Smart Track? We’re not that stupid

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Joel Dyer | Boulder Weekly

What does Smart Track have in common with the Brooklyn Bridge? They both get sold to suckers.

First off, I apologize for writing this column. I really do. I feel guilty because writing this insinuates that I think there are people out there capable of reading this paper, voting or even reciting most of the alphabet who don’t already know that Smart Track and Fast Track are really the same thing. And I get nervous that people will think I’m like Congressman Jared Polis and his Fast Track-supporting pals, which is to say that I think you’re too stupid and lazy to see right through this latest TPP BS.

I don’t believe that at all. But still, just in case some poor soul out there recently awoke from a coma only to be confused by this whole silly “fast to smart” name-change thing, I’ve decided to write a brief explanation.

I won’t recap the whole Trans-Pacific Partnership/Jared Polis controversy. We’ve written about that for some time now. I will simply say that even though most of his constituents along with more than 2,000 organizations representing labor, faith, family farms, consumers, Internet freedom and the environment oppose the passage of the TPP, along with more than 150 Democrats and a fair number of Republicans, Polis continues to move towards fast tracking this dreadful agreement, which will do great harm to American middle class jobs and the environment.

Oops, did I say “Fast Track?” What a clumsy mistake. While it appeared a few days ago that Polis supported fast-track status for the TPP, his recent press release now says he was concerned about Fast Track all along but now supports the new Hatch- Wyden-Ryan Bill known as… you guessed it…“Smart Track.”

Well that must be totally different, right? Polis seems to indicate that Smart Track is going to bring about real Congressional oversight and transparency to the trade agreement process. He says as much in his recent press release titled “Stopping Fast Track.” No kidding, the subject line actually read “Stopping Fast Track.”

Frankly, this tripe is insulting. We aren’t 6-year-olds, Congressman, and by now you should know that your constituents are at least as smart as you. They grasp how to use the magic of the Internet to research things like legislation.

The proposed “Fast Track” legislation put forward and defeated in 2014 was titled Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 (Baucus- Hatch-Camp). It was a lengthy act, containing 33,038 words.

The “Smart Track” legislation being put forward currently is titled Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (Hatch- Wyden-Ryan). It too is a lengthy act, with just over 33,000 words. What a coincidence.

Not really. You see 96.63 percent of the exact language that appeared in Fast Track 2014 now appears in Smart Track 2015. That’s right, 96.63 percent of the act Polis wants to stop is contained in the act Polis intends to support. So what exactly is in the 1,113 words that comprise the entire difference between Fast and Smart Track? According to a good number of Fast Track critics, just enough to actually make Smart Track a little worse for Americans than Fast Track would have been.

But why listen to me when you can get the analysis of Smart Track from the incredibly smart Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch who writes the following:

“Congress is being asked to delegate away its constitutional trade authority over the TPP, even after the administration ignored bicameral, bipartisan demands about the agreement’s terms, and then also grant blank-check authority to whomever may be the next president for any agreements he or she may pursue.

“Rather than putting Congress in the driver’s seat on trade, this bill is just the same old Fast Track that puts Congress in the trunk in handcuffs. I expect that Congress will say no to it.

“Instead of establishing a new ‘exit ramp,’ the bill literally replicates the same impossible conditions from past Fast Track bills that make the ‘procedural disapproval’ mechanism to remove an agreement from Fast Track unusable. A resolution to do so must be approved by both the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means committees and then be passed by both chambers within 60 days. The bill’s only new feature in this respect is a new ‘consultation and compliance’ procedure that would only be usable after an agreement was already signed and entered into, at which point changes to the pact could be made only if all other negotiating parties agreed to reopen negotiations and then agreed to the changes (likely after extracting further concessions from the United States). That process would require approval by 60 Senators to take a pact off of Fast Track consideration, even though a simple majority ‘no’ vote in the Senate would have the same effect on an agreement.

“In contrast, the 1988 Fast Track empowered either the House Ways and Means or the Senate Finance committees to vote by simple majority to remove a pact from Fast Track consideration, with no additional floor votes required. And, such a disapproval action was authorized before a president could sign and enter into a trade agreement.

“Chairman Hatch said he would never accept changes that make it possible for Congress to remove Fast Track from an agreement that does not measure up, and he got his way. What is being advertised as a new safeguard is not an exit from Fast Track’s confiscation of Congress’ policymaking prerogatives, but new curtains hung over the same brick wall.”

And that, Congressman Polis, is why we will not be fooled by your Fast Track to Smart Track slight of hand. Now about that bridge…

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com