Sunday, June 14, 2015

Nice job, Democrats

One can certainly argue that President Obama didn't do enough to bring Democrats on board the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the early stages of discussion, but what Congressional Democrats have done is gut one of the few safeguards this treaty agreement had to offer in the way of protection for American workers.  The humiliating rebuff, as the Washington Post calls it, will probably come back to haunt Democrats in the election cycle, as the TAA, which the trade adjustment assistance is referred to, is crucial in leveling the playing field in this bold new trade agreement.

Many Republicans joined Democrats in defeating the TAA because they see it as wasteful to the overall deal.  Dems mostly want to see the fast-tracking aspect of the trade agreement removed, but since that wasn't up for a vote they went after the TAA, essentially throwing a monkey wrench into the works.  Michigan Democrat Daniel Kildee put it bluntly, "if I'm opposed to [fast-track] authority, it's logical that I would use every tool that I can to try to stop it."

Well, Daniel, you can expect the Republicans to use this no vote as a tool in the election cycle, telling everyone they can that you voted against worker protection in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, making you look like the bad guy, not them.

Sadly, the Democrats have become their own worst enemies, undermining the President's authority and themselves in the process.  It is easy to understand their misgivings given how many jobs the AFL-CIO claims NAFTA cost American workers, but the fact is the Democrats didn't do a very good job protecting them, as many of them signed onto NAFTA in the 1990s, and Bill Clinton ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement.

What was good then apparently isn't good now, largely out of fear of voter backlash, not a careful study of the Trans-Pacific trade agreement.  The TPP does try to level the playing field with Asian Pacific countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, which have a much lower tax base, environmental, health and safety regulations than the United States, making it highly lucrative for American companies like Nike to do outsource production to Southeast Asia.  Japan, South Korea and Australia support the TPP for the same reasons.

Unfortunately, all we hear out of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders is all the jobs this trade agreement is going to cost Americans.  They managed to create enough of a groundswell among liberal voters that Nancy Pelosi backed away from the agreement at the 11th hour, voting against the TAA rather than trying to rally House Democrats in favor of it.  This was essentially a repeat of Ross Perot likening NAFTA to a "giant sucking sound" on the Campaign Trail 1992, which of course CNN referenced in their coverage of the vote last night.

Like it or not, we live in a highly globalized society and we need partnerships like the Trans-Pacific Partnership in order to maintain some semblance of checks and balances, as obviously the World Trade Organization is not enough.  The TPP will not go away. just like NAFTA was something proposed by the previous Reagan and Bush administrations before finally being approved during the Clinton administration.  If the Republicans win the White House in 2016 (god forbid) you can bet there will be no Trade Adjustment Agreement or any other safeguards to protect American workers in their revised Trans-Pacific Partnership.  What the House Democrats did was make the Republicans' job that much easier.

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