Friday, July 29, 2016

Will TPP Be A Deciding Issue In The Congressional Races?


You think Trump is a traitor because he called on Russia to hack U.S. government and non-government agencies to find the Secretary of State's e-mails? Sounds like he might be too. But Members of Congress who vote for TPP absolutely are. Turning American justice and sovereignty over to international corporate tribunals-- ISDS (Investor-state dispute settlement)-- is out-of-the question for most Americans, grassroots Democrats, independents and Republicans. But last June 190 Republicans and 28 Democrats-- primarily from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party (New Dems)-- voted to do just that.

Do voters even know what Congress is doing by voting for these unfair and destructive trade deals that include ISDS? The AFL-CIO, which refused to back California congressmembers who voted for it (sleazy New Dems Ami Bera, Jim Costa, Susan Davis, and Scott Peters) explains the danger this way:
ISDS allows the foreign property owner to skip domestic courts, administrative procedures, city hall hearings and the like (all the processes that home-grown property owners use) and sue the host-country government before a panel of private “arbitrators” (like judges, arbitrators have the power to make decisions in cases, but they are not democratically elected or appointed, and they are not subject to stringent conflict of interest rules). Not only that but the foreign property owners don’t lose access to the domestic U.S. processes-- they can “double dip” to get what they want.

The risk is that foreign property owners can use this system of "corporate courts" to challenge anything from plain packaging rules for cigarettes to denials of permits for toxic waste dumps to increases in the minimum wage. For any law, regulation or other government decision that the foreign investor does not like, all it has to do is think of an argument for why the decision somehow violated its right to “fair and equitable treatment” or why it might reduce its expected profits and it’s got a case. And, sometimes, just threatening the case is enough for the proposed law or regulation to be withdrawn.
The AFL-CIO and other unions were lobbying Team Clinton hard to put a stake in the heart of the TPP by coming out firmly against the deal Obama and Paul Ryan are trying to cut to sneak it through Congress during the lame duck session where a good number of defeated congressmembers will have no accountability to their soon-to-be-former constituents and can be easily bribed to do whatever they're told. There were some questions going into the convention whether she really thinks the TPP is a terrible thing or "the gold standard" of trade deals. Basically the Democrats who crossed the aisle and voted with the GOP for the TPP fast track last year all all from the Hillary wing of the party-- in the Senate, corporate garbage Michael Bennet (CO), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Mark Warner (VA), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Tom Carper (DE), Claire McCaskill (MO), Chris Coons (DE), Bill Nelson (FL)... and, of course, Tim Kaine, who, like Clinton, has been suddenly transformed, he says, into an advocate against the TPP. I'll believe that when I see it in action. Notice Obama didn't say a word about it inches big convention speech Wednesday night. It would have soured the mood but fast!

Last night, Hillary didn't specifically mention TPP-- instead she said something non-committal and utterly anodyne about joining her effort (to win the election) and opposing unfair trade deals. She'd better start talking about it or Trump is going to win states he has no business winning.

All the Blue America candidates have been campaigning against the TPP. It's actually what motivated Tim Canova, over a year ago, to take up the onerous-- many said "impossible"-- task of running against TPP avatar Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Just a couple of weeks ago he wrote that "Rather than take a bold stance in opposition to the TPP-- which every Democratic presidential candidate eventually opposed-- Wasserman Schultz’s handpicked members of the platform drafting committee have refused to add a clear amendment in opposition to this disaster of a trade deal. Instead, they have focused on platitudes in the platform in the hopes it would be enough to placate the progressive grassroots of the party..." Many unions have abandoned Wasserman Schultz and support Canova, at least in part, because of his opposition to unfair and destructive trade deals like TPP.

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory has made opposition to the TPP a one of the hallmarks of a campaign that pits him against Peter King, a long-time proponent of the TPP and the kinds of trade deals that have been devastating to Long Island working families. "America is strongest," he told us this morning, "when we protect American jobs from going overseas and weakest when we allow corporations to utilize trade deal provisions to usurp the American court system to their benefit. In supporting the TPP Peter King has sided with big corporations to the detriment of American workers and consumers. Our Congress needs leaders who will stand up for workers and against excessive corporate aggression."

Goal Thermometer Fred Upton's vote for the TPP could wreck his chances for reelection in southwest Michigan, where Paul Clements is reminding voters there about Upton's dogged backing for the unpopular treaty. "In voting for the TPP," he told us, "Congressman Upton once again supports corporate profits over the well-being of American workers. We certainly do not need foreign corporations suing Americans for local labor and environmental protections in international tribunals! But we also need to forge trade and investment policies that build American production in areas of increasing demand, such as clean energy, fuel efficient vehicles, high tech services, and food. The TPP neglects this, and Upton still supports tax breaks, subsidies, and looser regulation of polluting oil and gas industries."

Down in South Florida, knee-jerk Republican Trumpist Mario Diaz-Balart found nothing wrong with backing Fast Track and TPP and voting in favor of turning American sovereignty over to international corporate tribunals. His progressive Democratic opponent, Alina Valdes, has been pounding him on the issue. "Unlike my opponent, I am against the TPP," she told voters in the Miami suburbs, "and definitely disagree with fast-tracking any trade deal without seeing the content. This is a dangerous deal that serves to undermine American workers and would outsource even more jobs while increasing the cost of many items, like medications, for many in the US. Knowing that the unions are against this horrible trade deal further reinforces my resolve to try all I could do to kill this bill if I get elected. Multinational corporations would have the opportunity to sue the US for possible lost income in international tribunals made up by these very corporations."

The TPP is political poison in Pennsylvania but that didn't stop Pat Meehan to back it, putting him at odds with the voters (and with Trump and Trump supporters), Meehan's Democratic opponent in the suburbs south and west of Philly (PA-07) this year in Mary Ellen Balchunis, who is a political science professor from, as she puts it, "the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party." Warren is one of the most outspoken critics-- along with Alan Grayson and Bernie Sanders-- of the TPP. Mary Ellen, who has been badly sabotaged by Steve Israel and Ben Ray Lujan of the DCCC, who generally oppose independent-minded, non-corporate candidates, told us flatly, "I am against TTP. I was against President Clinton signing NAFTA. I was worried then about our workers being hurt; and I am worried now about our workers being hurt with TTP." If there is no lame duck vote on TPP and Ryan brings it up after the new Congress is seated, voters in Delaware, Chester, Montgomery and Berks counties will have sent a pro-TPP Meehan to vote for it or an anti-TPP Balchunis to vote against it. That simple!

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