TPP, the Democratic Party, and Obama's Presidential Library
by Gaius Publius
[W]e were told by a high up staffer who works for Joe Biden that Obama did it [endorsed Patrick Murphy] to get contributions to his uber-expensive presidential library, ostensibly from Murphy's rich, crooked father, from the super-wealthy Saudi family that sponsors Murphy (the notorious Al-Rashids) and from Schumer's Wall Street patrons. (source)
There's always a question about who politicians are primarily working for. Are they working mainly for the country and its people, for their political party and its access to power, or for their own personal fortunes? In the case of Obama and his headlong rush to pass the billioinaire-written TPP, I think we have a perfect petri dish for isolating the answer, at least in this one case.
Again, the questions are:
- Does Obama want to pass TPP so badly because Americans need it?
- Does he want to pass TPP because his party needs it?
- Or because he needs it personally?
Does the Country Need TPP?
No. It's been documented here and a great many other places that the country not only doesn't need TPP to pass, it desperately needs it not to pass. It really will be a NAFTA-style job killer, as well as a killer of national sovereignty (see also here). If you doubt me, check the links, or read anything from Public Citizen's Eyes on Trade pages.
Does the Democratic Party Need TPP?
Again, no. In fact, the Democratic Party also needs TPP not to pass. As Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, wrote recently in The Hill (my emphasis):
Obama's TPP campaign could drag down DemocratsAnd yet...
How much is President Obama willing to harm the Democratic Party in order to win approval for the deeply unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "trade" agreement? We may soon find out.
On Tuesday, Politico broke the story that the White House will be "making an all-out push to win passage of the deal in the lame duck session of Congress, organizing 30 events over the congressional recess." The effort will be designed to put pressure not only on Democratic members of Congress, but also on swing Republican votes, by lobbying important business interests in their districts.
Trump is far behind Clinton in the polls, and it seems unlikely that Obama would have launched a public campaign of this magnitude for the TPP in the heat of an election season if the race were looking like a serious contest. But there is more at stake: millions of potential Republican voters will stay home in November if Trump is losing by a wide margin. Many others will stay home simply because they don't like him.
[M]any of these disaffected voters could be rallied to the polls if they think that Clinton, and her party, are going to bring them another failed "trade" agreement. (On the other side, some potential Democratic voters could abstain or switch sides for the same reasons). All this could make the difference between the Democrats taking the Senate, and in a big enough landslide, even the House of Representatives.After looking at how close the Fast Track vote was, Weisbrot makes a striking point — to pass TPP, Obama will need the help of politicians in both parties who lost their jobs in the 2016 election, not those who won — politicians who can, in effect, trash their political futures and that of their party for lucrative personal next-jobs as lobbyists:
So [TPP] is looking like a very close vote. (For procedural and political reasons, Obama will not bring it to a vote unless he is sure he has the necessary votes). Now let's look at one special group of Representatives who can swing this vote: the actual lame-ducks, i.e., those who will be in office only until Jan. 3. It depends partly on how many lose their election on Nov. 8, but the average number of representatives who left after the last three elections was about 80.But note, it's not just the electorate that will be "rendered completely irrelevant" — the fortunes of both political parties will be damaged as well. Including Obama's Democratic Party. Were Donald Trump to develop a surprisingly competent campaign, the push for TPP could lose the White House for Democrats, and with it, the Senate.
Most of these people will be looking for a job, preferably one that can pay them more than $1 million a year. From the data provided by OpenSecrets.org, we can estimate that about a quarter of these people will become lobbyists. (An additional number will work for firms that are clients of lobbyists).
So there you have it: It is all about corruption, and this is about as unadulterated as corruption gets in our hallowed democracy, other than literal cash under a literal table. These are the people whom Obama needs to pass this agreement, and the window between Nov. 9 and Jan. 3 is the only time that they are available to sell their votes to future employers without any personal political consequences whatsoever. The only time that the electorate can be rendered so completely irrelevant, if Obama can pull this off.
Obama is asking the Democratic Party to take a huge risk. Even if they win the White House in 2016, 2018 could shape up as brutal for them. Pushing for, and passing, TPP will spark another Sanders-like backlash, in both parties.
So Why Does Obama Need TPP?
For the final question, Weisbrot hints at the answer:
Why is Obama willing to risk so much to get the TPP passed this year? Many press reports insist that it is because he wants it for his legacy. It is strange to think that he would want such an unpopular agreement for his legacy. There are less flattering reasons that seem much more plausible.I'll do a little more than hint. The Obama Library (and any future foundation he may launch with other people's money) is his ticket to the next phase of his life. Not his party's life; just his own and his family's. As Howie Klein wrote in the quote at the top of this piece:
[W]e were told by a high up staffer who works for Joe Biden that Obama did it [endorsed Patrick Murphy] to get contributions to his uber-expensive presidential library, ostensibly from Murphy's rich, crooked father, from the super-wealthy Saudi family that sponsors Murphy (the notorious Al-Rashids) and from Schumer's Wall Street patronsTPP offers a much larger payday than endorsing Patrick Murphy, a mere senator. TPP is wanted by nearly every American industry with money, from Wall Street to Big Pharma to Silicon Valley to Hollywood and every stop in between. As Weisbrot said above about the Congress people Obama is targeting:
It is all about corruption, and this is about as unadulterated as corruption gets in our hallowed democracy, other than literal cash under a literal table.As Weisbrot hints (and I'm willing to say), that statement is also true about Obama. The Big Money people who want Congress to pass TPP also want Obama to make it pass, even if he sacrifices his own party's future to do it, and they're clearly willing to pay to "make it so." (After all, what's the point of having too much money if you can't buy things with it.) Obama's obviously on board; his recent actions scream how eager he is. To see if I'm right, watch his presidential library list of donors, if he releases it.
Money doesn't talk, it swears. Though maybe its song is sweeter when Democrats listen.