#GetMoneyOut of Politics and We Can #StopKXL

Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline need to understand and accept certain realities, and opponents need to do more than protest and sign petitions.

Let’s start with a few realities and wrap up with a specific call-to-action we all should be able to get behind.

1. The price at the pump is not going down…

…and no amount of Canadian tar sands oil will change that.

Oil is a global and fungible commodity. That means it does not matter where the commodity originates. It’s destination is determined by the demand for it in a global market and where the most money can be made from it.

Oil companies are for-profit endeavors. They are not about to increase the supply of their products to American markets if that results in lower prices and declining profits.

2. Energy independence is a myth…

…or more accurately, a lie, when told to us by politicians and businesses beholden to fossil fuels.

Drilling, mining, and refining is the raison d’etre of ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and an entire global industry built on fossil fuels. What better strategy for their businesses than to perpetuate this lie to defend themselves and to garner support for more and more domestic drilling and refining? The same goes for the lies about “clean” coal, too.

We cannot become independent from these dirty sources of energy by drilling, mining, and refining more of that same source. Why not? Because, once again, they are global and fungible commodities. Just because they start in North America doesn’t mean they stay in North America.

Oil AddictAnd, can we please stop buying into the patriotism angle in all of this?

Drillers, miners, refiners, and their bought-and-paid for toadies in government are not patriots, they are capitalists. They continue to tell us this lie of “energy independence” because they believe we’re just gullible enough to believe it and, of course, anything that tugs at our patriotic heartstrings must be good and noble and righteous, right?

It’s about money. Are there still people who actually do believe otherwise?

3. If you think West Virginians have it bad right now….

…consider the effects of a spill that contaminates the Ogallala Aquifer, the water source for millions of Americans.

Want a big dose of reality about Canadian tar sands?

Watch the video linked below to understand the abject corruption at the core of the Canadian government on the tar sands and the INCREDIBLE DAMAGE ALREADY BEING DONE IN CANADA.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkwoRivP17A
Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkwoRivP17A

If that video doesn’t piss you off, nothing will.

Let’s be clear on this reality. It’s not “if” there will be a major spill, it’s “WHEN” there will be one. In fact, they happen all the time. The One Percent Media just doesn’t talk about them. Why not? Because news is no longer news, it’s “media” that fears losing advertising dollars from the fossil fuel industry.

Look, I’m not against capitalism. I’m absolutely certain that Freedom Industries never set out to pollute the Elk River and the drinking water of 300,000 Americans. They’re just the latest example of reality. No one is perfect, no technology is perfect, and unregulated or under-regulated businesses can and will make decisions in the interest of keeping expenses low and profits high. That’s how capitalism works. It’s also why it must be balanced by strong government oversight because sometimes those business decisions have terrible consequences.

This is another reality. The Invisible Hand of the market is a Libertarian myth. Worse that that, it’s a lie, and the rich and powerful who perpetuate that lie on their low-information followers know it. The Invisible Hand is corrupt and it always, always, ALWAYS stays in the corrupt pocket of corporations. It works AGAINST all of us on matters of public safety, the public good, and the economy.

Which brings us to this final reality.

4. Jobs, jobs, jobs

Lies, lies, and more lies.

According to the U.S. State Department the pipeline would create at most 6,500 temporary construction jobs, and would leave only “hundreds” of permanent jobs, according to TransCanada, the Canadian company that wants to build the pipeline. Claims that the pipeline would employ tens or even hundreds of thousands of people are simply not true. A Cornell University study concludes the pipeline would kill more jobs than it would create, by reducing investment in the clean energy economy. (Source: National Resources Defense Council)

I get it. The fossil fuel industry today provides lots of good paying jobs. KXL will not.

It’s not easy to say, but it needs to be said.

Jobs that kill the planet, pollute the land and air, and poison our water, now and for future generations, are part of the problem.

Ayn RandWe can no longer excuse or exonerate people working in the fossil fuel industries out of some Randian Objectivism that puts their wants and needs above the health, safety, and welfare of the rest of us.

This is another reality that must be recognized. The fossil fuel industry is killing it’s workers and their families, too. They are not immune from the devastation being done to our environment. Just ask the employees of Freedom Industries if they were drinking their tap water after the spill – or if they’ve even started to again.

west-virginia-1.si

What Can Be Done?

Energy and the environment are huge issues, and they are inextricably intertwined. There’s no way of getting around this reality, either. We can’t survive without both of them. We have control over only one of them, and that’s energy.

So what can we do? What can everyone who works inside and outside the fossil fuel industry do?

Here’s what Whitehouse.gov is reporting on that is already happening and is being planned.

Here’s another answer: #GetMoneyOut of politics.

Imagine if we elected people who actually wanted to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. Instead of subsidizing the fossil fuel industry like we do, what if we subsidized the technologies and companies working on a clean energy future, at least until they actually could compete with the entrenched and antiquated oil, coal, and gas companies?

Might that not motivate rich and powerful oil, coal, and gas companies to actually rethink their business models?

Haven’t those rich and profitable “socialists” running big fossil fuel companies suckled enough of our tax dollars yet?

Wouldn’t it be better to see growth in jobs that didn’t literally put lives at risk, both on the job and in terms of the environment?

Wouldn’t clean energy jobs on solar and wind farms be preferable to jobs in a coal mine, on a fracking pad, or on an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf that explodes, kills people, and spills 206million barrels of oil into the ocean?

It is possible. We can elect people who actually share this vision of a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous planet for us all if we work together to #GetMoneyOut of politics.

The corrupting influence of Big and Dark Money in politics is at the root of every problem we face. That includes energy and the environment. So long as politicians must raise millions to run campaigns, and so long as large sums of money can be secretly collected and funneled from the tiniest number of rich donors the way it is now in a post-Citizens United system, we will continue to see political decisions made that benefit the rich and powerful few at our expense. Those rich and powerful few include, of course, people and corporations in the fossil fuel industry.

So, if you want to change the political system…..
….If you want to bequeath a planet where our progeny can drink the water and breath the air and eat the food…..
….If you want a better economy and a better job for yourself and your kids and their kids….
….then please take this one simple step to support the process of getting money out of politics:

Become a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the American Anti-Corruption Act at http://unitedrepublic.actionkit.com/event/cosponsor/9815/

And, of course, make sure that you’re registered to vote and that you vote in EVERY election, not just the big ones.

Visit these sites to learn more about the American Anti-Corruption Act and the people behind it at Represent.Us.

http://anticorruptionact.org/
http://anticorruptionact.org/
https://represent.us/
https://represent.us/

It’s On #MiddleClass America to Save America

I can’t imagine anyone arguing that America does not need a healthier, more economically viable, active, and growing middle class. Sadly, I also can’t imagine much argument that the exact opposite is dramatically evident.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/decline-of-theus-middle-class-2013-10
Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/decline-of-theus-middle-class-2013-10

The question now is what are we in the middle class prepared and willing to do about it?

I ask that question because I am completely convinced that the decline of the American middle class is reversible. I’m also completely convinced that the responsibility rests almost entirely and exclusively with all of us in the middle class. We can and we must do more to stop and then to reverse our decline.

Facebook posts and yelling at the TV might feel cathartic, but they don’t accomplish much. Let’s resolve in 2014 to do more and to take real action to take our democracy back from the corrupting influence of money.

What Can Be Done

It’s my opinion that we in America’s middle class need to do two things:

1. Stop waiting around for someone else to do something about it for us

2. Stop digging the hole deeper by no longer voting against our own economic self-interests

Let’s Stop Digging

I’ve written a lot over the years about point number 2, most recently herehere, and here.

There’s no other way to say it. All of the responsibility for point number 2 rests with Americans outside the wealthiest 2% who insist on voting against the economic interests of the middle class by voting FOR Republicans and tea party candidates who want to turn over control of our government and our economy to the very people and industries who got us into this mess.

The mess we’re in started with Reagan and his Rand/Friedman/Greenspan-inspired lies of trickle-down economics and the canard that government is somehow the only source of our problems. So long as some of us keep voting for the people representing those lies, we’ll keep digging the American middle class into a deeper and deeper hole.

I’m not saying we should never vote for another Republican. I have voted for Republicans in the past. I’m just asking – pleading, really – that we please just stop voting for the extremists in the Republican party.

We know – or we should know – who’s on that list. We know – or we should know – that it includes people selling us the fairy tales of unfettered free markets coupled with the failed economic and governmental philosophies of Milton Friedman, a.k.a. Reaganomics, a.k.a voodoo economics (thanks, btw, to G.H.W. Bush for that one), a.k.a. trickle-down economics.

Today, this describes one party and only one party. Anyone wishing to offer evidence to the contrary is invited to do so.

The Dangers of Being Kept In The Dark

To some extent and in a world where people still watch, listen to, and believe the likes of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and a whole plethora of ideologues masquerading as news media and opinion “journalism” (a very liberal use of that term, btw), it’s kind of understandable how so many middle class Americans can be duped into believing the lie of trickle-down economics.

Traditional corporate news media is almost as guilty. (In case you’re wondering, the answer is, “No, outside of a weather report, I do not count anything broadcast by Fox to be unbiased news.”) Corporate media spends almost no time or energy informing us about how and why the middle class is in decline. What time is spent on the subject is spent mostly with people meant more to drive ratings than to inform us about what the decline of the middle class actually means to America and to our geopolitical power and influence in the world on a long-term basis.

The reason for their silence seems clear. It’s not in their corporate economic self-interest for us to understand it, nor is it in the interest of the wealthy and powerful who run those corporations. They are beholden to their investors. Collectively, they exercise control over our government more than ever by funding campaigns with little-to-no oversight thanks to Citizens United.

Even worse for the vast majority of Americans, these are people who already seem to demonstrate little-to-no appreciation for the ramifications of their actions and that of a declining middle class. They are either willfully ignoring or inexplicably discounting in a dangerous and short-sighted way what a declining American middle class means for our economy, our country, and for the world.

If we move to a system where half of the country is either stagnant or losing ground while the other half is surging, the social fabric of the United States is at risk, and with it the massive global power the United States has accumulated. Other superpowers such as Britain or Rome did not have the idea of a perpetually improving condition of the middle class as a core value. The United States does. If it loses that, it loses one of the pillars of its geopolitical power.

(Read more: The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power | Stratfor)

Winners… and Even Bigger Winners

Every society throughout history has its ‘winners’ and its ‘losers’ in whatever terms each society chooses to define those words. Of late, it’s perfectly clear who the winners and losers are in America.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/decline-of-theus-middle-class-2013-10
Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/decline-of-theus-middle-class-2013-10

When it comes to the American middle class, the facts are in. The data are undeniable. The American middle class is in decline while the wealthiest accumulate even greater wealth and prosperity. This imbalance spells only trouble for us as a people and as a country.

Badly Tipped Scales

Source: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/01/a_graph_im_trying_to_understan.html
Source: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/01/a_graph_im_trying_to_understan.html

The balance that once existed between the income gains and the relative prosperity of the middle class and the wealthy – and which ought to exist again between free market capitalism and representative government – have tipped in dangerous and disturbing ways.

The scale seems to have tipped not between middle class and rich or between “corporatists” and “statists”, but instead in a third direction; Big Money.

Big Money, Bums, and Parties

Take a close look at the following chart. Appreciate and understand that it represents the average wealth of ALL of our representatives in Congress.

Wealth of Congress
Source: http://www.opensecrets.org/pfds/averages.php

As of 2011, that’s an estimated average wealth of $11.7million for a Senator and $6.5million for a Representative.

What, exactly, are we supposed to have in common with these people?

What, exactly, do we think motivates them and what, exactly, should we expect from them when it comes to the resultant policy and law they make?

Isn’t it clear that all of the opportunity, privilege, and entitlements – yes, entitlements – now flow almost exclusively to the wealthy and, by extension, to their Big Money interests in both the private and public sectors?

How’s that possible? How does one come to such conclusions? Simple. Take another look at the chart above. We are governed today almost exclusively by the rich.

We need to stop deluding ourselves about whom they serve. Our elected representatives represent the interests of Big Money. That means they do not represent the vast majority of Americans.

And, yes, both parties are guilty but it must be stated emphatically that they are NOT both guilty in equal measure. I’ve also grown weary of false equivalencies like that, too. Again, anyone wishing to offer credible citations to the contrary are invited to do so.

That said, the evidence is clear.

If the average Senator’s wealth is nearly $12million and the average House Rep is worth a cool $6.5million, then it stands to reason that these elected representatives don’t come from and don’t represent the middle class or the lower middle class or the working poor or the impoverished.

They represent Big Money, and without Big Money they can’t fund their campaigns.

The average winner in a Senate race <in 2012> spent $10.2 million, compared to $8.3 million in 2010 and just $7.5 million in 2008. That’s an increase of 19 percent since 2010. Senate Democrats seemed to have to work particular hard to win their seats, spending an average of $11.9 million, compared to the average Republican winner who spent $7.1 million.

On the House side, there was a smaller but still quantifiable increase in the cost of winning. On average, a winner in the House spent $1.5 million, compared $1.4 million in 2010 and $1.3 million in 2008. In the House, it was Republicans who had to work a bit harder: The average winning House Republican had to spend $1.59 million to win a seat, a bit more than the $1.53 million spent by the average Democratic victor.
(Source: http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/06/2012-overview.html)

Once in office, they are well on their way to amassing serious wealth. It begins on Capitol Hill with legislation and regulation (or more accurately, deregulation) in favor of the very industries they are supposed to be watching over for our benefit and protection. That’s just the start. Much bigger paydays await.

Being elected to office or appointed to one of the myriad departments or agencies is merely the step necessary before twirling through the revolving door that opens onto K Street and the private sector where their real rewards await them.

That is the heart of it. Money that concerns itself only with more money and not with the concerns and well-being of ordinary citizens.

This closed circle of money between government and private enterprise is precisely why a “throw the bums out” or even the dream of more viable third, fourth, and fifth political parties will not work to change anything.

Let me repeat that.

Simply replacing the current crop of politicians with a new group of elected officials – either from the current 2-party system or from a whole host of additional political parties – will serve to change very little if the underlying and fundamental campaign finance process and electoral systems by which these people are elected and reelected does not change.

Where We Come In

If we’re going to make our voices and our concerns heard, if we’re going to have a democracy that works for us, then we’re going to have to take the actions that serve to get Big Money out of politics.

The wealthy, both in and out of government, are continuing to prove that, outside of people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, we have very, very few people in Congress actually representing us.

It’s not just national politics, either. We need to be examining and pressuring our local and state governments about whom they actually represent. Is it us or their Big Money backers?

What we can’t expect politicians to do on their own is to work very hard at tearing down and rebuilding the very systems that got them elected and which make them rich (or richer) in the process.

There are lots of groups and lots ways for you to get involved and to add your voice to growing chorus. The ones that I endorse and that I strongly encourage you to learn more about and to get behind are listed below. Together, we can make our voices heard and we can make a difference.

We can save America. We’re the only ones who can.

http://anticorruptionact.org/
http://anticorruptionact.org/

The American Anti-Corruption Act (http://unitedrepublic.actionkit.com/event/cosponsor/9815/)

https://represent.us/
https://represent.us/

Represent.us (https://represent.us/)

https://movetoamend.org/
https://movetoamend.org/

Move To Amend (https://movetoamend.org/)

http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/

Coffee Party USA no longer has my support or endorsement. Click here if you’re curious as to why that is, and please drop me a Comment if you see any links to them on this site I may have missed.

 

Sources:

The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power,
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/crisis-middle-class-and-american-power

Average Wealth of Members of Congress,
http://www.opensecrets.org/pfds/averages.php

The Decline Of The US Middle Class Is Getting Even Worse [CHARTS],
http://www.businessinsider.com/decline-of-theus-middle-class-2013-10

Some thoughts — and graphs — on inequality and income,
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/01/a_graph_im_trying_to_understan.html

Election 2012: The Big Picture Shows Record Cost of Winning a Seat in Congress,
http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/06/2012-overview.html

 

Excerpts from “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Issues for Congress”

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Issues for Congress” is a comprehensive primer on international trade in general and on the scope of the TPP. I highly recommend it to everyone.

“This report examines the issues related to the proposed TPP, the state and substance of the negotiations (to the degree that the information is publically available), the specific areas under negotiation, the policy and economic contexts in which the TPP would fit, and the issues for Congress that the TPP presents. The report will be revised and updated as events warrant.” (excerpt from Introduction; page 2) 

This blog post pulls out some of what I thought were some of the more interesting and revealing passages, along with some thoughts and questions I have about them.

 

From the Summary

Twenty-nine chapters in the agreement are under discussion. The United States is negotiating market access for goods, services, and agriculture with countries with which it does not currently have FTAs: Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Vietnam.

Outside of Japan, I’m struggling to see the attraction these other markets represent. Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Vietnam have a combined population of 124.7 million people and a combined GDP of $629 billion. We import a whopping $49.7 billion from and export an even more abysmal $20.9 billion to these 4 countries.

TPP Countries

 

The present negotiations are not being conducted under the auspices of formal trade promotion authority (TPA)—the latest TPA expired on July 1, 2007—although the Administration informally is following the procedures of the former TPA. If TPP implementing legislation is brought to Congress, TPA may need to be considered if the legislation is not to be subject to potentially debilitating amendments or rejection.

Setting the tone right from the start: without TPA – aka Fast Tracking – the TPP could be, “subject to potentially debilitating amendments or rejection.” It’s only going to be considered to be that to its proponents, isn’t it?

From the Introduction

The TPP draws congressional interest on a number of fronts. Congress would have to approve implementing legislation for U.S. commitments under the agreement to enter into force. In addition, under long-established executive-legislative practice, the Administration notifies and consults with congressional leaders, before, during, and after trade agreements have been negotiated.

The “before” and “during” consultations are apparently missing if we’re to believe representatives like Alan Grayson, Rosa DeLauro, Elizabeth Warren and all the co-signors of letters from both the House and the Senate to the president expressing their concerns about this treaty.

This report examines the issues related to the proposed TPP, the state and substance of the negotiations (to the degree that the information is publically available), the specific areas under negotiation, the policy and economic contexts in which the TPP would fit, and the issues for Congress that the TPP presents. The report will be revised and updated as events warrant. (page 2)

“This report examines the issues…” This isn’t the same and shouldn’t be confused with the USTR keeping the Congress informed about what is being negotiated. If the USTR was doing that, Wikileaks wouldn’t need to leak documents, would they?

 U.S. participation in TPP negotiations serves several strategic goals in U.S. trade policy. First, it continues and expands a U.S. trade policy strategy that began with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which entered into force in 1994, of using FTAs to promote trade liberalization and potentially to spark multilateral negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The George W. Bush Administration expanded the use of this strategy under the rubric of “competitive liberalization,” negotiating 11 FTAs with 16 countries. The last three of these FTAs—with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea—were approved by Congress in 2011. However, the future direction of this policy was uncertain, given the low commercial value of some of these agreements and lack of new obvious partner countries. Meanwhile, an increasing web of bilateral and regional FTAs, were being concluded among other parties in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide. The Bush Administration’s and then the Obama Administration’s adoption of the TPP signaled that the United States remains engaged in regional free trade negotiations.  (page 4)

So, how is the TPP not NAFTA on steroids?

Japan’s membership in the TPP with the United States would constitute a de facto U.S.-Japan FTA. A large segment of the U.S. business community has expressed support for Japanese participation in the TPP, if Japan can resolve long-standing issues on access to its markets for U.S. goods, services, and agriculture. However, the Detroit-based U.S. auto industry, the United Autoworkers union, and Members of Congress with a large auto-industry presence in their districts have expressed strong opposition. Other segments of the U.S. business community have expressed support for Japan’s entry into the TPP negotiations, although some have conditioned their support on Japan’s willingness to address long-standing issues. (page 16)

Not all industries and unions are expressing support for the TPP.

The draft TPP outline indicates that financial services, including insurance and insurance-related services, banking and related services, as well as auxiliary services of a financial nature, will be addressed in a separate chapter as in previous FTAs. (page 23)

Financial services getting its own chapter. Can anyone believe that that’s one that, without question, has global implications. Wouldn’t we love to know the details about what’s being negotiated on it? I’d settle for knowing that elected representatives like Senator Warren had the details.

According to the November 2011 outline, as in previous U.S. FTAs, the TPP will have a separate chapter on telecommunications trade. The TPP is to promote access to telecommunications networks for foreign services suppliers and transparency of regulations pertaining to telecommunications services. Along with these objectives, the United States sought and obtained in the KORUS FTA commitments to allow U.S. investment in foreign telecommunications companies.

Negotiations over the services provisions likely will lead to controversy between the developed countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore, and developing countries. Developed countries have pushed for greater market access for services. Developing countries have been more cautious on liberalization in services trade as they fear competition in sectors they view as a source of domestic employment and worry about the political implications forcing open sectors that are often controlled by politically powerful interests. Also, the United States may also be challenged to open its market to providers of maritime services. The United States has also been pressed to liberalize access to its market through the so-called mode-4 delivery temporary entry of personnel to provide services. No U.S. FTA negotiated after the agreements with Chile and Singapore agreements includes provisions on the temporary movement of personnel. (page 24)

Another separate chapter, this one seemingly prime for the likes of Verizon, AT&T, and the globe’s largest equipment makers to build and run networks in developing nations and with great economies of scale that give them huge advantage over any domestic companies which actually would innovate instead of stifle innovation the way the above oligarchs have in the U.S.

This would also seem to open up the US market for the importation of extremely cheap overseas labor:  liberalized “access to its (U.S.) market through the so-called mode-4 delivery temporary entry of personnel to provide services.”

 In the 112th Congress, 68 Members of Congress wrote to President Obama to urge the Administration not to negotiate government procurement provisions that would limit the application of Buy American provisions through extension of government procurement opportunities and obligations to TPP partner countries. However, Canada reportedly tabled a proposal during the Singapore round that would obligate sub-federal entities to open procurement projects funded by a central government to competition from firms in TPP countries. (page 25)

No big deal, I guess, if we’re ok with our tax dollars going to pay foreign corporations who underbid and win government contracts. What’s to keep them from importing cheaper labor instead of hiring American workers?

And what do we get in return? Domestic companies who can now bid for and win foreign government contracts for which they can be pretty much counted on to hire local and cheaper labor in those overseas markets.

Reactions to USTR’s reported new proposal have been critical of the change in approach and say it raises additional questions. Five anti-smoking groups expressed disappointment that USTR retreated from its earlier proposal that would have made it more difficult for tobacco companies to challenge domestic tobacco control measures under trade agreements. These groups note that USTR’s latest approach is “far weaker” than originally envisioned because it does not recognize tobacco as a “uniquely harmful product” or provide a way for countries to regulate tobacco in order to reduce its use. They also point out the new language would not cover lawsuits filed by tobacco firms and would not provide countries that have strong tobacco control measures with the protection needed to fend off challenges by the tobacco industry. (page 32-33)

Anyone who isn’t aware of what Philip Morris is doing about Australia’s decision about cigarette packaging needs to get up to speed on it to understand why this part of the TPP could be bad for keeping tobacco companies in check while it’s still legal for them to sell their deadly products. (http://www.ag.gov.au/internationalrelations/internationallaw/pages/tobaccoplainpackaging.aspx)

Technical barriers to trade (TBT) are standards and regulations that are intended ostensibly to protect the health and safety of consumers and for other legitimate purposes, but through design or implementation, discriminate against imports. In order to minimize trade distortion, WTO members must adhere to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The TBT Agreement covers voluntary standards that industries apply, technical regulations that governments impose for health and safety purposes, and assessment procedures that governments employ to determine that a product meets required standards. The TBT Agreement establishes rules and procedures for member countries to follow, including making sure that standards, technical regulations, and conforming assessment procedures are applied non-discriminately and in a manner not more trade restrictive than necessary. It addition, it requires that members practice transparency as regulations are developed and applied, that international standards are used where appropriate, and that the domestic technical regulations of trading partners are recognized as equivalent to domestic regulations when possible. (page 40)

The TBT Agreement seems designed to essentially put decisions about standards and regulations into the hands of corporations.

 Foreign Investment (pages 41-42)

This entire section, which includes discussion on the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process, is evidence that this document actually is only a primer. There’s nothing about what is being negotiated or even how any issue will be negotiated under ISDS.

Click here for more on my concerns about ISDS.

 The issue of the treatment of worker rights in the TPP has provoked debate among TPP partners and among U.S. stakeholders. In late December 2011, the United States reportedly submitted a proposal on labor issues to the other TPP partners. According to one report, the proposal largely reflects the requirements contained in the May 10th Agreement that countries should uphold core ILO principles. The proposal reportedly would go further by indicting how these principles would be implemented by requiring countries to have labor laws related to minimum wage requirements, work time, and occupational health and safety. The U.S. proposal reportedly would also require TPP countries to take measures to reduce trade in products made through forced or child labor and to apply labor laws to export processing zones and free trade zones. To date, none of this information has been corroborated publically by U.S. officials. (page 44)

“To date, none of this information has been corroborated publically by U.S. officials.”
Why not?

Though some business groups, government officials, and labor groups have all expressed an interest in strong SOE provisions in the TPP, it remains unclear what form such provisions may take. (page 47)

More proof this document is only a primer and offers little to nothing about what is currently being negotiated. If there’s one thing I would think there would be transparency about, the concern and worry about State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) would be it.

In the case of Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand had concerns about Canada’s supply management system for dairy and poultry. The United States was also interested in leveraging action on Canada’s long languishing legislation to modernize its copyright laws. In return for entry in the talks, Canada and Mexico reportedly agreed not to seek to reopen chapters already agreed in the TPP, or possibly, sub-chapters that contained areas of agreement. In the end, because of the sensitivity of the issues under discussion to the countries involved, outside of the negotiators themselves, it may never be known what commitments were made to gain participation in the talks, if any. (page 53)

Seems like the perfect place wrap this up.

Republican Voters: You’re Shutting Down Yourselves and Your Neighbors

UncleSamWantsYou

Whether shutting it down temporarily or shrinking the government permanently, the facts are that doing so tends to hurt the people in Republican states more than other states and to greater degrees than Republican voters seem to realize or are willing to admit.

On Friday, September 27th, The New York Times published Off the Charts: Big Government States. The charts don’t lie, and the opening statement sums it up:

States with a larger government presence — as measured by either employment or economic impact — tended to vote Republican in the 2012 election, while states with a smaller government presence tended to vote Democratic.

It begs a couple of questions.

Do Republican voters understand that they are more often the greater beneficiaries of direct government employment? They and their neighbors are more likely to actually work for the government. When the government shuts down or shrinks, that hurts their neighbors and the economy in the same way that a layoff or business shutdown in their community does.

That’s the direct employment part. How about government spending?

Do our Republican family and friends not understand that the only true “trickle down economics” comes *FROM* government spending? Government agencies not only employ our fellow Americans, the government also spends money through private businesses. That spending creates private sector jobs and prosperity for themselves, their communities, their families, and their neighbors.

The state G.D.P. figures may well understate the importance of — and the decline in — government activity. That is because they are computed differently from the national G.D.P. number. The national number is based on spending, while the state numbers are based on profits and income of workers. As a result, if a government pays for the construction of something, whether a school or a fighter jet, that will show up as government activity in the national figure.

But for the state figures, it will show up as private-sector activity because the work was done by employees of construction or aerospace companies.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/business/the-most-republican-states-tend-to-rely-more-on-government-jobs.html)

Doesn’t that mean the government is a legitimate job creator? After all, who else is going to place orders with private companies for fighter jets, roads, bridges, and schools, not to mention the $517billion spent on outsourcing?

All of this adds up to a mystery.

Why do some middle class Americans insist on voting against their own economic self-interests? It makes absolutely no sense. For that kind of voting to be even more common in states where the economy is even more dependent on government makes even less sense.

Let’s not shy away from this fact, either. It is only Republican legislators who want to shrink government to the point that they can drown it in the bath. Middle class Americans who vote for them are voting to commit economic suicide.

FDR had this to say in his famous “I welcome their hatred” speech in 1936. It’s just as true today as it was back then.

The very employers and politicians and publishers who talk most loudly of class antagonism and the destruction of the American system now undermine that system by this attempt to coerce the votes of the wage earners of this country. It is the 1936 version of the old threat to close down the factory or the office if a particular candidate does not win. It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them. (http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/od2ndst.html)

Let’s hope that our Republican friends, family members, neighbors, and strangers will come to their senses soon and stop allowing themselves to be deluded by the tyrants of their party.

“Bankers Are Balking at a Proposed Rule on Capital” Gretchen Morgenson – The New York Times

See on Scoop.itDidYouCheckFirst

“Over the next two months, the regulators proposing this rule will no doubt encounter a lobbying buzz saw. Mr. Hoenig (vice chairman of the F.D.I.C.) said he and his colleagues were bracing for that. Bankers, after all, prefer things just the way they are. They can load up on leverage to take risks and reap the rewards. But when losses abound? Well, they’re the taxpayers’ problem.” – Gretchen Morgenson, assistant business and financial editor and a columnist at the New York Times.

Greg Russak‘s insight:

Letting banks regulate themselves with what is called ‘risk-weighting’ didn’t work out so well in the past.

“This so-called risk-weighting approach was an abject failure. For example, the assumptions characterized the sovereign debt of Greece as risk-free, requiring that banks set aside no capital against those holdings for possible losses. The risk-weight system also determined, incorrectly, that highly rated mortgage securities fell low on the risk scale.”

Why shouldn’t banks be regulated up to their eye-balls? How can we think bankers can be trusted now?

Either they are horrible at analyzing risk and need lots and lots of oversight or, more likely, they know that in an under-regulated environment they can privatize any gains and socialize all their losses back to us through future federal bailouts.

See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/business/bankers-are-balking-at-a-proposed-rule-on-capital.html?ref=gretchenmorgenson&_r=0