THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP: ANOTHER CORPORATE POWER GRAB
Thursday, March 12, 2015 | 19:00 CDT
CWA Local 6360 Union Hall | 6415 Universal Avenue | KCMO 64120
LUMPENPROLETARIAT—From Fresno, California to Kansas City, Missouri and beyond, the working classes have been waking up to the alarm calls of resistance staunchly opposed to the opaquely-developed TPP, the international legal pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
On March 12, 2015, the Missouri Trade Justice Coalition sponsored a panel discussion about the next NAFTA-style trade pact and the push, under the Obama administration and his leadership of the Democrat Party, for Congress to pass Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority legislation to railroad U.S. approval of the TPP. (See transcript draft below.)
Jeff Hayes, from the Communications Workers of America (CWA), discussed jobs and unions.
Brian Smith, from the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, discussed agriculture and food safety.
Craig Volland, from the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club, discussed the environment.
Labour educator Judy Ancel, from the Cross Border Network and the Institute for Labor Studies at UMKC (University of Missouri-Kansas City) and UMSL (University of Missouri-St. Louis), discussed workers’ rights in poor nations.
Representative Brandon Ellington, a Democrat (representing the 22nd District of Jackson County) from the Missouri House of Representatives, was scheduled to discuss sovereignty and democracy. (Unfortunately, your independent free speech media correspondent does not recall Ellington discussing sovereignty nor democracy. These are two topics, to which Democrat Party culture seems allergic. In fact, your correspondent does not recall Mr. Ellington even being in attendance at the event.)
The Missouri Trade Justice Coalition-sponsored panel discussion at the CWA Local 6360 union hall was an important event because it provided crucial information to the local community about the TPP, a global issue with local consequences, which is under-reported (and misreported) in the dominant media. Indeed, it’s largely thanks to WikiLeaks, despite being opposed and attacked by the state, that the public has even been informed at all about the TPP. (Of course, WikiLeaks figurehead, Julian Assange has now become a virtual political prisoner for his efforts.)
It’s crucial to understand that the TPP, which is deceptively being promoted as a trade deal by the Obama administration, with Obama being the leader of the USA’s Democrat Party, is more about legal protections for transnational corporations than it is about trade, national well-being, or security.
Public Citizen reports: “Although it is called a ‘free trade’ agreement, the TPP is not mainly about trade. Of TPP’s 29 draft chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues. One chapter would provide incentives to offshore jobs to low-wage countries. Many would impose limits on government policies that we rely on in our daily lives for safe food, a clean environment, and more. Our domestic federal, state and local policies would be required to comply with TPP rules.”
In short, the TPP is a colossal disaster in the making for working people increasingly exposed to so-called competitive labour markets. For the original P3 nations plus Brunei, the TPP represents an evolution from the pre-2002 APEC negotiations and the post-2002 P3 CEP ‘free trade’ negotiations. For the USA, the TPP represents an expansion of post-1994 NAFTA ‘free trade’. But for the people working in TPP-impacted economies, the working classes, the TPP represents a titanic convergence of capitalist exploitation. The overwhelming majority of the TPP document codifies draconian rules by which the currently proposed assemblage of a dozen nations around the Pacific Rim intend to subject themselves to anational corporate legal control by the covenants of the TPP’s pro-business, anti-working class, anti-democratic language.
The TPP negotiations initially started around 2002 with negotiations between Singapore, New Zealand, and Chile, known as the P3 CEP (Pacific Three: Closer Economic Partnership) negotiations. In 2005, Brunei became the fourth signatory nation to join the negotiations; and the pact was renamed TPSEP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership agreement). Signed in July/August 2005, the TPSEP, contains an accession clause (Article 20.6, p. 158), making TPSEP a ‘docking agreement’ by affirming the TPSEP (aka TPP) members’ “commitment to encourage the accession to this Agreement by other economies”. The USA decided to enter negotiations in 2008 to consider becoming a signatory TPP nation.
The TPP (aka TPSEP) negotiations signify more of a silent quasi-global government coup because the TPP’s overarching legal power subordinates the sovereign governments signing onto the TPP economic bloc to an anti-democratic legal framework, which places corporate profits above human concerns in many areas of society. This is reminiscent of the Treaty of Masstricht, to which the Eurozone nations surrendered their monetary sovereignty and subjected themselves to gratuitous policy space reduction. The Obama administration has been supportive of the stealthily negotiated TPP since 2008, as well as Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority legislation, despite the political disaster these pro-business policies represent. Approaching Obama’s final years in office, questions of his legacy may converge with desires to Fast Track the TPP on his way out, in much the same way Clinton did with regard to financial deregulation. We recall the USA’s 2008 decision to enter TPP ‘trade’ negotiations was motivated by the interests of “opening trade in financial services with New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore and Chile”.
Public Citizen reports that, to date, seven years later, in 2015: “Even members of Congress, after being denied the text for years, are now only provided limited access. Meanwhile, more than 500 official corporate ‘trade advisors’ have special access. The TPP has been under negotiation for six years, and the Obama administration wants to sign the deal this year. Opposition to the TPP is growing at home and in many of the other countries involved.”
At the CWA Local 6360 panel discussion in Kansas City (12 MAR 2015), Brian Smith, discussing food safety, explained to the audience how the TPP elevates corporations to the global status of a sovereign nation. Under the TPP, corporations could sue a state within the United States for having higher safety standards than the lowest global standards. Smith gave the example of meat and poultry imports. If the USA attempts to block imports of meat and poultry into the USA from nations with lower safety standards, the TPP would give legal authority for a corporation to sue in order to force the substandard imports on the USA’s markets. Essentially, a state may be sued for interfering with profits, regardless of the human harm such profit motive may entail. Smith also noted how health ordinance protections are eroded by the TPP.
Since NAFTA (1994), said Smith, we’ve lost 170,000 independent family farmers, which leads to a vertical integration of the food supply. And this takes us away from community. [Vertical integration is an arrangement, studied in microeconomics and management, in which the supply chain of a company is owned by that company. Usually each member of the supply chain produces a different product or (market-specific) service, and the products combine to satisfy a common need. It is contrasted with horizontal integration. Vertical integration has also described management styles that bring large portions of the supply chain not only under a common ownership, but also into one corporation (as in the 1920s when the Ford River Rouge Complex began making much of its own steel rather than buying it from suppliers).] The TPP allows corporations to challenge existing laws, such as Buy American protocols in government procurement policies.
Labour educator Judy Ancel (Cross Border Network) emphasised the importance of adopting a global perspective when thinking about workers’ rights, particularly in poor nations and developing nations, which often suffer the most under uneven trade and finance policies favoring the dominant economies.
During Brian Smith’s (Missouri Rural Crisis Center) presentation conclusion, as done by other panelists, Smith urged the audience to reach out to elected representatives. Of course, that assumes the people in the audience even have elected officials. That assumes the two-party system speaks for, or even to, the activist and labour types in attendance at the CWA union hall. The assumption that the Democrat and Republican parties may be subscribed to by socioeconomic justice activists without paradoxically working against their own social justice interests is one which we must examine critically. It seems a naive conclusion to suggest that the scant energies of the politically-engaged be expended upon appealing to unresponsive corporate political parties. But, then, perhaps the audience (and most activists) organising against the agenda of the two corporate parties still subscribe to those two corporate parties.
Uncritical acceptance of the two-party system, the two-party dictatorship, ignores the fact that elected representatives, which are predominantly Republican or Democrat, do not speak for the working class. Both of those parties are anti-democratic because they collude against the interests of the people to exclude alternative political parties.
Some disagree with the need for the working classes to reject the corporate-funded Democrat and Republican parties in favour of alternative people’s opposition parties and free and fair elections. Alex MacGillis (Slate.com), for example, argues that the “left is teaming up with the Tea Party to tank Obama’s trade agenda” this spring of 2015. We collectively hope so. Yet, even McGillis notes: “It was hard to detect any such opposition at the House and Senate hearings on trade last week [before 2 FEB 2015]. One after another, Republicans fell over each other to flatter the Obama administration’s point man on the issue, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, distinguishing him, and the agenda he is pushing, from the rest of the administration.”
Even if we could gain such a left-right coalition win against the TPP, it would be a fleeting, transitory victory because such an otherwise well-meaning activist umbrella, encompassing the left and the Tea Party, once successfully unified against the TPP, would soon devolve back into the same center-right to conservative political spectrum of discourse in the face of the USA’s corporate party politics. Such corporate politics motivated the USA’s 2008 entry into the TPP negotiations at the outset.
However, as Judy Ancel pointed out at the CWA Local 6360 panel discussion in Kansas City (see transcript below), with an election cycle approaching, if enough pressure is applied on both parties, it’s conceivable the TPP signing could be taken off the table for the time being. If delayed much longer, in the glare of public attention, the TPP could be viewed as a toxic campaign issue, which would have to be put on the back burner, at least until after the election cycle winds down.
Somehow, consciousness acquired in struggle soon becomes complacent. And switching from one corporate party rule to another seems satisfactory, as we return to some state of liberal complacency, once one’s immediate single-issue demand has been mollified. People who would be politicised by particular flashpoint issues and be guided by common sense reason would advise adopting political positions antithetical to the USA’s two dominant political parties, such as expressed by the Occupy Movement or the anti-TPP Movement. Yet, such common sense reason, without one’s immediate single-issue at stake, seems to eventually dissipate. And the preexisting political bounds are restored in the absence of alternative political parties serving as the repositories for the common stock of knowledge or common sense, as corporate-funded campaigns sway registered voters back into the anti-democratic two-party framework. This seems to happen continually in the life of an activist, until another salient single-issue inspires them to action again. But always activists are working in an atomised state, relative to activists working on different single-issue campaigns.
Could this fragmentation, or atomisation, be due to a lack of sincere opposition parties capable of galvanising common foundational political principles derived from pluralistic approaches to history and theory, which better reflect the will and aspirations of working people? The main cyclical convergence evident is when most activists are funneled into the Democrat/Republican Party-monopolised elections and given one of two corporate brands to choose from, otherwise their political energies are atomised and disconnected.
We, the working classes, seem to forget that consciousness acquired in struggle, especially without having our assumptions as voters challenged when our activist leaders, which inspired and elevated our consciousness for single-issue campaigns, choose to omit critical analyses of the role of party politics in a two-party controlled state apparatus, or to question the fundamental problems of a cartel-like two-party system.
Perhaps, it has become too dangerous to question stagnation in contemporary American party politics. Human rights activist Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) understood as early as the spring of 1964, when he delivered the now-famous “Ballot or the Bullet” speech, now considered by scholars one of the top ten greatest American speeches in history:
“And 1964 looks like it might be the year of the ballot or the bullet. Why does it look like it might be the year of the ballot or the bullet? Because Negroes have listened to the trickery, and the lies, and the false promises of the white man now for too long. And they’re fed up.”
People were fed up. And activist leaders were valiant. But the state repressed the people through COINTEL-PRO, assassinations were rampant, activists were killed or marginalised or suppressed.
The working classes of today are fed up, too. But not to the point of questioning the two-party system of the Democrat and Republican parties. Malcolm X understood then, what activist leaders seem to have forgotten now, that to support corporate parties amounted to being a “chump”:
“He made a chump out of you. He made a fool out of you. He made you think you were going somewhere and you end up going nowhere but between Lincoln and Washington.”
This echoes the ineffectual oscillation between the nation’s political bipolarity since at least the 1960s. Malcolm X observed how the black electorate could be mobilised in favor of progressive reforms back in the 1960s (which was a threat to the ruling elites), just as the progressive community today could be mobilised, given a critical analysis of the role of party politics. Then, as we question now, Malcolm X questioned the utility of supporting the Democrat Party:
“It was the fact that you threw 80% of your votes behind the Democrats that put the Democrats in the White House. When you see this, you can see that the Negro vote is the key factor. And despite the fact that you are in a position to be the determining factor, what do you get out of it? The Democrats have been in Washington DC only because of the Negro vote. They’ve been down there four years. And their all other legislations they wanted to bring up, they brought it up, and gotten it out of the way. And now they bring up you. And, now, they bring up you. You put them first, and they put you last ’cause you’re a chump [audience applause], a political chump.”
We know now, as Malcolm X did then, that even when the Democrat Party is in power or holds a majority in Congress, it still fails the people:
“The party that you backed controls two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and still they can’t keep their promise to you, ‘cos you’re a chump. Anytime you throw your weight behind the political party that controls two-thirds of the government, and that party can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you’re dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that party, you’re not only a chump, but you’re a traitor to your race.”
The same logic applies to class consciousness today.
Many otherwise well-meaning activist leaders, today, seem reluctant to critique the Democrat Party (as they critique the equally corrupt Republican Party) with even half the conviction Malcolm X conveyed in the 1960s. They often function as apologists, in the hopes the Democrat Party might one day be reformed from within. Yet, this two-party strategy has consistently failed since the McCarthy era forced alternative political groups, such as socialists and communists, underground or clandestinely into the Democrat Party.
The Republican and Democrat parties form what most Americans refer to as the two-party system, but which Ralph Nader has more accurately coined the Two-Party Dictatorship because the American people have no respite from this political machine, which functions in a narrow dualistic band between which the American people, like sheep, can oscillate back and forth during election cycles.
Yet, both parties are largely funded by the same corporations and ruling class elites. And, both, parties have opposed, to the best of their abilities, any and all progressive tendencies among the people. But activists leaders’ perennial post-1960s approach is to encourage the working classes to appeal to those two corporate-capitalist parties with candlelight vigils in designated free speech zones or prostrate in obeisance, as the corporate police state shreds the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and kills unarmed citizens and youth on the streets.
Why not reject the two-party dictatorship and work toward free and fair elections, which include alternative political parties and perspectives? Why not question the validity of winner-take-all elections, which narrow options? Why not have ranked-choice voting? Why do we enable Top Two Primary elections? Why do activists enable the two-party cartel status quo? Perhaps, this is a defeatist attitude. But, apart from false consciousness, how can we explain why there isn’t a wholesale rejection of the anti-democractic two-party dictatorship amongst otherwise well-meaning people of conscience?
As Dr. David Harvey says, in describing Marx’s Capital, Vol. 1, and the lines of inquiry which Marx investigates, such as asking: what are we missing, which, if included, transforms the arguments into something revolutionary, that is radically transformative?
We might argue some elements, which are missing from contemporary approaches to working class activism include the conceptual blocks of class consciousness and the significance of party politics. How activists face, or avoid, these concepts of class and party politics seriously liberates or weakens activist resistance against corporate-capitalist power and predation. Lack of class consciousness reflected in the communications amongst most activist groups influenced by mainstream Democrat messaging, inhibits awareness of common group interests and it fails to adequately critique many of the assumptions, predominant attitudes, and beliefs of the Democrat party, ostensibly, the party of the middle class (to which most voters on the left subscribe but which consistently fails to address many of their most important issues).
So, activists, facing futile odds at the federal level, argue for devoting efforts to local campaigns. Progressive campaigns against individual candidates are useful because they target attention on particularly heinous elected officials. And a similar dynamic operates in the lionisation of individual political heroes, such as Elizabeth Warren. But what of our analysis of the political parties from which they spawn? Rather than targeting the symptoms of these two rotten political parties, which monopolise the political process—or lionising individual heroic canidates, such as Elizabeth Warren, which are incapable of individually transforming the institutionally-entrenched two-party dictatorship—activist groups would benefit from including a component within their campaigns for socioeconomic justice, which questions the prevailing wisdom about our anti-democratic two-party dictatorship.
It would seem beneficial for single-issue activists to include a component within their campaign messaging, which includes a critical analysis of party politics to encourage activist groups to seize political power through building grassroots alternative political parties capable of democratising our electoral process and galvanising the atomised energies of working class activism on the left and the working class right.
A political system, monopolised by two institutionally-entrenched, corporate-funded, political parties is one in which a small institutional cartel excludes the vast majority of the people from substantive democratic discourse and decision-making. Political candidate alternatives and certainly any and all alternative political parties and their views become marginalised. Such a political system effectively silences the people, the working classes. This exclusion of political alternatives by society’s political apparatus at all levels, from the local mico-level to the macro-level, begins to affect even activist groups, which would otherwise benefit from the inclusion of radically different conceptual blocks in their programmatic framework. But, because of narrow perspectives, perhaps, or for whatever reason, most activist groups nowadays ignore perspectives to the left of center, which challenge the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the two-party dictatorship.
– Messina (March 2015, last updated 26 MAR 2015)
THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP: ANOTHER CORPORATE POWER GRABThursday, March 12, 2015 | 19:00 CDT
CWA Local 6360 Union Hall | 6415 Universal Avenue | KCMO 64120
LUMPENPROLETARIAT—[as citizen journalist enters public forum] “[…] the Missouri Trade [Justice] Coalition, basically, some of the speakers we’ve got up here, it’s [trading], it’s the Sierra Club, it’s teachers, it’s, basically, middle-class America, what it’s made up of. Um, so, that being said, I’ll go ahead and get started.
“Our first speaker, Jeff Hayes[i], he’s gonna speak on jobs and unions. He is currently the Vice President of CWA Local 6360. As well as Missouri State political coordinator for the Communications Workers of America [CWA]. Jeff, it’s your turn.”
TPP vs. LABOUR
JEFF HAYES: (c. 0:46) “Good evening. I’m gonna talk a little bit about the labour views [perhaps: unions], regarding Fast Track and the TPP. Um, American workers know that Free Trade really costs jobs. It took place under the North American Free Trade Agreement, as we all know, NAFTA, which was negotiated about 20 years ago. It happened under the US and Korea Free Trade Agreement negotiated two years ago. Overall, NAFTA has resulted in a loss of nearly 700,000 jobs in the US. Promoters of the trade deal promise the creation of 70,000 jobs. Yet, to date, US workers have lost nearly [inaudible] thousand.
“With the TPP, it’s not just manufacturing jobs that are at risk. US corporations, already, are projected to shift 3.4 million service sector jobs off-shore. They are looking towards lower possible labour costs, non-existent workers’ rights, and little or no workplace regulations. (c. 2:05)
“Let me expand a little bit on the off-shoring of these jobs. The Phillippines is a major off-shoring job haven. It’s preparing for TPP membership right now. Currently, the Phillippinnes has 700,000 call center agents primarily serving the United States market. Capital One, a major credit card provider, has announced it is setting up a Phillippinnes call center, that would employ 2,200 workers. Meanwhile, the current call center, that’s located in Tigard[ii], Oregon, is cutting employees from the current 950 down to 300. (c. 2:45)
“Let’s talk a little bit about the auto industry ‘cos that’s something that we all know, here, in Kansas City. In the two states of Kansas and Missouri, alone, the three major auto companies employ over 12,000 auto workers. There’s over 23,000 supplier jobs and over 450 auto dealerships, that make up thousands of more jobs.
“A few years back, the President [Obama] along with Congress saved one milion American jobs by taking bold actions to save the auto industry. This renewed industry now makes up America’s number one export sector. But the TPP [under the same Obama administration] could undo all this progress and kill good-paying American jobs.
“The United States auto market is free and open. It is competitive industry. More than half the automobiles sold in the US are made by foreign auto makers.[iii] Japan does not have an open system. Japan exports 130 vehicles here for every one American vehicle, that’s exported to Japan. They’ve been doing this for over 30 years. The TPP could make this problem even worse. (c. 4:09)
“In exchange for the same empty promises by Japan to change their ways, so we could phase out our tariffs on Japanese automobiles, auto parts, and lights trucks. Removing these tariffs will be equivalent to a $1 billion dollar tax break for Japanese auto companies, while we get nothing in return, except for the loss of at least a hundred thousand jobs.
“The Japanese need to let competitors sell cars in their country. Japan’s inclusion in the TPP could tilt our imbalanced playing field even further in Japan’s favour, directly at the expense of US workers. Ford Motor Company as well as the United Auto Workers have come out against the TPP. (c. 4:54)
“With the TPP, our wages and collective bargaining rights would be eroded. As we’ve seen with other trade agreements, the TPP exacerbates the race to the bottom because it places our workers in competition with corporations operating in countries like Vietnam, which only have to pay a minumum wage of just 28 cents per hour.
“The federal government and even state governments would be prohibited from giving preferences to American-made goods and services. Firms operating in any TPP-signatory country must be given equal access to the vast majority of U.S. federal procurement contracts, rather than allowing us to regulate our tax dollars here to create American jobs. (c. 5:54)
“Buy American, renewable/recyclable, and sweatshop-free specifications could be, and would be, challenged by foreign corporations and countries. Worse of all, the TPP would be forever. Once the TPP is signed, it will not expire and could be altered only by a consensus of all the signatories locked in failed extreme policies.
“Also, the TPP is intended as a docking agreement, that other Pacific Rim countries could join over time, if accepted by the signatory countries.
“Various groups, here, in America oppose this unfair trade. They see what NAFTA and other[iv] deals have done and want to avoid putting US workers at a disadvantage and consumers, here, at risk. (c. 6:33)
TPP vs. FOOD & AGRICULTURE
TPP vs. LABOUR
TPP vs. THE ENVIRONMENT
TPP vs. LABOUR in the GLOBAL POLITICAL ECONOMY
THE AUDIENCE vs. THE PANELISTS
FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER: (c. 1:14:00)  “I don’t know. Where do the unions stand at this point? Because I— Is this something that’s a big issue?”
MALE PANELIST #?: “Absolutely.”
MALE PANELIST #2: “It is with the UAW. I can tell you that.”
[general clamor in the hall: Not the TPP, but free and fair elections…]
MALE PANELIST #2: “We’re talking about Citizens United. It is. It’s a big issue. And I agree. Everything stems from that because that was a game-changer as far as politics go. You know. There was always. They always spend more money than us in an election. But, you know, with our boots on the ground or door-knocking we could stem the tides kinda.”
[inaudible comment from the audience]
MALE PANELIST #2: “Right. Right. But now they’re changing the laws that it makes it so hard to organise. Going back to what, what the brother said back here that the number of union jobs in this country are down to six percent—”
[comment from the audience: That’s sad.]
MALE PANELIST #2: “—in the private sector and going down. You know?
“So, yeah, it’s a huge issue with the UAW. I’m sure with some other unions. I mean. Am I gonna see it in my lifetime where there arent’t any unions? You know? That’s a, that’s a possibility. [inaudible] And it stems from the free speech for corporations of [the] Citizens United [decision].
FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER (possibly Mary Lindsey of Move to Amend, Kansas City Chapter): (c. 1:16:00) “Of course, it already, they already had free speech before Citizens United. It just was a new use expressly given to them with that free speech. And, you know, my question in my life is am I going to see the Constitution amended [so as not to declare corporations are people with free speech]?”
[comments from the audience: Yes, you are.] [applause]
MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER: “Thank you guys for comin’ out and speakin’ to us. You guys did a great job of educating us on what the Trans-Pacific Partnership is. I wanted you to just take a minute and give us a little detail on what Fast Track offers and how that works.” 1:16:50
MALE PANELIST #3: “Okay. On Fast Track, basically, what it’s going to do is once they get the trade agreement finalised. If Congress gives president Obama Fast Track authority, what is presented to Congress is not going to be at all the way bills are typically done. It’s going to be. It’s going to bypass the normal committee hearings and public vetting that most bills go through. It’s gonna go straight to the Congress with an up or down vote, with limited debate. And, so, it is very possible that a lot of congresspeople will only be hearing from lobbyists[v] in most cases encouraging them to vote yes when the time comes to vote on the TPP, if Fast Track is in place. And if Judy or anyone else wants to enhance my description of Fast Track. That’s, basically, what it is. It really cuts down on the public vetting process.” (c. 1:18:00)
JUDY ANCEL: “I can add a couple of things.”
MALE PANELIST #3: “Sure.”
JUDY ANCEL: “This thing is gonna be over 2,000 pages. NAFTA was 2,000 pages. So, you can imagine with twelve countries. It’s gonna be even bigger. And, not only does it approve this so-called trade agreement—actually, only five chapters have anything to do with trade. 24 chapters are on the rights of corporations. And there is a labour rights chapter and various other things. It isn’t just that. It also amends hundreds and hundreds of U.S. laws. And, so, it’s all done as a package. There’s no amendments. And there’s very limited debate time as well. Not only do they not have the hearings, but I think when NAFTA was passed they only had like 20 hours of debate. That’s a very, very limited amound of debate time for such a massive thing.
“And, then, of course, at the end, there’s only an up/down vote. You can’t amend it. You can only vote for it or against it. So, these special rules called Fast Track, many people say it’s an absolute abrogation of the Constitutional responsibilities of Congress to vet our laws before they pass them.
“Back when NAFTA was in Congress, Ralph Nader offered to pay—I can’t remember how much it was. Like—”
[female audience member: A lot of money.]
JUDY ANCEL: “—$20,000 dollars. What?”
[female audience member: A lot of money.]
JUDY ANCEL: “Yeah. I think it was $20,000 dollars to any congressman who could prove that he read the whole thing. And there was only one who came up on his offer.” (c. 1:19:55)
MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #1: “Things are just random, at this point, the responses to a lot of the great comments that have been made. But, for openers, there’s a great movie. I’m trying to get a screening of it somewhere in town. But, in the meantime, I’m sure it’s on Netflix called Matewon . It’s about union organising, and the strike in the coal mines of West Virginia in the ‘30s.”
MALE PANELIST #?: “I own it. You can borrow it.”
MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #1: “Alright”
[general laughter in the union hall]
MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #1: “I have a copy at home. I just need permission to show it in public. Um, he makes a point, Chris Cooper from Kansas City is the union organiser/star of that movie. And he makes the point that there’s only two kinds of people in the world: those who work and those who take advantage of that fact. And we need to organise every worker in the world. I’m not a big fan of civil disobedience. [audience clapping] I like working through the system. [clapping stops] But if there’s any laws that say someone can’t join a union. I say to hell with it. Ignore the law. Join the union. And when we’re all in the union. Things’ll change. And I wanna back up what Mary Lindsey [Move to Amend, Kansas City Chapter] said. Corporate personhood is the overriding thing here.
“I can’t remember if it was Thom Hartmann’s book. I read too many books and things. I don’t know. Someone said that what corporations are doing is piecing together an international government of by and for multinational corporations. And we’ve got to have every worker in the world united. They’ve gone global. We need to go global. But here, in the United States, I think we’ve got to keep in mind that we have one amazing blessing as Americans, that a lot of people around the world would give anything for. We can overturn our government with ballots, instead of bullets[vi].
“Ronald Reagan said”: Government is not a solution to our problem government is the problem. “Far too many people believed him. He was wrong. Bad government is the problem. And good government is the solution. We can’t keep electing foxes to be in charge of the hen house and, then, write letters and hold up signs asking them not to eat the chickens.”
[stirring in the hall; clapping]
MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #1: “We’ve gotta get people registered. We’ve gotta get people to vote. And we’ve gotta help ‘em learn the difference between a populist and a corporatist.
“And I’ve got a federal political action committee formed January 9th to help them do that. And we’re gonna focus on civic education and getting people registered. And I said this at a Jobs with Justice meeting. And I’ll say it here. If Congress and the Missouri General Assembly looks like this room, the people in this room, we won’t have any problem passing the laws [inaudible].” [audience applause] (c. 1:22:41)
FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #2: “First I have a comment or a suggestion that we could maybe write our congressman, um, that they should all wear a blazer, kinda like the NASCAR drivers. And, if they have a corporate contributor to their campaign, they wear a blazer, so we’ll know where they get their money from. [inaudible] [laughter in audience: That’s a great idea!] And then [inaudible] can we talk about Fast Track? I guess it’s expired. That’s why President Obama wants it reauthorised to get what he wants.
“What about an executive order? Could he do that on this type of deal? Or is that not? You can’t do it?”
[from the audience: “You’ve gotta change the laws.”]
MALE PANELIST #Z: “You know you can opt out of NAFTA with six months’ notice.”
JUDY ANCEL: “But you can’t opt out of this thing [i.e., the TPP] with any notice.”
MALE PANELIST #Z: “Right. But NAFTA, if we stop this, we could also get rid of NAFTA and some the other things.”
MALE PANELIST #? (possibly Jeff Hayes): “Sir, in the back.”
JIM BARNES: “Yeah, Jeff. I’m Jim Barnes[vii]. I used to be the speaker pro-tem at the Missouri House [Democrat from Raytown]. I get hung up on technicalities. And I’m glad this meeting is taking place.
“Now, during negotiating this—dark, right? We have no idea what’s taking place. When will it be published? Is it published after it’s filed in Congress? Is it published beforehand? When will we, actually, get to read this and know what’s in this thing?” (c. 1:24:10)
JUDY ANCEL: “[pending]”
JIM BARNES: “Yeah, Jeff.
MALE PANELIST #?: “Um, Judy has got a few comments. Um, and uh, then I think we’ll be done. Right?” (c. 1:27:05)
JUDY ANCEL: “I just wanna make a couple of announcements. The Cross Border Network has a table in the back. And, please, stick around and take some of our literature.
“A couple of things I wanna call your attention to: If you’re interested in learning about that reality from the poor countries, there’s a couple of events coming up. You all got our fundraiser. You can read that. And I hope you come and make reservations.
“You all heard about the 43 students who disappeared from the [Ayotzinapa] Normal[viii] School [i.e., Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College] in the State of Guerrero in Mexico last September, who—through the complicity of the Mayor of a town called Iguala and narcotraffickers. These students are still disappeared. And it’s become a mass movement in Mexico to protest what’s happened to them. And the school they came from is called Ayotzinapa. And there is a caravan of parents and students from there, who is going to be entering the United States on March 15th.”
[female audience member: The 24th.]
JUDY ANCEL: “And they’ll be here the 23rd through the 25th. And there’s a series of actions and events that are gonna take place, both, in English and in Spanish. So, if you’d like to hear their story, it’s a dramatic one. And these people are incredibly valiant for what they have done so far, in protesting what has become. Mexico is very rapidly becoming what they call a failed state. And a lot of it has to do with NAFTA and the War On Drugs and the constant militarisation and armament by our government of anybody and everybody that [inaudible].
“And, so, there’s going to be on Wednesday a march, which starts at the Mexican Consulate at three-thirty in the afternoon. And it will go on ‘til six. So, people are encouraged to come out. One of the things, one of the demands is going to be that the War On Drugs, which has become a War On Poor People, be ended.
“The other thing is that the Cross Border Network is taking a tour to Honduras, specifically, to investigate the conditions of maquila workers as well as privatisation, that is going on at a very rapid pace. If you’re interested, think of applying. And, otherwise, I have nothing more. Thank you very much.” [applause] (c. 1:29:52)
MALE PANELIST #? (possibly Jeff Hayes): “Is there another question?”
MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #2: “Yeah, I’ve got a question. You mentioned Ford was one of the companies that was against us. Do you have? Is there a list of other companies [inaudible] that are influenced, that we know of?”
MALE PANELIST #? (not Jeff Hayes): “I don’t know that.”
JUDY ANCEL: “Ask your company.”
MALE PANELIST #? (not Jeff Hayes): “Yeah. I don’t know that. I do know that, actually, Ford, GM, Chrysler, all three were against us.”
MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #2: “They are involved?”
MALE PANELIST #? (not Jeff Hayes): “Yeah. But outside the auto industry, I couldn’t tell you, though.” (c. 1:30:24)
JUDY ANCEL: “There’s specific reasons [sic] why they’re scared to death of the Japanese imports.”
MALE PANELIST #? (not Jeff Hayes): “Yeah, when it comes to Japanese autos, the Japanese market’s been closed forever. And Jeff pointed out we can sell one over there for every 130 sold here. And they have a lot of non-trade barriers that they, you know, it’s not an actual law. But, if a Japanese person buys an American-made automobile, they will get audited by the Japanese IRS.”
MALE PANELIST #? (not Jeff Hayes): “It’s not a law. But everybody knows that. You know? And, so, it’s a big incentive not to buy anything the Japanese could make for themselves.” (c. 1:31:10)
FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER (not Mary Lindsey): “This old lady was sayin’ over here, Jeff, about talking to neighbours and friends and family. The thing that frightens me the very most is residents are gonna come in that we won’t have any control over beside that food. And I think, if we start talkin’ that to our, you know, older people, especially, that take lots of medicine? Or young children that don’t really have to take medicine. You know? It’s not gonna be our standards. Everybody knows, you know, there’s a lot of crap stuff that comes through that people get hooked on. If they start frightening—I’m sorry to say that. If they start frightening people about that kind of stuff, we maybe get some news media to start pickin’ up on that. ”
MALE PANELIST #?: “We can get some of these Tea Partiers—”
FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER (not Mary Lindsey): “Yeah! Exactly.”
MALE PANELIST #?: “—[inaudible]”
FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER (not Mary Lindsey): “There you go!”
JUDY ANCEL: “And, also, they’re talking about lengthening the time a patent is good for.”
FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER (not Mary Lindsey): “Of course!”
JUDY ANCEL: “And that will [decrease] the number of generic drugs that are available and increase the price of medicines.”
FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER (not Mary Lindsey): “Uh-huh. Yep.”
MALE PANELIST #?: “Alright. Thank you, everybody.”
JUDY ANCEL: “Thank you.”
– Transcript by Messina (March 2015)
[i] Jeff Hayes, from the Communications Workers of America (CWA), discussed jobs and unions.
[ii] Cf. “Capital One hiring for 120 positions in Tigard after announcing hundreds of layoffs in 2013” by Fenit Nirappil (The Oregonian/OregonianLive), 27 SEP 2013, 17:25 cf. http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-Capital-One-RVW4007833.htm
[iii] Recall; many automobiles are made in an increasingly globalised process by which parts may be produced by workers wherever the capitalist mode of production finds the cheapest costs, especially finding the highest degree of exploitation of labour. So, a car may be considered ‘American-made’, but be composed of 75% foreign-built parts. This would undermine the strategic approach of advocating for the consumption of domestic auto manufacturers merely by label. The actual domestic to foreign content ratio becomes necessary to consider, if one wants to support policies which favour domestic workers at the expense of foreign workers. However, this still seems to set up a competitive, rather than cooperative, dynamic, which tends to pit domestic workers against foreign workers. Domestic and foreign workers are redirected away from the larger structural problems of the globalised capitalist mode of production under the command of corporate elites and toward narrower nationalistic conceptions of the economic problems.
[iv] Cf. CAFTA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominican_Republic%E2%80%93Central_America_Free_Trade_Agreement ), etc.
[v] Presumably, the speaker refers to corporate/industry lobbyists promoting approval of the U.S. signing on to the TPP. Obviously, lobbyists can also be activists or others working to stop the U.S. from signing on the TPP. The term lobbyist is being used synonymously with for-profit corporate lobbyists, which reflects the marginalisation of non-profit activist lobbyists.
[vi] Cf. “‘The Ballot or The Bullet’ is the name of a public speech by human rights activist Malcolm X. In the speech, which was delivered on 3 APR 1964 at Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, Malcolm advised African Americans to judiciously exercise their right to vote, but he cautioned that if the government continued to prevent African Americans from attaining full equality, it might be necessary for them to take up arms. It was ranked 7th in the top 100 American speeches of the 20th century by 137 leading scholars of American public address.”
[vii] Cf. “Former Rep. Jim Barnes Pleads Guilty in Inquiry” by Virginia Young Post-Dispatch Jefferson City Bureau
St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) , June 11, 1996: Barnes, the former second-in-command of the Missouri House, pleaded guilty Monday to three misdemeanors for filing false campaign finance reports.
Barnes, D-Raytown, could face up to $3,000 in fines and three years in the county jail. Cole County Circuit Judge Byron Kinder ordered a presentence investigation; he set no date for sentencing.
Barnes, an 18-year House veteran and the former speaker pro tem, resigned in February after a Cole County grand jury subpoenaed him.
The grand jury indicted him in May, charging that he purposely underreported campaign expenses and inflated the balance on hand in his treasury from 1994 to 1996.
Cole County Prosecutor Richard Callahan said Monday that Barnes’ inaccurate reporting started “a long, long time ago . . . in the mid-1980s.”
The bulk of the underreporting of expenses occurred too long ago to be charged as a crime because of a four-year statute of limitations.
Over the years, the inflated balance grew to $50,000, Callahan said.
“You have somebody who claims to be carrying a $50,000 war chest, and no such thing existed,” the prosecutor said. … ] [excerpt taken from: https://www.questia.com/newspaper/1P2-32998875/former-rep-jim-barnes-pleads-guilty-in-inquiry
[viii] Cf. Normal school:
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