This article appears in the May issue of our magazine. Artwork by Jem Sullivan
A cabal of global corporations and their friends in the Obama Administration are waging a wholesale assault on our jobs, environment, health, and even our people’s sovereignty.
Their weapon is a scheme hidden inside a scam. Called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the scam is their claim that TPP is nothing but another free trade deal that ties our economy to Brunei, Vietnam, and nine other nations around the Pacific Rim. But of the twenty-nine chapters in this deal, only five are about tariffs and other trade matters.
The real deal is in the twenty-four other chapters that create a supranational scheme of secretive, private tribunals that corporations from any TPP nation can use to challenge and overturn our local, state, and national laws. All a corporate power has to do to win in these closed proceedings is to show that a particular law or regulation might reduce its future profits.
This is big stuff, amounting to the enthronement of a global corporate oligarchy over us. Yet it’s been negotiated among trade officials of the twelve countries and 500 corporate executives in strict secrecy.
In March, the President arranged a briefing to woo House Democrats to support the TPP. But he classified the briefing as a secret session, meaning the lawmakers are not allowed to tell you, me, or anyone else anything about it.
A gag order on Congress? Holy Thomas Paine! The only reason Obama is desperate to hide his oligarchic scheme from us is because he knows the people would overwhelmingly oppose it. So he’s resorting to government by sucker punch. It’s cowardly—and disgraceful.
The wonkish, gibberishistic jargon in these corporate boondoggles they call “trade deals” is toothachingly boring and incomprehensible. Could that be on purpose? Of course! If they wrote these wage-destroying, environment-killing, sovereignty-sucking scams in plain English so we commoners could understand what they’re doing to us, they couldn’t get away with it.
So the TPP, by far the largest trade flim-flam in history, is written in legalistic gobbledygook and was negotiated by corporate lobbyists and government lawyers. Even Congress doesn’t know what’s in it—yet the plan is to hustle TPP into law through a super-rushed, rubber-stamped process called “fast-track.”
No need to worry about the content, though, for an upstanding new group called Progressive Coalition for American Jobs now assures us that this global deal “will support hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the United States.” Hello! Do we have sucker wrappers around our heads? That’s the exact same claim that President Clinton and the corporate elite made in 1993 for NAFTA, which siphoned hundreds of thousands of jobs and entire industries out of the United States.
Who are the members of this “coalition”? Every progressive group I know of is adamantly against the TPP, and no progressive has stepped forward to claim ownership of this PR push.
“Good trade agreements can only be negotiated in the open,” write Representatives Raúl Grijalva and Keith Ellison, co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “The U.S. must stop using trade agreements as investment deals for the world’s wealthiest corporations and instead prioritize higher wages, safer work and environmental standards and a healthier world economy.”
Now that’s progressive.
Jim Hightower produces The Hightower Lowdown newsletter and is the author, with Susan DeMarco, of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow.