Just Listen To The First 5 Minutes

Before I tell you what the subject is, just click this to listen to the first five minutes of Sunday night’s Virtually Speaking: (Actually skip in about 1:35 and then listen to five minutes.)

Listen To Politics Progressive Internet Radio Stations with Jay Ackroyd on BlogTalkRadio

If you are like me (and who isn’t?) you’ll be hooked. Now that you’re into it, how about the first five minutes of this press call yesterday:

OK, now that the cat is out of the bag, these audio tracks are about one of the most interesting, exciting subjects there is: trade agreements and trade deficits.

Here’s the thing. We have a trade deficit of up to $500 billion each year. That’s upwards of $500 billion worth of orders that should be going to businesses that make or do things inside the U.S. That’s up to $500 billion worth of hiring and businesses and factories (re)opening, and all their suppliers booming, and the stores around those businesses and factories and suppliers booming, too.

So call and ask your member of Congress and your senators what they are going to do about this enormous, humongous trade deficit. This is the deficit that people should be worried about, not the budget deficit. And especially ask candidates this fall. Get this on the agenda, because getting it on the agenda will bring back jobs and businesses and factories and higher wages and all the things that go with that.

Now, for something totally unrelated, “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: President Barack Obama.”

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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

No Fast Track To TPP: Fix NAFTA First

The big corporations and the Obama administration are trying to push through a giant new trade treaty that gives corporations even more power, and which will send even more jobs, factories, industries and money out of the country. This is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and they are pushing something called “fast track” in Congress to help push it through.

We have to stop this, and we should take the momentum we have generated in our push-back on this to demand Congress and President Obama instead fix NAFTA first. Then fix all of our trade relationships to help working people on all sides of our borders.

TPP, Fast Track And NAFTA

There has been a lot of news about the upcoming TPP trade agreement. The agreement is being negotiated in extreme secrecy in a corporate-dominated process that appears to be leading to an agreement that would give corporations even more power than they already have. Now there is a push to pass a process called fast track through Congress in order to enable the large corporations to strong-arm TPP into law mobilized organizations around the country to sound the alarm.

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Are ‘Globalization’s’ Costs Inevitable?

You hear often that we “live in a global world now.” You hear that “globalization” means we have to drop our wages and standards to match those in impoverished, Third-World countries. You hear that the “cost” of controlling pollution makes us uncompetitive in the world. Etc. Etc. Etc. It’s inevitable – a force of nature – so don’t fight it, they say. This is endlessly repeated as if we weren’t in a “global” world when the first camel crossed a border or the first sailing ship crossed a sea. But since that first camel countries have enacted policies to make things better for their people.

Sunday’s New York Times published an op-ed, “The Myth of Industrial Rebound,” by Steven Rattner, one more wealthy Wall Street executive who revolved through the door from being an Obama administration official after he revolved through the door from being a Wall Street executive. In his op-ed Rattner accurately describes many of our economy’s problems but concludes that we should let these things just happen to us because, “In a flattened world, there will always be another China.”

Rattner points out that many of the new manufacturing jobs are low-wage. “This disturbing trend is particularly pronounced in the automobile industry. When Volkswagen opened a plant in Chattanooga … the beginning wage for assembly line workers was $14.50 per hour, about half of what traditional, unionized workers employed by General Motors or Ford received.” Meanwhile, “in Germany, the average autoworker earns $67 per hour. … Volkswagen has moved production from a high-wage country (Germany) to a low-wage country (the United States).”

Rattner is correct that falling wages are slowing economic recovery. “These dispiriting wage trends are a central reason for the slow economic recovery; without sustained income growth, consumers can’t spend.”

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Watch: What One-Sided Trade Pacts Are Doing To Our Jobs

I was on “The Nicole Sandler Show” recently talking about the one-sided trade agreements we’ve been tricked into and the damage they do to the economy. It’s also quite entertaining. Seriously, it is. Bad puns, jokes and, of course, Nicole!!

On the show I talk about what the 2012 $540 billion trade deficit means. “Imagine if factories in America got orders for $540 billion of goods… the economy would be booming. … that was just one year of our trade deficit.”

The show was partly based on my recent post, New Fast-Track Bill Means Higher Trade Deficits and Lost Jobs.

And check out RadioOrNot.com.

PS Nicole and I are buddies and I’m on the show once in a while, so I can get away with terrible jokes and puns.
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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

NAFTA At 20: 1 Million Lost Jobs, 580% Increase In Trade Deficit

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch has issued a new report, NAFTA at 20: One Million U.S. Jobs Lost, Mass Displacement and Instability in Mexico, Record Income Inequality, Scores of Corporate Attacks on Environmental and Health Laws. The report compares the promises with which NAFTA was sold with the results we can measure 20 years later.

NAFTA was not just a “trade” agreement. Trade agreements focus on cutting tariffs and easing quotas and barriers to goods moving across borders. The report points out that NAFTA was much more, giving corporations special rights, incentivizing offshoring and limiting regulation. As the report puts it,

“NAFTA created new privileges and protections for foreign investors that incentivized the offshoring of investment and jobs by eliminating many of the risks normally associated with moving production to low-wage countries. NAFTA allowed foreign investors to directly challenge before foreign tribunals domestic policies and actions, demanding government compensation for policies that they claimed undermined their expected future profits. NAFTA also contained chapters that required the three countries to limit regulation of services, such as trucking and banking; extend medicine patent monopolies; limit food and product safety standards and border inspection; and waive domestic procurement preferences, such as Buy American.”

Some of the effects of NAFTA that are highlighted in the report include,

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On TPP Call USW’s Leo Gerard Nails A Key Point

I joined a conference call yesterday that talked about the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and the “Fast Track” process that the big corporations are trying to push on Congress to smooth the way for them to push this “trade’ deal through.

The call was hosted by Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. Also on the call were:
U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Leo Gerard, President, United Steelworkers (USW)
Larry Cohen, President, Communication Workers of America (CWA)
James Hoffa, President, Intl Brotherhood of Teamsters
Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club

This was an involved, comprehensive discussion with a lot of information, and I will write more about the issues covered in future posts. But there was one statement that I think just nails the key point about the results of previous agreements that our country has managed to get itself into. It was made by USW’s Leo Gerard and I’ll let his words make the point:

In all the trade deals we’ve done since 1994, for those of you on the call from the press and friends in the political process, I think these are important numbers you should take a very close look at: in the period of time from 1994 to October 2013, America has accumulated an overall trade deficit of $8.3 trillion. And, if you subtract goods and services where we’ve been able to export certain services like accounting and stuff like that – that we have a slight surplus in – if you subtract that, the deficit in manufactured goods is over $10 trillion.

This should be the deficit that we’re looking at, rather than the one that keeps getting thrown up by some Democrats and rightwing Republicans.

And then if you go through this deal, before you look at this deal you have to look at all of the previous deals and ask “which one of these that we’ve done has resulted in net job gains and net trade surplus for America?” And you know what the answer is? None.

So in this deal, they’re looking at what are we going to do about state-owned enterprises that we’re supposed to compete with? We’ve got workers that can compete with any company, but they can’t compete with countries. What are they going to do about rules of origin? Put things in perspective: for example in NAFTA, to be country of origin you need 62.5% domestic content. The U.S.-Australia deal went 50%. The U.S.-South Korea deal went to 35%. Where will this one take us? We’re supposed to compete with countries that are getting their parts from China, Vietnam, Brunei, and exporting materials to here, when if they have 35% of material from their country they’re called ‘a domestic product’? That’s crazy.”

Later in the call Leo said, “The politicians keep telling us the same song and dance that turns out not to be the truth. We’ve lost five million manufacturing jobs. The public gets it, and the politicians don’t.”

What This Says

Leo nailed the key point about the trade deals we have gotten ourselves into. We have not yet found ourselves in a good, balanced trade deal that helps the country instead of just a few billionaires. In all of the trade deals we have made, the country has lost money and has lost jobs.

And why is this? Because these deals are not being negotiated to help the country, they are being negotiated to help a few giant corporations and the billionaires these corporations represent. The process leads to deals that dramatically enrich the 1% while they kill off the economic participation of the rest of us in our economy.

The trade deals we have entered into allow companies to move jobs and factories to countries with low democracy and therefore low wages and little if any environmental protection. So things made there cost less than things made here. This undermines our country and our democracy — but it enriches the few who own and/or run these giant corporations. Because it opens them up to move jobs wherever they want our unions are broken, unemployment is kept high (on purpose) and employers can threaten the remaining workers with moving their jobs, too, if they don’t accept cuts.

You can listen to the audio recording of this call: http://www.conferenceplayback.com/stream/98120468/48264901.mp3

And now for your entertainment: All our trade deal are belong to them.

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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

Why Do We The People Have To Read TPP On Wikileaks?

We the People finally get to read one chapter of the 29-chapter Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement. If this agreement becomes law it will fundamentally alter the relationship between our government, other governments and giant multinational corporations, so you’d think America’s citizens would want to have a say in the negotiations. But the only reason We the People get to even read it at all is because it was leaked to Wikileaks.

Wikileaks Obtains TPP Chapter

Wikileaks has obtained one of the chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement that is being negotiated in secret. This leaked section is the chapter about patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial design and other “intellectual property.” Note that this has little or nothing to do with “trade.”

This chapter is from August, and it is unknown how the chapter may have changed between then and now. The chapter indicates that the US is pushing hard to get strong “protections” for giant telecommunications companies and pharmaceutical patent-holders.

WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange said this in the announcement that Wikileaks had obtained the chapter text,

“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

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TPP And Wikileaks

Wikileaks has obtained one of the chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement that is being negotiated in secret. This leaked section is the about patents and intellectual property. Note that this has little or nothing to do with “trade.”

The TPP process is set up to lead to a certain kind of agreement that favors corporate interests against the interests of most of us. Groups representing non-corporate stakeholders were kept out of the process. This section of TPP was negotiated with companies that hold patents and copyrights and profit from doing so at the table, while groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, consumer groups, patient protection groups etc. were NOT at the table. So it isn’t a surprise to see here the one-sided result of those negotiations.

Here are two examples of what results from this one-sided process.

First, you might remember that efforts to get rid of Net Neutrality and pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) failed to make it through our democratic, Constitutional process because people were able to become informed, rally opposition and make their case to stop these terrible things from happening. but this meant that the giant telecommunications corporations lost some power sand profit potential. So TPP becomes a treaty that accomplishes these same corporate goals by going around our democratic, Constitutional process.

Second, there is an argument going on inside TPP negotiations about whether to “carve out” tobacco from the treaty. The way the treaty is currently shaping up tobacco companies will be able to sue governments that try to protect their citizens with anti-smoking efforts. So some countries are trying to “carve out” tobacco from those rules in TPP. Never mind other corporate products that harm people, tobacco gets attention because it kills so many people. But the corporations are resisting this because it sets a precedent of allowing governments to set limits on things corporations can profit from.

I think this second thing should tell people all they need to know about this and similar “trade” agreements. They are really about setting certain giant corporations above government — and other corporations — restricting competition and innovation so these giants can stay dominant, and keep democracies and their citizens from meddling in the profit stream.

Fast Track

So if citizens were able to use democracy to fight SOPA and keep Net Neutrality and other things, how can they get TPP through? Here is how: they are trying to convince Congress to pass something called “Fast Track.” Fast Track limits the objections Congress can make to this treaty, forces them to vote “up or down” in a hurry, and this will of course happen in the middle of biggest corporate-funded campaign you have ever seen. If you think there is a lot of anti-Obamacare in the news today, or if you think there was a well-orchestrated “run up” to sell the Iraq war, well those are nothing compared to what they will do to sell this one.

Key point: They will try to push through “fast track” and then launch a massively-funded campaign to pass the treaty. If we can block Fast Track we might have a chance to head off this corporate takeover of the world.

TPP/Fast Track Fight Is On

You’ve probably been hearing warnings about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement that is being negotiated. And you might have heard that the big corporations are going to push to use something called “fast track” trade promotion authority (TPA) to push it through.

It’s time to learn about TPP and fast track, and then call your member of Congress to let them know if you want them to hand the giant multinationals an end-run around democracy and national sovereignty.

The Fast Track Push Is Coming

“Fast track” trade promotion authority, if passed, means Congress yields its constitutional authority and obligation to review and amend trade agreements. A “fast track” treaty has to be voted on quickly, cannot be amended, and Congress has to give it an up-or-down vote.

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman is pushing Congress to pass “fast track,” in hope of pushing through the TPP agreement by the end of the year. Politico lays it out, in “Froman pushing Congress to finalize trade deals,”

President Barack Obama was often criticized in his first term for moving too slowly on trade, but now his chief negotiator is pressing Congress to pick up the pace as the White House pushes to conclude a landmark trade deal in the Asia-Pacific by the end of the year.

[. . .] Froman and his team at USTR are pushing to finish the TPP talks by the end of the year, putting pressure on Congress to move a TPA bill to set the stage for the final phase of talks.

Fast Track To Push TPP

The next “trade” treaty will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is a huge treaty with only a small part covering trade. Most of the agreement (according to leaks) sets down a new kind of regulatory structure for the giant corporations that would supersede the ability of any country to rein them in. The treaty is being negotiated in secret with only business interests “at the table.” Representatives of others with a stake in the outcome are not part of the process. Groups representing the interests of consumers, labor, human rights, the environment, democracy or even smaller and innovative companies that might want to compete with the giant multinationals are not part of the negotiations.

Economist Dean Baker explains that TPP is not about “free trade” and growth, writing,

Of course the TPP is not about free trade, in most cases the formal trade barriers between the countries negotiating the pact are relatively low. The main thrust of the negotiations is to impose a regulator structure in a wide range of areas — health, safety, environmental — which will override national and sub-national rules. This has little to do with trade and in some cases, such as the increased patent protection for prescription drugs being pushed as part of the deal (which is noted in the article), will actually involve increased barriers to trade.

In The Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Trade Agreement for Protectionists, Baker writes, “The

TPP is about crafting rules that will favor big business at the expense of the rest of the population in both the United States and in other countries.

… The world has benefited from the opening of trade over the last four decades. But this opening has been selective so that, at least in the United States, most of the gains have gone to those at the top. It is possible to design trade deals that benefit the population as a whole, but not when corporate interests are literally the negotiators at the table.

Other “Trade” Agreements Have Cost Us Dearly

One after another “trade” agreements come along that, rather than helping lift the working people of the world, instead help the multinationals use exploited workers to break unions and lower wages. These agreements also let companies manufacture in countries that do not require environmental protection while bringing the resulting lower-priced goods here with no added cost at the border, undermining our own protections. Allowing these things makes our democracy, and its good wages and protections, a competitive disadvantage in world markets.

Previous trade agreements were passed with the promise of increases in growth and wages here, but the opposite has resulted. And they have increased rather than reduced our trade deficits. They have only served to enrich the already-wealthy.

NAFTA: According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) briefing paper “Heading South: U.S.-Mexico trade and job displacement after NAFTA,” “As of 2010, U.S. trade deficits with Mexico totaling $97.2 billion had displaced 682,900 U.S. jobs.” (That is net jobs, taking into account jobs gained.)

China: In August, 2012 EPI estimated that the U.S. lost 2.7 million jobs as a result of the U.S.-China trade deficit between 2001 and 2011, 2.1 million of them in manufacturing. Aside from job losses wages US wages fell due to the competition with cheap Chinese labor costing a typical household with two wage-earners around $2,500 per year.

Columbia – “murders and threats”: A report issued Monday by Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and James McGovern (D-Mass.) titled The U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan: Failing on the Ground says,

Despite the LAP, murders and threats against union members and harmful subcontracting persist in Colombia largely unabated. At a minimum, 413 threats were documented, and 22 trade unionists were murdered for their union involvement in 2012.1 On April 1, 2013, the 991st death threat against a member of the labor movement was received since President Juan Manuel Santos became president in June 2011.2 Because of the fear of violence or employer retaliation associated with organizing or joining a union and the prevalence of anti-union and anti-worker prejudice, only four percent of Colombian workers are union members.

[. . .] “The members of the delegation conclude that the Government of Colombia is woefully falling short of compliance with the Labor Action Plan, and in many cases, these shortfalls have made working conditions for workers worse than before it came into effect,” the report said. “Before asking Congress to approve another trade agreement, such as the TPP, which poses similar labor and human rights issues, the Administration must first demonstrate concrete and effective improvements in workers’ rights on the ground in Colombia under the Labor Action Plan.”

Korea: EPI reported in July that the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement had already cost the U.S. 40,000 jobs and increased our trade deficit by $5.8 billion. According to EPI,

The tendency to distort trade model results was evident in the Obama administration’s insistence that increasing exports under KORUS would support 70,000 U.S. jobs. The administration neglected to consider jobs lost from the increasing imports and a growing bilateral trade deficit. In the year after KORUS took effect, the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea increased by $5.8 billion, costing more than 40,000 U.S. jobs. Most of the 40,000 jobs lost were good jobs in manufacturing.

Promises, Promises

The Politico story quoted above claims that President Obama is criticized for “moving too slowly on trade.” If anything, President Obama is criticized for promising in his 2008 campaign to renegotiate NAFTA, and reneging once in office.

[fve]http://youtu.be/PF9gpvI2UfU[/fve]

Get Informed

If you want to help stop “fast track,” call your member of Congress today!

Sign up for action alerts on fast track and TPP at Trade Watch.

Visit Stop TPP.

Visit the Eyes on Trade blog

Expose the TPP is a great action oriented site.

There’s also Flush the TPP.

The AFL-CIO recent convention passed a plan for people-oriented trade. Read the resolution here.

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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