The negotiations and the sales push behind Washington's latest (and biggest) "free trade" agreement amounts to Kabuki theater.
What theater? Kabuki. It's a 17th-century form of Japanese drama, featuring elaborate sets and costuming, rhythmic dialogue and stylized acting and dancing. That does, indeed, nicely sum up the White House's production of the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Its negotiations have been set in luxury resorts around the world, covered by elaborate secrecy; insiders wear the costumes of global corporate power; trade officials parrot rhythmic dialogue about high standards and incredible benefits for all. And the president himself is the main actor, dramatically proclaiming that TPP is "the most progressive" trade deal ever, and now he's doing a stylized political dance in hopes of winning congressional approval.
What a phenomenal show!
But it doesn't seem to be selling. Recent polls show broad public opposition to any more of these same old trade schemes, not only among Democrats, but independents and Republicans, too. Ten of the 2016 presidential candidates are against the deal. The counter movement is led by Democratic contender Bernie Sanders, who calls it flat-out "disastrous," and by GOP frontrunner Donnie Trump who dubs it "a horrible deal". Even corporate darling Carly Fiorina is "very uncomfortable with this deal". Congressional opposition is strong, and even Ford Motor Company — which was one of the corporate giants allowed inside the negotiations — has blasted it, calling on Congress to vote no.
Inexplicably, Obama views passage of this democracy-strangling corporate boondoggle as his "legacy-making" achievement, even though the only real support he has for it are Republican congressional leaders and the global corporate establishment. That's not just Kabuki; it's kooky. As the old aphorism puts it: "Tell me with whom you walk, and I'll tell you who you are."
In Obama's pitch to get the public and Congress to swallow the glob of global corporate greed known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the president has resorted to a tacky bit of China bashing. He recently crowed that, "Under this agreement we, rather than countries like China, are writing the rules for the global economy." This bizarre backhanded slap at a major trading partner is meant to tell us that Big Bad China would've written global trade rules to hurt the American people.
Gosh, Americans don't need enemies like China when we've got "protectors" like Obama. Aside from the fact that we and our allies would never agree to such biased rules, even if the Chinese were stupid enough to propose them, Obama's deceitful assertion contains two self-destructive bombshells, both tucked inside the word "we".
First, if okayed by Congress, this TPP scam would offshore a whole new round of America's middle-class jobs, hold down or even lower U.S. wages, flood our market with unsafe imported food, free Wall Street banksters from oversight and empower global corporations to use private "trade tribunals" of corporate lawyers to usurp our people's sovereignty. In fact, only six of the 30 chapters of this so-called trade agreement even deal with trade. How embarrassing that our own president would claim credit for doing such explosive damage to the American people! I'm guessing that even China would not have done worse.
Secondly, Obama's entire TPP theater is blown to bits by his assertion that "we ... are writing the rules." Who's "we"? Were you consulted? Did you even know that a tiny group of unelected people have been meeting in secret for seven years to write "rules" for you, me and 330 million other Americans? In fact, only about 600 corporate executives and lobbyists were allowed to be at the table, writing rules to benefit themselves at our expense.
It's a disgrace that Obama is acting and even lying for these self-serving kleptocratic corporate powers. To keep track of the TPP and get involved, go to www.citizen.org/trade/.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)
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