There are several problems with Congressman Jared Polis’ rationalization for his (and Senator Bennet’s) vote last week supporting fast track and by extension the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) [Boulder Weekly, June 18]. Fast track, curiously renamed “smart track” by Mr. Polis is designed to ramrod TPP through Congress with little debate and no amendments on a straight up or down vote. The public will be largely excluded from this expedited effort to change policy. Mr. Polis asserts TPP critics are “wrong” and their arguments constitute “obfuscation.” To Mr. Polis, TPP critics are either ignorant, mischaracterizing the agreement or both.
Who is Mr. Polis referring to? Perhaps they are his 188 Democratic colleagues who voted against fast track, including the Senate and House minority leaders. Perhaps they are Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders or Colorado’s own Reps. DeGette and Perlmutter. Perhaps those obfuscators include international trade economists and Nobel laureates Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. What about the 250 prominent economists who signed a 2012 statement opposing TPP-style limitations on nations’ abilities to deploy capital controls? Does Mr. Polis’ list of obfuscators include the 139 legal scholars, who last March signed a letter to Congress stating TPP’s Investor- State Dispute Settlement process “threatens domestic sovereignty by empowering foreign corporations to bypass domestic court systems and privately enforce terms of a trade agreement”? And what about the majority of Mr. Polis’ constituents? Are they too a bunch of know-nothings and liars?
Congressman Polis insults TPP critics by implying they are ignorant protectionist Luddites who don’t understand the benefits of trade or fail to appreciate the Law of Comparative Advantage, which suggests countries should specialize in what they do best and trade in fair international markets. If reducing trade barriers was the sole purpose of the TPP, it would not have taken six years of top-secret negotiations with over 500 corporate “advisers” and thousands of pages of text to come up with an agreement.
Of TPP’s 29 chapters, only five address actual trade issues. Wikileaks has revealed the bulk of TPP verbiage is aimed at protecting the investments and anticipated profits of giant multinational corporations like Exxon, Shell and Monsanto. Citizens who want to protect their communities, the environment, workers, public health, children, the elderly and national sovereignty from the predations of global capital are disparaged by Polis. Most importantly, Mr. Polis has betrayed the constituents he was elected to represent.
Mr. Polis wrote: “I trust President Obama more than I trust the Republican Congress to negotiate trade agreements that are in the best interests of the people.” This is the same President Obama who let the criminal banksters that destroyed the economy in 2008 off the hook while bailing them out on the taxpayers’ dime. The perpetrators are now bigger, more powerful and more dangerous than ever. Ironically, Mr. Polis voted with 190 House Republicans to dissolve Congress’ constitutional authority over international trade. Apparently, in this instance the trustworthiness of the Republican-dominated Congress momentarily reasserted itself.
Mr. Polis admits NAFTA has “fallen short of its promise.” You bet! According to the Economic Policy Institute, NAFTA resulted in a net loss of over 700,000 U.S. jobs, helped force down U.S. wages, accelerated the evisceration of the U.S. manufacturing base, helped lay waste to cities like Detroit, created an environmental disaster on the maquiladora side of the U.S. border and spurred the mass immigration of displaced Mexican workers to the U.S. Yet somehow Mr. Polis thinks TPP will be better despite leaked TPP documents that reveal a plan that resembles NAFTA on steroids, with stronger protections for global corporations and weakened protections for workers communities and the environment.
We can no longer afford corporate-centered “trade agreements” that raise artificial persons above real persons, nations and Nature; that fill the pockets of wealthy elites, deregulate industrial polluters and create more hedge fund billionaires. We need a rapid and systemic transformation from a global economy that benefits the global .1 percent to an economy that preserves the Earth and its people. We need a politics that mitigates climate disruption, stops the endless wars, ends global poverty and revives democratic institutions. Most importantly, we need progressive leaders who walk the talk, uplift the poor and powerless, honor Nature’s creations and value the lives of the many over profits for the few.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.