Obama Says Warren On Trade Sounds Like Palin Touting Death Panels

President Obama, speaking to the Organizing for America (OFA) Summit Thursday, said that people who have concerns about the Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority process and the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “don’t know what they’re talking about,” and compared them to conservatives like Sarah Palin, who claimed that the Obamacare health care reform contained “death panels.”

Then, on a Friday conference call with reporters the President complained about people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders saying, “Every single one of the critics who I hear saying, ‘this is a secret deal,’ or send out emails to their fundraising base saying they’re working to prevent this secret deal, can walk over today and read the text of the agreement. There’s nothing secret about it.”

In fact, the TPP is still secret, but parts of it have leaked. It will remain secret from the public until shortly before it is voted on in Congress.

The “death panel” remark is reported in The Hill, “Obama: Liberal trade critics ‘don’t know what they’re talking about’”:

Obama is ramping up his sales pitch to Democrats, many of whom oppose trade promotion authority bills because they worry new deals with European and Asian nations would hurt American workers.

They also say the administration has not been transparent in sharing details of the trade proposals.

Obama dismissed those claims, comparing them to talk about “death panels” during the ObamaCare debate, a phrase coined by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“Someone coming up with a slogan like ‘death panels’ doesn’t mean it’s true,” he said. “The same thing is true on this. Look at the facts, don’t just throw a bunch of stuff out there.”

Democrats Not Happy

The President’s alignment with Republicans, Wall Street, and corporate lobbying organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, and against progressives, labor, and almost all Democrats to push TPP is frustrating Democrats across the board. The Huffington Post reports on this in “Democrats’ Frustration With Obama Boils Over In Trade Battle”:

Calling it “maddening,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told reporters that the Obama administration was putting on a full-court press unlike anything Democrats have ever seen in his presidency in order to win the authority to fast track enormous trade deals.

“I think if you could get my colleagues to be honest, on the Democratic side, with you — and I think you can mostly — they will say they’ve been talked to, approached, lobbied and maybe cajoled by more cabinet members on this issue than any issue since Barack Obama’s been president,” Brown said.

… “I wish they put the same effort into minimum wage. I wish they put the same effort into Medicare at 55. I wish they put the same effort into some consumer strengthening on Dodd-Frank,” Brown said.

Casey added that he thought it would be better if the administration took “that intensity to lobby folks on trade” and applied it to the Democrats’ efforts to focus on the middle class.

“My God, we should be spending our time on that, not having the debate we’re having,” Casey said.

Progressives like Adam Green are furious about the President’s remarks, as Alex Seitz-Wald reports in, “Liberals furious with Obama’s trade comments::

“Belittling progressives who represent the overwhelming majority of Americans in opposition to a trade deal written by corporations in secret is a return to the worst days of this White House,” said Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green. “They are back to caving to corporate interests, forfeiting opportunities for greatness, and, in this case, costing millions of people their jobs and economic well being if successful.”

Remarks like the President’s are particularly divisive to Democrats, because fast track and TPP are supported by Republicans and Wall Street,  but opposed by almost all Democrats, all progressives, all progressive-aligned organization. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other outspoken opponents of fast track and certain provisions in TPP are popular with many in “the base” of the party.

With an election coming, OFA will be a source of many of the foot soldiers that do the ground work for candidates. Setting them against the progressive “Warren Wing” of the party is destructive to the coming election effort.

Currency

Currency manipulation by some of our “trading partners” causes things made or done in those countries to be priced below market rates. This causes the business to flow to them, hurting companies and workers based in the US, and causing trade to fall out of balance. Currency manipulation is part of the reason we have accumulated an $11 trillion in trade deficits just in this century. This deficit is increasing at a rate of $500+ billion each year.

One example of the effect of this, from Scott Paul writing at Real Clear Politics: “The U.S. exports roughly 20,000 automobiles per year to the Japanese market, while America imports about 1.5 million from Japan. A lot of factors go into the maintenance of Japan’s closed auto market, but an artificially undervalued currency is its bedrock.”

However, Wall Street and multinational corporations benefit from this imbalance, moving factories and jobs out of the country to take advantage of the subsidies this currency manipulation brings, as well as lower wages, bringing the same goods back to sell and pocketing the wage and production-price differential.

In Friday conference call, reported in the Washington Post’s Plumline, in Obama escalates push-back against Elizabeth Warren and other trade deal critics, the President talked about currency manipulation provisions in TPP:

Obama also pushed back on critics who point out that there’s nothing in TPP to combat currency manipulation by other countries to juice their exports, saying the administration is still committed to fighting it.

“We’re still working with members of Congress who are interested in the currency issue to potentially do something parallel to TPP,” he said. “But is not a good idea, and not plausible, for us to get an effective currency provision inside of TPP” that other countries and our own Treasury Department and Federal Reserve “could accept.”

What’s still unclear, though, is what happens if Congress and the administration can’t reach a deal on a separate currency provision; TPP would presumably move forward without one.

In fact, the administration in February said flat-out that currency is not and will not be addressed in TPP:

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said Thursday the Obama administration is not backing away from its position that a 12-nation trade deal shouldn’t include any provisions to prevent currency manipulation.

… Froman reiterated the administration’s long-standing position that currency issues should not be part of a trade deal.

And this week repeated this:

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in a letter to Congressional leadership: “Seeking enforceable currency provisions would likely derail the conclusion of the TPP given the deep reservations held by our trading partners,’ Lew wrote in a letter to senior lawmakers.”

The administration also opposes efforts apart from TPP to deal with currency, even going so far as refusing to label countries like China and Japan as currency manipulators as required by US law.

Note that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is a former COO of Citigroup. US Trade Representative Michael Froman is also a Citigroup alumni. Mike Lux, writing in “White House Trade Strategy: Talk Progressive, Use Wall Street to Negotiate the Deal,” explains:

I was on the Obama transition team, but no progressive I suggested was ever even interviewed for USTR. The folks appointed at USTR have all been Wall Street-oriented Democrats, including the current head of USTR, Michael Froman, who was a senior executive at Citibank. Shocking, then, that the TPP is, by and large, a giveaway to the finance industry.

[. . .] This administration can talk all day long about how progressive the TPP is going to be, but if they were willing to be more transparent in the negotiations, or maybe appoint someone with progressive values to be part of the negotiating team, it would be a lot easier to believe them.

All of this only puts increasing pressure on Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to lay out her position on both fast track and the TPP.

—-

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.

A ‘Path To Yes’ On Trade, But Paul Ryan Blocks It

The “fast track” trade bill introduced last week by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has a number of problems. It sets aside Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution and essentially pre-approves the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the public and most of Congress even sees it. Unfortunately, the Senate bill does not specify firm and sufficient objectives to make TPP a trade bill that could work for 99 percent of Americans.

Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, on Thursday offered an alternative, the Right Track for TPP Act of 2015. (Summary here, full text here.) This bill is a fast track process for doing trade right — or at least for modifying the secretly negotiated TPP so it can be somewhat palatable to more of us than just the 1 percent.

Unfortunately, the House Ways and Means Committee’s chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), ruled the substitute measure “out of order,” reported The Huffington Post.

Continue reading

A Look At The Fast Track Bill Shows It’s The Wrong Thing To Do

The “fast track” trade promotion authority bill has been introduced in the Senate. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says, “The Congress shall have power to … regulate commerce with foreign nations.” But under fast track, Congress relinquishes that power and agrees to pass trade bills brought to them by the executive branch in a very short time frame with little debate and without making any changes should any problems present themselves.

Though it was announced that this year’s fast track bill was the result of a “deal” between Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) the 2015 bill is nearly identical to the 2014 bill that died in Congress without support for a vote. See this side-by-side comparison from Rep. Sander Levin of the House Ways and Means Committee. It is unclear from this comparison why the “negotiations” between Hatch and Wyden took so long, and what Wyden got that enabled him to put his name on it, enabling the bill to be sold as “bipartisan.”

Fast Track Sets Aside Normal Procedure

Congress does not set aside normal procedure, debate, the ability to fix problems that turn up and agree to vote within 90 days except for trade agreements – even though trade agreements have now proven to have such a tremendous and often detrimental effect on our economy, jobs, wages and inequality. Where did the idea to do this come from? According to Public Citizen, this unusual procedure was “initially created by President Richard Nixon to get around public debate and congressional oversight.”

Continue reading

The Fast Track Fight Begins In The Senate

The final fight to stop fast track begins this week. The new trade promotion authority (“fast track”) bill could be released in the Senate at any moment. (It might be out by the time you read this.)

Hatch and Wyden Poised to Introduce Bill

With literally zero reporting from the national TV networks and a virtual news blackout at most newspapers around the country, at least Politico sets the stage for insiders in their report, “Trade fight looms as Congress returns“:

Senate Finance Committee leaders Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden appear poised to introduce a “fast track” trade promotion authority bill along with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. But months of closed-door negotiations were continuing on Friday, congressional aides said.

The power, largely embraced by Republicans, pits many congressional Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and potentially Senate Democratic leader-in-waiting Charles Schumer, against the White House.

The measure would allow President Barack Obama to submit free trade agreements to Congress for straight up or down votes without any amendments. It’s seen as key to completing his signature 12-country trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact.

Fast track is, in essence, congressional pre-approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. With fast track Congress agrees to give up its much of constitutional duty to define negotiating objectives, carefully deliberate and debate, and fix problems that might turn up. With fast track rendering Congress unable to fix flaws, even if any problems do turn up that might seriously hurt the country or our economy, a vote on the trade agreement will occur under the enormous pressure of the media blasting, “surely they won’t just kill the whole thing over a few problems.”

The idea is that allowing Congress (democratic government) to “meddle” will get in the way and keep other (non-democratic) countries from “making their best offers.” Congress is considering this pre-approval of TPP and future trade agreements even though the national news media is not reporting on fast track or TPP, and Congress and the public haven’t yet even seen the agreement (never mind had time to analyze it and consider its ramifications).

Week Of Action

The AFL-CIO is organizing a “Week of Action Against Fast Tracking Trade Deals.”

On Wednesday at 11 am in Washington D.C.’s Upper Senate Park, more than 600 union members will rally at an event organized by the United Steelworkers (USW) on Capitol Hill. The rally will feature Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), USW President Leo Gerard, AFL-CIO Executive VP Tefere Gebre, AFGE President J. David Cox, National Association of Letter Carriers President Fred Rolando, American Federation of Teachers Secretary-Treasurer Loretta Johnson, and Sierra Club National Campaign Director Debbie Sease.

On Saturday, the AFL-CIO and its member unions are organizing over 50 events throughout the country in conjunction with hundreds of events planned as part of the global day of action in over a dozen countries.

Click here to find an event or to organize an event.

A Monday story in The Hill, “Labor unions ramp up opposition to Obama trade agenda,” has more on the Week of Action:

Lawmakers, labor union leaders and their members will hold a rally Wednesday on Capitol Hill and follow that up with 50 grassroots events around the country and in more than a dozen countries on Saturday as part of the weeklong effort. …

The efforts include letter-writing campaigns, phone calls, petitions and door-knocks.

Meanwhile CREDO and other organizations are petitioning to ask presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to lead the opposition to fast track and TPP.

Don’t Trade Our Future Demonstration April 20

There will also be a “Don’t Trade Our Future” demonstration on April 20, the final day of the Populism2015 Conference in Washington, which is sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), National People’s Action (NPA), USAction and the Alliance for a Just Society. People will assemble at 11:30 a.m. at AFL-CIO headquarters at 815 16th Street NW, and will march first to the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce and then to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. They are urging Congress to vote down fast track.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), columnist Jim Hightower and Communication Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen will address the demonstration.

Public Against More Job-Killing Trade Agreements

As the fast track fight enters the Congress, polls show that politicians will take a great risk by voting for fast track or TPP legislation. For example, one recent poll shows one senator’s vote for fast track could bring a primary opponent. The Huffington Post reported in February in, “Secretive Trade Deal Could Pose Problems At Home For Ron Wyden,”

“Half of the Oregon voters polled said they would be less likely to vote for Wyden in 2016 if he joins Republicans to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal between the United States and countries in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as fast-track authority, which Obama is seeking in order to get TPP and other trade deals through Congress without amendments or filibusters.”

Other polling shows that public sentiment against trade deals and fast track is strong. One poll in January 2014 shows the breadth of public opposition,

By more than two to one, voters say they oppose (62%) rather than favor passage of fast-track negotiating authority for the TPP deal. Among those with a strong opinion, the ratio climbs to more than three to one (43% strongly opposed, just 12% strongly favorable). Demographically, opposition is very broad, with no more than one-third of voters in any region of the country or in any age cohort favoring fast track. Sixty percent (60%) of voters with household incomes under $50,000 oppose fast track, as do 65% of those with incomes over $100,000.

… Republicans overwhelmingly oppose giving fast-track authority to the president (8% in favor, 87% opposed), as do independents (20%-66%), while a narrow majority (52%) of Democrats are in favor (35% opposed).

People believe our trade agreements destroy jobs and lower wages. In a September 2014 Pew Poll, Americans say “trade” generally is good, but only 20 percent say it creates jobs while 50 percent say it destroys jobs, and 17 percent say it raises wages while 45 percent say it lowers wages.

This can have election consequences. In an April 2014 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll a plurality of Americans said they would support “a candidate who says that free trade with other countries will mainly be negative for America because it will cause the loss of U.S. jobs to other countries, which will hurt wages and jobs here.”

Resources

So it appears that the battle will be in the Senate this week. Here are some resources to visit.

The Stop Fast Track coalition website, stopfasttrack.org.

Expose the TPP.

Flush the TPP!

Stop TPP.

CWA’s TPP info.

10 Ways the TPP Would Hurt U.S. Working Families

Global Trade Watch.

Eyes on Trade and 50 Reasons We Cannot Afford the TPP.

Real Progressive Coalition for American Jobs. (“Every U.S. labor union and almost 600 environmental, consumer, faith, family farm, civil rights, seniors, LGBT and other civil society organizations opposed Fast Track. This is the REAL Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.”)

—-

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.

As Fast Track/TPP Becomes New Third Rail, Where Is Clinton?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — and the rigged “Fast Track” process designed to pass it before the public has a chance to react — has become a new “third rail” for progressives and the activist Democratic “base.” (This is also true on the right, by the way.)

This game-rigging is creating a race to the bottom for people and the planet. The thing is: more and more people are seeing it. And more and more people are asking Hillary Clinton to lead the fight against it.

A Rigged Game

People are fed up with the rigged “trade” game that pits American wages, environmental regulations, consumer protections and other benefits of democracy against exploitative, paid-off, non-democracies. “Free trade” has made democracy’s good wages and environmental and safety protections into a competitive disadvantage in world markets.

Continue reading

Now We Know Why Huge TPP Trade Deal Is Kept Secret From The Public

A key section of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has been leaked to the public. The New York Times has a major story on the contents of the leaked chapter and it’s as bad as many of us feared.

Now we know why the corporations and the Obama administration want TPP, a huge “trade” agreement being negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries, kept secret from the public until it’s too late to stop it.

Continue reading

TPP Is Only Secret From You – But Trust Us, It’s Good For You

How far have we drifted from our original intent to be a constitutional republic ruled by We the People?

U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8: “The Congress shall have Power … To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations…”

But today? Not so much. The following quote is from Politico Pro, which is behind a paywall. The minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives would like to know what is in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a still-secret treaty that regulates commerce with foreign nations:

“We have to see TPP. It may not be the final agreement, but we have to see what it is,” Pelosi told reporters after the first of several House Democratic Caucus meetings to dig into details about the proposed pact with Japan and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Continue reading

Over 100 Legal Scholars Warn About TPP Dangers

Over 100 law professors sent an open letter to Congress and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) saying they need to “protect the rule of law and the nation’s sovereignty” in trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

While TPP is still secret, leaks and precedent indicate that it will contain provisions allowing giant, multinational corporations to bypass our country’s legal system. These provisions will allow these multinational corporations to sue governments, including ours, in “corporate courts” if they decide to pass laws and regulations that restrain the profits of these giant corporations, such as efforts to help citizens quit smoking.

The provisions in question are called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and let corporations take cases to a tribunal made up of corporate attorneys instead of civil courts. These attorneys will then decide if countries have passed laws or imposed regulations, including health, environmental, labor, consumer and other protections that cause these companies to lose profits.

The law professors’ letter asks Congress and the USTR to ensure that language is not included in proposed trade agreements like the TPP.

The letter concludes:

ISDS threatens domestic sovereignty by empowering foreign corporations to bypass domestic court systems and privately enforce terms of a trade agreement. It weakens the rule of law by removing the procedural protections of the justice system and using an unaccountable, unreviewable system of adjudication.

The scholars’ statement is available online at: http://bit.ly/1EA5zeO and the letter itself is available at http://bit.ly/1KX6WYB.

The letter was organized and released by the Alliance for Justice.

—-

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.

A Trade Campaign Built On Four Pinocchios

A newly launched public relations campaign in support of trade promotion authority, a.k.a. “fast track,” and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) calls itself “the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.” At its foundation is a set of misleading (at best) claims that begin with a four-Pinocchio whopper.

It is unclear who is in the coalition, why they call themselves “progressive” when progressives are opposed to TPP and fast track, and flat-out wrong that the trade agreement is going to produce “American jobs.”

American Jobs? “Four Pinocchios”

The “Progressive Coalition for American Jobs” sent out a press release earlier this week promising that the TPP will “support hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the United States.” This is the same promise that Clinton used to sell NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and we know how that turned out. (Hint: lost jobs, lost wages, lost factories, lost industries, devastated regions of the country, increased trade deficits and a few CEOs and Wall Street types made vastly richer.) (See also, Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership Promises Echo Clinton’s On NAFTA.)

Continue reading

How Our Trade Policies Kill Jobs

Trade is great. We all trade. A lot of us trade labor for money that buys other things. A farmer trades corn for money that buys other things, and so on. No one is “against trade.”

But is anything called “trade” always good for all involved? Imagine you’re a farmer and you make a deal to trade corn and wheat to get money for a new tractor. So the farmer orders a new tractor, but the “trade partner” never buys any corn or wheat. After a while the “trade partner” shows up with a big bill, saying the farmer owes money for the tractor. And then the farmer finds out that the “trade partner” plans to use the proceeds from the sale of the tractor to grow their own corn.

In modern terms, we would say that the farmer was “running a trade deficit.” How much damage do you think that “trade deficit” is doing to that farmer, and the farmer’s ability to make a living in the future? How long do you think that farmer would let that “trade agreement” continue?

Continue reading

Anti-Fast-Track Momentum Builds

Opponents of fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are gaining momentum. In spite of a virtual media blackout, public awareness of the coming trade deal is increasing.

More and more public-interest organizations are organizing and denouncing the rigged fast-track approval process and TPP trade agreement. One after another, members of Congress are announcing opposition to fast track and demanding that trade problems like currency manipulation be covered by the TPP agreement.

Meanwhile, the expected fast track bill has been delayed again.

Fast Track “Stuck”

Fast track is a process under which Congress agrees to bypass its duty to define, consider, debate and approve trade deals. Fast track limits discussion and debate and gives Congress only 90 days in which to bring the deal up for a vote. It is a rigged process designed to ensure that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, the “history’s largest trade deal“, is pushed through Congress before the public has time to fully analyze, understand and consider its ramifications and organize opposition if opposition is warranted.

Continue reading

The Senate Blockbuster Showdown On Trade The Media Missed

Eight senators on Thursday let the country know there is going to be a fight over fast-track trade authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took to the Senate floor to speak about fast track, TPP and fair trade.

There was apparently not a single report of this in the nation’s news media, continuing the blackout of news on fast track and TPP.

A fight is coming because past trade deals have cost jobs and wages, devastated entire regions, and accelerated corporate power and income/wealth inequality – which it is becoming clear was the intent. Whitehouse, for example, said parts of TPP are “a question of pure raw economic power by massive corporate interests being used to make governments knuckle under.”

Sanders said, “Enough is enough. This country now is in a major race to the bottom.”

The Speeches

First up on Thursday was Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who began by saying that trade agreements are often “… pushed through this body [the Senate] so quickly that the corporations pushing them hope we won’t notice that these agreement are loaded with corporate handouts that weaken our nation’s ability to chart its own course.”

Continue reading