10 Plain Language Reasons To Oppose Fast Track & the TPP

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By Robert O'Leary, J.D., BARA

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Don't feel bad if trade talk – treaties, exports & imports – makes your eyes glaze over. It's understandable. Most likely, you've heard about this Trans Pacific Partnership, or Fast Track & the TTP at least once a week. But you're busy & probably haven't really looked beneath the headlines. Even if you have, some of the authors don't always do a great job breaking the nuts & bolts down for you. So, you leave frustrated that they don't get to the point. This article seeks to tell this story in more plain language. Make no mistake this TPP story is big, full of intrigue, and needs heroes and heroines to stand up to the bad guys. You can be one of the many that are standing up. But time is short because the congress is being asked to shut down debate on this sucker and say yea or nay to it under a limited time crunch to read & understand what'll probably be over a 1000 pages & then figure out if it is right for America.

So, let's get started.

  1. Permanence

In America, we are used to having a chance to oppose a bill and even if it becomes law, we can rally our legislatures to change the law if we choose. We can also bring a lawsuit to question the legality of the law or ask that it be voided due to vagueness or ambiguity, just to name a few ways that we can act proactively as citizens.

If that does not work, we can propose amendments for a change of a bad law or judicial decision- just as some are doing regarding the Citizens United decision.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed treaty and, whether you like it or not, it will not be changed in the future except by another treaty. If we renege on parts of the treaty, I am sure that there are costly penalties to be paid. So, the time is now to understand it, debate it, and to decide if it is right for our country. This article is meant to bring up to speed if you have not had a chance to really look at this important issue in any depth.

For those who already know something about, I have sought to offer some perspectives that I have not seen discussed anywhere else.

If after reading this, you agree with me that Fast Track or the TPP, itself, is a bad idea, and if you would like to have the treaty be made public for all of us to discuss and understand it,  please click on the following link in order for you to make your voice heard:

https://act.democracyforamerica.com/sign/obama_warren_brown [calls for the TPP to be made public before asking for Fast Track to be allowed]

https://www.dailykos.com/campaigns/1212 [calls upon Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader to oppose Fast Track, itself]; and


https://openmedia.org/censorship or https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/oppose-the-trans-pacific [both of which oppose the TPP, itself]

  1. You wouldn’t let your kids get away with this

If your child said Mom, Dad I am going to go into my room with 20 of my friends and lock the door, what would you say? If you are like me you would say why? Even if I gave him a little time behind a closed door, I would be listening in on the conversation.

And if your child gets a little too quiet on another occasion and you ask him or her, “what are you doing” and they say “nothing”, how likely are you to suspect that the answer is really “something”?

So, why do we have no concern about the trade reps of 12 nations, lobbyists and heads of Fortune 500 Corporations locking themselves in a room-explicitly stating that our representatives, small business owners, housewives or house husbands, labor leaders, consumer advocates, activists, et al, cannot even be in the room?

And then we are told that some of our representatives can see the text of certain chapters only, but that they cannot take an assistant or expert with them, cannot take notes out of the room, and cannot even talk to their constituents about what they read.

  1. Transparency is not his best trait

Within this context, the president tells us to trust him when he says that this is a good deal for America and that there is no need to have Congress debate it let alone take part in drafting the language.

Yet, during this president’s tenure, he or his assistants have had as many or more meetings with lobbyists than previous presidents, despite promises of transparency. See Jennifer Rubin, “Obama’s Transparency Problem, August 21, 2012, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/obamas-transparency-problem/2012/08/01/gJQASUioPX_blog.html

Edward Snowden & Chelsea (a/k/a Bradley) Manning showed many reasons why we should not trust our government to do what is in our best interest. The NSA spying revelations & IRS’s treatment of certain businesses just shows how much the government does not trust us; so why do we trust that TTP/TTIP will be good for us, just because the president tells us so?

This president has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined, despite promises of transparency. On the other hand, he let President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, among others, completely off the hook for their arguable war and other crimes.

Nor did any Wall Street heads roll after the wrongdoing of several banks. President Obama even reportedly coordinated with leaders in various cities to undermine Occupy Wall street.

And the FED has not been stopped from taking taxpayer money and doing whatever it wants with it. Neither the president nor a majority in the congress is willing to rein in the FED’s spendthrift and irresponsible ways.

Within this context, how can we trust that a proposed agreement made largely by corporations is not in deed for corporations just because the president says that it is so?

  1. Don’t believe this will create jobs

Unions are by and large against this treaty proposal. This may make those readers, of the conservative persuasion, immediately think that they should favor it then. But not so fast. I don’t think that the unions are against it because they were kept out of the meeting or that it could take away worker benefits; I think that it is because they believe it will likely take away jobs.

One way to judge how the TPP is likely to affect jobs, is to look at how we have fared with previous trade agreements. Leo Hindrey, a former AT & T Broadband president is, according to The Progressive, “against TPP fast track. Hindrey says nearly five million U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost since the NAFTA-like trade deals took effect. Hindrey says these trade deals have “fundamentally transformed the types of jobs and wages available for the 63 percent of all U.S. workers without a college degree.” See Doug Cunningham, “The Trans Pacific Partnership: A Fast Track to Lost Jobs and Lower Wages”, April 21, 2015, https://www.progressive.org/news/2015/04/188098/trans-pacific-partnership-fast-track-lost-jobs-and-lower-wages

Nearly 5 million represents 1 out of every 4 jobs. In addition, more than 60,000 American manufacturing facilities have closed down. TPP would not make any changes from the NAFTA model, as far as we know, and will likely expand upon it. See “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Would Promote Off-Shoring of American Jobs”, https://www.exposethetpp.org/TPPImpacts_OffshoringUSJobs.html

One of the problems with this treaty model is that it gives special benefits to firms that relocate their operations outside of the country. This takes away the benefits of having business right here in the states and takes those benefits elsewhere. By losing manufacturing jobs, wages are driven down, there is less tax revenue collected, less funding for social services and rebuilding of infrastructure. Plus, although American worker productivity has thankfully been going up, our real median wage levels are at 1979 levels. See “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Would Promote Off-Shoring of American Jobs”, https://www.exposethetpp.org/TPPImpacts_OffshoringUSJobs.html

No wonder we have had some cities such as Detroit fall on hard times. One can reasonably ask why our government would engage in such treaties in the first place if they are so “bad” for the economy. One fundamental clue, in answering this mystery, is in the fact that large corporations, lobbyists and world leaders are the only ones allowed to sit at the negotiating table.

  1. This treaty proposal could bring us higher deficits

If you think the deficit is high now, wait till we have to pay a foreign company millions for telling them not to bring a poisonous product into the country. Think of a dioxin plant right next to your child’s school or playground or a foreign fracking in your town even though your state has decided not to allow fracking? Damages could be awarded to these corporations by the Investor-State Dispute Settlement tribunal, which is essentially a private, corporate court system, made up of three (3) corporate attorneys who each play turns being the plaintiff’s counsel, the defendant’s counsel and judge. They are unaccountable and unimpeachable by any country signed on to this treaty.  Nor do we know what laws or procedures will be used by this tribunal nor who will issue the laws and rules.

What we do know is that these damages will be passed on to us, as taxpayers, either through dollar for dollar payments or in light of insurance premium costs that the government may choose to make in anticipation of these damage awards. These damages could be in the billions of dollars. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-progressives-lament-about-the-trans-pacific-partnership/2015/04/28/6627523e-ed18-11e4-8abc-d6aa3bad79dd_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1 Imagine the cost of insurance for 10 billion dollars or 100 billion dollars per year. These dollar amounts are not inconceivable looking at how much a company could say that they might lose yearly because they cannot do business in the U.S.

Not only will our deficits increase due to adverse judgments against our country, it may be because of the terms of the trade deal, itself. Doug Cunningham, of The Progressive magazine, states that “Obama’s South Korean trade deal increased the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea by fifty percent…” This is a deal with a dozen countries; so how much might our trade deficit with each of them increase?

Moreover, as the editor of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel tells us “The United States has had over two decades of experience with these trade deals, and it has racked up an unprecedented $11 trillion in trade deficits this century alone.” See Katrina vanden Heuvel,“A progressive’s lament about the Trans-Pacific Partnership”, April 28, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-progressives-lament-about-the-trans-pacific-partnership/2015/04/28/6627523e-ed18-11e4-8abc-d6aa3bad79dd_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

Besides, our deficit is already high. The government has a hard time working within a budget; the FED looks at our economy as a cash trough; we still put more money into our military budget than most other countries; and our black budget costs which, while usually unmentioned, are considerable.

The deficit has gotten so bad that it has become one of the driving forces behind the Article V Convention of States movement [See www.conventionofstates.com], which already has at least four (4) states committed to it with many others in the process of approving it.


All in all, the TPP is bad for our future if we wish to have any hope of balancing our budget. You would think that traditional conservatives would be all over this issue, but their standard bearers, even such politicians as Rand Paul, are going for it in a big way.

Nonetheless, there are some right wing groups that do oppose TPP, namely the American Jobs Alliance, the United States Business and Industry Council [which are both pro-business groups] as well as the Tea Party Nation and Eagle Forum. See Doug Cunningham, “The Trans Pacific Partnership: A Fast Track to Lost Jobs and Lower Wages”, April 21, 2015, https://www.progressive.org/news/2015/04/188098/trans-pacific-partnership-fast-track-lost-jobs-and-lower-wages

  1. Constitutional issues:

Although Vice President Joe Biden reportedly has said that “[o]rdinary citizens don’t care about the Constitution”, they really do in my opinion. They just do not jump up and down about constitutional issues unless they find their proverbial “ox” gored by its violations or curtailment.

As I mentioned, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement tribunal would put disputes, between multi-national corporations and governments, into the hands of three corporate attorneys, rotating between plaintiff’s counsel, defendant’s counsel and judge – arbitrating issues among a dozen nations with no appeal options. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-progressives-lament-about-the-trans-pacific-partnership/2015/04/28/6627523e-ed18-11e4-8abc-d6aa3bad79dd_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

Think about it: normally a corporation, which desires to do business in a particular country, must work its way through the different agencies and, sometimes, courts of that country. These agencies and tribunals are overseen by administrators or judges appointed by someone in that country. Presumably, these officials will have some sense of various competing interests in that country, public & private, corporate and labor, et al. In any case, these judges would be abiding by that country’s laws and procedures.

Looked at another way, normally each country has an executive, legislative and judicial body – 3 entities to have some semblance of checks and balances in government. 12 countries times 3 such bodies give us 36 bodies. Under the TPP, all of those disputes will be adjudicated by 1 body, whose attorneys are unaccountable to any country and presumably not subject to any impeachment or recall…no matter what.

Impeachment and recall procedures, as well as attorney and judicial ethics boards are in place in order to serve as a countervail to certain individuals and groups that might try to buy off judges or attorneys. As far as we know, we can anticipate no such countervails in the TPP system. Those three (3) individuals, in the ISDS, will be human and thus fallible. We will be left to hoping that they will not be corrupted. Do we want to take that chance??? And why is the president so comfortable with giving up our constitutional controls on companies that wish to do business in our country.

When one of our courts or agencies decides if a company’s product is appropriate to be allowed into a city, state, or the country itself, the decision-maker is looking at health, safety, welfare, business and zoning issues. It also wishes to make sure that the company is willing to pay appropriate taxes and fees as fair consideration for letting them have access to that city or state as well as the citizens that will buy their products.

Our limited understanding of this TPP tribunal is that it will be looking at such cases in a more business-oriented manner and that a state or municipalities laws may not be honored. One might say so much for the will of the people.

Congress also has a job to do, one that it seems to forget about in our modern age. The U.S. Constitution states that “The president may make treaties, with the advice and consent of the Senate, provided two-thirds of the senators who are present agree.” See U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 2. Wikileaks characterizes “advice and consent” as follows: “This language was written at the Constitutional Convention as part of a delicate compromise concerning the balance of power in the federal government. Many delegates preferred to develop a strong executive control vested in the president, while others, worried about authoritarian control, preferred to strengthen the congress. Requiring the president to gain the advice and consent of the senate achieved both goals without hindering the business of government.” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advice_and_consent.

The “authoritarian control” concern, mentioned above, seems to be justified with the notion of “Fast Track” being so often used in major treaties. The secretive and classified nature of treaty negotiations and the Fast Track, itself, come together to effectively nullify the “advice” clause of the Constitution. As for the “consent” part of the clause, Fast Track limits that clause because it does not allow for any debate. It also provides a short window in which our representatives can to read the proposed treaty before they vote yea or nay. I say that it limits  the exercise of “consent” because it gives our congress so little time to read what could be thousands of pages, to discuss them and to think about what the treaty really means for our present and future. Another way to put this is that the congress is not being allowed to give any sort of informed consent to this treaty if it says yes to Fast Track.

Somehow, this congressional right – which is of course “our” right, because we are represented by our congresspeople – has been watered down in the last few decades to include this procedural “snake” called the Fast Track.

This push to give the president power to negotiate such treaties has some inherent problems:The congress, when it allows “Fast Track” is indirectly giving up “our” rights;

a. The president is arguably suggesting that the U.S. Congress, and thus we, do not have the smarts or other qualities needed to handle being a part of a proposed treaty process;

b. That only heads of Fortune 500-level corporations, lobbyists, trade reps and heads of countries are capable of drafting and negotiating a treaty;

c. The congress doesn’t really have the “balls” to stand up to the office of the president, just as it has repeatedly surrendered to his will under the War Powers Act-even as he seems to pay more respect to the UN than he does to us or our representatives;

d. We have given so much power to the office of the president with these treaty and other powers that it wouldn’t be hard for us to slide into a dictatorship; and

e. This is one more indication that our country is an oligarchy or corporatist state, not a democracy or a republic and that even Adam Smith would be shocked at the level to which corporations have concentrated their power.

Our constitution may seem like it’s pretty far in the background in our daily lives. Yet, despite all of this, it provides a fabric underlying our existence. The constitution seeks to preserve balance in our lives between security and liberty, people and government, the individual and business.

So, surrendering powers as a nation to a small corporate-based and unaccountable judicial body or our congress giving up its own powers out of fear or a hunger for corporate donations, would be a real travesty and an insult to our forefathers and foremothers that sweated and toiled, lived and died making what we have, right now, possible.

  1. Are we putting our children’s future “in hoc”?

Ceilingless potential award amounts. Shrinking job and tax bases. It would be an abysmal legacy to leave to future generations.

In budget disputes and calls for balanced budgets, we hear from fiscal conservatives that we should be making sure that we do not burden our children’s future with higher and higher deficits. We are not hearing about this from our prominent conservatives, but it is no less a valid concern.

Let’s face it, the potential costs of the TPP are astronomical. Budgetary fights allow for our participation as citizens; we can call our politicians and say how we feel about each budgetary item.  Yet, there is no such control with the TPP. Then how does this make sense even if the proposed treaty has some other benefits. How can those potential benefits possibly outweigh the potential costs?

  1. President Obama has not walked the walk to make the U.S. Labor Force trust him

A president that told labor unions that he would be willing to walk on picket lines never showed up. No heads rolled on Wall Street when their activities brought down the economy in 2008. And his Attorney General went so easy on them that the public began to realize that certain companies and banks were, in the government’s eyes, “too Big to Fail” and apparently too big to prosecute. These corporations were treated with leniency that none of us in the 99% would ever be afforded.

President Obama has stated that this treaty has benefits for labor and other groups. He goes further to suggest that the TPP proposal “will have the strongest consumer, worker and environmental protections of any agreement ever,” but he does not let us see the proof. See Katrina vanden Heuvel,“A progressive’s lament about the Trans-Pacific Partnership”, April 28, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-progressives-lament-about-the-trans-pacific-partnership/2015/04/28/6627523e-ed18-11e4-8abc-d6aa3bad79dd_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

As Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown wrote to the president recently, As Warren and Brown wrote in their letter to the president: “Executives of the country’s biggest corporations and their lobbyists already have had significant opportunities not only to read [the TPP text], but to shape its terms.” For the rest of us, the document is classified. A document so important to our future is classified and hidden from our eyes. See Katrina vanden Heuvel,“A progressive’s lament about the Trans-Pacific Partnership”, April 28, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-progressives-lament-about-the-trans-pacific-partnership/2015/04/28/6627523e-ed18-11e4-8abc-d6aa3bad79dd_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

It is also important to point out that we only know what we know about this proposed treaty only because of leaks, from such organizations as Wikileaks and what some of our courageous representatives like Alan Grayson, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Bernie Sanders have shared with us.

Meanwhile, our “transparency” president has prosecuted more whistleblowers in history than all previous presidents in history, combined.

So, Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren have recently challenged the president to show the proposed treaty to the public and allow them to take part in this process. To date, he has refused. See Katrina vanden Heuvel,“A progressive’s lament about the Trans-Pacific Partnership”, April 28, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-progressives-lament-about-the-trans-pacific-partnership/2015/04/28/6627523e-ed18-11e4-8abc-d6aa3bad79dd_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

The president cannot state that this would be an unprecedented thing to do. None other than President George W. Bush did this in anticipation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement, doing so months before he asked for and received permission for a partial Fast Track process his U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, stated at the time that release would “make international trade and its economic and social benefits more understandable to the public” and that it could “increase public awareness of and support for the FTAA.” See Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown letter to Obama on trade“. April 25, 2015,  ”https://www.scribd.com/doc/263074835/Elizabeth-Warren-and-Sherrod-Brown-letter-to-Obama-on-trade#scribd

One might argue that, if the TPP is so great for our future, why would the president wish to hide it instead of bragging about it. Even if he were concerned about people misreading it or misunderstanding it, he could have town meetings to discuss its terms chapter by chapter.

  1. Why not have some town meetings on this?

We have been burned numerous times when our representatives did not take enough time to read important acts and laws that have been enacted by our congress. The Patriot Act, the ACA, Monsanto Protection Act and others have all had provisions that have become problematic or at least controversial since their passage.

Some of these were bills which were thousands of pages long, and not your typical night-reading fare. No doubt these bills have some complexity and might require clarifications of language as well as discussions with experts before a reasonable person would choose to say “aye” on the congressional floor.

Convening town meetings, after publication of one (1) chapter per week in one (1) or more major newspapers might solve these problems. Our congresspersons should take part in these meetings and take questions and comments about each chapter. The president could come, too, and make his pitch for it. Think of how we as citizens could be enriched by this experience, taking part in our legislative process in this way.

Having more time to really consider this proposed treaty would mean that our representatives truly know what they are signing, have the opportunity to argue for removal or tweaking of certain parts, and know that their constituents have been able to take part and to “take ownership” a proposal that will control our lives for the foreseeable future.

  1. If the president and congress handle this in the right way, they can go a long way toward restoring our trust in government

Neither our executive nor legislators can state that they are very popular. Part of that may be due to what has been revealed by whistleblowers in the last ten (10) or so years. We have seen proof of terrible things done by our government, using our tax dollars to seek more and more power, domination, and favorable contracts and treatment of our corporations internationally.

Our government favors Big Energy, Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, and Wall Street without shame yet tell us that they are acting in our best interest. It is no surprise that our government has been called an oligarchy by one authoritative long-term study. See “It’s Official: America is an Oligarchy and NOT a Democracy or a Republic”, April 16, 2014, https://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/04/oligarchy.html Nor is it a shock that the richest 1% are taking home considerably more income than the 99%. As Brian Williams told us, on September 10, 2013, that “[a} new analysis shows the richest Americans, the top 1 percent, made nearly 20 percent of all the available income in America last year [i.e., in 2012]” See https://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/52977126%

As of February 3, 2014, in an Oxfam study, it could be said that “the US hasn’t seen such large income disparity since 1928…[and] [f]rom 2009 to 2012, the top 1% in the U.S. claimed 95% of gains from the economic recovery. And the rest of country, the other 99%? They only saw income growth of 0.4% while their richer counterparts saw their incomes rise by over 30%….”  See Kristen Duvall, “10 Countries With The Worst Income Inequality”, February 3, 2014, https://www.therichest.com/rich-list/poorest-list/10-countries-with-the-worst-income-inequality/?view=all

Keep in mind that this has happened under both Democrats and Republicans. While the Republicans have certainly tried to act like business is always in such sorry shape that they need tax breaks and other benefits, the reality is that they are doing more than fine.

Still, 233 Republicans and 7 Democrats recently voted to repeal the Estate Tax, demonstrating that many elected Republicans and some Democrats are not interested in evening up income disparities anytime soon. This vote, coming the day after Tax Day, seems to have been made with a proverbial exclamation point. The public, on the other hand, are very passionate about this issue with a “supermajority” of Democratic voters having problems with income inequality and 54% of republicans expressing the same concern. See Tory Newmyer, “House Republicans just voted to give the very wealthy a tax break”, April 16, 2015, https://fortune.com/2015/04/16/house-republicans-estate-tax/

With these facts as background, the president’s current pitch for the TPP seems to  show that he and some in the Congress have abandoned the 99% in favor of the 1%. And this seems to have been going on for quite some time; we have effectively been conned by both parties year after year, election after election to get to the sorry state in which we now find ourselves.

And this is most certainly by and about money. The short-term and short-sighted goals of a president or congressperson may reap the benefits directly or indirectly from corporations, but the damage done to our present and future is beyond measure.

For these reasons, we should call for a town meeting discussion about the TPP. Our future literally depends on it.

So there you have it, my take on the TPP.I urge you to discuss any of these points with your congressperson, friends and family and arrive at your own conclusions. Above all, please take action no matter how busy you get. There will always be something more for you to do. So, if anything can be put off and you can take that extra time to call or meet with your congressperson, please do so. We have the chance to give voice to this this week because a decision on the Fast Track could come down any day. Thank you.

Below are the petition sites again if you wish to speak out on this important topic. A vote on the Fast Track could happen any day, so please don't delay:

https://act.democracyforamerica.com/sign/obama_warren_brown [calls for the TPP to be made public before asking for Fast Track to be allowed]

https://www.dailykos.com/campaigns/1212 [calls upon Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader to oppose Fast Track, itself]; and

https://openmedia.org/censorship or https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/oppose-the-trans-pacific [both of which oppose the TPP, itself]

Robert O'Leary 150x150Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield (MA), New England & “virtually” the world, with his website, www.romayasoundhealthandbeauty.com. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.com

 

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