Letters: 2/18/16

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TPP is worse than we thought
At long last the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been released, and it is worse than anyone thought. It sets up a private tribunal system that can overrule government policies and bypass domestic courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Many safety valves and guarantees under consideration to protect the public and the environment from corporate excesses were unceremoniously ditched in a last minute frenzy to finalize the Agreement. Now, the TPP must be ratified by the 12 member states. This is where we can and must stop it.

Recall that the TPP is a gigantic trade, investment and regulation agreement negotiated over six years in top secret with 600 corporate “advisers” in attendance. Only six of 30 articles are trade-related. Suggestions put forth by a handful of environmental, labor and public interest groups allowed to comment on the text were largely ignored.

With the exception of a prohibition against trade in endangered flora and fauna, six of seven international environmental agreements the U.S. earlier pledged to honor are left without any enforcement mechanisms. Agreements such as the International Agreement on Regulation of Whaling, the Montreal Protocol limiting ozone destroying chemicals and the Convention on Marine Pollution are severely weakened by the TPP. Even though endangered species are afforded some protection, nations need only “commit to promote conservation and to combat the illegal take of, and illegal trade in, wild flora and fauna” (Article 20), an essentially unenforceable prescription. According to an extensive Sierra Club analysis the TPP will cripple nations’ ability to mitigate climate destruction.

As for labor, the TPP deals all the top cards to employers. A country is only required to “discourage, through initiatives it considers appropriate, the importation of goods from other sources produced in whole or in part by forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory child labour” (Article 19).

And what about the public interest? Private “tribunals” will be empowered under the TPP to force countries, including the U.S., to change laws protecting the public and the environment or pay billions in “compensation” to corporations for lost or reduced profits. And that’s just the tip of a mountain of rights and privileges the TPP heaps on large multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, local business, communities, the environment and our democratic rights.

TPP negotiators had intended to keep the text secret for four years after the treaty went into effect until unauthorized leaks and subsequent public pressure forced an earlier official release. As one official privy to the negotiations admitted, governments wanted extreme secrecy because they knew once people figured out what’s going on they would oppose it hands down. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, and a congressional vote is coming up, it’s imperative that people speak out.

Although Congressman Polis says he is officially “undecided,” his every utterance has been favorable toward the TPP. He routinely repeats the U.S. Trade Representative’s line that private tribunals are “no big deal” because the U.S. has “never lost a trade dispute,” that protections for workers and the environment are “stronger than ever” and the TPP will benefit the economy and workers. All of these claims are demonstrably false, based on the history of past agreements and objective analyses.

A recent Tufts University analysis estimates the TPP will cost American workers 448,000 jobs, many of them in manufacturing. Worse, passage of the TPP will expose Americans to many more expensive suits that will undermine basic protections as the number of foreign corporations able to take advantage of the new rules doubles.

Why Mr. Polis speaks so highly of the agreement is anyone’s guess, especially since the TPP amounts to a colossal shaft job on American workers, our communities and our precious environment, all for dubious gains that will benefit a few at the expense of the many.

Call Mr. Polis at 303-484-9596 and tell him you don’t want a “trade” agreement that subverts our democracy, exports our jobs, denies medicine to the poor, trashes our environment and subjects our communities to corporate predation. Tell him to vote against the TPP or count himself out as a man of the people.
Ken Bonetti/Boulder

Sanders is just common sense
Charles Krauthammer is a conservative columnist with whom I almost always disagree. In one column, though, I think he cleared up all these confusing political definitions and labels. The line roughly was, “For those of us who went to school in the ’70s and romantically called themselves Democratic Socialists were in fact Democratic Capitalists.”

This certainly captured it for me and many others. Bernie Sanders represents these people, us, today, and would probably do him well to say so.

Sanders represents an inevitable (if we are to survive) common sense future, in my opinion. And it won’t be European Democratic Socialism, it’ll no doubt be an American version, because this is America after all. But without minorities backing/knowing him he probably can’t make it this go round. Hillary Clinton, the “slow but sure” and “not very pure,” apparently seems to be our destiny, which is better than anything the Republicans have to offer, no doubt. Another thing I’ve noticed is the absolute hate the Madam Secretary seems to generate. Unbelievable.

No, as I’ve constantly argued, she is not a Nurse Ratchett, the fictional character. I know because I had one. Maybe it’s because she was once an Illinois Republican that people hate/don’t trust her but I must admit she’s OK with me and a lot of others, I’m pretty sure, at least for a minute.
Grant D. Cyrus/Boulder