Yves here. It’s become routine to expose some of the supposedly organic proposals that come out of the Tea Party as actually sponsored by the Koch Brothers and other big corporate interests. We didn’t want to leave Democrats out in the cold in the astroturfing game. Gaius Publius discusses one ecosystem: a consulting firm, “270 Strategies” and one of its phony creations, the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.
By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, Americablog, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook.A version of this piece first appeared at digby’s Hullabaloo. GP article archive here.
I recently did a piece looking at the Democratic consulting shop “270 Strategies” — a group that’s been characterized as involved in “astroturfing” by the Daily Kos diarist Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees. Her (or his) headline was:
Obama Campaign Alumni Form New Astroturf Group to Promote TPP
That’s accurate, but a little confusing. There are actually two groups involved. Obama campaign alumnae (or alumni) — Lynda Tran, Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird — are founding partners of the PR and digital consulting shop “270 Strategies.” And the “astroturf” group is their client (or brainchild), the “Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.”
Let’s continue our look at 270 Strategies, since their efforts on behalf of TPP have already borne fruit. From a news piece around the time 270 Strategies was created:
[Lynda Tran, the] communications director at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is leaving to join a new political firm founded by Obama campaign officials.
In an email to NHTSA staff on Friday, Administrator David Strickland announced spokeswoman Lynda Tran’s departure.
“For the past couple of years, I have had the pleasure and honor to have been befriended by, advised by and protected by one of the best professionals in government service,” Strickland said.
Tran said in a separate email to NHTSA staff that she will be a partner at 270 Strategies in Washington – a grassroots campaign firm named after the number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
The new firm is led by two former Obama for America officials, Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird, and describes itself as “helping clients build people-centered, data-driven and digitally sophisticated grassroots campaigns that achieve their strategic goals and change the world.”
Their press release for this event and that news article are from January 2013, so Tran, Stewart and Bird et al have been at this a while. 270 Strategies is a digital campaign shop (as in, they do political campaigns) and media placement outfit (as in, they place stories in the media to drive a client’s narrative). For a successful example of the latter, read on.
270 Strategies Says It’s “Progressive” To Be Pro-TPP; Politico Agrees
We got onto this story originally because 270 Strategies is part of a new campaign to get TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership, the next NAFTA-style trade agreement) passed. Obama wants it (badly), Pelosi is iffy at best about it, and all of the corporate-bought (through campaign “contributions”) members of Congress are ready to vote for it.
But there’s opposition as well. Against TPP are real progressives, most or all labor unions, most citizens who know anything about it or about NAFTA (a surprisingly large group), and many Republicans who don’t want to cede more power to the “Kenyan” in the White House. (Why’s that an issue? Because to pass TPP, Congress first has to pass “Fast Track” legislation, which neuters Congress’s role in the process. That mean the “Kenyan” wins in the minds of Tea Party legislators.)
So it’s going to be a struggle, either to pass or defeat TPP. Which is where 270 Strategies comes in. These ex-Obama campaign staffers have been hired to paint the TPP deal as “progressive” as a way to divide the left-leaning opposition. As we wrote earlier (emphasis mine):
The TPP wars are heating up, and the lobbyist money is flowing. The latest effort attempts to brand TPP as “progressive” instead of “neoliberal” — “neoliberal” being an obvious-by-now offshoot of the kind of pre-FDR “liberalism” that meant “privatized and controlled by the owners of wealth.”
Most people get that NAFTA was, to put it bluntly, a screw job for workers, that all the promises of new American jobs were lies, or at best, tales told by willing and well-rewarded dupes. That jury came in years ago. (If you don’t believe me, test it. Ask anyone you know, of any flavor of left or right, what they think of NAFTA.) It’s proponents needed a new angle, a new way to increase support and divide opposition. This, apparently, is that angle — “TPP, progressives support it too.”
TPP, 270 Strategies & Politico
Selling TPP as “progressive” is a stretch, but it’s an interesting move. It creates and leverages confusion on the left, and by dividing the left, attempts to finesse support for Fast Track, to sneak it past the finish line. Say “job killer” and the left is united against. Say “progressive” and “groundbreaking” and some on the left may be intrigued, may even be interested, may even be flattered enough to be tempted to agree.
This strategy may not work, but regardless, that’s the plan. 270 Strategies was hired to execute it — to put the confusion-sowing message bolded above, that TPP is a progressive treaty, into the mainstream press, to get that message mainsteam-blessed and make it part of “what everyone already knows.” As I said, a stretch, but that’s the job.
And just like magic, we suddenly see this in Politico (again, my emphasis):
RIFT AMONG PROGRESSIVES EMERGES ON TPP — Mitch Stewart, the battleground states director for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and Lydia [actually Lynda] Tran, the former national press secretary for Organizing for America, launched a campaign to encourage giving the president fast-track authority over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Daily Kos reports. In a press release announcing the launch of the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs, Stewart said the campaign, which will start in Oregon and Washington state, was “about ensuring America is competitive in the global economy, about expanding the market for ‘Made in America’ goods, [and] about leveling the playing field to protect American workers and jobs.”
Politico goes on to say that the AFL doesn’t agree, but note their headline at the top of the larger article:
“Progressives Split on TPP”
Nice — and excellent message placement by the newly formed “Coalition” and their helpmates, 270 Strategies. Was this Politico paragraph the result of a nice “catch” by Politico, whose writers naturally read the same Daily Kos non-front-page diaries we do? Or did someone at the media-connected “270 Strategies” whisper into Politico’s ear on behalf of the “Coalition” and get them to put their — as I said, confusion-sowing — frame and message in the headline and then to bury the criticism (“astroturf” operation) behind a link that few will click? If I had to put money on it, I’d say the latter.
Notice that the “Coalition”-friendly framing is threaded throughout the paragraph. And notice that the only goal of this piece — of this whole operation, in fact — is to brand TPP as “progressive” and the disagreement as a disagreement “among progressives.” They don’t care, at this point, if the disagreement is covered, so long as it’s framed as a left-on-left discussion.
Mission accomplished. If 270 Strategies tried to be successful, they succeeded. If they didn’t try to succeed, they got very very lucky. Your call on which way this went down.
Insiders Helping Insiders Help Their Paymasters Make Money
This is what professional message placement looks like, from the mouths of paid PR professionals to pages like Politico’s to your ears and eyes. This is the game as it’s played. My subhead above, as usual with me these days, isn’t snark, but a simple statement of fact. 270 Strategies is a child (and a tool) of insiders — in this case, Obama campaign professionals Lynda Tran, Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird. They’re paid to pass pro–Big Money (in this case, pro-TPP) messaging to pro-insider media organizations, who pass it to you in a “here’s how to think about this” way. Just like the Sunday “news” shows, which are also “message placement” targets and operations.
Where’s the money alluded to in my subhead above? Easy. Politico has the position it does because it was clearly well financed as a start-up and has a decidedly insider point of view. Look into the histories of their mainstream-connected founding editors. 270 Strategies was created with start-up money as well. Was it money that came from only the founding partners, Tran, Stewart and Bird? Perhaps, but as financing stories go, not very likely. Most operations like this have seed money, and seed money comes from people who have money and want more of it. (I’m open to correction on this, by the way. 270 Strategies is free to contact me, and I’ll print what they send in this regard.)
Imagine how easy, for groups like 270 Strategies, seed money is to come by if you’re (a) Obama-connected and (b) exist to do stuff like take down Mike Honda, a real progressive, and to prop up people like Cory (“Don’t Be Mean to Bain“) Booker and longtime Clinton insider Terry McAuliffe (see their our-clients page for more). Work like that pays good money going forward as well, since attacks on progressive office-holders and defense of neoliberal (DLC and New Dem) types is very well financed by those whom I called above — and I still think, accurately — the “paymasters” of the entire insider protection and expansion racket that runs the country. Why won’t Eric Holder jail a banker? If he does, where’s his next job going to come from? Insiders protecting insiders, so the money keeps flowing … to them.
As I said once in conversation with David Dayen on a Virtually Speaking broadcast, the only real story in the country is the “flow of funds” story — the flow of all available money upward, from the pockets of the many to the pockets of the few. Every problem we have stems from that.
Here you see perfectly how that flow is greased at the rubber-meets-road level — insider PR shops (270 Strategies) doing insider (corporate, pro-TPP) bidding by feeding insider-created framing (“Progressive Coalition for American Jobs”) to well-financed insider media like Politico.
Next stop for this messaging? All of the Sunday “news” shows, of course. But Morning Joe, nestled inside pro-Democratic MSNBC, would be my cable target. As near as I can tell, none of the evening MSNBC anchors are covering TPP, much less criticizing it, so there won’t even be an in-network counter-message.
More on This “Progressive Coalition”
I don’t want this piece to go too long, so I’ll leave you with one more note on TPP. Just as I’ve attempted to deconstruct the media “messaging” side, Dave Johnson, one of our go-to people on TPP, has dissected the group “Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.” I can do no better than to send you there. (Hint: It’s neither progressive, nor a coalition, nor about jobs, nor American. It’s a real “Four Pinocchio” operation.)
270 Strategies, a Bottom Line
We’ve had our eye on “270 Strategies” since they tried, and failed, to take out progressive House member Mike Honda. (Can you imagine Obama campaign alums targeting Honda? Talk about tagging yourself out of the gate as exactly what you are. It would be like targeting Alan Grayson or Keith Ellison — none are iffy progressives vulnerable from the left.)
Now they’re at it again, 270 Strategies, by working to pass TPP, one of Obama’s worst legacy wants and one of his most destructive initiatives. If he succeeds, we’ll have NAFTA–job loss on steroids, along with actually loss of sovereignty.
All so the people at 270 Strategies can cash an insider-financed paycheck. Not sure I like that trade.
Well, they managed to brainwash people into thinking Obamacare was progressive or universal when it was written by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
They also managed to “brainwash” people into thinking it was “reform.”
Progressives almost deserve it for choosing such a weak moniker as “progressive” (out of what? being too cowardly to even stick with liberal?). Ok, I’m biased as those I know that call themselves progressive voted for Zero a second time (while I was screaming my head off, not yet too cynical for outrage at the Zero admin). So at this point, I wonder how liberal most “progressives” even are. Very so in talk only, but vote for a scumbag like Zero when the chips are down?
“Say “progressive” and “groundbreaking” and some on the left may be intrigued, may even be interested, may even be flattered enough to be tempted to agree.”
Groundbreaking, that’s what they told me about fracking. Sorry. I’m here all week.
But seriously, I could see one coming to a conclusion: “there may be some “progressive” support out there for the TPP, I don’t know what it is but I’ve read politico that it exists …” But to agree with the TPP based on this is just not thinking period. Agree on what, that legislation that noone but corporate reps have seen is good? Even if it was, how would we have any way of knowing? And use some common sense and a little skepticism, is something that must be kept secret by the powers that be, more likely to be good or bad for the majority?
“[the campaign] was “about ensuring America is competitive in the global economy, about expanding the market for ‘Made in America’ goods, [and] about leveling the playing field to protect American workers and jobs.””
leveling the playing field is precisely something to fear, to a toxic waste dump slave labor factory? The whole world must be leveled to that? With only our 1% overloads more equal than others? Is the U.S. not competitive? What are we comparing to anyway, I suppose not a baseketcase like Europe’s economy. The problem is the jobs were all oursourced by previous trade agreements or otherwise discontinued.
No, “liberal” has been taken over by center right types like Obama, remember? So “progressive” is an effort to say that you are not a member of the Vichy Left. Of course, “progressive” is also being taken over by the careerists.
I’ve come out of the closet….. If anyone asks, I mutter “I’m a socialist” under my breath.
I feel better for it, at the risk of being labelled an enemy of the state.
Perhaps neologisms like “semisocialist” or “neosocialist” could be used.
Just call yourself a radical and avoid the (false) left/right dichotomy altogether.
Our call yourself a Worker, and really make TPTB sweat.
>Just call yourself a radical and avoid the (false) left/right dichotomy altogether.
“Radical” has a dual meaning as well. Going to the root…or drastic, extreme.
I’m starting to settle on “radical.” Because, dammit, on some issues the Overton Window wraps around; permaculture, surveillance, and putting banksters in jail, for example. In my experience with the right in my part of the world; YMMV.
“Anarcho-syndicalist” works for me!!
Yes! Very good!
works for me too — but I live in Spain.
Social Democrat. nfm
I am a leftist.
Well how about New Deal Reactionary?
Or New Deal Protectionist?
Or New Deal Reactionary Protectionist?
Some real phrase with a real meaning that can be fixed and explained.
Just wondering if any of these groups–Politico, 270 Strategies, Coalition of Progressive American Job Lovers (couldn’t resist), Pelosi et al., the “enrifted” progressives or ANYONE from Kenya–is claiming to have actually READ the text of TPP and, therefore, knows what the hell they are talking or “rifting” about?
As I said, just wondering.
Just to answer, no, they have not. Not for lack of trying, mind. (Though I’m sure a certain ‘Kenyan’ and witch from the House in fact have.)
Only a very small selection of the TPP/TTIP have been leaked public, and you see, it’s so important and sensitive that we lowly peasants, what with our vapors, might get flustered and somehow disrupt this critical work.
But don’t worry: just because our leaders are negotiating a secret treaty–that will probably never properly be ratified by our representatives before taking effect, overruling our national law without our informed consent to its contents, and behind closed doors with unelected business leaders–doesn’t make our country fascist.
Politico loves to carry water for insiders. But perhaps to avoid future confusion we should call ourselves those willing to bludgeon neoliberals to an inch within their lives. I’m sure we can come up with a snappy nickname.
Proud member of the Skunk Party.
“No crapification without representation!”
“The Bludgeoning of Neo-Liberals to within an inch of their Life Coalition” has a nice ring to it.
Why stop an inch short of total victory?
Nice report. It’s good (sarcasm) to see that neo-liberal Centrist Democrats are not being one-upped by the Koch-funded astroturf organizations of Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works
And I can’t believe I just created a sentence with three hyphenated terms.
Excellent post. In my neck of the woods, there is a good supply of 270 sucked-in-ers-to-be. Moderately successful people of good nature, enjoyable to be around, that have neither time nor inclination to be critical, never mind cynical, about dem dems. Tacked on to this group with such a fine line of distinction that you can’t really tell where one begins and the other ends are those who intuit their bread and butter is somehow connected to being receptive to these Vichy point-of-view packages. These are the ones who say, “Things have gotten so bad I just decided to turn it off, I don’t what to hear about it any more.” But of course they do hear about it and feel a sense of security in uncritically subscribing to the group-think frameworks provided for them. These are not stupid people, no matter how stupid they are.
The sad thing is how prevalent Obamapoligism and Demapologism is even among those far more active in politics than most. Those who will protest etc.. Obama (and a lot of sell out organizations) really did kill all hope of a real resistance (as planned I suppose), which is by necessity in my view, one that sees how bad things are, rather than thinking “but they (most dem politicians) mean well, we just need to appeal to their better natures …”. Yes write your congressperson, but don’t pretend they will be on your side without being forced to be, just because they have a D in front of their name.
“These are the ones who say, “Things have gotten so bad I just decided to turn it off, I don’t what to hear about it any more.””
Now that’s a position I have plenty of sympathy for. Why bother to hear yet another piece of news about how corrupt and malevolent the powers that be are?
But at what point does one “get off the news train”. See it’s quite possible to “get off the news train” at the destination of radicalism. As in yea, yea, yea I know how bad things are, we need if not necessarily a revolution, at least mass resistance, I support any and all efforts at resistance to all that which is destroying democratic accountability sure, but also human beings and the natural world all life depends on. Where I encounter it I will support it, if I am too weak and overwhelemed and afraid to stand, I will sit in resistance at least. And if I miss a piece of news who cares, for I think I know enough to have seen the big picture.
I’m hearing various riffs on that as well. What worries me, given that we appear to be headed into a crisis worse than 2008, is that turning it off = ignorance and vulnerability to panic and manipulation. Implicit in their attitude is a faith in elite capacities to eventually pull the chestnuts out of the fire, along with most of the rest of us, and that’s looking like a bad bet right now.
At least they can be encouraged to read NC and the like, some actually do.
Now that’s a position [turning it off] I have plenty of sympathy for.
Depends on the reasons. If it’s the same motive that leads people to cower in their cubes during a layoff because bumping into a “gonner” might rub off, then yes it’s human but not very admirable. If the reason is that you are basically aware, but don’t want to wallow in negativity, that’s a different story.
I like another version of those words.
In case anyone wants to use them.
We call it the BOG (Barack Obama Group) on Democratic Underground.
And it really is a bog.
Politico was established with old money – Riggs bank. I hope we move away from trying to make distinctions between liberal and neoliberal and now wonder if that was a distraction/distinction without a difference from the get go? Liberals have always been by and for the rich even when FDR was just saving capitalism, always been champions of death by spreadsheet and warmongers ta boot. Much the same could be said about the term Progressive… lilly-livered charlatans who couldn’t leave the Dem party – stand up for themselves in any meaningful way.
Liberalism was Coke. Neoliberalism is Coke Classic… and the other several dozen trim levels available at their vending machines in finer take-out joints and supermarkets everywhere. FDR “liberalism”, as you might surmise, was New Coke while it lasted. Wasn’t it clever of them to wear FDR as a mask when there were so many voters in their autumn years who would react with some degree of piety to the name and absorb some of the blow in the Party’s defense?
If I may, I think it is more useful to think of it this way: liberalism was a revolt on behalf of a rising middle class against the power and privileges of European ruling oligarchs and monarchs, who used their connections and influence at royal courts to gain economic monopolies and other privileges. The intent was to sweep away the power of these oligarchical and monarchical states to make room for greater economic freedoms and property rights for the rising middle class.
The culmination of liberalism was the creation of the American republic. However, it is crucial to note that under the Constitution of the new American republic, economic freedoms and property rights were subject to the Constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare. Modern sovereign nation-states all seek to promote the general welfare by imposing environmental, workplace, and consumer regulations on economic activity.
Neo-liberalism is a revolt, by a newly arisen class of corporatist oligarchs and plutocrats, against modern sovereign nation-state and their attempts to promote the general welfare by imposing environmental, workplace, and consumer regulations,
I mean how difficult would it be for the largest caucus in the U.S. House to stand up and say – There is not one aspect of TPP which we consider worth consideration or to be Progressive. And now let’s talk about revoking NAFTA! And when in the last 40 years have we ever seen Progressives act in such a manner?
Where are you finding all these Progressives? They aren’t in Congress, to be sure.
I don’t have polling data to back this up, but my informal observations collected over time inform me that at least half of all those who describe themselves as Liberal or Progressive think whatever the Democratic leadership is trying to push is ipso facto liberal and progressive. The Democratic initiative of the day is almost always corporatist and, um… authoritarian (to spare everyone the dreaded F word), but LibProgs are fine with it so long as the corporate authoritarian program is being enacted by a roster that reflects America’s diversity.
The Great Confounder is a living lie and has been his entire life. Even after 7 years of abject neoliberalism most Americans believe Obama is a progressive. No wonder his surrogates think the American people are fools.
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
— H. L. Mencken
Probably more true than ever. Unless there is a concerted and persistent counterattack, this pro-TPP propaganda may well work.
Some people don’t want to criticize Obama because they are afraid of being labeled “racist”. One would think that the example of Clarence Thomas shows that melanin does not imply progressivism, but I guess not.
You have to walk a fine line, what do you think it looks like if you are among blacks who may not be hyper-informed on the issues nor radical, like many people of many races are not (it’s not a race thing), and you are not black yourself, and all you do is bad mouth Obama?
What did he ever do to you? Do you just hate that the president is black? Can you just not stand his face because it’s black? And even worse if the conversation is building toward radicalism: CIA … coup … Obama …. war … theft …Obama … imperialism … money power … the banks …. Obama. And sometimes a left rant too on fire, can very well sound to an observer like the schizophrenic who talks to himself on the street. Slow down and start at the beginning.
What do I hate Obama? What did he ever do to me? Maybe I never loved him, but the passionate loathing started with civil liberties, I could not stand how the Obama administration has destroyed them (yes I know W, Bush is bad but I never thought otherwise). And then I started to really think about what having a “kill list” really meant ….
If you think about it, this business of, RIFT AMONG PROGRESSIVES EMERGES ON TPP, is a pretty sophisticated con (and very nicely dissected by Gaius BTW).
Nobody ever lost a Chicago election by calling the people f*ing retards.
That giant sucking sound again. Yesterday’s post on the real reason for Ireland’s once booming economy ,however short-lived, – a trading association with the EU (and not race to the bottom competition) is food for thought because on first glance we think Oh trade is good…. but no it isn’t unless it is dictated by political remedies and fiscal demands. The TPP is like a cabal of mercantilists all screwing their own populations because unless all people are screwed it’s just not democratic. But the newsflash is that Privateering doesn’t work and not even a secret, draconian treaty can make it work. If the EU is falling apart after 20 years think how fast the TPP will blow up. The reason contracts require mutuality to be valid is because they wont work otherwise. One party cannot be legally obligated to do something impossible. In this case the signatories to the TPP are all the international corporations around the Pacific Rim who are advising their respective governments. So on a government level the contracts have mutuality – they all agree to screw their own populations. But the catch-22 is that the real party of interest, who should be signing a deal that offers each side an equal benefit, is deprived of any and all contract rights. We the people. Now we can kinda see how that is going to unfold by looking at the mess the EU is in now, having thusly deprived the people of their sovereignty. So even if the TPP passes, it will fail miserably and there will be no cooperation left anywhere. Why not just let the international corporations buy and sell their cargo from each other and leave the rest of us out of their hopeless ponzi.
Then why hasn’t NAFTA run into the same brick wall?
Charles P. Pierce at Esquire is on this today as well:
Don’t know why the link refuses to work, but it’s esquire.com/politics . (Roughly.)
Nice find, goeff. Pasted as text above.
“And just like magic, we suddenly see this in Politico (again, my emphasis):
RIFT AMONG PROGRESSIVES EMERGES ON TPP — Mitch Stewart,”
Yes except are we ready to trust anything Politico has to say on the subject ? Such stories are themselves, usually PR and misinformation and part of the 270 treatment.
I want to suggest that the proper way to judge this or any trade deal is to ask: “Does this promote the general welfare?”
And I think the answer to the question is an emphatic, NO!
To understand why, we need some historical background. The United States was established as a republic at a point in world history where all other countries were ruled by monarchs and oligarchs. What sets the USA apart as a republic, so far as political economy is concerned, is the Constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare. What these trade deals actually are designed to do is to cripple that ability of any government to protect and promote the general welfare of its citizens. Which basically leaves corporations as a super-superior class of citizens.
Let’s examine the question, “What is the general welfare?” I think most reader of NC who are not monitors and / or trolls have a general level of agreement on protecting the environment, resisting racism, sexism, discrimination, unjust wars, etc., etc. But on economic questions, I continue to be amazed at the insistent boneheadedness of some people who still support free trade, or who don’t understand how money is created and allocated. What 270 Solutions is doing is counting on this boneheadedness on economic issues, in this case, free trade, to sunder apart progressive and liberal opposition to TPP and other trade deals.
Alexander Hamilton, the founder most responsible for creating the structure of the USA economy as our first Secretary of the Treasury once explained the general welfare is a historically indeterminate desideratum. This is because economic conditions and economic potential change as science and technology progress. Therefore, Hamilton argued, defining the general welfare, and how best to promote it, is the duty of the legislature representative of the people – Congress – to determine.
For example, it would have been a ludicrous waste of national resources and power if the Congress had agreed, at any point in our first century and a half of national existence, to the goal of putting men on the moon. But after the intellectual conception of the varied technologies such as aerodynamics, orbital physics, metallurgy, fuel chemistry, and so on, needed for successful rocketry, it then made absolute sense for a national commitment to putting men on the moon, in order to drive forward the development of scientific and technological knowledge in all these and many other areas.
So, what is the general welfare now, in early 2015? Climate scientists have recently begun renewing their warnings that we now have less than two years before reaching a tipping point. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we HAVE the technology, in hand, needed to stop climate change. But, building enough solar power, wind power, and other renewables to stop climate change in time is going to be a $100 trillion investment. That’s not my number, that’s the number from the November 2009 article in Scientific American by Mark Z. Jacobson, at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, and Mark A. Delucchi, at the Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California at Davis.
It’s pretty clear to me that the general welfare at this point involves ending our dependence on burning fossil fuels by moving forward with this $100 trillion investment. And given that there are some critical time limits involved, it further means that we need to do this as a crash program, over the next two decades. (And if the $100 trillion price tage freaks you out, just realize that over 20 years, that’s $5 trillion per annum, less than ten percent of the world’s GDP each year of $70-$80 trillion. Also $5 trillion is less than the total turnover in the world’s financial markets, including forex and derivatives, in a single day.)
So, does TPP help us to do this? No, it does not. We are going to have to make it increasingly unprofitable to be involved in fossil fuels, and increasingly profitable to be involved in renewable energies. That is going to require a web of government regulations, penalties, and incentives to drive economic activity, and the private funding of economic activity in certain directions. Since the very basis of TPP are the extrajudicial tribunals to adjudicate “investor-state disputes” in which corporations can sue governments for “lost profits” caused by the regulations of those governments, it should be clear that TPP is going to be a powerful obstacle, not a help, to moving the world off fossil fuels.
For example, what if BP or Shell were to decide to contest mandatory renewable energy standards? What if they argue that such standards are preventing them from realizing the full profit potential of their fossil fuel business? Under TPP and other “trade” treaties, BP or Shell could begin an investor-state dispute action. Even worse, the dispute would not be adjudicated in a court of law, but in an international tribunal of corporate lawyers. You have any doubt what decision they will reach?
So TPP and all these other trade deals are locking us into a status quo of world rule by corporations and investors, who are unwilling to invest in building the future, until they’re certain they can control the future and profit from it.
These trade deals lock poorer countries into the status of economic vassalage. They construct and perpetuate a world economic system based on countries ONLY building industries for export earnings, NOT for actual national development. At some point in the not-distant future, these treaties will have to abrogated and replaced with a system of international cooperation aimed at enabling the $100 trillion re-building of the world’s economies and transportation systems on a sustainable basis using renewable energies. This is a biological imperative. We either do this, or we die.