Rough Trade

Although I have argued that Barack Obama should go down in history as one of the greatest Presidents of all-time, the man is not without his flaws…and a severe flaw is on display right now, in the form of his obsessive push for the odious and destructive trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Wikileaks deserves credit for exposing just how sleazy the TPP really is, although progressive pundits Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann and Amy Goodman (among others) have been warning us of the potential dangers of the TPP for some time. Simply put, if the TPP is implemented, it would effectively ensure that millions of Americans would be consigned to poverty for the remainder of their lives–while special interests, including polluters, would tighten their seemingly unbreakable grip over our economic and political system.

Late last month, Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times explained what’s at stake:

An ambitious 12-nation trade accord pushed by President Obama would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business, according to a classified document.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership — a cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s remaining economic agenda — would grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia. Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations.

Backers of the emerging trade accord, which is supported by a wide variety of business groups and favored by most Republicans, say that it is in line with previous agreements that contain similar provisions. But critics, including many Democrats in Congress, argue that the planned deal widens the opening for multinationals to sue in the United States and elsewhere, giving greater priority to protecting corporate interests than promoting free trade and competition that benefits consumers…

Under the terms of the Pacific trade chapter, foreign investors could demand cash compensation if member nations “expropriate or nationalize a covered investment either directly or indirectly.” Opponents fear “indirect expropriation” will be interpreted broadly, especially by deep-pocketed multinational companies opposing regulatory or legal changes that diminish the value of their investments.

Included in the definition of “indirect expropriation” is government action that “interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations,” according to the leaked document.

In other words, any attempt by our government to remedy income inequality, reduce carbon pollution or prevent consumer exploitation is potentially on the chopping block if the TPP goes through. The rich will thrive, the middle class will be reduced to the status of third-class citizens, and the poor…well, they won’t be around long enough to suffer any further.

The TPP is nothing less than a nuclear-level threat to the United States, a sick scheme that will only lead to economic chaos for our most vulnerable citizens. President Obama and his pro-TPP allies (including, sadly, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick) are lost in the clouds on this issue, oblivious to the compelling evidence that the passage of the TPP will lead to oblivion.

Remember when then-NASA climate scientist James Hansen declared that the Keystone XL pipeline would be “game over” for our atmosphere if built? The TPP is just as much of a threat to future generations as the Keystone XL pipeline. Under the terms of the TPP, any effort, no matter how minor, to mitigate the impact of human-caused climate change would, in all likelihood, be deemed a threat to economic competitiveness…and eliminated as such. That’s a death sentence for your kids.

The TPP is the economic equivalent of a violent offender prowling down dark city streets, just waiting to brutalize and bludgeon innocent and unsuspecting victims—in this case, every man and woman who happens to be a member of the 99 percent. However, like a violent offender caught by law enforcement, this sinister idea can still be stopped; courageous progressives are leading the charge to derail this deranged trade agreement this month.

This is a fight for life, a fight for economic nourishment and oxygen. Considering what’s at stake–the suffocation of the middle class, the elimination of efforts to avoid a catastrophic warming of the planet, the abrogation of our moral duty to create a more just and stable world–it’s clear that allowing the TPP to go through is like playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded pistol.

UPDATE: More from Katrina vanden Heuvel, Richard Trumka, The Hill, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, The Nation, the Detroit News, the Seattle Times and Thom Hartmann.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.