With a test vote on “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority failing to get the necessary 60 votes to enter debate — missing even the “yes” vote of the bill sponsor Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — many are seeing the failure as the just deserts for a completely unprecedented campaign of insults and personal attacks directed at skeptics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the progressive left by the Obama administration.
I spent many years working for senior Democratic Senators such as Lloyd Bentsen and House Democratic leaders beginning with the legendary Speaker Tip O’Neill, and have never seen any president of either party insult so many members of his own party’s base and members of the House and Senate as Mr. Obama has in his weeks of tirades against liberals on trade.
In Mr. Obama’s speech at Nike last week, his comments to Matt Bai of Yahoo over the weekend, and White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s comments to reporters on Monday, Mr. Obama and his White House staff have repeated a string of personal insults directed against prominent liberal Democrats in Congress, liberal Democrats across the nation, organized labor, and leading public interest and environmental groups who share doubts about the TPP trade deal.
Mr. Obama’s tirades on trade have included accusations that these liberal Democrats are ignorant about trade policy, insincere when offering their opinions, motivated by politics and not the national interest, and backward looking towards the past. Obama’s repeated attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in which he charged that Warren’s concern about the trade bill is motivated not by a reasoned view of what is right for America but by her personal political motivations, is one of the most dishonest and repellant examples of character assassination and contempt by any American president, against any leading member of his own party, in my lifetime.
Is it not suspicious that the guy who has no more campaigns to run–he knows, because he won both of them–can suddenly make a 180 degree turn and work with his opposition and demonize his own party? Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) had her own suggestion following her experience having been told any notes she took on the TPP while viewing the text would be confiscated:
“Instead of standing in a corner, trying to figure out a way to bring a trade bill to the floor that doesn’t do anything for the middle class — that is held so secretively that you need to go down there and hand over your electronics and give up your right to take notes and bring them back to your office — they ought to come over here and figure out how to help the middle class,” Boxer said.
No one has tried to project the losses from stronger patent and copyright protection and compare them to the modest economic gains projected from tariff reductions. This means the numbers the public hears about gains from the deal are completely one-sided. They do not factor in significant effects, and they also assume a fully employed economy.
If the economic arguments for TPP can’t sell the deal, lately we have seen people pushing it for geopolitical reasons. I won’t attempt to assess the geopolitical merits of the TPP, but it is reasonable to ask about the expertise of those who say we need the TPP for geopolitical reasons.
If there ever was a one-sided dispute-resolution mechanism that violates basic principles, this is it. If there were a need for better property protection, and if this private, expensive dispute-resolution mechanism were superior to a public judiciary, we should be changing the law not just for well-heeled foreign companies, but also for our own citizens and small businesses. But there has been no suggestion that this is the case.
Rules and regulations determine the kind of economy and society in which people live. They affect relative bargaining power, with important implications for inequality, a growing problem around the world. The question is whether we should allow rich corporations to use provisions hidden in so-called trade agreements to dictate how we will live in the twenty-first century.
To paraphrase The Hill, when so many people have so many reservations about TPP, maybe it would be better for Obama to slow down and address everyone’s concerns, rather than ramming TPP down America’s throat and insulting everyone who disagrees.
[TechDirt] [The Observer] [The Intercept] [Al Jazerra] [Marketwatch] [The Hill]