recent statistic stands out – 63 percent of Americans would have difficulty raising $500 to cover an emergency, like a sudden need for car repair so they can get to work. Around them the community’s roads and schools and services are in decline.
Most of the public can see this clearly, yet so many elites can’t see at all, and see it or not, they do little or nothing to make things better. This arrogance of our blind, well-fixed elites is helping drive the Donald Trump phenomenon.
Among the “establishment” – the people “in charge” of our “system,” including the news and opinion elites who serve as gatekeepers of information – there is willful blindness to how things have been getting worse for millions of Americans and their communities. They tell the voters they are wrong, that our trade policies are actually good for them.
The voters turn to Trump, who promises he will make it all better, that it will be beautiful.
No one else (except Sanders) is offering hope.
Magazines Are Good For Us
A perfect example of that elite blindness is last week’s Washington Post “Fact Checker” piece, “Trump’s trade rhetoric, stuck in a time warp” by Glenn Kessler.
According to Kessler, Trump “appears to have not been reading newspapers or economic magazines enough to understand that globalization has changed the face of the world economy, for good or bad. In an interconnected world, it’s no longer a zero sum game in which jobs are either parked in the United States or overseas.”
Right, magazines. That’s the ticket. Trump (and his supporters) should read more magazines that publish elites like Kessler, who can use a lot of big words like “globalization” and “interconnected” and tell laid-off workers to suck it up because it’s “no longer a zero sum game” and that’s that. Too bad for you. If they would only read more magazines they would understand why moving their jobs out of the country is good for all of us.
The Trade Deficit Is Good For Us
On Trump’s complaints about the trade deficit, Kessler writes, “Trump frequently suggests the United States is ‘losing money’ when there is a trade deficit, but that reflects a fundamental misunderstanding. Americans want to buy these products from overseas, either because of quality or price.”
This is simply an astonishing statement. In 2015, the U.S. had a goods trade deficit of $758.9 billion. We have closed so many factories here and moved the jobs there that we paid out $758.9 billion more for imports than we received from exports. That did not happen because “Americans want to buy these products from overseas”; that happened because the owners of the factories wanted to dodge American wages and environmental protection costs, and move production to places where workers are made to live in barracks, forced to stand for 10 hours, and get paid squat.
Moving Jobs Out Of The Country Is Good For Us
Then Kessler gets into the old game of saying that moving the jobs out of the country is good for us because we all get to pay lower prices.
Kessler also says all those jobs aren’t gone because we moved millions and millions of jobs out of the country so investors could pay lower wages, pollute all they want and pocket all of the savings; no, the jobs are gone because of “increased productivity.”
“The manufacturing sector has declined as a source of jobs in the United States, but again Trump would be fighting against economic shifts long in the making. American manufacturing has becomes incredibly productive, so fewer workers are needed to make the same number of goods.”
Kessler makes excuse after excuse, but think back to that $758.9 billion goods trade deficit. Imagine what would happen to the U.S. economy – and to the economic lives of all those Trump supporters – if U.S. manufacturers received $758.9 billion of orders right now. And then another $758.9 billion in orders next year. Think about the factories opening, the workers hired, the wage increases as companies fought to get enough workers, the ripple effect for the suppliers, the stores where people shop and the overall economic health of the communities where these workers live and work.
That is the effect of that trade deficit. It is $758.9 billion of orders our factories are not getting, because that is how much more we are importing than making here.
It isn’t about productivity; it’s about a $758.9 billion goods trade deficit.
NAFTA Was Good For Us
Kessler also explains to ignorant, laid-off auto workers whose jobs were moved to Mexico why this was good for them.
As a result of NAFTA, the United States, Canada and Mexico constitute an economically integrated market, especially for the auto industry. Auto parts and vehicles produced in each country freely flow over the borders, without tariffs or other restrictions, as thousands of part suppliers serve the automakers that build the vehicles. This is known as the “motor vehicle supply chain.” In fact, the prospective Ford plant that Trump complains about appears to be intended to produce cars for export from Mexico — and thus would free up production to produce more trucks in the United States.
Visit Flint, Detroit, other places where workers were laid off and factories were shut down and moved to Mexico. Look at the devastation that resulted, and tell people why this is good for them.
Meanwhile the Mexican auto-worker wage is around $26 a day. That’s $26 per day, not per hour. Workers who try to improve conditions are fired. A newspaper Kessler never reads (he reads magazines) reported last year, in “Workers may be losers in Mexico’s car boom” on the working conditions for those Mexican auto workers who have those jobs that used to be in Detroit and Flint and similar places.
“They don’t treat you with humanity. It was exploitation in general,” said Ricardo Gutierrez, 32, who had spent two years at the plant before losing his job. “But there was nothing we could do.”
[. . .] For a job with 12-hour days, often including weekends, that paid about $75 a week — with $3 of that disappearing into union dues — some decided it was not worth it.
[. . .] “They threatened me. They told me if I didn’t sign, nobody was going to give me work, because they were going to tell all the car companies bad things about me,” Rodriguez said. “Since then, I’ve been looking for work. But I can’t find anything.”
But moving jobs to Mexico was really good for all of us, you see.
Laying People Off And Rehiring At Low Wages Is Good For Us
Who doesn’t know someone whose job was shipped to China? Or who was threatened with their job being moved if they try to demand a raise? Or who is afraid their job will be shipped to China if they take a sick day or a vacation day.
The American workforce consists of:
1) People whose jobs were moved out of the country, who when took forever to find a new one (if they ever did) and who get paid much less now. In the process, maybe they lost their house or their retirement savings.
2) People who know someone this happened to.
3) People who are afraid this will happen to them. This creates a climate of fear. They don’t take vacations or sick days. They take on extra work at nights or weekends. They work “on call,” never far from the phone and checking work email into the night. They try to make everyone else look bad so they’re not first on the firing line.
4) People who don’t get raises as a result of 1, 2 or 3. Meanwhile the cost of living, rent, health insurance co-pays, etc. keeps going up and up. Pressure builds. (Trump beckons…)
5) People who are doing really well, maybe write op-eds for a living, have a great stock portfolio, don’t believe 1, 2, 3 or 4 exist at all, and believe “everyone is better off because of free trade.” (They also read magazines, apparently.)
The people in categories 1, 2, 3 and 4 are potential Trump voters. People in category 5 just don’t get it. Kessler and similar elites are in category 5.
It’s Their Own Fault Anyway
Our elite class loves to explain to laid-off workers why their woes are their own fault. They don’t have a college degree. They should have started their own companies. They’re on drugs. They don’t know how to program computers. They’re too fat or lazy or dim to quickly adapt.
Trump beckons… “There will be so many jobs.” “It will be beautiful.”
At least New York Times columnist David Brooks doesn’t try to arrogantly dismiss the concerns of Trump voters. In last week’s “No, Not Trump, Not Ever,” he writes,
Well, some respect is in order. Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed. They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else.
Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand how they would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.
Trump voters are “a coalition of the dispossessed.” Government has done nothing for them. Elites: You’re not going to stop Trump by telling his voters how wrong they are about the economy and the effects of our country’s trade policies. They’re not wrong. You are. They’re not stuck in a time warp. You are.