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.

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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.

Goodbye iPhone!

I installed the new iOS 8.3. The next day I get a message that there is not enough room in iCloud to back up the iPhone and I need to PURCHASE more room.

So I went right out and bought the new Samsung Galaxy 6.

I have the Nexus 7 tablet, and that got me into Android. I use GMail, Google Calendar, etc. I’m in the Google ecosystem and no longer use Apple’s. I even have a Chromebook. So what the hell. I took the leap and this Galaxy 6 is a wonderful device. (But the camera is too wide-angle, and distorts a lot.)

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are beautiful hardware but buggy software that seems entirely about finding ways to pay Apple, so goodbye.

I still haven’t figured out iCloud.

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.”)

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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.