Sunday, May 17, 2015

204.5 - Outrage of the Week: Senate Dems collapse on fast-track

Outrage of the Week: Senate Dems collapse on fast-track

Next up, another of our regular features. This actually was going to be Good News, but it turned into the Outrage of the Week.

On Tuesday, in what was called everything from a setback to a stinging rebuke, Senate democrats refused to be stampeded by President Hopey-Changey's campaign of half sweet-talk, half-mockery, and refused to give him so-called "trade promotion authority," otherwise known as fast-track authority, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, the proposed trade deal accurately labeled by Rep. Keith Ellison as "the biggest corporate power grab you never heard of."

The TPP would create a free trade zone covering 12 Pacific nations and 40 percent of the world economy - making it biggest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, liberalized trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico, a deal which has been responsible for the loss of millions of high-paying manufacturing jobs in exchange for the creation of millions of low-paid service industry jobs.

TPP has been in negotiation for years - I first mentioned it here two and a-half years ago - negotiated in secret with input from governments, trade and industry associations, and corporations - and essentially none from labor, environmental groups, human rights organizations, or consumers. None, that is, from those whose concerns lay beyond power, privilege, and profit.

Fast-track authority means that once the trade deal is completed, it would be presented to Congress as a single bulk, with only a yes or no, up or down vote possible. No amendments allowed, no filibusters permitted. It's a procedure used only for trade agreements and is intended to make it as easy as possible for them to be approved.

Three weeks ago, I called the push for fast-track the Outrage of the Week but, aware of the growing resistance to the TPP among progressives, including some folks in Congress, I added that it was not a done deal.

And for a moment, it looked like it wasn't: A vote on a procedural motion needed to move fast-track authority forward got only 52 of the 60 votes required, with only one Dem voting for it.

Wow! Good news!

For one day.

And then the Senate Dems - outrageously, disgustingly - collapsed like a used tissue.

Originally, those Dems had wanted the bill for fast-track authority to be bundled with others, including giving favorable treatment to imports from Africa and cracking down on currency manipulation by China -currency manipulation being a practice by a country of artificially depressing the value of its currency in order to make its exports, from our (in this case) point of view, relatively cheaper and US exports, from their point of view relatively more costly, thus protecting their own domestic industries at our expense.

Just 24 hours later, the demand for bundling was gone, exchanged for an essentially meaningless promise to vote on those things as separate bills where they will have no impact on fast-track authority and thus no impact on the TPP and the House can completely ignore them and not even act on them at all.

This means that Senate Dems gave away their leverage on trade in exchange for being able to posture to the folks back home that they "voted to get tough with China."

Fast-track authority is still not a done deal, since after it gets through the Senate, which due to this craven capitulation it clearly will, it will have to be passed by the House, where it is expected to have a tougher time and where a number of Dems (and some GOPpers) are on record opposing it.

None of that changes that fact that Senate Democrats had in practical effect stopped TPP, this latest hosanna to the transnational corporations that dominate the world's trade and, increasingly, its governments, they had stopped TPP in its tracks because the Amazing Mr. O and the Wall Street bankers surrounding him and whispering in his ear know it can't survive actual open debate. And they gave it up, threw it away, for a mess of pottage.

And that, and its potential impact on our economic future - because I don't know how many more "victories" like NAFTA we can afford - makes it an outrage.

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