Get Ready Now For Fast Track Fight

As soon as the new Congress is sworn in next year, the fight over Fast Track will begin. Start preparing now.

David Cay Johnston, explains in “Full Speed Ahead On Secretive Trade Deal”: (Note the ‘t’ in his last name. I am David C JohnSON.)

Early next year, after the 114th Congress begins meeting, a new Washington coalition will move quickly to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation trade agreement that will destroy American jobs, restrict individual liberty and burden American taxpayers. Oh, and it will do so without any real debate.

… The agreement would even let foreign companies seek damages if U.S. or state rules threaten their profits. Plaintiff companies would not have to sustain damages to collect damages from American taxpayers. They would only need to show a threat to their profits, leaks from the trade talks have revealed. Under previous trade deals, American taxpayers already have paid $3 billion in damages, with $14 billion in claims still in litigation.

Johnston explains that this will be pushed using Fast Track:

Fast track = little debate

Don’t expect a vigorous congressional debate exploring the agreement and its implications, especially for workers, before it becomes the law of the land.

Obama wants Congress to fast-track the agreement, which would mean perfunctory congressional hearings followed by an up-or-down vote within 90 days, no amendments allowed. That congressional Republicans favor fast-tracking has an “Alice in Wonderland” quality, given GOP attacks on his supposed dictatorial use of executive orders. (He has issued far fewer executive orders per year than any other president in the last century.)

Secrecy and fast track are not how democracy is supposed to work. They are also a glaring contradiction of candidate Obama’s transparency promises in 2008.

There will be a massive effort to push this through. Richard McCormack has the story on this effort over at Manufacturing and Technology News, in President Obama, Wall Street Financiers, Corporate CEOS And Members Of Congress Meet Together To Plan Strategy To Sell And Pass Free-Trade Agreements, (note that TPA is commonly know as “Fast Track.”)

The country’s top executives from Wall Street and corporate America are working directly with President Obama and members of his cabinet and appointees on passing a free-trade agenda that is unpopular among the president’s natural constituents of democrats, labor unions, environmental and consumer groups and the American public as a whole.

Obama, his staff and members of Congress met directly with CEOs of major multinational corporations in Washington, D.C., on December 11 to discuss the “ground game” — as his aides described it — needed to persuade Americans on the benefits of free trade and to lobby Congress on passage of Trade Promotion Authority [TPA] and the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] next year.

… In joining the meeting of his Export Council, Obama sat between council co-chairs James McNerney, CEO of Boeing, and Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox Corp., and encouraged them — along with two dozen other executives from companies like IBM, Archer Daniels Midland, Dow, Pfizer and Deloitte — to help him “make the sale. . . It’s going to be very important for business to be out there and champion this and show that this is ultimately good for you, for your suppliers, for your workers,” Obama said.

Obama told Boeing CEO McNerney to galvanize his company’s suppliers “and their workers . . . presumably in every congressional district [to make] the case so [that] it’s not just a bunch of CEOs calling [members of Congress] but it’s people who understand they’ve got a stake in it.”

So there will be a massive, well-funded push by the administration and the giant multinational corporations starting early next year. They will promise jobs and prosperity. They will push Congress to pass Fast Track, which essentially pre-approves trade agreements before anyone even knows what is in them. The model for doing it this way is the recent “Citibank Budget.” Citibank snuck a provision deregulating derivative trading with taxpayer-protected funds into the budget at the last minute. So the debate was over whether voting against it would shut down the government, and not over the merits of the provision.

We Need Balanced Trade, Not More Imports

The President says he is pushing these trade deals because we need to increase exports. He is right that it is a good thing to increase exports, but the Wall Street Journal explains the problem with this, in U.S. Manufacturing Rebound Lags Behind Work Sent Abroad, “The U.S. has continued to grow more reliant on imports from China and other Asian countries despite a much-discussed trend toward “reshoring” of manufacturing, a study by the management consulting firm A.T. Kearney Inc. shows.”

In other words, the things we have been doing to gain jobs by increasing exports have cost us even more jobs than we gained, because we increased imports more than we increased exports. What we need is balanced trade, not more trade.

Fast Track essentially pre-approves trade agreements before people get a chance to read them, analyze them and rally opposition. It prevents Congress from fixing problems in the agreements. This is the wrong way for our country to do this.

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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.

Holiday Bright Spots For Progressives

The midterm elections were a wake-up call. Voters had given up on the Democratic party as irrelevant – not really on their side, so they didn’t bother to show up at the polls. But there are end-of-year holiday season bright spots for progressives as we think about the coming year’s fights.

People are becoming more active with protests over issues like low pay and police treatment. Locally people are putting core progressive policies like fighting pollution, raising the minimum wage and giving people sick days off into effect. And there are signs that the national Democrats are starting to “get it” that they have to demonstrate they are on the side of regular, working people.

People Becoming More Active

Madison, Wisc. and the Occupy movement were flare-ups of popular protest that focused the national discussion on inequality. There are signs that people are starting to become even more active. Black Friday saw the largest strikes ever against Walmart, with employees demanding a living wage. There were pickets and strikes at 1,600 stores in 49 states.

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Remember When Republicans Filibustered The Cybersecurity Bill?

One would think that the media would be mentioning this in light of the recent attacks on computers… Sony … North Korea … hackers …

NYT, August 2, 2012, Cybersecurity Bill Is Blocked in Senate by GOP Filibuster, (BARF WARNING — there is big picture of Joe Lieberman.)

A cybersecurity bill that had been one of the Obama administration’s top national security priorities was blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate on Thursday, severely limiting its prospects this year.

The bill would have established optional standards for the computer systems that oversee the country’s critical infrastructure, like power grids, dams and transportation.

The next paragraph says everything you need to know about Democrats in recent years:

In the hopes of winning over Mr. McCain and the other Republicans, the bill had been significantly watered down in recent weeks by its sponsors, led by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, who made the standards optional. Original versions of the bill said the standards would be mandatory and gave the government the power to enforce them.

They watered it down hoping to get Republican votes, made the rules optional, etc — and it was filibustered anyway.

As for the media silence about this right now, this is sort of like how two police officers were killed by two people who had been at the Bundy Ranch, and they laid a Tea Party flag on one of the officers and … nothing in the news about that. But the killings of two cops in NYC, we have wall-to-wall coverage blaming protesters, liberals, Obama, etc…

Just sayin’…

How “Citibank Budget” Push Foreshadows “Fast Track” For Trade Deals

It is worth examining how the process was rigged to push that budget deal through Congress over the weekend that contained Citibank-written derivative deregulation and all kinds of other goodies for the rich and powerful. That’s because the “cromnibus” formula will be formalized in the next big deal, in a process called “fast track.”

Congress passed the “cromnibus” (continuing resolution for omnibus budget) right at the deadline for another government shutdown. (After they extended the deadline, actually.) The budget contained a Citibank-written provision that undoes some Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations. It authorizes a cut in many people’s pensions by up to 60 percent, severely cuts the IRS budget and its ability to collect taxes, dramatically expanded the ability of big money to influence elections, reduced the EPA’s authority, and included many other provisions that could not have passed in the light of day. This budget “deal” was pushed through Congress using a rigged process that kept representative democracy from stopping it.

What lessons can we learn from the way the “Citibank” provisions in the budget deal were pushed through? How do these lessons apply to the next big fight?

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That Judge Who “Ruled” Immigration Order Unconstitutional

Tuesday a federal judge “ruled” that President Obama’s executive actions on immigration are unconstitutional. He wasn’t ruling on a case, just issuing his opinion.

Judge Arthur J. Schwab of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania has a controversial history. TPM says he is “No Stranger To Controversy“.

Schwab was nominated by President George W. Bush. The Senate vote to confirm Schwab to be a U.S. District Judge was 92-0. Not a single Senate Democrat objected.

So the past actions of Democrats again come back to haunt them. Not doing their duty to carefully screen nominees they put into important positions, thereby letting ideologues and kooks like Schwab become judges.

It should be noted that Democratic senators already knew better. Bush was put into office by Supreme Court justices who were put on the bench with votes from Democratic senators.

Remember that scene in Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, when not one Democratic senator would join House members to object to seating Bush as President?

I suspect this is part of why people aren’t bothering to vote. Only 1/3 of potential voters bothered to vote in this year’s midterm elections — the lowest turnout since WWII. I think that things like this, over the years, have added up and made the Democratic Party irrelevant to many people’s lives. (Let me emphasize, that’s some Democrats, not all Democrats, there are great Democrats. That video clip has House Democrats begging Senate Democrats to stand up for electoral integrity. You should always show up and vote.)

m4s0n501

Scariest Silly Right-Wing Propaganda Ever

My favorite scary but silly right-wing propaganda ever is still “Chevy Volt Runs Out Of Juice In Lincoln Tunnel.”

1) I say silly to contrast with deadly propaganda that tries to start wars, etc., or toxic conservative propaganda that tries to make people hate Muslims, blacks, Hispanic or poor or sick people, public schools, government, Europe (especially France), etc.

2) The Volt’s gas engine kicks in to charge the battery when it runs low — something that is hard to even notice. The car certainly didn’t stop in the tunnel or anything like that.

Second is the scare that “electric cars are a fire hazard.” As compared to cars that have big tanks full of gasoline!

Question: Why does conservative propaganda so often line up with things the generate profits for oil companies, Wall Street, or other billionaires?

The Thing In The Budget Bill That No One Supports But Won’t Be Taken Out

The budget bill called the “Cromnibus” (for Continuing Resolution and OMNIBUS budget bill) contains a provision that undoes an important part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation bill. It would allow banks to gamble on derivatives using money from taxpayer-protected accounts. Citibank literally wrote the provision and paid someone to put it in the bill.

No one in the House or Senate will say who was paid to put it in the bill. No one will admit to putting it in the bill. No one will say that support this provision. But it will not be taken out of the bill.

OK this is not a rhetorical question, it is a question to broadcast. This was written word-for-word by Citibank, to benefit Citibank, putting the taxpayers at great risk. How can something like this be in a bill if no one put it in the bill and no one indicates support for it? How can we not get it taken out if no one will say they put it in and no one will say they support it?

Someone was obviously paid to put it in the bill. People are obviously being paid to keep it in the bill.

How FAR from the principles of democracy, transparency, accountability and everything the country, the Constitution and the Congress are supposed to stand for can we go here?

Please click here now to call your senators and tell them to stand up against this dangerous attempt to rig the rules for Wall Street – and against us.

Prosecute Or Pardon Bush, Bankers And Cops Who Kill

Are we a nation of laws or not? No one is held accountable for invading Iraq, bank fraud, shooting unarmed citizens or even torture. It’s time to restore the rule of law.

Everyone please, please watch this 4-minute segment from All In with Chris Hayes: Are really we a nation of laws?

In a New York Times op-ed, American Civil Liberties Union Director Anthony Romero called on President Obama to at least issue a pardon to Bush and Cheney and Bush administration officials for the crime of torture. In “Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured,” Romero writes: “… it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.”

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Trans-Pacific Trade Talks Resume With Almost No Media Coverage

Shouldn’t it be a trade violation to threaten to move someone’s job to another country? Shouldn’t we negotiate trade agreements that increase people’s wages on both sides of a trade border? These are the kinds of agreements we would make if We the People were negotiating trade agreements with representatives of the working people in other countries. Unfortunately that is not the kind of trade agreements that our current trade negotiation process produces.

The secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations resumed this week, this time in DC. TPP is a massive agreement that sets up new rules for over 40% of the global economy, It will have profound effects on our jobs, our standard of living now and in the future and our ability to make a living as a country. Oddly, though, as of Monday morning you have to read about it in Japan Times because few-to-no US media outlets are covering it. Japan Times: TPP talks get back underway in Washington,

Chief negotiators from 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative resumed negotiations in Washington after their leaders reaffirmed last month they will conclude an agreement as soon as possible.

Media Blackout

Here are a few stories about the media blackout of this important treaty — all in the non-corporate media:

Events This Week

In spite of the lack of American media coverage of this tremendously important agreement representatives of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, Internet freedom, public health, faith, human rights and community organizations held a rally Monday outside the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. These organizations represent “stakeholders” from all countries that are denied a seat at the TPP negotiating table.

At the rally George Kohl, senior director of Communications Workers of America, said “We believe in trade. We are fighting against old trade policy that literally guarantees corporate profits at the expense of working families in all nations. In the weeks ahead, we will mobilize like never before against Fast Track authorizing legislation and the TPP, and for 21st century trade that gives workers’ rights, environmental issues and other concerns the same standing as corporate profits.”

Pics from the rally: (credits Roger Hickey, Arthur Stamoulis)

Wednesday at 11am the AFL-CIO is holding a TPP briefing on “What Negotiators Should Be Discussing Behind Closed Doors,” at their DC headquarters at 815 16th St, NW.

“While the Obama administration meets behind closed doors this week with representatives of the countries involved in negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the AFL-CIO will host a briefing outlining what the negotiators should be discussing. The briefing will highlight what must be included in the negotiations for it to truly work for working people and how the TPP will only gain labor’s support if it will create American jobs and promote high labor and environmental standards. The briefing follows a week of increased Congressional scrutiny on the negotiations and the involved countries’ history of labor abuses.”

Secret Negotiations

The negotiations are secret and the kids of people at that DC rally are not represented at the bargaining table. But corporate representatives have access to drafts of the treaty, and the negotiators typically come from and expect to go to lucrative corporate positions after the treaty is finalized — assuming they “play ball.”

While we do not know exactly what is being negotiated, we do know from leaks — and previous “NAFTA-style” trade agreements — tell us what to expect. Much of TPP is about “investor protections” and not trade at all. These provisions allow corporations to sue governments for doing things that infringe on profits — like laws and regulations protecting the environment, worker safety, consumers and the health of citizens. For example, under similar agreements already in effect tobacco companies are suing governments to block anti-smoking efforts that protect the health of citizens!

Members of Congress are very concerned about the transparency of the TPP negotiating process. On a call Monday Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and (rock star) Dan Kildee (D-MI) expressed their concerns about the secrecy of TPP as well as the failure to address currency manipulation in the agreement.

Senator Elizabeth Warren put her finger on the secrecy problem, saying, “Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill. I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me, ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.'”

Currency Manipulation

Currency manipulation is a major trade problem. For example, we could restore up to 5.8 million American jobs, cut our trade deficit by $500 billion a year and increase our GDP by $720 billion just by addressing currency manipulation. (Click through for details.)

Congress is very concerned about this. Last year 60 Senators, a bipartisan majority, sent a letter to President Obama asking him to tell tell TPP negotiators to address currency manipulation. Also last year a majority (230) of members of the US House sent a bipartisan letter to the President saying they want him to tell TPP negotiators to address currency manipulation

60 Senators and 230 members of Congress want the negotiators to address currency manipulation– but TPP still does not address currency manipulation. What else do you need to know about the negotiating process, and respect for democracy and national sovereignty?

For more information about the TPP, visit these sites:

Expose the TPP.

Stop Fast Track.

Flush the TPP!

Stop TPP.

Sum of Us: Sign the petition to governments worldwide.

CWA’s TPP info, their Stop Fast Track petition and send this letter to Congress: Oppose Fast Track and the TPP

10 WAYS THE TPP WOULD HURT U.S. WORKING FAMILIES

Global Trade Watch

Eyes on Trade