If They Take The Senate Republicans Will Pass Trade Deals That Clinch Plutocracy

Trade deals like NAFTA have helped create terrible inequality by outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries so “investors” can pocket the wage difference. These corporate trade deals also create “corporate courts” that bypass the borders of democracy and place billionaires and their corporations beyond the reach of governments when it comes to deciding on laws and regulations that protect citizens.

There are more of these “NAFTA-style” being negotiated right now. These are much bigger than the trade deals that have already created such inequality and corporate hegemony. If Republicans take the Senate and keep the House they will pass these new trade deals and clinch this deal worldwide – and President Obama has already indicated he will sign them. This is serious so try to talk a few non-voting friends into showing up this time.

Trade Deals Being Negotiated Now

The big corporations are pushing our government to finalize three very big trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). These are not really trade deals but cover all kinds of issues, including the ability to place corporate rights alongside or above the rights of countries to make their own laws.

These “trade” deals will, if passed by Congress and signed by the president, cement a corporate right to profits above the rights of citizens to pass laws to protect our health, environment, wages, working conditions and anything else we might decide to do to make our lives better. That’s right, these trade agreements place corporate rights above national sovereignty, and they do this behind a veil of secrecy.

These deals, like NAFTA and other “NAFTA-style” agreements, have “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) provisions that let giant corporations sue governments for passing laws that might cause investors to make lower profits. For example, these (and current) agreements allow tobacco companies to stop governments from engaging in anti-smoking initiatives to protect the health of their citizens. These suits do not come up in front of government courts. These are adjudicated by corporate-controlled tribunals of private arbitrators — “corporate courts” set up by these trade agreements. The “judges” are often corporate lawyers who just happen to also represent global investors and whose livelihood depends on the very corporations they are judging.

These deals are being negotiated with only the interests of the giant corporations at the table. Citizens groups, labor groups, consumer groups, environmental groups, health groups and other representatives of stakeholders in the world’s economy are excluded from the process.

Why is our own government negotiating a deal that gives so much to the big corporations and the billionaires behind them, and takes so much away from regular people? Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) sums it up, saying there are three kinds of people negotiating these agreements on behalf of our government:

  • People who used to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements.
  • People who want to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements.
  • People who used to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements and want to work for the giant corporations that benefit from these agreements again.

Why would the giant corporations and the billionaires want these agreements? Because they clinch the deal and get them around the borders of democracy.

Wow, That Sounds Extreme

Trade deals are placing corporate rights above national sovereignty? They are intentionally undermining democracy? This sounds extreme. What kind of person would make such extreme accusations?

Yes, it sounds extreme. This is a dilemma progressives continually face when describing the agenda and actions of the corporate/conservative right. Because so much of what they are accomplishing is hidden behind a veil of secrecy, obfuscation and long-term step-by-step strategy (think frog in a pot with the water being heated slowly), and because people pay very little attention to the news and current events until something smacks them in the face (or wallet) you sound like a crazy extremist when you simply describe to people what is going on.

  • They’re trying to privatize Medicare? What an extreme accusation to make.
  • They are trying to make it hard for legitimate citizens to vote? Wow, what an extreme statement.
  • They’re trying to get rid of public schools? What an extreme thing to say.
  • They’re trying to engineer a cut in everyone’s pay and benefits? What an extreme … oh, wait, we all can see now that they did that.

The corporate right depends on this one-two punch of secrecy and a poorly informed public to get their way.

Tea-Party Republicans vs. Chamber Of Commerce Republicans

So far enough Democrats have opposed these trade deals to keep the Congress from passing the “fast-track” trade promotion authority that is used to push them through. Fast track requires Congress to rush to a vote immediately after the treaty is made public, prevents Congress from amending the agreements and prevents filibusters from blocking them in the Senate. But if Republicans take the Senate and keep the House, there may no longer be enough non-corporate-controlled members of Congress to keep this from happening.

However, there would still be one hope for blocking these trade deals, even if Republicans take the Senate, and that’s the party’s tea party wing.

These trade agreements undermine the sovereignty of our country. They allow others to override our own ability as a country to make our own laws. This is one place where the tea party gets it squarely right. And this is one place where the tea party wing of the Republican Party is at war with the Chamber of Commerce (corporate-controlled) wing of the Republicans. National sovereignty is important to tea party Republicans, so they oppose these agreements. Also they oppose them because they are favored by President Obama. “Don’t let Obama negotiate away our national sovereignty” is a tea party rallying cry.

If Republicans take the Senate, let’s hope this appreciation of national sovereignty overrides their appreciation of corporate cash.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Everybody Has an Opinion v 2.0

It seems like everybody has an opinion on world affairs and what this President should or should not do even today on the Sunday morning political shows . Arm chair diplomats seem to be everywhere. In fact, every Tom, Dick and Harry is now an expert on Syria, Iraq, Iran, or the terrorist group — ISIS aka ISIL. It’s truly an amazing phenomenon to witness so much commotion from our elected officials, media personalities or everyday citizens. Some want to declare war; others want to bomb, bomb, and bomb; yet while others don’t want any troops deployed, and scrutinize every plane and/or drone that is used.

California’s senior Senator Dianne Feinstein from San Francisco led the Democrats and took her best shot at the President for being too cautious on last week’s Sunday’s Meet the Press, but seems to be coming around to support the President after his statements today. But adding to the polemic is the ever growing pack of Democrats up for re-election, and the Republicans with their tom-tom drums stirring up fear and even more adversity. These GOP naysayers come in all shapes and sizes from the Boobsie Twins, aka Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are both continuously stirring the proverbial pot on the world stage and at home; to Governor Chris Christie who is pounding his chest this week about Russia’s Putin while judiciously checking his poll numbers. Really, really wish there was a way to simmer them all down because it is just not helping. Words do matter and this type of rabble rousing makes people even more uneasy during this time of great upheaval. Frankly, nothing good can come from Geraldo Rivera’s evocative words on social media, except more unrest:

“Morning, the president finally declared our strategic goal to ‘degrade and destroy’ ISIS. We must hold him to it. Behead the ISIS butchers.” 5:35 AM — 3 Sep 2014 New York, NY, United States

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Three Charts to Email to Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law — Updated

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “stimulus” just made things worse.

Solution: Here are three “reality-based” charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.

Spending

Bush_Obama_Spending_2014

Government spending increased dramatically under President Bush. It has not increased much under President Obama. This is just a fact.

Deficits

Bush_Obama_Deficit_2014

Note that this chart starts with Clinton’s last budget year for comparison.

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Has Anyone Calculated The Average Obama Cave-In Time?

m4s0n501

Has anyone calculated an average Obama cave time? Of course, this is a number that will keep going lower, as he caves ever-more quickly…

CBS: White House is “open to looking at” FAA furlough fix,

Under pressure, the White House signaled Wednesday it might accept legislation eliminating Federal Aviation Administration furloughs blamed for lengthy flight delays for airline passengers, while leaving the rest of $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts in place.

[. . .] At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said that if Congress “wants to address specifically the problems caused by the sequester with the FAA, we would be open to looking at that.

The Legacy of Sandy Hook: An Unprecedented Opening for Change

The wholesale slaughter of children sparked an unprecedented opening for change in this country. Killing children broke something fundamental in our culture. On that sad day, it felt as if there was a giant ripping in our society — yielding a gaping hole in all that was sacred and right. It was like watching the Twin Towers collapse all over again, but now it was our children. Many have asked if we have waited too long for action, the answer is simply no. Babies and guns do not belong in the same sentence. Assault weapons must never again be used to kill children.

It’s that opening – the gaping wound — that is inspiring our President Obama and Vice President Biden. This unlikely duo appear to be fueled by the fire of what is possible, and are driving a Mack truck through this opening right now — whether it is to push through the broadest gun safety legislation; or enact comprehensive immigration reform; or to raise the minimum wage; or end violence toward women; or to support gay marriage.

Watching our President Obama the evening of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School – it was clear that he would leap tall buildings to save the children and people of this country. It had become a Holy Crusade and compromise is off the table. Witness the fervor with which this team is working to move their Cabinet nominations forward even for beleaguered Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Republican shenanigans are not being tolerated even on their home turf, the House of Representatives. These folks can rant and rave for the cameras (and they do), but are falling flat with no run way. The President’s approval ratings are soaring even in the shadow of the latest, manufactured financial machination of the ‘sequester.’ And it is this fundamental lack of empathy and understanding that may be the down fall of the Republican Party as we know it today.

Frankly, the President is done turning himself into a human pretzel and for this we must rejoice. You just can’t compromise with folks that hate you and all that you stand for. It’s a travesty that it took this horrific loss of lives in Sandy Hook to galvanize the American people – but it did. Unbelievably, today one child still “dies every three hours from gun violence in the United States.” Everyone knows that gun safety legislation is not about the Second Amendment, but rather about sustaining a modern civilization.

The winds of change are upon us. Just witness the President’s news conference today on the impasse over what is called sequestration. He’s not backing down.

 

A Million On The Mall: Our President’s Progressive Pivot-Point?

Before the election reporters and pundits were saying that not so many people would turn out this time, that it would be close at best. But on election day it turned out that it wasn’t even close. The people did turn out, some waiting in lines four, five, six hours to vote, many using provisional ballots because their states were trying to stop them. We, the People had a clear choice in front of us and We, the People made a clear choice.

Then, immediately after the election the “Very Serious People” tried to force through continued tax breaks for the wealthy paid for by cuts in the things the American people do to make each other’s lives better. People got involved and organized and it didn’t work out quite the way the one-percenters and their Very Serious spokespeople wanted it to work out.

For President Obama’s second inaugural the reporters were saying that not so many people would show up on the Mall this time. (“Assignment editor” Drudge had that up so that’s what much of the career media were repeating.) But from the inauguration stage at the Capitol Barack Obama looked out and saw as many as a million people on the National Mall cheering him on. People did show up.

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Debate – Obama Won

Obama clearly won. Clearly.
Romney got of several lies that were not refuted, but several that did get refuted. After a while Romney was left just repeating his memorized script — 4 times? Am I right that it was 4 times?
I wonder, is that ALL Romney has – just lying?
I saw Van Jones on CNN holding up an Etch-a-Sketch.
FYI – Obama never said that unemployment would be 5.4% by now. Romney repeated that lie … how many time?

What Is The Calculation Behind Romney’s Campaign Of Lies?

The Romney campaign has turned to a strategy of swamping the public with flat-out, blatant lies, one after another, again and again, endlessly and lavishly repeated. They do this because they are making a calculation that it will work! So what is going on? And can democracy survive this assault?

The Growing List Of Lies

This week’s lie is the “Obama gutted welfare reform” nonsense. See Bill Scher’s must-read response, Romney’s Welfare Lie: A Betrayal Of Conservatism. The reporting conveys the Romney message, like this: Romney accuses Obama of dismantling welfare reform. The lie is driven home by a massive $$-driven carpet bombing of ads.
The next-most recent lie was the “Obama is trying to keep military families from voting” lie. This lie, repeated over and over, coordinated with outside groups, reinforces the “Democrats are anti-military” narrative.
Before that was the “You didn’t build that” lie, where the Romney campaign doctored audio to make it sound as though President Obama said something he didn’t say. (And got away with it.) This lie, repeated over and over, reinforces the “Democrats are anti-business” narrative.
This one on welfare reinforces the “Democrats take your money and give it to black people” narrative. “We will end a culture of dependency and restore a culture of good, hard work,” said Romney, promising to make them work good and hard.
Rachel Maddow’s blog has been keeping track of the Romney lies, and it is a loooooong list.

How It Is Done

Here is how it works. Each lie is developed in the right’s machine, using something currently in the news to reinforce an ongoing narrative about “liberals.” The lie percolates up through a well-worn process where the germ of the story is planted in smaller outlets, and variations of it are tried out until one seems to resonate. Next, larger right-wing media operations pick up the developed “story” and drive it further. It gets amplified on the radio, FOX News and the right’s newspapers. Finally the corporate media takes it out to more and more people, covering themselves with the claim they are just “reporting” on a “story” that is “already out there.”
One way or another the lie is repeated and repeated and repeated (and repeated) in various forms through various channels that reach various target groups, until it becomes a “truth.” Once it has become a “truth” the Romney campaign uses this “truth” to claim Democrats and President Obama are harming the country.
The Solyndra story is a good example. The right developed a lie about “cronyism,” claiming that a Democratic donor is “tied to” solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra because a foundation with his name on it was an investor in the company. Because a foundation was the investor there was no possibility for the donor to benefit. But that doesn’t matter, they used this “tie” to spread a lie the Obama administration was steering money into someone’s pocket, and they repeated it and repeated it and repeated it.
After months of repetition of this lie, the Romney campaign understood that the lie has become a “truth,” and is using that “truth” themselves in campaign ads and Romney’s stump speech! Romney talks about “cronyism” in the Obama administration, understanding that much of the public now believes this is established fact.

The Calculation

The Romney campaign is limiting media access to the candidate and offering little in the way of substantive policy proposals. They are instead using press releases, advertisements, message-trained surrogates, cooperative media like FOX, Drudge, talk radio, allied newspapers and the right’s blogosphere, while coordinating with massively-funded outside groups like Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation and others.
This is a key thing to get, the Romney campaign believes that they can win this election using lies and propaganda as “truths” to drive their campaign story. They are making the calculation that the right’s media machine has become sufficiently powerful for their version of reality to reach enough of the public, and that it is sticking in their minds as “truths!”
They are also making the calculation — so far validated by the media response — that there will be little if any pushback from “mainstream” media. They trust that the media will look the other way, report lies as “one side says X, the other says Y,” tell the public “both sides do it,” and say this is just par for the course.
But if there is media resistance, they are calculating that the right’s own media power can override any pushback that might come. They might also believe they can turn media resistance to their advantage. Decades have been spent convincing their followers to see potentially objective information sources as “the liberal media,” enemy of conservatism, and any pushback for lying could just increase support for their campaign.
So the Romney campaign, like the recent Bush administration, are conscious that they do not need to work with facts. Instead they believe they can “create truth” through the manipulation of perception. This is hardly new in Repubican circles. The phrase “reality-based community” came out of the previous Republican administration’s calculations of what the public will and won’t learn about. This famous quote from Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush by Ron Suskind, explains,

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

What Does The Public “Know?”

If you are reading this you are likely very well-informed. You pay attention to the mainstream news, as well as read various progressive sources. But much of the public is not very well-informed, and faces the problem of not knowing what sources to trust. Subjected to a constant battering of corporate/conservative propaganda and disinformation, they are busy, and not ready or able to do the extensive research needed to make informed decisions.
Progressives and “liberals” try to solve this problem by trying to help people get informed. Conservatives, however, try to use it to their advantage, spreading self-serving misinformation.
The well-funded propagandists study and understand the shorthand methods people use to determine what to believe. This is the reason for the ongoing attacks on the credibility of what would normally be seen as trustworthy sources, like PBS, NPR and what the rest of what has been disparaged for decades as “the liberal media.” This is also the reason for the establishment of so many corporate-funded conservative “institutes” and other academic and authoritative-sounding organizations that issue “studies” and “reports” that always echo the corporate-conservative positions.
The “mainstream” corporate media has also undergone a change over recent decades. Many outlets now see themselves as businesses with a product that has to appeal to “the market” to make money. They no longer see their mission to be informing the public so citizens have the information that is needed to function in a democracy, but instead as “maximizing shareholder return,” by “driving traffic” and whatever else it takes to sell advertising. And many people working as “journalists” understand that advancing their own careers means not making waves by being perceived as “leftist” or “anti-business.”

The Test

Steve Benen calls this a “test for the political world,” writing,

How are we to respond to a campaign that deliberately deceives the public without shame? This lie about welfare policy comes on the heels of Romney’s lie about voting rights in Ohio, which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about the economy; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about health care; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about taxes.
The Republican nominee for president is working under the assumption that he can make transparently false claims, in writing and in campaign advertising, with impunity. Romney is convinced that there are no consequences for breathtaking dishonesty.
The test, then, comes down to a simple question: is he right?

This is a test for the political world, as well as a challenge to the viability of our democratic system. We can expect this to continue and accelerate until election day, driven by hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires and their huge corporations. The question is, will enough of our misinformed public be tricked by the lies? If this succeeds, what kind of country will we become? What will be left?
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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3rd Anniversary Of Stimulus – How’d It Do?

This is the 3rd anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as President Obama’s “stimulus.” Republicans say it made the economy worse. Let’s see…
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday, “Today, there’s no denying the fact that his ‘stimulus’ policies not only failed, they made things worse.” Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney released an ad that says, “What did we get with all the spending?” text in the ad reads. “24 million Americans struggling for work. Record long term unemployment. 4th straight trillion dollar deficit.”
So What Happened?
In the following charts, the left side, where it is red, shows how things were going before the stimulus, and the right side, where it is blue, shows the effect of President Obama’s policies. Click any chart for a larger view.
Jobs: (the left side, with all the lines going down, down, down, is before the stimulus. The right side, with the dramatic reversal, with all the lines going up, up, up, is the stimulus taking effect.)

January 2012 Jobs Report

Private sector jobs: (the left side, with all the lines going down, down, down, is before the stimulus. The right side, with the dramatic reversal, with all the lines going up, up, up, is the stimulus taking effect.)

January 2012 Jobs Report - Private Sector

Economic growth: (the left side, with all the lines going down, down, down, is before the stimulus. The right side, with the dramatic reversal, with all the lines going up, up, up, is the stimulus taking effect.)

GDP 2008-2011

Republicans also say the stimulus caused the debt. So where did the growth in public debt really come from? (Remember, when Obama took office, Bush’s last budget had a $1.4 trillion deficit, which Republicans say was Obama’s fault.)

Wars and Bush Tax Cuts Will Account For Half of Public Debt

PS: see also Three Charts To Email To Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law
Update: Michael Linden, Director of Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress looks a the stimulus “in a new video by looking at three broad but important indicators for the American economy. All three were in bad shape before the stimulus began, and all three turned around at almost exactly the moment the stimulus started. Coincidence?”

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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President’s Plan: First Step Toward A Win-Win

President Obama has taken a step in the right direction with his speech and jobs plan. It was a small step – but it has to be to present Republicans with the choice to cooperate or get pushed out of the way. If this passes it is a win for jobs and the economy — and therefore the President’s re-election. If Republicans block it, the President wins because voters will push Republicans out and the country will be able to get moving again. But it all depends on follow-through. The President has to keep out there, pounding on this and only this every single day until there is a vote. Every. Single. Day. That is the key.
The Plan – Barely Enough
The American Jobs Act is a mix of extensions of current efforts and new tax cuts and infrastructure spending. Extend and add to the Social Security tax cut. Cut various taxes for hiring new workers and returning veterans. Money to states to prevent laying off even more teachers. Modernize schools to hire construction workers. The total including tax cuts is around $450 billion.
If passed this will help and people will be able to feel the difference. It isn’t enough, but there is a reason for that. It is small in order to keep Republicans from having any excuse to block it.
The Republican Choice
It has become pretty clear that Republicans are blocking … everything … in order to keep the economy from getting better, because doing this hurts the President’s re-election chances. So the President is giving them a package they have to vote for, or explain why not. This is a win-win because passing this helps the country and the economy and the unemployed. And not passing this helps the country and the economy and the unemployed because it exposes exactly who is behind the lack of progress in Washington that everyone is so upset about.
Full Engagement
The President has to be fully engaged on this one. A few words are not going to win it. The only thing that will win this is for the President to use the “bully pulpit” and be speaking about it every single day until there is a vote. Nothing else will do. This is all up to him now. He has taken the first small step toward pulling us all out of the mess we have been in. He has to recognize that it was only a small step and there is a big, big fight in front of him, and that he has to be fully engaged on this every single day until there is a vote.
Every. Single. Day. Until. There. Is. A. Vote. Nothing else will do. If the President does this we win and that means he wins.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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