Obama’s TPP Testiness Emerges at Organizing for Action Summit

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April 29, 2015; Madison County Journal (Madison County, GA)

At the Council on Foundations annual meeting this past week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich cited his work with the Clinton White House in getting NAFTA enacted as evidence of the ability of both parties to work together. Free trade pacts as a possible venue of bipartisan collaboration might not work quite as well today as they did nearly a quarter-century ago between Republicans and Democrats—or even between Democrats and Democrats. Although some congressional Republicans and Democrats are working cooperatively to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty completed and approved by giving the President “fast track” authority, Zach Mitcham, the editor of the Madison County Journal, was reminded of the late comedian George Carlin’s quip: “Bipartisanship usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”

NAFTA probably isn’t a great example of free trade bipartisanship for Gingrich to cite, as many Democrats and much of organized labor think that NAFTA didn’t quite pan out as President Clinton said it would. “Over and over again, we’ve been told that trade deals will create jobs and better protect workers and the environment,” said Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). “Those promises have never come to fruition.”

That isn’t stopping President Obama, who has been raising the stakes for support of his 12-nation Pacific trade deal—and sparking the ire of many of his politically progressive allies. In a speech to the Organizing for Action group that grew out of the Obama campaign’s Organizing for America, the president was none too kind to the opponents of his free trade agenda, “When people say this trade deal is bad for working families, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” the president said. “I take that personally. My entire presidency has been about helping working families.”

The president also compared claims about the lack of transparency in the trade agreement to Sarah Palin’s charge that the Affordable Care Act contained requirements for “death panels.” His actual statement was a little worse than that, couched in language that reflected his displeasure with the critics:

“Now, some of these folks are friends of mine. I love them to death. (Laughter.) But in the same way that when I was arguing for health care reform I asked people to look at the facts—somebody comes up with a slogan like ‘Death Panel,’ doesn’t mean it’s true. Look at the facts. The same thing is true on this. Look at the facts. Don’t just throw a bunch of stuff out there and see if it sticks.”

And he challenged his critics to tell him specifically—and accurately—what was wrong with the Pacific trade deal, not to explain what was wrong with a quarter-century old NAFTA.

Where’s the nonprofit angle in this? It is the relationship of the president to ostensibly independent nonprofits. Organizing for Action is the 501(c)(4) successor to Organizing for America, which was part of the Obama election campaign. Its website URL is none too subtle: barackobama.com. On the website, OFA’s seven issue priorities do not include free trade, and even within the description of the issue most likely to reference trade, “economic opportunity,” the word “trade” doesn’t appear.

In a second speech to OFA, at the OFA dinner that followed the OFA summit where he issued his “death panel” comparison, the president joked about OFA’s independent identity: “What OFA has been able to accomplish so that now it’s no longer about reelecting me—it never technically was, but—(laughter)—or moving our agenda forward—but I just wanted to make that point.”

Writing for the New Republic, Danny Vinik suggests that the actual impact of the Trans- Pacific Partnership is, at this moment, unclear—probably not as big and good as the free-traders suggest, but not as big and bad as TPP opponents fear. What’s really at stake is beyond the specifics of the TPP. It’s a question of the trustworthiness of government and the transparency of the government’s relationships with the big corporate interests that increasingly dominate government, regardless of the political parties occupying the White House and Congress.

The president’s rallying of OFA to line up behind the TPP and fast-track trade authority contains echoes of the formation of the previously unknown Progressive Coalition for American Jobs, the ostensibly progressive coalition that has endorsed the president’s trade position. OFA’s presumed independence from the president is pretty thin, its openness about whether it has a specific position on trade is hard to determine, and its connection to the formation of PCAJ palpable (notably through the involvement of Mitch Stewart, who was in 2013 announced as the first director of Organizing for Action). As the president looks to OFA to rally to his TPP position, which seems a signpost for the president’s increased isolation from other political progressives on the issue of this trade deal, it weakens OFA’s ability to be credible in the independence of its community organizing around its core issues of climate change, immigration reform, expanding equality, preventing gun violence, health care, women’s issues, and economic opportunity.

What is happening to the president’s position, and potentially to OFA, is that the trade pact is  is about more than trade. It is about governance. Mitcham writes the following:

“On matters of big money—of true clout—the two parties are more alike than different. And we’re all going to pay for an increasingly rigged game. The fact that there’s bipartisan support for a secretive deal like this should alert you to the fact that you’re not being adequately represented…If this was on the up and up, we could speak up on the details of what’s in the deal and be heard and fairly considered on each point. That’s how our government is supposed to work, right?”

—Rick Cohen

  • Lance

    Many of those who ridicule climate change deniers correctly point out that 99% of all PhD meteorologists agree that carbon dioxide is associated with rising global temperatures. However free-trade opponents do not consider the fact that that 99% of all PhD economists agree that free-trade and the TPP in particular will greatly benefit America and raise standards of living .

    Protectionism is the progressivism of fools. Gandhi was a great statesman but a horrible economist. Just as the ignorant in the USA argue that American workers who earn $15 per hour should not have to compete with Chinese workers who make $2 per hour, Gandhi thought that Indian workers should not have to compete with American and European workers who have the benefit of modern machines. As a result India adopted protectionism. In 1947 the per capita income of India was similar to countries such a South Korea. By 1977 the per capita income and standard of living in South Korea was ten times that of India. India has since largely abandoned protectionism and has benefited immensely from free trade. Just as David Ricardo proved would be the case when he developed the concept of comparative advantage.

    “..It is not just a coincidence that tax cuts for the rich have preceded both the 1929 and 2007 depressions. …. ….Equally unhelpful in terms of addressing the income and wealth inequality which results in the overinvestment cycle that caused the depression are various non-tax factors. Issues such a minimum wage laws, unwed mothers, globalization, free trade, unionization, problems with our education system and infrastructure can increase the income and wealth inequality. However, these are extremely minor when compared to the shift of the tax burden from the rich to the middle class. It is the compounding effect of shift away from taxes on capital income such as dividends each year as the rich get proverbially richer which is the prime generator of inequality…”

  • David E.H. Smith

    TPP & Global Treaties
    ‘Schadenfreude’ & the Public; Too ‘Unenlightened’ to Figure out ‘The Global Sleight of Mind’ Illusion.
    – David ‘Copper’ Smith

    Corporate America, Wall St., Congress; Deluded, or, Deluding; ‘IGNORAMUS et IGNORABIMUS’?

    Individual States & Provinces Jump at Opportunity to: Refuse, or, ‘Over Charge’ Business Licenses, Raise Targeting Prov./State Taxes, ‘Road’ Taxes, etc. to Recoup Global Treaties’ Suits (plus Earn Lucrative ‘Punitive Damages’) from Non Good Corporate Citizens (Prov./State non Compliant), Associated/Support Corps., Securities Exchanges, et al.
    TPP, TTIP, CETA, et al, Shareholders ‘Persona non Grata’; Shareholders’ Meetings I.D. Toxic Neighbors, In-laws, et al.

    MORE Blaming & Punishing Info Deprived Citizens of Signatory Nations, et al.
    Global Treaties Not about How Much Trade, but, How to & Who to Trade with to ‘Undermine’ AIIB. About as Reversible as Wall St.’s ‘Derivatives’. How Can You Ensure that their are NO ‘Future Considerations’ Paid out by TPP, et al, ‘Foreign’ & Domestic Lobbyists?

    The limited number of direct beneficiaries of the CETA, TPP & the other global treaties (ie. the global corporate leaders & their ‘preferred’ shareholders), are most desperate to keep from the prying, due diligence eyes of the of the potential global un-preferred shareholders’ & the harmless NON shareholders.

    The fact of the matter is, the flurry of global treaties have very little to do with trade. The treaties are about ‘preferred’ trading partners who are successfully attempting to legitimize for the signatories of the treaty/’Arrangements’, settlements of the TPP’s ‘contrived’ disputes, et al, by enabling the parties to alleged ‘disputes’ to use non adversarial settlements whereby,

    the corporations & preferred shareholders ‘merely’ shift all of their costs from themselves to the harmless NON shareholder & the un-preferred shareholders, ie. the general public/individual taxpayers.

    These costs include the costs of determining:
    1) which harmless non shareholders will have to pay corporations & some SHAREHOLDERS (‘preferred’ SHAREHOLDERS) for the corporations’ ‘mistakes’, contrivances, unrealistic, &/or, any expectations, etc.,
    2) how high (win-fall) the punitive penalties, awards, damages, etc. will be
    without the harmless NON shareholder being represented throughout the determination
    of, not, if the NON shareholders are guilty, but, ‘merely’ how ‘guilty’ the harmless NON shareholders are with no means/opportunity to appeal the decisions by way of the Treaties’ (‘Death-Star-Chamber’) new superseding, cyber jurisdiction Tribunals,
    3) et al.
    For Further Information, see,
    ‘TPP & Global Treaties & Anti AIIB’.
    Also see;
    ‘The Submission’ to The SUPREME COURT of CANADA:
    “The SHAREHOLDERS & Corporations of AMERICA, Australia, Canada, the EU, et al
    the harmless Canadian NON shareholders, both; Native & non Native, et al”
    ‘The MERKEL (Chancellor of Germany) Letter; To Sue, or, Be Sued?’
    (see; davidehsmith.wordpress.com)
    IS HOLLYWOOD PART of the (TPP Global Treaty & Anti AIIB) PROCESS, or, OUT-of-the LOOP, too?
    – L.A. Times, Apr. 7, 2015, blog

    It may regrettable that the simplest & most basic information & questions that can lead to a much more secure & profitable relationship between the potential signatories of the TPP & China, et al, has not been shared with Defense Secretary Carter for his humble consideration. Perhaps, he may consider answering some of the enclosed questions in order for us to get a better idea of what his understanding is of how the TPP & other Global Treaties can be vastly improved inclusively & thereby, minimize, &/or, eliminate the dangerous problems below that have led some to understand that

    ‘What the TREATY of VERSAILLES was to the 20th century (ie. provided the basis for World War II) PALES in COMPARISON to the TPP, CETA, C-CIT, NAFTA, et al, in the 21st’.

    Unless, of course, the long term economic destabilization and subsequent (secret) military weapons development & appropriations are the intent of DefSec Carter, et al, in the secret (Death-Star-Chamber) ‘arrangements’ of the TPP & the Global Corporate Treaties/Agreements.
    But, how many ‘savvy’ Americans & their global corporate associates are ‘poised’ to make windfall profits from their international cross investments, ‘nest-feathered’ lawsuits & preplanned treaty ‘arrangements’ at the direct expense of the harmless non shareholders, ie. 95% – 99% of America, et al?
    While the good sales folks of Wall St. may prefer to tell their ‘Enron-able’ customers who were also the victims of ‘The Preliminary Foray of The Wall St. Meltdown’, et al, that it’s just some Unions that are fighting back, how much of the Fighting Back of Unions against the Secret, Unethical & Anti-Democratic Arrangements of The Global Treaties’ ‘Death-Star-Chamber’ Tribunals, can be understood in the context of the harmless NON Shareholders, including Union members, fighting to Survive (not ‘thrive’) Against the Uncaring, ‘Profits at Any (body else’s) Costs’, SHAREHOLDERS & their Colluding, Global Corporate Leaders?
    – Wall Street Journal, blog, Mar. 25, 2015

    Global Corporate Economy Conniving to Get Harmless NON Shareholders to Pay Trillion$ in Court Costs, Punitive ‘Penalties’, etc.?
    No Treaties = Corporations/SHAREHOLDERS pay for Their Own ‘Mistakes’.

    How Many Preferred Shares of TPP, C-CIT, TTIP, CETA, et al, Generated Enterprises are You Selling your Right to Sue the Global Corporate Economy for? ‘New’ Shareholders Can Say ‘NO’ to & Over-Rule TPP, CETA, TTIP, et al, Plans?

    But, If Not PUTIN; ‘The WHITE KNIGHT’, then Who Do YOU Want to Bankroll the Saving of the harmless NON shareholders of the World from Fast Tracking TPP’s, CETA’s (TTIP) Secret ‘Death-Star-Chamber’ Tribunal Penalties?
    Will China, Iran, the Muslim World, et al, Support Putin in Suits?
    How about Warren Buffett, &/or, the ‘coveted’ Hong Kong investor, et al?
    FULL Article, see; davidehsmith.wordpress.com
    Please consider sharing the enclosed information & questions with 10 friends who will share it with 10 others…