By Jim Miller
Just as the folks in the New Democrat Coalition (NDC) were gearing up to marginalize the progressive wing of the Democratic Party leading up to the 2016 election, Elizabeth Warren struck back with what even CNN reported as “a push to kill major trade negotiations” being championed by President Obama and previously supported by Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
And it’s a very good thing that Warren has elevated the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the national media because proponents of this deal have done everything they can to keep the details secret. As I wrote in this column back in January, the TPP is one of the most under-reported stories in America, and it would affect most of us adversely as “it will increase the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, threaten collective bargaining, undermine environmental regulations, jeopardize food safety, limit access to affordable prescription drugs, and much more.”
Specifically, as Common Dreams notes, Warren is zeroing in on a key element of the agreement that undermines the democratic process and opens the door to much corporate mischief.
Though hardly alone in her opposition, Warren has argued that implementation of the secretly negotiated trade deal would boost corporate power while making it harder to prevent another financial crisis. She has taken specific issue with ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) provisions, which she claims would “tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations.”
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, agrees with Warren that “Multinational corporations—including some of the planet’s biggest polluters—could use the TPP to sue governments, in private trade tribunals, over laws and policies that they claimed would reduce their profits.
The implications of this are profound: Corporate profits are more important than protections for clean air, clean water, climate stability, workers’ rights, and more.” Thus it is not just organized labor that is concerned about this horrible deal, but the environmental community, consumers, and anyone who doesn’t want to transfer even more power from democratically governed institutions to corporations.
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
Shamefully, realizing the threat that such open discussion of the TPP represents to the deal, folks from the corporate wing of the Democratic Party have formed a phony front group called “the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs” (PCAJ). The problem with this “coalition” is that it won’t disclose who its members are or who funds it. Much like the TPP itself, it is shrouded in secrecy.
One thing that is known about the group is that it is not “progressive” in any real sense of the word as their campaign is, as BillMoyers.com reports, “being run by 270 Strategies, which last year worked for Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna, who was trying to unseat progressive incumbent Mike Honda in California. At that time Khanna sent out mailers calling Honda an “Old School Liberal” and criticizing Honda for supporting repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.”
Not surprisingly, the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs fails a fact check to the tune of “four Pinocchios,” but truthfulness and/or transparency are not its main goals. As Buzzfeed notes, this “progressive” group isn’t focusing on progressives at all:
There has been some outreach to members on the Hill, especially among members of the New Democrat coalition, a group of moderate House Democrats — many who would appear more open to Obama’s trade agenda.
“They are going to be making ad buys and make the case that, with TPP and [trade promotion authority], we are getting some of the most progressive trade deals done that we’ve ever seen,” said an aide to a member in the New Democratic coalition who has been in touch with the PCAJ. “There is a progressive case to be made for this and I think the goal of this group is to say, ‘There’s more than one kind of progressive out there with a message on trade’ and that hasn’t been heard.”
Indeed, this bogus front group is designed to give cover to corporate Democrats who may be getting ready to sell out our democracy to the highest bidder by creating the appearance of a “divide” amongst progressives rather than the same old split between progressives and corporatists, whose loyalty to the multinational agenda has never been in question.
Brave New World?
Ironically, in the wake of labor’s huge defeat in Wisconsin last week and the impending full-court press for fast track for the TPP, unions got a vote of confidence from the strangest of places—the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Yes, the organization long criticized on the left for its role in promoting global austerity policies that have devastated working people and undermined workers’ rights and programs that help the poor has discovered the value of unions. According to the Huffington Post:
Rising inequality is directly tied to waning rates of unionization, says a groundbreaking report released recently by the International Monetary Fund.
Tackling the escalating problem of inequality — which endangers democratic institutions, limits economic mobility, and constricts economic growth — requires restoring the rights of workers in the United States and around the world to bargain collectively.
The findings couldn’t come at a more crucial moment. Estimates suggest that 1 percent of the world’s richest control 48 percent of the world’s $263 trillion in net household wealth. Global real wage growth has decelerated, and six years after the economic crisis, it has yet to return to pre-crisis levels. These trends coincide with steadily declining trade union density. In the world’s most advanced economies, where rates of unionization tend to be the highest, trade union density has decreased from 20.8 percent in 1999 to 16.9 percent in 2013. Today, only about one in 10 American workers is part of a union.
According to the IMF’s study, “the decline in unionization is strongly associated with the rise of income shares at the top.” The report illustrates that about half the income share gains made by the world’s wealthiest 10 percent are due to the decline in unionization.
The report goes further to suggest that high rates of inequality are “allowing top earners to manipulate the economic and political system.” This isn’t Elizabeth Warren speaking; it’s the global financial institution once popular with the likes of Ronald Reagan and better known for advocating hard-nosed fiscal policy.
Not to worry, however, as back here in the United States, our corporate masters have another idea more in line with their plutocratic values. Alternet reports that the Koch brothers’ big spending on “ideological warfare” is bearing fruit at George Mason University (the beneficiary of $23 million of their money) where Garrett Jones, a Professor of Capitalism at the Mercatus Center at GMU, recently lectured on the necessity to curb democracy:
Jones says that less democracy and more epistocracy could lead to better governance. Democracy leaves power to the majority while epistocracy allocates power to the knowledgeable. Jones did not imply that democracy should be eliminated, but lessened by 10% for the sake of long-term economic growth.
According to Jones, less democracy would lead to better governance because politicians would be inclined to work on long term growth rather than spending to impress constituents during election season. Politicians try to please the public at the expense of neglecting long- term policies because they are elected through a democratic process.
Ah, brave new world with such creatures in it.