Senate Fast Track Vote Tuesday – Where Is Clinton?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled the voting process for trade promotion authority, commonly known as “fast track,” to begin as early as Tuesday. If passed, fast track prohibits the Congress from amending trade agreements no matter what problems might show up, requires these agreements to be voted on within 90 days, limits the debate Congress is allowed and prohibits filibusters.

Passing fast track will essentially pre-approve the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement before the public gets a chance to know what is in it, as well as future trade deals regardless of who is president or what the rigged, corporate-dominated negotiating process produces.

With a vote coming as soon as Tuesday, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has not yet spoken out for or against fast track.

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Obama To Visit Nike To Promote TPP. Wait, NIKE? Really?

President Obama is scheduled to visit Nike’s Oregon headquarters on Friday to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yes, Nike – a company that grew to billions by outsourcing jobs to overseas sweatshops, a company that sets up P.O.-box subsidiaries in tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes, a company that uses threats to extort tax breaks from its “home” state.

Phil Knight, head of Nike, is now worth $23 billion because America’s trade policies encourage companies like Nike to create and move jobs outside of the U.S. The 23rd-richest American is one more symbol of the kind of inequality that results from outsourcing enabled and encouraged by these trade policies. Workers here lose (or never get) jobs; workers there are paid squat; a few people become vastly, unimaginably wealthy.

Meanwhile Massachusetts-based New Balance struggles to manufacture its athletic footwear in the U.S. TPP will remove tariffs on imported Vietnamese and Malaysian shoes, benefiting Nike and wiping out New Balance’s efforts to maintain its manufacturing here.

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Enormous, Humongous March Trade Deficit Creating Jobs Elsewhere

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the March goods and services trade deficit was $51.4 billion. This was an increase of $15.5 billion, or 43.1 percent, from the revised figure of $35.9 billion in February.

March exports were $187.8 billion, up $1.6 billion from February. March imports were $239.2 billion, up $17.1 billion from February.

The monthly U.S. goods deficit with China increased in March to $37.8 billion, up from $27.3 billion in February. This is the highest monthly deficit with China on record.

The U.S. goods deficit with Japan increased in March to $6.3 billion, up from $4.3 billion in February.

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Trade Deficit = Slower Economy = Fewer Jobs = Baltimore

Free Trade at Last, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil BendibKhalil Bendib/OtherWords

If you make things and sell them, you do better over time than if you borrow to buy things. If you send jobs and factories out of the country, you end up with devastated cities like Baltimore.

Sure, a few people get rich from that, but 99 percent of us get poorer. How hard is it to see that?

You may have heard that gross domestic product growth was dismal in the last quarter. You may have heard that there were riots in Baltimore. You may not have heard that these are both at least partly caused by our enormous, humongous and continuing trade deficit.

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Columnist Who Said Invade Iraq Says TPP Critics Are Wrong

The great Thomas “Mustache” Friedman is perhaps best known for encouraging the invasion of Iraq (and subsequent resistance insurgency, civil war, thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, eventually leading to the formation of ISIS – plus the trillions in costs) by saying, “What they [Muslims] needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad and basically saying ‘Which part of this sentence don’t you understand?’ … Well, Suck. On. This.” He is also known among the blogger set for what Duncan Black coined as the six-month “Friedman Unit,” because he claimed for years that the Iraq war would be “turning a corner” in another six months’ time.

Friedman on Wednesday explained in The New York Times that critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (and the “fast track” process in which Congress preapproves it before We the People get a chance to know what’s in it) can suck on this, too. He wrote in On Trade: Obama Right, Critics Wrong,

…there has never been a more important time for the coalition of free-market democracies and democratizing states that are the core of the World of Order to come together and establish the best rules for global integration for the 21st century, including appropriate trade, labor and environmental standards. These agreements would both strengthen and more closely integrate the market-based, rule-of-law-based democratic and democratizing nations that form the backbone of the World of Order.

A coalition of “free-market democracies” like Vietnam and Brunei? The rules for a new “World of Order” in the 21st century negotiated in secret? Negotiated with only corporate representatives at the table? The rules for “democracy” must be preapproved by Congress with fast track before the public is allowed to see the agreement?

Friedman also writes that, “These trade agreements can help build trust, coordination and growth that tilt the balance in all these countries more toward global cooperation than ‘hunkering down in protectionism or nationalism and letting others, or nobody, write the rules.'” Apparently to Friedman, trying to save American jobs, balance trade (the trade deficit was $505 billion last year) and stop the stagnation of wages and devastation of communities that has resulted from our corporate-dominated trade agreements is “hunkering down in protectionism or nationalism”?

Friedman writes that TPP is an “effort to expand trade on our terms.” Whose terms? TPP is secret, negotiated by corporate representatives for the corporations they represent. With the fast track process We the People of the United States of America don’t get to know what’s in TPP until some time after Congress preapproves it, and even our Congress won’t get to seriously debate or amend it after we do get to see it. So too bad if we don’t like it. Suck. On. That.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership – an agreement negotiated entirely of, by and for corporate representatives who represent giant, multinational corporations that don’t even pay us taxes anymore – is not an agreement on “our” terms. We the People will get nothing from a rigged process like that, no matter how much these so-called “American” corporate giants might profit from it. We won’t get better pay, we won’t get better schools or infrastructure, we will only get even more cutbacks in the things our government does to make our lives better. TPP with fast track is an agreement between the plutocrats of the various giant corporations involved, some perhaps calling themselves “American” and others not.

If Thomas Friedman of all people is claiming you are right and your critics are wrong you really, really, really, really, really, really, really ought to rethink your position.

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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.

Death To Pensions – Video

From AFSCME:

ENRON BILLIONAIRE ARNOLD HAS A PROBLEM WITH LIBRARIANS’ PENSIONS
Former Enron trader and hedge fund billionaire John Arnold is launching a multimillion dollar national PR campaign attacking the hard-earned pensions of public sector workers. Arnold has already quietly poured tens of millions of dollars into his efforts to persuade politicians to reduce middle class retirement security and now it looks like he may really just be getting started.

How TPP Increases Corporate Power vs. Government – And Us

Power is the ability to control, to tell what to do, to get your way. Corporations have a lot of power over working people in our country now, and they might be about to get a lot more.

The proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) tell us that it will have unprecedented “progressive” protections for the rights of working people, the environment, even wildlife. So there is likely to be flowery-sounding language in TPP, just as President Obama says.

What matters is whether there will be clear and guaranteed enforceability of those words.

Enforcement Matters

Rules are great; enforcement is greater. Without enforcement, a rule may as well not exist – especially when everyone knows there is not enforcement.

We see rules with no enforcement all around us. Here’s an obvious example. Right now several obvious presidential candidates say they aren’t candidates so they can get around rules about contribution limits to their campaigns and coordination with super PACs. The Federal Election Commission is not enforcing the rules that say candidates can’t do this. These candidates know there is no enforcement and thus continue to violate the rules.

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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.

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Conservatives Choose Govt Hatred Over Markets

Conservatives are supposedly all about markets. Markets should decide, not voters. But when it comes to the law of supply and demand for government debt, they go blind.

Greg Ip in the Wall Street Journal poses this surprising question: “Is Government Debt Too Low?

The interest rate that rich countries with super-safe debt (in the case of the eurozone, that means Germany but not Spain) pay is astonishingly low: lower than the growth rate of nominal gross domestic product (that is, GDP before subtracting inflation). In the U.S., the Treasury yield has gone from roughly equal to growth in nominal GDP in 2005 to 3 percentage points lower today.

By Mr. [Brad] DeLong’s reckoning, this means those countries are borrowing too little. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions, so low government bond yields equate to very valuable government bonds. Mr. DeLong asks, “Isn’t the point of the market economy to make things that are valuable?” Since the debt of rich countries is “very cheap to make… shouldn’t we be making more of it?”

Say What?

Here is the argument. There is a huge demand for U.S. government bonds. There is so much demand that interest rates are exceptionally low. You almost have to pay the government to hold your money.

Remember the “law of supply and demand”? When there is a huge market demand for something, isn’t that supposed to mean that more of that thing should be produced?

Shouldn’t government be supplying more bonds? Saying that the government should be producing more government bonds is another way of saying the government should borrow more. This is what it means when the government “makes” bonds to sell.

If the government borrowed more, it could use the proceeds to maintain and modernize our infrastructure (which has to be done at some point, no?) We could build out a modern energy grid, high-speed rail across the country, double the number of community colleges, expand scientific and health research… And of course doing those things would end up employing millions, and making wages go up.

And if everyone had the job they wanted and wages went up, wouldn’t that boost market demand, which would trigger business investment?

And if we did all of those things – high-speed rail, smart energy grid, modern infrastructure, expanded scientific research, expanded educational opportunity, wouldn’t it mean that our economy was positioned to prosper, and everyone’s lives would be better?

And wouldn’t a revitalized private economy mean that people didn’t need to park their money in government bonds, so the supply wouldn’t have to go up any more to meet demand? And wouldn’t all the tax revenue from that revitalized private economy and full employment pay off those bonds over time?

“Gubmint Spending”

But no, we can’t maintain, never mind modernize our infrastructure. We can’t expand educational opportunity. We can’t increase scientific and heath research. We can’t do any of those things. Because government spending. We have to cut back, cut back, cut back.

Conservatives say they are about the belief that markets are better than government (and, by implication, better than democracy). But when it comes down to it, they really are about one and only one thing: They hate government and want to strangle it, period – no matter the cost to our economy and our people.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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WTF Apple?!

So my wife uses a Mac. She gets the new OSX update, and it REPLACED iPhoto with a different program that doesn’t do the same things. “Events” appears to be gone.

I go online and Apple proudly proclaims it’s “Your entire photo collection. Framed in a whole new way.”

Great. Have to learn an entirely new interface, etc. Functionality is different. Great.

Also it crashed twice already.

So I am starting to learn how to use it. It is obvious that it is all about moving you to iCloud — which Apple charges to use.

It’s like how Microsoft decided everyone in the PC world now has to learn an entirely new way to interact with their computers — as if they are tablets — with Windows 8. Great.

Like I said earlier, I have said goodbye to my iPhone, and have a Chromebook. The Chromebook is slowly replacing everything I do on my Windows computer.