It’s crunch time for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the most sweeping multilateral trade agreement since NAFTA. Fast-track authority for the president, gussied up with some face-saving amendments to make it look like Congress will have a real debate when Obama submits the deal to lawmakers later this year, has passed out of committee in both the House and Senate. That means fast-track will be decided upon in a matter of days or weeks.
I won’t take up a lot of space explaining why TPP is a disaster for American working people. Read this excellent summing-up from YES! Magazine and find out, if you don’t already know. The agreement would make it next to impossible for the US (or any other signatory) to have an industrial policy that nurtures new industries. It would subject any law that multinational corporations chose to challenge–on the environment, on workers’ rights–to a kangaroo-court “arbitration” process. It would leave currency speculators free to impoverish whole countries during a financial crisis. It’s written entirely to advance the dominant position of big capital in the global economy.
Only a politician hopelessly indoctrinated by and dependent on the 1% would ever support such a thing. That would include Barak Obama, who has been complaining tirelessly that TPP’s opponents don’t get it–and failing to address even one of the serious concerns that they’ve expressed about the deal. Just not on the wavelength of a Harvard Law-educated, former University of Chicago Law faculty member, and friend of the Pritzker family, I guess.
Which brings us to his former secretary of state, who’s been traveling the country, hopping from one fast-food outlet to another, proclaiming her dedication to helping the 99%. Yet she was deeply involved in the TPP negotiations when she ran the State Department, when she called it “the gold standard in trade agreements.”
Now, her aides say,
She will be watching closely to see what is being done to crack down on currency manipulation, improve labor rights, protect the environment and health, promote transparency and open new opportunities for our small businesses to export overseas.
She herself said last week,
Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security. We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and the skills to be competitive.
Pick through those platitudes with a fine-toothed comb, however, and you won’t find the slightest hint what her position really is–this despite the fact that we now have a detailed knowledge of TPP thanks to the good services of Wikileaks and others (and no thanks to the administration that Clinton served with little distinction for four years).
This is not just unacceptable, it’s an insult to the workers whose champion she claims to be. TPP is a turning point: a major step forward in cracking-open of national and local economies for the benefit of global banks, speculators, and corporations. What takes place in the next few days and weeks on Capitol Hill, where Clinton once served as a senator, may have a greater impact on American working households than anything she actually does if she’s elected president.
She must take a clear position on TPP for voters to have any idea what kind of a candidate she is. Her husband, it was, who muscled NAFTA through Congress over 20 years ago. Her only clear opponent for the Democratic ticket right now, Martin O’Malley, is squarely opposed to TPP (and has no doubt ruled himself out of quite a few high-end dinner invitations as a result). But given her stature, and the possibility she might enter the White House in less than two years, Clinton could actually influence the outcome if she properly laid out her position–a position it’s inconceivable she doesn’t already know.
Instead, she appears to have calculated that if she waits long enough for the votes to be cast in Congress, she can avoid taking a position, then declare herself once it’s all over. No one will know who the Democratic nominee will be for at least a year, time enough for voters to figure that what’s done is done.
That’s how you do politics, is one way to look at it–a glance at Rand Paul’s contorted efforts to kow-tow to the hawkish Republican establishment on foreign policy is enough to prove that. But that just goes to show how debased our so-called democratic politics really is. Clinton has scared almost any opponent out of her way by dint of money, connections, and sheer tabloid presence. Much of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is now reduced to puzzling over ways to somehow reach her and win her over–preliminary, she surely reasons, to throwing in the towel and backing her for fear of a Republican victory.
But, as the long history of the war against Social Security underlines, the Democratic center-right is at least as lethal to working people as the Republican right. Hillary Clinton gives voters no excuse for glumly getting behind her–with her contemptible exercise in triangulation on an issue as momentous as TPP, she’s already betrayed them. The important thing is to get out in the streets, sound the alarm, and stop TPP now, by any means necessary–far more important than whichever party deposits the next occupant in the White House.
This article originally appeared at The People's Pension.