At President Obama’s first inauguration ball, he and First Lady Michelle Obama danced to a modern pop version of a 1941 hit, entitled At Last.
The song would be even more appropriate today, given the new romance between the President and his Republican members of Congress. At last! After more than six years of bickering, fighting, belittling, criticizing, sabotaging and blocking his agenda at every turn, the Republican CONgress (along with an appalling number of Democrats) and President Obama have fallen in love – over the Trans Pacific Partnership.
This promises to be the most disastrous in a long string of “free trade” deals. These trade agreements – NAFTA, CAFTA, etc. (way too many) have been “free” for powerful corporate interests and the economic elite. They haven’t worked out so well for the rest of us, however. The history of job losses, downward pressure on wages, and destroyed communities is well-documented.
It’s also increasingly apparent to anyone with an ounce of sense that the TPP would put those disasters on steroids – and more. It’s all coming out, despite herculean efforts to keep it under wraps. There is almost universal opposition outside the Beltway to this latest handover of our economy and autonomy to global corporations. Despite this, Congress and President Obama are hell-bound and determined to shove it down our collective throats.
There’s one bone of contention, expansion of the “Trade Adjustment Assistance” (TAA) program. It’s a “worker relief” and re-education program, intended to “mitigate” the effects when the economy must “reallocate production” between its sectors. In plain English, the program is supposed to help those who lose their jobs to these trade deals. WAIT! Weren’t these deals supposed to create jobs? Well…they did…crappy, low-paying ones at big box stores.
The TAA issue clearly demonstrates that the corporate whores in Congress know damned good and well that massive trade deals under the TPP are going to cost jobs and drive down wages even more. It is the reason that Democrats (at least those who haven’t sold out) have stood against this deal. Earlier, a House vote on the TPP failed because it was tied to TAA. The recent “do-over” narrowly succeeded because the TAA was separated from the TPP “fast track” bill.
Now, TPP fast track goes back to the Senate. It’s a calculated risk for the bill’s supporters. Key Democratic senators who favor the deal have stated that they will not support it unless it includes the trade “adjustment” program expansion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who invoked cloture on Thursday in order to stop further debate, promised to hold a separate vote on the Trade Adjustment in order to get Democratic support.
Currently, there are fourteen traitor Dems in the Senate who support fast-track authority for the TPP. If three of them were to bail, the TPP would once more be dead in the water.
It all comes down to trust. Can those Democratic Senators trust McConnell to follow through on his promise? Can TAA even pass after TPP, particularly with a corporatist, anti-worker Republican majority?
Earlier, McConnell was able to get Democratic support for fast track by promising a vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank charter, set to expire at the end of June. This bank finances U.S. exports, and its impending demise has been yet another sticking point for fast track and the TPP. However, despite McConnell’s assurances, the issue never came up for a vote. Instead, it has been tabled.
Yet, here’s the Senate Majority Leader again telling his Democratic colleagues: “Trust me on this.”
What was that old saw about “fool me once”?