Bill Black: Obama & TPP – Every One That Doeth Evil Hateth the Light

Yves here. One of the infuriating aspects of the shamelessness of Obama’s pissy push to get fast track authority passed so he can shackle ordinary Americans with his toxic TPP is the shameless of his lies. For instance, as Black recounts, Obama stated that anyone in Congress can read the draft text. While technically accurate, as we reported earlier, the process was designed to be so difficult as to make it impossible to make anything resembling an adequate review:

And finally, for the Administration to insinuate that the TPP will result in greater transparency is dubious, given that it’s made it well-nigh impossible for anyone in Congress to do a proper review of the text. While the US Trade Representative technically allows access, in practice, that right is empty. The Congressman himself must read the text; no sending staffers or bringing experts allowed, and only staffers from the committees with direct oversight of trade bills (the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee) are allowed to join their bosses. The USTR insists that the Congressman specify what chapter he wants to review in advance. The USTR then insists that the negotiator of those chapters be present. Since those negotiators travel, it usually takes three or four weeks to find a convenient time.

No note-taking is allowed. The text is full of bracketed sections where if language is disputed, the revisions suggested by other countries are in the brackets, with the country initials listed but then redacted, making it difficult to read (as in you can’t even read this dense text straight through; the flow of the document is interrupted by the various suggested changes). Having people from the USTR staring over your shoulder is distracting. And it’s an open question as to whether asking them questions is prudent, since it gives the USTR insight into what the Congressman is concerned about.

Perhaps these Congressmen have exceptional powers of concentration. But I read cases and legally dense material with some regularity, and I find my concentration starts going after an hour to an hour and a half. And I also find it difficult to get much more than a general sense of a contract of any length in one pass. You need to go over it again and again to see how the various sections tie together to even have an approximate grasp of what it means. There’s simply no way that any Congressman has anything more than a very fuzzy idea of what is in the TPP and the TTIP.

They very fact that the Administration is going to such absurd lengths to prevent informed Congressional review should be sufficient reason in and of itself to turn down the Administration’s request for fast-track authority.

While Obama may have loosened up these restrictions in the last week, he’s pushing for a vote on fast track authority this week. Given the complexity of the bill (it runs to 29 chapters) and that Congressmen can’t drop everything they are doing and lock themselves in a room with the TPP’s text, any change in the procedures is mere window-dressing.

Please circulate this post to family, friends, and colleagues, and urge them to call their Representative Monday and tell him in no uncertain terms that you expect him to vote against fast track authority. You can read more about the disturbing provisions in that legislation here.

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly published with New Economic Perspectives

President Obama wants the world to know that he takes it personally that the Democratic Party’s base opposes his latest effort to sell out the people of the world to the worst corporations through the infamous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal. Obama blurted out at a press conference a number of conservative Republican memes as his sole basis for pushing TPP. He then launched personal attacks on Senator Elizabeth Warren and labor leaders (without naming them). Obama, who is famous for keeping his cool when criticized by the GOP, is thin-skinned when criticized by Democrats. Obama never raged at the Republicans’ “death panel” attacks on him, but he raged at Warren as supposedly making an equivalently openly dishonest attack on TPP’s secret drafting process.

One of the most reprehensible aspects of TPP is that it is (still) being drafted in secret – that it from us, the people – but with corporate lobbyists literally drafting their wish list. Obama made the critical mistake of personally attacking Warren, which is roughly equivalent to a small town mayor launching a personal attack on Jon Stewart. You know the results will be that Stewart will wipe the floor with the mayor.

Or, to move the metaphor to Hollywood, the character playing the President in the movie The American President warns his political opponent to limit his attacks to the President rather than his girlfriend: “you better stick with me, ’cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league.” Warren is way out of Obama’s league in this arena of protecting the American people from CEOs’ frauds and abuses. Obama is the one who infamously told the bankers he was protecting them from the American people’s demands for the restoration of the rule of law so that the banksters would be held accountable for leading the fraud epidemics that drove the financial crisis and the Great Depression. Obama, being Obama, phrased that in the form of a vile slander of the American people, claiming that they wanted to use “pitchforks” rather than prosecutions.

Here is the “money quote” from Warren and Senator Sherrod Brown’s letter responding to Obama’s attack.

“Executives of the country’s biggest corporations and their lobbyists already have had significant opportunities not only to read [the TPP text], but to shape its terms,” the letter reads. “The Administration’s 28 trade advisory committees on different aspects of the TPP have a combined 566 members, and 480 of those members, or 85%, are senior corporate executives or industry lobbyists. Many of the advisory committees — including those on chemicals and pharmaceuticals, textiles and clothing, and services and finance — are made up entirely of industry representatives.”

In sum, Obama stacked the committees to ensure that the CEOs’ lobbyists would completely dominate the secret drafting of TPP. And everyone in America know that the result of that has to be a Faux Trade agreement crafted to allow the CEOs to plunder with impunity.

Obama is demanding an additional reprehensible element – “fast track” – in which the cynical “CEOs’ Christmas in May” deal cannot be amended to remove even the most despicable provisions of the bill placed like land mines by the CEOs’ lobbyists. I don’t think opposing the TPP should be a partisan issue. Republicans should help lead the effort to stop Obama’s latest sell out.

TPP, of course, is being sold through a full court press of the economists who brought us the financial crisis and the Great Recession and the multiple Great Depressions in Spain, Italy, and Greece. Their lie, as always, is that this travesty of special interest deals drafted overwhelmingly by corporate lobbyists represents “free trade.” They first torture the language and truth before they torture the world.

TPP is the opposite of “free trade.” In the jargon of its economic supporters, it is a moldering midden hiding the secretly drafted “rent seeking” provisions designed to help CEOs enrich themselves at the expense of the people of the world. Adam Smith, who supported freer trade, warned over two centuries ago that when CEOs meet secretly it promptly turns into a conspiracy against the public interest and warned that CEOs use their power to aid their own interests at the expense of shareholders and the public.   Smith’s warned that it “ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Similarly, the even more conservative Frédéric Bastiat famously warned:

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

TPP is the legal system designed to authorize plunder with impunity. Economists are the priests that glorifies the CEOs’ plunder. When you allow CEOs’ lobbyists to secretly draft a deal and then make it impossible through “fast track” for the public or our representatives to vote down even the most despicable of these acts of CEO plunder you make it certain that the law will bring plunder rather than “free trade.”

There are five aspects of Obama’s deal that are indefensible and will cause immense damage to the base and the public at large – and Obama’s efforts to smear critics of these indefensible provisions adds a sixth aspect that cries out for rejection. It is indefensible to:

  1. Draft the deal in secret from the public – through classifying the TPP drafts as purported “national security” information. There was, and is, zero basis for classifying the drafts.
  2. Allow CEOs’ lobbyists to secretly draft provisions of the deal
  3. “Fast track” the bill, making it impossible to remove even the worst plundering through the lobbyists’ language
  4. Give away U.S. and other nations’ sovereignty to a kangaroo (non) court dominated by lawyers for CEOs
  5. Allow these kangaroo non-courts to destroy vital regulations and bankrupt nations at the behest of the worst corporate CEO plunderers – exposing the world to even more frequent and severe financial crises. I have explained these last two points in more detail in the past. These provisions of TPP are so bad that they are depraved – and we have abundant, terrible, and global experience under past, more limited Faux Trade deals with the same provisions to know that the word “depraved” is the appropriate description.

As Zach Carter explained, Obama’s “rage against the base” appears to be based overwhelmingly on criticism by Senator Warren and labor of the first indefensible element of the CEOs’ scheme to plunder.

Obama surprised reporters by appearing on a conference call with Labor Secretary Thomas Perez in effort to rebut criticisms from Warren and other key Democrats, who worry that his pending Trans-Pacific Partnership deal will exacerbate income inequality and undermine key regulations.

‘”The idea that we can shut down globalization, reduce trade … is wrong-headed,” Obama said on a conference call. “That horse has left the barn.”

While Obama did not mention Warren by name, much of his commentary appeared to be directed at her. The two have already traded barbs on TPP this week. Obama said in a TV interview on Tuesday that Warren was “just wrong” on the issue. Warren responded by sending a fundraising email to her supporters warning that Obama’s promises on the pact were hollow, since “people like you can’t see the actual deal.”

Obama’s argument is that members of Congress can “see” the text of the TPP now. His wording suggests that he continues to forbid even members of Congress to obtain copies of the draft, which is essential for effective review and demands for removal (except that Obama’s express goal is to remove Congress’ ability to remove even the worst acts of CEO plunder from TPP. It is not clear whether members of Congress are now allowed to take notes on the text as they read it. Obama forbade them do so – again, for the express purpose of making it impossible for them to oppose the lobbyists’ plunder. Zach Carter noted Obama’s legalistic parsing of his failed effort to refute Senator Warren’s criticism.

Obama seemed to implicitly reference Warren’s response on the call on Friday, noting that members of Congress can now view the text of the pact and will have months to review the agreement before voting on the final version.

“Every single one of the critics saying this is a secret deal, or send out e-mails to their fundraising base that they’re working to stop a secret deal, could walk over and see the text of the agreement,” Obama said. “When I just keep on hearing people repeating this notion that it’s secret — I gotta say, it’s dishonest. And it’s a little concerning when I see friends of mine resorting to those sort of tactics.”

Carter has a new article about Warren and Senator Sherrod Brown’s letter responding to Obama’s personal attacks on them. The letter is devastating.

“On Saturday, Warren and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) responded with a letter essentially telling Obama to put up or shut up. If the deal is so great, Warren and Brown wrote, the administration should make the full negotiation texts public before Congress votes on a ‘fast track’ bill that would strip the legislative branch of its authority to amend it.

‘Members of Congress should be able to discuss the agreement with our constituents and to participate in a robust public debate, instead of being muzzled by classification rules,’ Warren and Brown wrote in the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

In essence, Warren and Brown have invoked scripture.

John 3:20-21King James Version (KJV)

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Obama did not simply allow lobbyists to largely draft TPP in secret – he classified their drafts – treating them as national security secrets. This would be downright funny if it were not so wicked. It is most certainly revealing about the fact that Obama and the lobbyists knew that the drafts were so outrageous in their substance that Obama had to take preposterous steps to safeguard them from honest experts. Carter’s most recent article explains:

“Democrats and some Republican critics have been particularly frustrated by Obama’s decision to treat the TPP documents as classified information, which prevents them from responding to Obama’s claims about the pact in detail.

‘Your Administration has deemed the draft text of the agreement classified and kept it hidden from public view, thereby making it a secret deal,’ the letter reads. ‘It is currently illegal for the press, experts, advocates, or the general public to review the text of this agreement. And while you noted that Members of Congress may ‘walk over … and read the text of the agreement’ — as we have done — you neglected to mention that we are prohibited by law from discussing the specifics of that text in public.’

Warren and Brown appeared particularly miffed at being accused of lying.

‘We respectfully suggest that characterizing the assessments of labor unions, journalists, Members of Congress, and others who disagree with your approach to transparency on trade issues as ‘dishonest’ is both untrue and unlikely to serve the best interests of the American people,’ the letter reads.

Obama’s “Three-card Monte” tactics with regard to members of Congress ludicrously limited ability to effectively review and discuss the draft deal are a very old game in Washington, D.C. that was well-developed when I began working there forty-two years ago. But Obama is not simply being disingenuous about TPP being drafted in secret. “I gotta say” that he is “resorting to [the] tactics” of being “dishonest.”

TPP is a deal that Obama, the failed economists, and the CEOs knew could not survive the light. They were aware of the truth of Justice Brandeis’ famous observation that “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” TPP was drafted in secret to avoid that disinfectant. People who are doing straight up deals in the public interest would never allow lobbyists to draft the deal and would have welcomed criticisms of their drafts. The secret drafting of TPP largely by the CEOs’ lobbyists was designed to maximize the ability of CEOs to plunder.

Obama cannot deny these facts so he tries to steer the conversation to ignore the drafting by the CEOs’ lobbyists and the removal from Congress of the power to stop even the most depraved assault on the public interest by amendment. What Obama does not tell you is that only a tiny section of TPP’s critics get to see the draft – members of Congress. I have begun to explain how even their ability to criticize was deliberately hamstrung by Obama’s “Three-card Monte.” Anyone who understands Congress knows that the members are strongly dependent on their staffs doing the analysis of complicated legislation like TPP that has been carefully crafted by corporate lawyers to conceal its plunder behind abstruse legalese. It is like trying to spot the “Easter eggs” hidden in a single frame of movie – except that the CEOs’ lobbyists’ task is to ensure that they are all rotten eggs. Congressional staffers overwhelmingly lack the clearance to even review the TPP drafts. An administration “briefing” on a TPP draft is meaningless given the administration’s cheerleading for TPP and its successful efforts to ensure that Congress cannot “kick the tires.”

Someone like Hillary Clinton should plainly be taking a position on TPP, but Obama has given her the perfect out. H. Clinton is not permitted even the limited “Three-card Monte” sneak peak at the TPP drafts. And that illustrates the broader point. Anyone who really wanted TPP understood and the rotten Easter Eggs identified would have given the drafts to teams of people like me to review so we could strip them out of TPP. But Obama makes sure that independent experts like me are excluded from removing the many scandals that the CEOs’ lobbyists have hidden in the TPP legalese.

Mankiw’s Maulers: The Economists Who Mauled Our Economy and Democracy

The fact that experts are excluded from reviewing the draft TPP means that when the failed economists who designed our recurrent, intensifying financial crises sign letters expressing total support for TPP as drafted they literally do not know what they are talking about. N. Gregory Mankiw (the subject of the second installment in this series of articles about TPP) wrote in the New York Times that economists agreed on the desirability of TPP, citing a March 5, 2015 “Open Letter” to Congress that he had signed with other former Chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers. The list contains the names of the leading architects of the financial crisis and the Great Recession such as Mankiw, Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke, so it automatically fills one with shock and awe. The willingness of Mankiw’s Maulers to give unqualified support for a deal drafted primarily by CEOs’ lobbyists – without ever reviewing the deal – demonstrates that they no longer make even a pretense to intellectual honesty.

The reader may be wondering at this point why I think it is appropriate for me to criticize a deal I cannot read, but inappropriate for Mankiw’s Maulers to be cheerleaders for a deal they cannot read. The answer is that the positions are not parallel for six reasons. First, I am criticizing the deal for being drafted in secret and hidden from independent experts and the public. Second, there have been several leaks of portions of the TPP drafts and they establish that TPP is loaded with rotten Easter Eggs drafted by the CEOs’ lobbyists. Third, economic theory unambiguously predicts that if you let the CEOs’ lobbyists do the drafting the inevitable result is a Faux Trade agreement rather than a “free trade” agreement. Mankiw’s Maulers premised their support for TPP on the blind assumption, which we know to be untrue through economic theory, experience, and prior leaks of the TPP drafts, that TPP would create free trade. Fourth, we have centuries of experience that uniformly confirms that if the CEOs’ lobbyists draft the trade deal the result is a Faux Trade deal. Fifth, even the proponents of the TPP deal admit that it has the kangaroo court provisions that allow the massive fines that are designed by the lobbyists to destroy effective regulation. (Mankiw’s Maulers studiously refrain from noting this assault on U.S. sovereignty and our ability to adopt vital rules to prevent corporate crimes.) Sixth, Mankiw’s Maulers cannot take the position that once they learn about the rotten Easter Eggs secreted in the draft by the CEOs’ lobbyists they will support the removal of those acts of plunder. Their open letter explicitly (if euphemistically through a reference to “trade promotion authority”) supports “fast tracking” TPP in order to strip Congress of its normal constitutional powers to make amendments to eliminate these acts of plunder by CEOs.

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  1. Marko

    Both Obama and Republican supporters of the trade deals say that we’ll get more jobs and higher-paying jobs as a result of expanded trade. The working class is justifiably wary after having seen jobs being sucked offshore as a result of previous trade pacts. ” Not this time, ” say the proponents , “we’ve learned our lesson. These deals are better , much better.”

    Why , then , are the Republicans so against a quite modest Trade Adjustment Assistance funding of $ 575 million , insisting instead on an upper limit of $ 450 million ? And why is Obama pushing the Dems to accept the lower figure ?

    I mean , with the tsunami of high-paying jobs that will be created from trade expansion , we’ll never have to tap the TAA funds anyway , right ? Methinks somebody needs to invent a more coherent argument ( aka “lie” ).

    Everyone should monitor how their representatives vote on these bills , then write it down in their calendars for handy review around election time , 2016.

    1. cnchal

      . . . supporters of the trade deals say that we’ll get more jobs and higher-paying jobs as a result of expanded trade.

      It is a self serving lie.

    2. jrs

      Where is the compensation for lost expected future wages indeed.

      But LIz Warren thank you for bringing up the TPP to people, but using it for a fundraising email, on such absurdity is the world lost. Impeachment or it didn’t happen. The Dems who oppose this need to start impeachment against Obama now. For anything at all they can find against him if they can’t bring it directly for the TPP. Fast track is voted on by Congress next week, how fast can impeachment be voted on, don’t know if it will pass, but the Republicans might vote for it. Maybe we can get this guy impeached before the TPP itself actually passes.

      1. different clue

        It would be funny to see a few economic patriot Dems try to get impeachment against Mister President.
        Every TreasonDem and every Republican would oppose those efforts. Obamatrade has the full support of the Catfood Coalition composed of Republicans and Treason Democrats. But I support the few Patriot Democratis in the House if they want to try for Impeachment. As the “Angel Eyes” character said to the dying-of-gangrene Union Officer in The Good , The Bad and The Ugly . . . . ” I wish you luck.”

        The only hope for Impeachment would be if enough Patriot Dems could find enough Tea Party Reps who hate Obama personally more than they hate workers economically and social-classly. Maybe they could form a Patriot Coalition against the Catfood Coalition composed of Treason Dems for Free Trade, Republican Class Warriors for Free Trade, and Congressional Black Racist Caucus fanclub groupies for Free Trade because First! Black! President! Ever!

  2. steviefinn

    Fran Tot.
    Thanks for that link – Obama a puppet with many strings, good to see Warren standing up & you never know, well it could happen, we live in hope, it’s Ok to dream etc, it might lead to an actual surge of progressivism within the Democrat party. I wish you guys luck with that anyway as I slowly sidle out of this room.

  3. Ulysses

    Opposition to fast-track has very deep bi-partisan support among non-plutocrat Americans of all political persuasions. Indeed, in Ohio, Republicans are even more opposed to fast-track than Democrats. Republican Congresscritters are starting to realize that not just dirty hippies are vehemently opposed to fast-track. Many conservative constituents have already told their GOP Rep.s that supporting fast-track is an unconstitutional act of betrayal.

    1. different clue

      But most or all of their Rep party officeholders are FOR Obamatrade. How can the Republican voter-citizen opposition to Obamatrade be weaponized and deployed in one week so effectively so as to torture and terrorise
      the Republican officeholders into voting against the Obamatrade they love, worship and support?

  4. run75441

    I wrote this earlier and parts of it are from Warren’s comments:

    For more than two years now, giant corporations have had an enormous amount of access to see the parts of the deal that might affect them and to give their views as negotiations progressed. But the doors stayed locked for the regular people whose jobs are on the line,” Warren wrote. “We’ve all seen the tricks and traps that corporations hide in the fine print of contracts. We’ve all seen the provisions they slip into legislation to rig the game in their favor. Now just imagine what they have done working behind closed doors with TPP.”

    Besides watering down Dodd-Frank’s ownership restrictions (clip above) on risky derivative ownership (which Obama agreed to changes to requiring TBTF to separate risky investment ownership from TBTF and placing them in separate corporations not eligible for Main-Street-Rescue) during budget negotiation with the Repubs; Warren, Brown and other Senators have pointed out other potential issues with the TPP and fast tracking it besides fighting this one.

    – “the deal could include provisions that would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. policies before a judicial panel outside the domestic legal system, increasing exposure of American taxpayers to potential damages.”

    – “grant foreign companies access to U.S. markets without being subject to restrictions on “predatory or toxic financial products’ and that would restrict the U.S. government’s ability to impose capital controls, such as transaction taxes, on international firms.”

    The TPP is not really about free trade amongst countries as much as it dictates who and who will not feel the impact of it. Corporations and a relative few at the upper end of the income chain have benefited the most from TPP agreements in the past at the expense of the lesser income classes (The China Syndrome: Local Labor Market Effects of Import Competition in the United States).

    Most of the countries included in this TPP agreement are poorer and have a greater abundance of Labor. The typical result for all countries in the agreement is total income increases with the end result in the US being most of the income is distributed upwards in the income chain. Unskilled labor producing goods in a highly skilled country will be worse off as international trade increases in relation to the global market producing a similar or the same product. In relation to the global market, a first world production worker is a less abundant factor of production than Capital when compared to 3rd world production workers. As Spencer England has shown, productivity gains have been skewed heavily to Capital at the expense of Labor.

    As I stated no TPP will be good for the middle class and a genuine trade agreement would also impact the middle class in an adverse manner even if there was an increase in total income unless there were stipulations and policies within it. President Obamas claiming Warren and other populist opponents of the TPP are wrong is not true as there is no indication this TPP will impact the middle class in a manner he suggests. Furthermore cloaking it in secrecy from the US and presenting it in a similar manner for an “up or down vote” as the former Bush administration did does not foster support for it. Main Street has already paid too much for corporations and rescuing Wall Street from their gambling.

  5. V. Arnold

    And so, just what is surprising?
    That Obama lies so publicly, so easily?
    It’s the recent normal; and you’d better learn to fight it; viciously, uncompromisingly, rightfully, and with all your might.
    In a sense, it’s really the last battle; loose this one and nothing else matters…

    1. mad as hell.

      It does not get any easier to see that someone is lying and someone is telling the truth.

      “As plain as the nose on your face”.

      Yet when you have a silver tongue,it adds to the mix of the face and the nose.So the truth gets contorted and the ease of manipulating and confusing the truth is a result of that tongue.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I disagree. I know tons of people on the right and left who can’t stand to hear Obama speak. His con works only on those who want to be conned.

          1. kimsarah

            I agree with your disagreement. It’s really hard not to turn my head and cover my ears when he’s on.

          2. participant-observer-observed

            Same old “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” used car salesman talk

  6. Norman

    Why do I keep getting the feeling that “O” is giving the middle finger to the American public in most everything he does? It seems that since he’s the poster boy here, he’s making up for all those years of discrimination, as in “now it’s your turn”. Considering all that has taken place in his 6+ years as P.O.T.U.S. and his appointments of individuals, I wonder, is he setting up his wife for a future run as well? After all, if “Slick Willie” & the “Bushies” do it, why can’t he? Read somewhere, that he’s perhaps moving to New York after leaving office, as there’s not enough open space in Chicago to defend his turf by the S.S. Oh goodness, is that a slip of the tongue?

    1. OIFVet

      BO must have felt very discriminated while attending elite private high school in Hawaii, them moving on to a Harvard law degree, and finally being promoted by the Chicago Machine and making invaluable connections with rich patrons like the Crowns, the Pritzkers, and various real estate hustlers.

      Look, discrimination was and is very real, but Obama had a privileged track to the top. So let’s not even contemplate that his policies are a payback for discrimination. They ain’t. They are a payback to his sponsors, to whom he pledged eternal allegiance in return for getting that extra push to get him to the very top of the heap of political servants to corporations and billionaires. .

  7. Cassiodorus

    Capitalism, we are told, has always been about risk. Jonathan Levy’s “Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk” is a history of risk as it was characterized in the US in the 19th century. As the blurb for the book says, “Until the early nineteenth century, “risk” was a specialized term: it was the commodity exchanged in a marine insurance contract. Freaks of Fortune tells the story of how the modern concept of risk emerged in the United States. Born on the high seas, risk migrated inland and became essential to the financial management of an inherently uncertain capitalist future.”

    In attempting to create international treaties which guarantee profits for multinational corporations, Obama and his Republican friends suggest once again (the first time was in the bank bailouts) that we can have capitalism without risk. In Obama-capitalism, the biggest players in the capitalist system can play at “risk” (not to be confused with the Parker Brothers game “Risk,” which is about a historically-prior form of global conquest), and if they “lose” there will always be some sort of institutional entity to grant them a compensatory payoff.

    This removes an important justification for capitalism — that the capitalists are in fact “risking” capital and are thus entitled to the profits they make. In reality, capitalists now constitute a permanently-subsidized welfare class masquerading at “risk.”

    1. susan the other

      That sounds right. The TPP isn’t a trade deal, it is a complicated insurance policy protecting nothing but corporate capital in exchange for attaining free access to the US market, and the other members’ markets. The very idea of such open markets assumes competition will be fierce. But that is hardly case when everything is insured. This trade pact is really just a one-sided insurance contract. Heads corporations win, tails you lose. It is odd that national governments are even required to sign on because it has everything to do with big private corporations and nothing to do with nations. Why nations are negotiating this weird insurance policy is the question. What is in it for all those governments? My guess is that there is a big fat military bribe at the heart of the agreement. The US will be the protector of all countries in the Pacific Rim who agree to free trade. Talk about an insurance policy.

      1. Joe

        I don’t think there is much in it for the governments per se, but there are huge payoffs for certain government employees. You can thank the SCOTUS for legalizing, entrenching and encouraging corruption here.

    2. Chauncey Gardiner

      Yes, with all their hidden subsidies, contracts, forbearances, and a captive Fed, these large transnational banks and corporations are the biggest Welfare Queens on the face of the planet. So why not front-run these “trade agreements” and nationalize their sorry asses?

      “Privatize the profits, socialize the losses,” indeed.

    3. John Yard

      It’s called State Capitalism. Simply, the fusion of Capitalism and the State apparatus. Look at the track record of Japan, the EU. This is the future.

  8. roadrider

    Obama, being Obama, phrased that in the form of a vile slander of the American people, claiming that they wanted to use “pitchforks” rather than prosecutions.

    I was for pitchforks.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Me, too. A measure of our desperation.

      Granted, I prefer electoral ones, on the ground that no actual blood is shed. I’m actually afraid our present course is leading us directly to the torches-and-pitchforks option when the people catch on.

  9. Nomad

    In other “free” trade news:
    Radiating Americans: Fukushima rain, Clinton’s secret food pact

    Before you all get giddy about bashing the “leftist” Clintons, remember, they “triagulated” and did the bidding of the right which is where these pro-business trade pacts and deregulation originated.

    If it was a republican administration, they would do the same.

    Hypocrisy is all I see from both parties.

    1. different clue

      As I remember, the “left coast” liberals all supported Free Trade. Let them eat more tuna. Let them eat fukusashimi. Let the traitor scum Pelosi eat fukusashimi till she glows and eat tuna till she can take her own temperature.

        1. different clue

          Yes. Yes to all three.

          Fukusushi, fukusashimi AND China-mercury tuna for Pelosi. And for every other supporter of Free Trade. And let them eat more Pacific seaweed, too.

  10. Code Name D

    No more warning shots across the bow. When Warren justly quotes the Bible, the ship of Obama begins to take on water.

    But don’t forget about the SS Hillary, larking in the shadows.

      1. edmndo

        The one good thing about Hillary’s inevitable defeat next year is that it may finally destroy the corporate Democratic Party

        1. sd

          I expect Bloomberg to enter the race as a third party candidate just months before the elections, bypassing the primary process. If he enters, he will win as desperate Americans rush to avoid voting for either a Bush or Clinton. I seriously hope I am wrong.

          On the up side, maybe we will get funds for dedicated federal bike lane highways.

          Sunday cynicism.

          1. Just me

            Jebbie’s going nowhere near the nomination. I suspect its going to be Walker-Rubio running as “compassionate conservatives” and that spells big trouble for Madame Secretary. Obama’s only contribution to America will be that he kept Hillary out of the White House twice

        2. dkmich

          And the one good thing about a Republican victory next year is that it may finally destroy the corporate and batshit crazy Republican Party. The Thirdway crowd is nothing more than a bunch of U Chicago apostles peddling austerity and trickle down again.

    1. participant-observer-observed

      Interesting that it didn’t take long for BHO to throw the HRC campaign into the mix by alienating everyone left of E Warren and not to mention everyone who bailed after watching BHO give away the Bush tax cuts. Splitting the Dem party can only be part of the calculus here, because who needs a 2-party non-system when there is a TPP/TISA etc? Such archaic contrivances are rendered obsolete.

      Sounds like Potus is channeling Jamie Dimon again, and this time the barb is aimed at Liz Warren, since she called Dimon out on the Senate floor last December.

      What are the legal precedents for giving POTUS fast-track authority? Surely the Tea Party must cringe at the idea of giving HRC fast-track as much as BHO?

      1. different clue

        How can we weaponize Tea Party opposition to Fast Track for Obamatrade? How can we torture and terrorise the Progressive Stockholm Syndrome Democrats into abandoning Obama and the Catfood Democrats and joining the Tea Party against Fast Track for Obamatrade? In the week to 10 days remaining?

  11. TomDority

    Because the public has no access to the language, most in Congress do not have real access (like haVing your own books when in study)…..then, why not make statements about the trade agreements put it in as allegations and force it to be rebuttal upon actual language in this attrocity.
    Who was it that said something along the lines ‘the only true defense of democracy is an informed citizenry’

  12. JTMcPhee

    I was personally involved, decades ago, in another instance where big Corporatocracy executives and lobbyists goit to dictate text in a publicly important document. It was an EPA report on the crapification of the Tittabawasee River and Saginaw Bay in Michigan by Dow Chemical. Reagan’s minions gave the draft report to a Dow exec, who HD a rewrite done removing all “damaging” references and conclusions. Only by release of the two drafts to a newspaper that still investigated and reported stuff like this (Detroit Free Press) and the expenditure of a lot of political capital by a few members of Congress did this result in any consequences for a sacrificial set of Reagan’s Raiders. And the dioxins, dibenzofurans and other persistent toxins are mostly still in the watershed. The Dow people, of course, don’t live anywhere in the neighborhood.

    Futility is a learned emotion…

  13. TedWa

    “Third, economic theory unambiguously predicts that if you let the CEOs’ lobbyists do the drafting the inevitable result is a Faux Trade agreement rather than a “free trade” agreement.”

    This describes every single rescue of homeowners Obama instituted, Dodd/Frank and you name it. These free trade treaties are not about free trade and the documents themselves are only about 5% about trade anyway (is my understanding) – the rest is corporate legalese to open up world markets to plunder. He’s played the in-secret lobbyists game writing the laws with willing or bought Congress critters in the past, but this is the first time it’s been solely lobbyist written laws and he’s protecting them by calling them national security secrets. This would be the final sell-out capping a career of notoriously seditious behavior. Maybe now the people will get to see what Obama really is? One can hopey changey. Calling my Congress people Monday and I hope you will too.

  14. timbers

    “Obama blurted out at a press conference a number of conservative Republican memes as his sole basis for pushing TPP. He then launched personal attacks on Senator Elizabeth Warren and labor leaders (without naming them). Obama, who is famous for keeping his cool when criticized by the GOP, is thin-skinned when criticized by Democrats. Obama never raged at the Republicans’ “death panel” attacks on him, but he raged at Warren as supposedly making an equivalently openly dishonest attack on TPP’s secret drafting process.”

    Democrats, Obama hates you. Can it get any clearer?

    1. different clue


      Most of your own “Democratic ” officeholders hate you as well. Can it get any clearer than that?

  15. Jill

    Double Secret Fast-track Probation would seem to be a fairly straight forward “no” vote. Most Congressional constituents, even if they might ultimately approve of TPP, would be against a vote made under secretive conditions. Because this would be an easy argument to present in defense of a “no” vote, why isn’t it being made. The fact that it isn’t really being made by many Congress critters, makes this citizen believes the fix is in. I will still be calling my representative but I think we the people need a different strategy here. We need it pronto!

    I just attended a talk at U of Michigan Ford school. One of the speakers compared the difference between how most people wanted their Congress person to vote and how the Congress member actually voted. The actual vote had almost no relation to what the majority of voters wanted. It did however, correlate almost completely with the wishes of top donors and those in the top percentile of wealth. Although Obama is an odious liar who also tortures and murders, he isn’t doing this alone. We need to ask why so many in Congress willingly approve of Obama’s terms on financial issues, be they R’s or D’s.

    As citizens who are not wealthy or top donors or who may be wealthy and have a conscious, we aren’t getting anywhere. I’m looking for suggestions that might work because it is obvious that we are not having success at this point in time. Public shaming might be a good strategy.

    1. different clue

      The trick is how to torture and terrorise the officeholders into voting in line with constituent opposition to double secret Fast Track? How to torture and terrorise the officeholders into voting against the multi-million dollar private sector payoffs they can get after leaving office if they help Fast Track win in the meantime?

      And how to torture and terrorise them into rejecting Fast Track in the week to ten days remaining?

  16. susan the other

    I doubt that Hillary is not being allowed to read the TPP. She responded to reporters that her position was in favor of it because the US needs to become “competitive” in order to survive in this brave new world of international trade. That’s the same old blablahbla we’ve been conned with for 40 years. What new circumstances must we become even more competitive to survive? In fact it is a delusion. Because competition is being invoked to achieve a trade surplus for everyone. And yet, we know that we can’t all trade our way to prosperity at once. It’s irrational. We are confusing ideology with reality. Like the words “productive” versus “productivity”. We blithely assume they mean approximately the same thing. But they are antonyms. They mean opposite things. Productive is a well balanced economy producing equality for all. Productivity is an extraction process taking capital out of the economy and giving it exclusively to “investors”. So when Hillary talks vacuously about competitiveness, she is making no sense whatsoever. If our economy ever becomes productive, we will certainly have to regulate competition in many ways.

    1. jrs

      Oh who knows maybe people generalize from their individual situations where they feel they have to compete economically in the job market to survive (and they aren’t wrong about that in the existing system, though I wish they also understood what could be accomplished with solidarity), to some kind of national economic competitiveness being necessary for survival.

      But in fact it is the opposite is needed for survival not just environmentally though of course that’s huge, but see Ian Welsh’s recent articles on trade, they were quite good, I think he is right on how disastrous it is for a nation not to be at least food self-sufficient. Hard to do if the entire country is a giant drought like Saudi America (but they have a valuable enough commodity to trade so unless that runs out – world’s smallest violin for them) but it is possible for many countries including the U.S. (the entire country is not California). Trade is fine for spices but not food, even trade for the spice of life, fine whatever, but not the staples of life.

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      Good points!

      What new circumstances must we become even more competitive to survive?

      The obvious is always hidden in plain sight.

      As an aside, I also suspect Hillary can read the TTP or any of its evil twins any time she wants. I also suspect it is the last, coma inducing, brain dead thing, from her royal perspective, she would ever want to actually do. This thing could never compete with the Constitution for “tear offs” next to her toilet, so why bother?

      1. rich

        While Hillary Was Secretary of State, Foreign Corporations in Favor of TPP Paid Bill over a Million Dollars
        Could Clinton’s silence on the matter be due to a serious conflict of interest?
        One major Democrat who has refused to outright support or oppose the agreement in its current form is Hillary Clinton. “Well, any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security,” she told the New Hampshire local media. “We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and the skills to be competitive.”

        However, as Secretary of State, she was part of the negotiating team for the deal, calling it the “gold standard” of trade agreements. In a statement she gave in the summer of 2012, she said the agreement would “benefit” the United States. Watch it:

    3. m toro

      TO: Susan the other

      Thanks for an easy to understand description of what TPP would do.

      “The TPP isn’t a trade deal, it is a complicated insurance policy protecting nothing but corporate capital.”

  17. TedWa

    These trade agreements are really not about trade, but that is argument they use to spur talk of “America’s competitiveness” to deflect the masses from what these trade agreements are really about. He’s been walking the fine line between law and reason for a long time, I hope he finally slips on this one. Sedition anyone?

  18. Brooklin Bridge

    Good points!

    What new circumstances must we become even more competitive to survive?

    The obvious is always hidden in plain sight.

    As an aside, I also suspect Hillary can read the TTP or any of its evil twins any time she wants. I also suspect it is the last, coma inducing, brain dead thing, from her royal perspective, she would ever want to actually do. This thing could never compete with the Constitution for “tear offs” next to her toilet, so why bother?

  19. Joe

    Don’t forget that a large part of what is considered trade, is no such thing. If Volkswagon or whoever makes parts in Mexico and then ships them here to be assembled into autos, that is counted as trade.

    The language in and of these things is so debased, it’s hard to even have a meaningful and honest dialog concerning them. And… that is exactly as intended.

  20. Oregoncharles

    Footnote to the introduction: as quoted, Obama actually said the “critics” could go read it anytime they wanted. Since the majority of critics are not in Congress, that was an especially barefaced lie.

  21. EmilianoZ

    It is in fact not even in the interest of the politicians themselves to pass such a bill. By doing so, they’re curtailing their own power and therefore their own ability to extract goodies from the plutocrats. Their power in respect to the plutocrats resides in the fact that they can give them what they want, but also take away from them. The TPP would considerably reduce this.

    In the traditional framework of corruption, goodies are exchanged simultaneously. In the western democracy framework, politicians receive their pay-off long after the fact. Once they’re out of office, they’re offered lucrative positions in finance or whatever. In theory, the plutocrats could refuse to pay an out-of-office politician who no longer has any power over them. But they know that politicians, as a class, can still punish them. For instance, if Obama is not made filthy rich after leaving office, future presidents could very well doubt the gratefulness of the plutocrats and take away from them to show them who’s in charge. The TPP would take away this very power, the TPP would make politicians toothless as a class.

    In this particular case, the interests of the politicians are in fact aligned with ours. The politicians should know how the plutocrats treat those who are not useful or have no power over them. If the politicians do not reject the TPP for us, they should do it for themselves as a class.

    1. buffalo cyclist

      Hey, I thought Bill Clinton got paid $500,000 a speech because he was really, really enlightening to hear speak!

    2. buffalo cyclist

      There is a solution to this problem. Tax all income of ex-presidents that exceeds a certain amount (say $500,000) at a 100% tax rate.

    3. different clue

      That is only true for those officeholders who seek ego-gratification through excercising power in office and who seek ego-gratification through staying in office to excercise that power.

      Those officeholders who seek millions of dollars in the private sector after leaving office are incented to vote for Fast Track.

  22. nat scientist

    Fast-Track Disclosure of all lobbyist emails and correspondence will usher in the new, improved transparency of the Chelsea Clinton era?

  23. Oregoncharles

    “. It is not clear whether members of Congress are now allowed to take notes on the text as they read it. Obama forbade them do so”
    Really? Seriously? And they let him? Isn’t that an impeachable offense?
    This situation is essentially fraudulent, and the fraud is BY CONGRESS. They make the laws, not the President. They could cut off his salary, or the Trade Representative’s, or the budget for the whole office. They could rewrite the classification laws to give themselves a veto – if they didn’t, they were criminally negligent.

    The whole situation is kayfabe, fake. Congress is the boss, not the President. If they let him push them around, as they are doing, it’s for dishonest reasons of their own.

    I’m not challenging Black’s account here, though I think it’s odd that he and Yves don’t point out the essential fakery going on. I think it’s true. I just think the ultimate blame belongs with Congress.

    1. kimsarah

      It seems odd that Senator Warren seems to be the lone voice of reason in opposing this deal.
      It seems feasible with this Congress that the deal is already done, and the votes counted, so that it passes — albeit narrowly — and gives those in vulnerable re-election campaigns cover by letting them vote no.

      1. different clue

        The only way to retro-destroy that cover after the fact is to if Fast Track wins, to get every national -level Democratic officeholder and officeseeker defeated in every election forever after. Until the Democratic Party is exterminated from existence.

        Because if the Senate Majority Party containing a Democratic-brand majority permits Fast Track to pass with key Democratic Senator votes, then the Dem Party stands revealed as every bit the Showbiz
        Pro Wrestling sports team which Lambert Strether has analyzed it to be.

    1. Vatch

      It’s not just web site commenting that favors the fatuous bread and circus distractions. Millions of people are more interesting in voting for dancers and singers than for (or against) the politicians who will actually affect their lives.

      Over 110 million votes were cast in the first season, and by season ten the seasonal total had increased to nearly 750 million.

      There were fewer than 130 million votes in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election. Admittedly, the total votes for American Idol were for several different weeks, so I’m comparing apples to oranges. Still, I think we can be confident that many of the people who vote for singers or dancers (Dancing With the Stars), rarely or never vote in governmental elections.

      There are plenty of other distractions, such as the Super Bowl, March Madness, and the Oscars. Compare the high interest in those events to the tepid 40% turnout in the recent Chicago runoff election, and the dismal 30% turnout in the Ferguson, Missouri, election.

      1. different clue

        How many of those people used to be voters and have given up on the process after so many betrayals, double-crosses, digitally faked and defrauded elections and so forth?

        1. Vatch

          No doubt some are discouraged. But U.S. voter turnout numbers have been low for many decades; see this web site:

          The last time that more than 70% of the U.S. eligible voters actually voted in a Presidential election was 1900. And the percentages in off year elections (1902, 1906, … , 2010, 2014) are usually much lower than in the Presidential election years. The richest 0.01% like low voter turnouts – it makes the elections easier to manage.

  24. Patrick Watson

    Yes, the TPP drafts should be unclassified. What’s interesting is that the House and Senate both have statutory power to declassify it (or any other government document) by majority vote. They can do this independently of the executive branch, and independently of each other. Obama cannot veto it.

    It would be very interesting for Sen Warren to push for such a vote. Of course it would fail, but imagine the freakout from other members who had to go on record for keeping it secret from their voters.

    Barring that, a Senator or Member who has access to choice parts could read them into the record, then claim immunity from prosecution under the Speech & Debate clause.

    1. different clue

      It would be a Kamikaze move on her part. The whole Catfood Shitocrat establishment would work to defeat her in her next election. And she knows it.

  25. David

    Mankiws comment on “all economists agreeing with free trade ” makes me think of a statement not like all biologists agree on evolution or climatologists on global warming but more of something like well all astrologers agree……

  26. qufuness

    This Wednesday Shinzo Abe will be the very first Japanese PM to address a joint session of the Congress of the United States, Japan’s 2nd largest trading partner. Japan has been pressuring Congress to fast-track the agreement, indicating that it finally is paying more than lip service to the effort to close the deal, and Abe’s week-long visit will no doubt be pushing that agenda. Why? For a free hand to continue currency manipulation? Maybe. Right now Abe seems intent on playing the security card, which means saying what his hosts want to hear, that only a blood pact between Japan and the US can keep the Chinese at bay.

    The TPP and its ugly sister, the TTIP, are designed to bind Japan and Germany to the US and keep them from gravitating toward China and Russia. If the agreement passes, the restrictions on the sovereignty of these two determined countries seem almost calculated to alienate them in time. Is the oligarchic pie big enough?

  27. pdooley

    ‘”The idea that we can shut down globalization, reduce trade … is wrong-headed,” Obama said on a conference call. “That horse has left the barn.”

    Stolen horses can be returned to the barn, and as for the horse thieves…

    1. frosty zoom

      it seems horse thieves get beat up by police on the barren desert ground as we all watch from above.

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