Itâ€™s pretty simple: you canâ€™t advance a progressive agenda, or even one you call â€śliberalâ€ť, that claims to want to combat inequality AND go all out to ram through the Trans Pacific Partnership using the odious â€śFast trackâ€ť authority. Here are the contradictions.
Hat tip to Global Trade Watch for this comparison using the presidentâ€™s words from the State of the Union:
The president on income inequality: â€śWill we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?â€ť
TPP Reality: An â€śeconomy where only a few of us do spectacularly wellâ€ť is actually the projected outcome of the TPP. A recent study finds that the TPP would spell a pay cut for all but the richest 10 percent of U.S. workers by exacerbating U.S. income inequality, just as past trade deals have done.
The president on reviving manufacturing: â€śMore than half of manufacturing executives have said theyâ€™re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Letâ€™s give them one more reason to get it done.â€ť
TPP Reality: The TPP would give manufacturing firms a reason to offshore jobs to Vietnam, not bring them back from China. The TPP would expand NAFTAâ€™s special protections for firms that offshore American manufacturing, including to Vietnam, where minimum wages are a fraction of those paid in China. Since NAFTA, we have endured a net loss of more than 57,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities and nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs.
The president on American jobs: â€śSo no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America.â€ť
TPP Reality: TPP rules would gut the popular Buy American preferences that require government-purchased goods to be made here in America, preventing us from recycling our tax dollars back into our economy to create U.S. jobs.
The president on Exports: â€śToday, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages.â€ť
TPP Reality: Those who wish for more exports should wish for a different trade agenda. U.S. exports to countries that are part of TPP-like deals have actually grown slower than exports to the rest of the world, according to government data. Under the Korea deal that literally served as the template for the TPP, U.S. exports have actually fallen.
The president on small businesses: â€ś21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas.â€ť
TPP Reality: Small businesses have endured declining exports and export shares under pacts serving as the model for the TPP. Small businesses suffered a steeper downfall in exports than large firms under the Korea trade pact, and small businessesâ€™ export share has declined under NAFTA.
The president on economic growth: â€śMaintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go.â€ť
TPP Reality: An official U.S. government study finds that the economic growth we could expect from the TPP is precisely zero, while economists like Paul Krugman have scoffed at the dealâ€™s economic significance.
The president on middle class wages: â€śOf course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages.â€ť
TPP Reality: The TPP would put downward pressure on middle class wages, just as NAFTA has, by offshoring the jobs of decently-paid American manufacturing workers and forcing them to compete for lower-paying, non-offshoreable jobs.
The president on the legacy of past trade deals: â€śLook, Iâ€™m the first one to admit that past trade deals havenâ€™t always lived up to the hype, and thatâ€™s why weâ€™ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense.â€ť
TPP Reality: Past trade deals have resulted in massive trade deficits and job loss not because the pactsâ€™ rules have been broken, but because of the rules themselves. The TPP would double down on NAFTAâ€™s rules â€“ the opposite of Obamaâ€™s promise to renegotiate the unpopular pact â€“ by expanding NAFTAâ€™s offshoring incentives, limits on food safety standards, restrictions on financial regulation and other threats to American workers and consumers.
The president on affordable medicines: â€śâ€¦middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford â€¦health careâ€¦â€ť
TPP Reality: The TPP would directly contradict Obamaâ€™s efforts to reduce U.S. healthcare costs by expanding monopoly patent protections that jack up medicine prices and by imposing restrictions on the U.S. governmentâ€™s ability to negotiate or mandate lower drug prices for taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The president on Wall Street regulation: â€śWe believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisisâ€¦Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practicesâ€¦We canâ€™t put the security of families at risk byâ€¦unraveling the new rules on Wall Streetâ€¦â€ť
TPP Reality: Senator Warren has warned that the TPP could help banks unravel the new rules on Wall Street by prohibiting bans on risky financial products and â€śtoo big to failâ€ť safeguards while empowering foreign banks to â€śsueâ€ť the U.S. government over new financial regulations.
The president on Internet freedom: â€śI intend to protect a free and open internetâ€¦â€ť
TPP Reality: The TPP includes rules that implicate net neutrality and that would require Internet service providers to police our Internet activity â€“ rules similar to those in the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that was rejected as a threat to Internet freedom.
The president on the countryâ€™s national interests: â€śBut as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the worldâ€™s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen?â€ť
TPP Reality: With the TPP, multinational corporations want to write the rules that would put our workers at a disadvantage and undermine our national interests. TPP rules, written behind closed doors under the advisement of hundreds of official corporate advisers, would provide benefits for firms that offshore American jobs, help pharmaceutical corporations expand monopoly patent protections that drive up medicine prices, give banks new tools to roll back Wall Street regulations, and empower foreign firms to â€śsueâ€ť the U.S. government over health and environmental policies.
Rhetoric versus reality.
This article originally appeared in workinglife.org on January 22, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the author: Jonathan Tasini on any given day, I think like a political-union organizer or a writer â€” or both. Iâ€™ve done the traditional press routine including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Business Week, Playboy Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. One day, back when blogs were just starting out, I created Working Life. I used to write every day but sometimes there just isnâ€™t something new to say so I cut back to weekdays, with an occasional weekend post when it moves me. Iâ€™ve also written four books: Itâ€™s Not Raining, Weâ€™re Being Peed On: The Scam of the Deficit Crisis (2010 and, then, the updated 2nd edition in 2013); The Audacity of Greed: Free Markets, Corporate Thieves and The Looting of America (2009); They Get Cake, We Eat Crumbs: The Real Story Behind Todayâ€™s Unfair Economy, an average readerâ€™s guide to the economy (1997); and The Edifice Complex: Rebuilding the American Labor Movement to Face the Global Economy, a critique and prescriptive analysis of the labor movement (1995).