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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Secret things done in the dark

In an op-ed column published by the New York Times, David Brooks offers a full-throated defense of the Trans-Pacific Parternship deal. The Dems, in an uncharacteristic display of effectiveness, have managed block fast-track authority. The Powers-That-Be are now making a desperate attempt to keep the agreement alive, and Brooks is part of that effort.

He begins his full-throated defense of TPP with a full-throated defense of NAFTA.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, for example, probably didn’t affect the American economy too much. But the Mexican economy has taken off. With more opportunities, Mexican workers feel less need to sneak into the U.S.
The irony here is that Obama won the presidency in 2008 only because he posed as a strict opponent of NAFTA in certain key primaries. He lied his ass off, of course.

Brooks is now doing likewise. In both America and Mexico, more people disapprove of NAFTA than approve of it. According to this Public Citizen report (pdf),
The small U.S. trade surplus with Mexico pre-NAFTA turned into a massive new trade deficit. The pre-NAFTA U.S. trade deficit with Canada expanded greatly. Overall, the inflation-adjusted U.S. trade deficit with Canada of $29.1 billion and the $2.5 billion surplus with Mexico in 1993 (the year before NAFTA took effect) turned into a combined NAFTA trade deficit of $181 billion by 2012.1 The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimated that the NAFTA deficit had eliminated about one million net American jobs by 2004.2 Meanwhile, U.S. food processors moved to Mexico to take advantage of low wages and food imports soared. U.S beef imports from Mexico and Canada, for example, have risen 130 percent since NAFTA took effect, and today U.S. consumption of “NAFTA” beef tops $1.3 billion annually.3 The export of subsidized U.S. corn did increase, displacing over one million Mexican campesino farmers. Their desperate migration pushed down wages in Mexico’s border maquiladora factory zone and contributed to a doubling of Mexican immigration to the United States.

The U.S. public’s view of NAFTA has intensified from broad opposition to overwhelming opposition to NAFTA-style trade deals. According to a 2012 Angus Reid Public Opinion poll, 53 percent of Americans believe the United States should “do whatever is necessary” to “renegotiate” or “leave” NAFTA, while only 15 percent believe the United States should “continue to be a member of NAFTA.” Rejection of the trade deal is the predominant stance of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.4 NAFTA has drawn the ire of Americans across stunningly diverse demographics.
Brooks says that NAFTA has reduced illegal immigration. If that's the case, then what prompted NPR to come up with a headline like "Wave Of Illegal Immigrants Gains Speed After NAFTA"?

We are barely three paragraphs into Brooks' defense of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the man has already demonstrated a formidable gift for mendacity. Refuting all of the other paragraphs would require a book-length argument.

For present purposes, we need only ask: How can Brooks assure us that the agreement is benign when the whole thing so bloody covert? If the TPP were in our best interests, then why is a trade agreement being treated with the kind of secrecy normally reserved for nuclear launch codes?

Jon Schwartz reports:
You probably know by now that no normal Americans are allowed to see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. It’s classified. Even members of Congress can only read it by going to secure reading rooms in the basement of the Capitol.

But here’s what you might not know: you’re not even allowed to know who in Congress has bothered to do this.
It's the Patriot Act all over again. Congress is being asked to vote on the thing without studying it.
Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration, said that his best estimation of how many members of Congress have read the TPP — which has been called the biggest trade deal in history — is “in the single digits.” (Reich himself called the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative recently to ask to see it, and was rebuffed.)

So I’d say it’s almost certain that most of the 219 representatives and 62 senators who’ve voted to “fast track” the TPP have never even looked at it.
If you want to know more about the TPP, take the time to watch the Young Turks segment embedded above. The videos below will also help. TPP has been wounded, but it ain't dead yet, so the fight continues.

Bottom line: If someone shuts the door, turns off the light, and warns you never to talk about what's going to happen -- there's a pretty good chance that you are going to find yourself bent over with your underwear around your knees.

(And yes, I know I'm very late to this fight. I've devoted perhaps too much of this blog to the issues of Syria and Ukraine.)

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has this to say about a little known feature included in the TPP enabling legislation and almost certain to end up in the actual TPP:

In both houses of Congress, the relevant committees have voted (unanimously in the Senate and by voice vote in the House) to include in their respective TPA bills an important provision backed by both Democrats and Republicans regarding Israel. The provision, supported by AJC, would make it a principal trade negotiating objective of the United States to discourage trading partners from taking actions that could prejudice or discourage commercial activity between the U.S. and Israel, to seek the elimination of state-sponsored foreign boycotts against Israel, and to end compliance with the Arab League Boycott of Israel.

From what it appears governments might have to indemnify Jewish business losses resulting from civil protests against Israel involving boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Here's the legislation.
Ellen Brown points out that the even more secretive Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) opens the door to even more financial abuses (with likely global market meltdowns) and restricts governments from engaging in publicly run (national) banks.

Recall the secret plan devised by Wall Street and U.S. Treasury officials in the 1990s to open banking to the lucrative derivatives business. To pull this off required the relaxation of banking regulations not just in the US but globally, so that money would not flee to nations with safer banking laws. The vehicle used was the Financial Services Agreement concluded under the auspices of the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The plan worked, and most countries were roped into this “liberalization” of their banking rules. The upshot was that the 2008 credit crisis took down not just the US economy but economies globally.

TiSA picks up where the Financial Services Agreement left off, opening yet more doors for private banks and other commercial service industries, and slamming doors on governments that might consider opening their private banking sectors to public ownership.

Although I'm not a constitutional scholar as Obama is alleged to be, I don't think this is the way our government is supposed to work. Since when did congress become nothing but a rubber stamp for the executive branch? And since when does our government operate primarily in secrecy?

We've been in this movie before, and if we allow it again, then there is no hope for the people of this country. NAFTA turned out to be the biggest screw job the American working class has ever received; Daddy Bush, the Clintons, and everyone else who supported it lied their asses off. Ross Perot was right, even though he did look like a Martian and had an annoying voice.

The US government is delivering the 99% into economic fascism, which is probably a prelude to the real thing. I think we can safely assume that every son of a bitch who supports this has been bought and paid for by our corporate enemies. Any congressperson who advocates voting for any major legislation which remains secret and unread is an enemy of the American people and deserves nothing but our contempt. Opposing them in elections is probably futile and a waste of time, but we can at least let them know what we think of them, not that they care.
Thanks for this, and for the three excellent videos. I was especially interested in what Alan Grayson said at the end of the third video, regarding calls and e-mails to Senators and Representatives. Although I've written to, or e-mailed, our sens and reps in the past I've always felt that it was little more than token effort - flogging a dead horse. (I live in OK we have some of the worst sens and reps in the land).
Do you, Joseph, consider as Alan Grayson seemed to, that it is a worthwhile effort to e-mail or write to sens and reps? In this TPP debacle that is all we have, for any chance to at least stall things, maybe even put them in storage for a long time, until other factors change?

Hi Joseph,

As you know the Senate passed the TPA which allows FastTrack on TPP to be passed by the President. I've spoken with the office staff of several Dem Senators who voted yes for TPA/TPP yesterday, and was told that a 60 day period of public discussion will be allowed to take place before the House gets to vote on a finalized TPP Trade bill.

They say that TPP hasn't been passed, just the Fast-track for TPP.

But, they said the TPP is being negotiated by Obama and that the TPP document is still "being negotiated" and is thus "classified" so they don't know what all is in this document.

I asked them if it were possible to have "up for discussion 60 day advance" taken out or negated in the finalized document and they said the Senator was assured that this was in the bill being voted on.

I suspect that any Senator or Congressmember who voted for this bill has no idea what they voted for and have thus betrayed their constituents by signing their rights away.

What do you think Joseph? You haven't posted anything since this post.
On second thought, could it be that the entire Hastert scandal was timed exactly as a warning to those House and Senate Dems foolish enough to vote against the TPP?

notice Hastert's final indictment takes place May 28, 2015, roughly 2 weeks after the Senate first rejected Obama's trade agreemeent on May 12, 2015:

I suggest that the corporate mafia brought out the heavy guns by threatening key Dems in both the House and Senate to expose dirty laundry. Senator Ron Widen perhaps has some similarities to Hastert in that he taught university classes before launching a first political campaign in 1980.

What about other key Dems and Repubs? could pressure or subtle threats have been put on other key House and Senate lawmakers to change their minds and vote YES?

Of those who voted YES, how many were up for re-election? Why did CA Dem Senator Feinstein vote YES? Why did 13 Senate Dems vote YES yesterday for TPA and thus fast-track for TPP?

It's been painfully obvious that the mainstream media has completely skipped over yesterday's Senate vote on TPA/Fast-track of TPP and also last week's House TPA victory. There has been no discussion of what this means going forward unless one listens to Thom Hartmann or Democracy Now!

What happened between May 12, 2015 and yesterday, June 24, 2015, that resulted in the Senate doing an about face or last Thursday in which the House voted to approve the Trade promotion Authority and had already approved 2 out of the 3 TPP measures the week before?

All lawmakers know that TPP is toxic because of the extreme secrecy, not allowing the full text of the legislation to be made public and to force "Fast-track" which allows only an up or down vote with no room for debate or to filibuster.

What is going on? Joseph you know so much more of what is going on behind the scenes and reading between the lines, especially since you've relocated to the east coast and are so much closer to DC.

Is the American working class as screwed over as this article makes out to be?

ECONOMIC SLAVERY FOR ALL: While we were distracted with the Confederate flag flap, Congress quietly forfeited our entire economic future via fast-track trade authority

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