Is the T.P.P. Constitutional?
by Jim Howe
Friday after noon, June 12, 2015, just in time to make the lowest point in the news week, the Trade Adjustment Assistance (T.A.A.) bill failed, 102 -302. Then a vote followed on Trade Promotion Authority (T.P.A.). It passed, 219 to 211 (218 being the bare minimum to pass if all 435 members are present). But… the rules in effect prevent the bill moving forward unless T.A.A. is passed. So T.A.A. will be reintroduced the week of June 14.
T.P.A. was passed, but the bill that was voted on was not the final form of the bill. IF T.A.A. is passed then the T.P.A. could move to conference with the senate bill and on to the president. Would the T.P.A. have to be amended and re-voted due to the T.A.A. language being added post facto? Logically, there would be a vote on the actual final language of T.P.A. But this is the U.S. House of Representatives and pretty much anything goes after happy hour lunch on a Friday afternoon.
Of course, the process is meant to be convoluted and confusing. We can compare it to Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine (here).
“Our good friend, President Obama,” and the Republican majority have put the labor movement, the environmental movement, and the greater coalition against the corporate power grab treaties in the position of urging supporters to call their congressman to oppose T.A.A. That is, to oppose assistance to workers that have lost their jobs as a result of the very trade agreements that voting for the T.A.A. would enable. We’ve moved beyond Abbott and Costello into Alice’s Wonderland to the tune of Jefferson Starship’s “White Rabbit” with Obama as the rabbit and Hillary as the Red Queen. Bernie as the Cheshire cat?
Magicians call this an illusion. The audience (citizens) are misdirected and distracted while some (underhanded and dirty) trick is done.
Pay no attention to that Constitution in the display case! Try and follow the spider through the tangled web of purposeful deception.
The Constitution proscribes a much clearer path. Under the Constitution, international treaties must be negotiated with the “advice and consent” of the Senate and ratified by a two thirds (2/3) majority of the Senate. (Article 2, section 2, paragraph 2) Wow, that’s not confusing at all!
Fast Track, T.P.A., was misbegotten by “Tricky Dick” Nixon (was Kissinger the father?), the only president to resign (to avoid impeachment). His legacy is resurrected when the corporate elite feels the urge to expedite the outsourcing of jobs by passing a “Free Trade Agreement” by unconstitutional means.
Congressman Alan Grayson (D Orlando, Fl.) is one of very few congressman to raise the Constitutional issue. He explains the Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) here.
Treaties are agreements between two or more countries. Twelve (12) countries are participating in the T.P.P. negotiations. All treaties are covered by the above sited section of the Constitution. Calling them trade agreements, or magical job creation miracles does not change that.
Let’s take a look at the T.P.P. in class terms. Class is a concept little discussed and virtually unknown in mainstream media in the U.S. The media portrays almost everyone as “middle class.” Most of those not vaguely defined as “middle class” are “the poor.” “The poor” might also be “middle class” if they have only been poor for a short time or if they hope to find work soon, or if they are students. These are pretty muddled definitions, but if we do not have words with defined meanings the thought process is difficult! If we do not have clearly defined words to explain the divisions in our society, we cannot understand our society, we are unlikely to take rational action to improve it.
Those six hundred some corporate “advisors” that have been intimately involved in the secret negotiations over the past six (6) years have written the T.P.P. to serve the interests of the elite corporate class, the owners of the vast majority of wealth, those few thousand greedy inhumane elite that sit on the boards of the largest corporations, and their families. The small fraction of the 1%.
The rest of the 1% is made up of this inner circle’s close associates, their henchmen, C.E.O.s, C.F.O.s, corporate executives, and their families, the way less than 1%, or more precisely, the Capitalist Class.
The rest of us all have needs or interests that are in competition with the interests of the Capitalist class. The 99% are divided into several classes. Small and medium business owners, professionals that own their own businesses, doctors, lawyers, truck drivers that own their own trucks. The French call them petite bourgeois, little capitalists. We have workers, those that sell their labor in exchange for wages. We have people that have been pushed to the fringes of society, people which the capitalist system can provide no productive role, the unemployed, homeless, and marginalized.
Even without well-defined words most Americans understand that Capitalism has a way of organizing society. We understand that it seeks to keep wages low and to maximize profit for the corporate elite. We understand that it organizes the workplace to maximize productivity and to control and increase the pace of work.
We understand that capital seeks to expand and to introduce new technology in order to increase production, labor productivity, and most of all, profits.
When capital is ready to build new production centers, it will strive to build in places where it can obtain the best advantage. Many of the advantages derived from location in the U.S. are diminishing. The advantages of locating close to the source of raw materials or close to the customer have been radically undercut by cheaper transportation costs. The availability of cheap labor is ever increasingly a more central determining factor in where to locate new facilities. We call this “outsourcing.” That’s code for displacing workers here by exporting their jobs to places with cheaper labor costs, and lower standards, and therefore higher profits. (This concept is documented in “uneven and combined development,” summarized here.)
Capitalism’s tendency to move its centers of production to those places where it can best maximize profits by exploiting cheap labor is clearly accelerating. This tendency is limited by some remaining obstacles, some of which include poor infrastructure, unskilled workforces, unstable governments, taxes or tariffs, environmental laws, patent laws, minimum wage, child labor, overtime, and safety laws.
Governments might be inclined to play a role in limiting corporate profits by enacting laws to protect their environment, local industry, consumers, and workers. The T.P.P. and the other treaties waiting approval of Fast Track are designed to remove any impediments to corporate expansion and world domination. The investor state resolution process within the T.P.P, creates corporate kangaroo courts that are empowered to decide disputes between corporations and governments based on possible impact on future corporate profits.
The fact that only the corporate elite have played a role in crafting the language of the T.P.P. and that only they have seen the full text is a clear indicator of which classes’ interests are advanced by T.P.P. The fact that our elected representatives have only seen limited portions of the text and, that, under strict controls is sad commentary on the state of our representative democracy.
Every class below the corporate elite have strong vested interests in stopping Fast Track and the T.P.P. Defense of our representative republic and the Constitution are the first line of defense against the corporate power grab that is the T.P.P.
Now we must make the argument that we must defeat Trade Adjustment Assistance (T.A.A.) for workers thrown out of work by past and future outsourcing of their jobs in order to defeat a Treaty that will accelerate the outsourcing of more jobs!
Pay no attention to that constitution in the display case.
Jim Howe 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.