The lies we are told about “free trade”

Last week didn’t go as hoped for by the President. The House, thanks mostly to a demonstration of leadership by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, put the brakes on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as fast track authority.

Last-minute lobbying from President Obama couldn't save the fast-track trade authority he's requesting, for now. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press
Last-minute lobbying from President Obama couldn’t save the fast-track trade authority he’s requesting, for now.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

In the lead up to and then as a post-script to the vote, we were treated to lies from the President and the Speaker as reported this week in a single CNN piece.

“These kinds of agreements make sure that the global economy’s rules aren’t written by countries like China; they’re written by the United States of America,” Obama said. “And to stand in their way is to do nothing but preserve the long-term status quo for American workers, and make it even harder for them to succeed.”


“Republicans did our part, and we remain committed to free trade because it is critical to creating jobs and growing our economy,” he said. “I’m pleased that a bipartisan House majority supported trade promotion authority. This is an opportunity for the Democratic Party to take stock and move forward in a constructive fashion on behalf of the American people.”

First of all, the president is presenting a false choice. It’s the black and white logical fallacy in all it’s glory. He’s also engaging, of course, in what always seems to work with frightened Americans; the appeal to emotion that big, bad, and scary China will control the world’s economy, as if that’s not already the case thanks to corporations who long ago moved production to cheaper overseas markets.

What he’s actually saying is this.

“The Big Money corporatists who actually control me, Washington, our state houses, and the global economy want me to scare you into believing in false choices and promises sure to be broken.”

What is known about the TPP and it’s Atlantic-oriented cousin, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), is that they are terrible for democracies and for everyone outside the board rooms of corporations and financial markets.

What else needs to be understood is that the promises made to past legislators and to we Americans in exchange for support for past trade deals have almost never materialized or have been broken entirely.

The post-script comes from Speaker Boehner. He’s making the case that Republicans want to empower this President and future presidents with the authority to negotiate trade deals in secret and then which have only 60 days for review before a simply up or down vote is cast by Congress. That’s what fast track authority is all about, and Republicans – the so-called “smaller government” party – want this kind of Executive Branch power more than Democrats.

The proof is in the votes. The GOP voted Aye for the TPA portion of H.R. 1314 by nearly a 7-to-1 margin versus Democrats.

Stop and think about that. The GOP has done everything possible to stymie just about everything the president and the Democrats have tried to accomplish in the last 7 years. Now, they’re on his side. Why is that?

Because when you get past the layers of bullshit we’re fed by corporate media and bi-/trans-partisan groups begging for compromise (which is how we’ve gotten into the mess we’re in), there are differences between the parties.

Lots of them, and they are not subtle. They are not nuanced. They are obvious. TPA and the TPP is just another glaringly obvious example to anyone willing to open their eyes to look.

Yes, of course, Big Money Corporatists are doing their best to control everything and every politician, but here’s the truth that those on the right and those pining for some mythical middle ground don’t seem to want to acknowledge. Right now, what little defense we ordinary Americans have in Congress comes almost exclusively from the Democrats and Independents. They have proven before their willingness to stand up to the President on the TPA, and they are the ones doing it again.

Call your elected officials. Keep the heat on. Tell them you expect them to vote against fast track trade authority, and remind them that you’ll be voting in the next election.

Included in fast track authority is TiSA, Trade in Services Agreement. This is just one more reason why we cannot allow corporatists and Big Money interests to win.

Additional reading:

H.R. 1314: Trade Act of 2015

TPP/TTIP Resources

“Fight for the Future statement on defeat of Fast Track trade package in U.S. House of Representatives”; Evan Greer, Fight For The Future, 6/12/2015

“New Polls Spotlight Damage of Past Trade Deals, Reveal Opposition to TPP Content”; Ben Beachy, Public Citizen, 5/28/2015

“Nike, Obama, and the Fiasco of the Trans-Pacific Partnership”; Robert Reich, 5/8/2015

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