— submitted by Jim Howe*
January 19, 2014
The Constitution of the United States was written to limit and define the powers of the government of the United States. It divides that government into three (3) branches, Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The Bill of Rights was added to further limit the powers of government. The Constitution could not have been adopted without the Bill of Rights. The Constitution begins with “We the People”. It is written in plain English, takes up all of four (4) pages, and can be easily understood by “We the People”. It, and the Bill of Rights, were written as a defense against tyrannical government.
This article will reference several sections of the Constitution that are inconvenient to supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). (The full text of the Constitution can be found here: http://constitutionus.com/)
Over time, powerful economic interests have leveraged their economic power to purchase law-makers, change laws, have corporations defined as people, and had money defined as speech. Now they want to give international corporations special status above the rights of people and beyond the control of governments.
Supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership recognized, over five (5) years ago, that it could not be ratified if its provisions were known to the American people. Under the Constitution, International Treaties must be negotiated with the “Advise and consent” of the Senate and ratified by a two thirds (2/3) majority of the Senate. (Article 2, section 2, paragraph 2)
Negotiations for the TPP have been conducted over the past five (5) years. Six hundred (600) corporate advisors have been present to give their “Advise and consent” throughout the negotiations. The text of the TPP has not been released. Congress has been denied the right to see the text. (Congressman Grayson was allowed to view some of the text, but not allowed to take notes or have members of his staff view the text.) What is known about the text is from leaks. Information about what is known about the TPP can be found here: http://www.exposethetpp.org/
Because the TPP is an International treaty, Countries ratifying the TPP must change their laws to conform to the provisions in the TPP. Article 6, paragraph 2 provides for treaties taking precedence over state constitutions and state laws, and that the Constitution, U. S. laws, and treaties “Shall be the supreme law of the land. “ Therefore, if a treaty is ratified, laws have to be changed to comply with the treaty.
Economic gains for the U.S. adopting the TPP are projected to be 00.13 percent. ) That’s right 13 one-hundredths of 1% (http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/net-effect-of-the-tpp-on-us-wages) If that increase in economic activity were distributed equally, and it won’t be, a person earning wages of $600.00/week would gain 78 cents/week. That 78 cents/week would be offset by higher prescription costs, loss of internet freedoms, export of jobs, and degraded environmental standards.
Obviously, the TPP would be totally unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of Americans, if we knew the contents. An open debate of the terms of the TPP in the Senate under normal rules for ratifying a treaty would expose the TPP and its contents to the American people. Once exposed, Senators would be hard pressed to vote for the TPP. They might offer amendments or attempt to change the wording of the text. They might try to include safeguards for consumers, workers, and/or the environment. They could exercise their constitutional duty to “Advise and Consent”.
Supporters of the TPP have a plan to get around the constitutional process. It is called “Fast Track” and also “Trade Promotion Authority” (TPA). Here is how it works. A bill is introduced to authorize “Trade Promotion Authority for the President. The bill gives authority to the President to negotiate trade treaties and then present them to the House of Representatives for a vote. It sets a time table, limits debate, and disallows any amendment. The time allowed is typically 90 days from introduction in the House of Representatives to final ratification by the Senate. Fast track bills are enacted with an expiration date, which can be extended. So, if passed, Fast Track could be in effect for several years, and then extended.
The theory behind “Trade Promotion Authority” is that a simple majority of Representatives and a simple majority of Senators present at the time of the vote can enact a law which changes the process to ratify a treaty. The Constitutional process to ratify a treaty is set in Article 2, section 2, paragraph 2 of the Constitution.
Article 5 of the Constitution provides a process for amendment of the Constitution. It requires a two thirds (2/3) majority of the House and the Senate or the states to PROPOSE amendment, and a four fifths (4/5) majority to pass an amendment.
The President is required to take this oath: : “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (Article 2, section 1, paragraph 8)
Congresspersons and Senators are also required to take an oath to “support the Constitution”. (Article 6, section 3)
The Constitution is a short (four page) document written in plain and easily understood English. There is simply no way that an honest President, Representative, or Senator that has read the Constitution that he, or she, has sworn to support, could not recognize that a law, passed by simple majority could change the two thirds(2/3) majority required to ratify a treaty or the four fifths (4/5) majority required to amend the Constitution.
Should the TPP be ratified, it is believed to contain a clause that prohibits changes to its text unless all (100%) of the member countries agree.
So, if “Trade Promotion Authority” is passed, we could have a simple majority override the two thirds (2/3) majority required for treaty authorization and the four fifths (4/5) majority required to amend the constitution and establish a one hundred percent (of the TPP countries) requirement to undo what the simple majority did. Does that make sense?
The TPP also contains a section that establishes tribunals, staffed by corporate attorneys, to decide cases that corporations file against governments for damages to their ability to make future profits. Governments could be sued for establishing minimum wage laws, environmental laws, child labor laws, and/or laws that require listing ingredients or country of origin.
Fast Track, aka Trade Promotion Authority, is a direct assault on the Constitution. If passed, it will enable passage of treaties that will undermine the sovereignty of the United States, and the authority of U.S. laws and courts.
The legal fiction of “Trade Promotion Authority” was used to pass NAFTA and several other “Free trade agreements”. These treaties have already cost millions of American jobs.
Now the Trojan horse of the TPP is filled with two dozen chapters that do not pertain to traditional elements of trade agreements. Two dozen chapters that undermine our freedom, diminish our rights, and will inflate prices we pay, by grating unprecedented privileges to multinational corporations.
Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority is expected to be presented in early January. It can be slowed and stopped by the normal legislative process by a few dedicated Congressmen or Senators that take their oaths of office seriously. Let’s let them know we are watching and mobilize our friends, neighbors, families, and co-workers to stop Fast Track. Without Fast Track, the TPP and other “Free Trade Agreements” are going nowhere.
*Jim Howe (firstname.lastname@example.org) has worked with Floridians against the Trans-Pacific Partnership since January of 2013. He is a member of Communications Workers of America, local 3108, a Delegate to the Central Florida AFL-CIO, and a member of the Green Party of Florida.