Thursday, January 09, 2014

Just Say No-- To Fast-Tracking The Corporate "Free" Trade Agenda


Let me reiterate an old story. Bush I signed the NAFTA treaty at the end of 1992. Bush couldn't get it through Congress so he left his Wall Street/Chamber of Commerce baby in Clinton's hands and Clinton put responsibility for getting House Dems to get on board in the hands of a then little known White House thug from Chicago, Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel was still bragging, threateningly, at the time that he had lost a finger fighting off a Syria tank on the Golan Heights. (He was actually making lanyards at a summer camp for children of wealthy American Jews, nowhere near the Golan Heights and he sliced his finger at an Arby's in Chicago making a pastrami sandwich. Being an unhygienic slob, he didn't take care of it and he got infected and had to be amputated. But he told credulous politicians the Golan Heights story for years.) Anyway, late at night on November 17, 1993, after much Republican arm-twisting by Tom DeLay and much Democratic arm-twisting by Emanuel, the House passed NAFTA (234-200). It was opposed by a wide coalition of grassroots Democrats including labor, environmental, consumer and religious groups-- arguing that NAFTA would launch a race-to-the-bottom in wages, destroy hundreds of thousands of good U.S. jobs, undermine democratic control of domestic policy-making and threaten health, environmental and food safety standards. The majority of Democrats, 156, voted against it (as did 43 Republicans). But joining the 132 pro-NAFTA Republicans were 102 Democrats. Emanuel earned himself a rotten borough for his efforts and was soon after given a congressional seat in a Chicago district previously slated for extinction.

During his first run for president Obama lied about fixing NAFTA, claiming he would "immediately" get to work to ameliorate the damage the treaty has done to working people and to the environment. Watch the video below. Despite having said, "NAFTA was a mistake" and using the issue to beat up on Hillary Clinton during the primary debates, not only did he not do what he promised once winning office, he has accelerated Wall Street's "Free" Trade agenda with gigantic new trade agreements just as bad-- if not worse-- than NAFTA.

This week, behind a paywall, Inside US Trade Daily News reminds us that Obama is still working to pass another terrible job-destroying trade bill, the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The expected introduction this week of a bill to renew fast-track negotiating authority for the president may be delayed as Republicans press for the White House to secure a House Democrat to co-sponsor the bill.

Congressional aides have said the bill was slated to be introduced tomorrow (Jan. 8) by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (D-MI). But staff for Finance Committee Democrats have not yet received a walkthrough of the bill that they are expecting before introduction, which informed sources say could indicate a delay.

A GOP aide laid the blame squarely on President Obama for any delay in introducing the bill. "If TPA introduction is in jeopardy, it is because not one person from the White House has stepped up to get any House Democrat support," the aide said.

Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) is not supporting the fast-track bill, because his demands for a significant rewrite of the 2002 fast-track version failed to gain traction, as did his demand that a fast-track bill be part of a larger competitiveness package. Some private-sector and congressional sources have speculated that Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) may be a potential candidate for a Democratic cosponsor in the House. [Kind, chairman of the Wall Street-owned New Dems, is all too often ready to back legislation that the Chamber of Commerce loves and that destroy's jobs back in Wisconsin.]

But one private-sector source said that, at this point, neither Kind nor any other Ways and Means Democrat appeared likely to co-sponsor the bill. Doing so would be viewed as undercutting Levin and the House Democratic leadership, sources said.

Any delay in the bill's introduction could also complicate what informed sources say is a quick timeframe that Baucus staff has laid out for Finance committee action on the bill. Sources said Baucus' staff had set the goal of introducing the bill this week, holding a hearing on it next week, and having a markup during the last week of January.

Private-sector sources said this tight timeframe is driven at least in part in by a desire to achieve committee passage of the fast-track bill before Baucus leaves the Senate to become U.S. ambassador to China. President Obama formally sent Baucus's nomination to the Senate today, after announcing his intent to nominate Baucus to the post last month.

But rushing the bill through the Finance Committee is likely to create further opposition from Democrats on the panel, some of whom already have objections to the bills' substance, sources said.

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