Let's have an update about the status of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the huge, still-secret trade bill Obama is trying to get through Congress.
The immediate issue is Trade Promotion Authority, commonly called fast-track, which would allow Obama to present the negotiated deal, once it is finished, to Congress on a take-it-or-leave-it basis: Congress could approve or reject the treaty but it could not change the terms.
The Senate passed fast-track, gave Obama his Trade Promotion Authority, on May 22 - and I'm going to come back to that later, but let me update you on the current status first.
Fast-track has now gone to the House, were it appears it my have an even harder time than it did in the Senate. In fact, that climb may have just gotten steeper.
One of the issues involved in all this is that of retraining American workers who wind up out of work because of the trade deal. How that's supposed to happen, how anyone is supposed to be harmed, when this deal is just so great for workers and all others I'm not sure, but hey at least they're thinking about that part.
A bill in the House would cut $700 million from Medicare to fund an extension of what's called Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA, which aids workers who lose their jobs as a result of trade deals.
A number of seniors' groups and, perhaps a bit surprisingly, labor unions (which normally support TAA) have condemned the idea, so much so that they have urged House members to vote against the extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance if it is not funded independently. Which speaks to just how much more controversial the trade legislation - which already faces substantial opposition from members of both parties in the House - has become.
The supporters of fast-track are trying to derail the opposition by separating the funding of the TAA from the bill for fast-track authority, voting on fast-track first and the TAA funding only after as a separate bill. It remains to be seen how effective that will be as a tactic. (Update: As I expect you know it failed because the rules required that both pieces pass for fast-track to pass and the TAA bill lost badly.)
Many progressive politicians and activists (and even some non-progressive ones) are aware that the agreement will widen income inequality while putting at risk protections for workers, consumers, and the environment.An economist named Peter Morici summed it up this way:
U.S. multinationals would still profit from the TPP - they will be able to more easily move production to Asia to advantage labor and other resources made cheaper by manipulated currencies. Rich shareholders would profit and smile but ordinary working Americans would face more unfairly advantaged foreign competitors, unemployment and more downward pressure on wages.Obama has called TPP the "most progressive trade deal” in US history. Which admittedly could be true, considering just how low a bar that is to get over.
It can't be said enough: These people are not on your side!
[Note from ye olde blogger: I seem to have deleted the version of this file that contained all the links. Damn. If I do manage to find it, I will add the links back in. Sorry for the screw-up.]