Senate Democrats Work with Republicans to Throw Medicare Under the Bus as Part of TPP Fast Track Sausage-Making

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I got an email blast on Medicare and TPP from Democracy for America, so I immediately discounted it because DFA, and besides, there wasn’t any linky goodness, but then I thought “This could be really bad,” so I looked into it. Here’s the paragraph in question from DFA:

There’s a big — brand new — attack on Medicare that’s just been added in the Senate to the Fast Track bill for the TPP. The bill would cut a whopping $700 million from Medicare, hurting seniors who need access to health care.

That’s right, Republicans insisted on cutting Medicare spending to pay for a Trade Adjustment Assistance program that Democrats got added to the bill in order to support workers who lost their jobs due to trade deals like the TPP.

This would be execrable sausage-making for both Democrats and Republicans. For Democrats, Medicare is one of the remaining reasons to think they’re committed to social insurance; and for Republicans, their base — remember “Keep your government hands off my Medicare”? — skews old.

So my questions are:

1) Has Trade Adjustment Assistance been added to the TPP Fast Track bill?

2) Has $700 million been cut from Medicare as a result?

3) Does Trade Adjustment Assistance serve any public purpose?

Has Trade Adjustment Assistance been added to the TPP Fast Track bill?

In a word, no. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA) and the Trade Promotion Authority (“Fast Track”) are separate pieces of legislation, so when DFA says that TAA has “just been added in the Senate to the Fast Track bill for the TPP,” that’s not correct. Still, that doesn’t mean that a deal wasn’t cut, and that seems to be just what’s happened. National Journal:

The Trade Adjustment Assistance reauthorization bill hasn’t received as much attention as the fast-track trade authority bill, but Democrats see it as a priority: The program helps workers who have been put out of a job because of foreign trade with job-training and placement as well as health-insurance costs. The House and Senate are expected to move the bill in tandem with the fast-track trade measure, said an aide to Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who hashed out the trade deal with Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Paul Ryan, both Republicans.

And the bills indeed moved in tandem; the Senate voted for closure of both Fast Track and TAA last Thursday, May 14.

Has $700 million been cut from Medicare as a result?

Because that’s a lot of money, even today.[1] In a word, yes.[2] Modern Health Care:

The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, sponsored by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), would rely on $700 million in reduced Medicare spending in 2024 to pay for [sic] healthcare coverage and other benefits for workers who lose coverage because of any agreements negotiated under fast-track trade authority sought by President Barack Obama.

The $700 million in savings would be achieved by increasing Medicare cuts that were part of the sequester by 0.25% in 2024.

Or in more colorful language:

“Apparently using Medicare as a piggy bank to pay for [sic] everything under the sun has become the new legislative norm for Congress,” Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in a statement to National Journal. “Rather than balancing priorities or considering a penny of new revenue, congressional leaders are proposing to once again funnel Medicare resources into unrelated programs and fixes—this time it’s the trade adjustment assistance program.”

Or in dry lawyerly language:

The full House and Senate have not yet approved the bills, but it suggests that lawmakers are getting increasingly comfortable with using future Medicare sequestration to fund Medicare and non-Medicare programs.

So, Congress is preparing to loot Medicare not just for this one program, TAA, but as standard operating procedure. I think that qualifies as “throwing Medicare under the bus.”

Does Trade Adjustment Assistance serve any public purpose?

Senator Sherrod Brown — who’s done good work on TPP — describes[3] the four-decade-old TAA as follows on his site:

Administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), TAA is a federal program that identifies workers who lose their jobs or have their hours or wages reduced as a result of increased imports, and helps them prepare for new careers. The program extends benefits including training for employment in another job or career, income support, job search allowances, and relocation allowances. Qualified workers may quickly return to work through a combination of these services. DOL estimates that since 1975, two million workers nationwide have relied on TAA to make ends meet and receive training necessary to find a new job. Brown released a county-by-county list of Ohio companies affected by foreign trade whose workers used TAA benefits to help train for new jobs.

And reading on, Brown lists a ton of reasonable seeming tweaks and enhancements. Reading through the list, though, I’ve got to say I’m both ticked off and skeptical:

Ticked off, because how come the millions who got kicked out of the labor force when the powers-that-be decided to downsize it aren’t eligible for the same treatment? For example, it sounds like the Health Care Tax Credit workers screwed over by trade deals get is a better deal (at least in terms of dollars, even though it’s a tax credit) than COBRA, which is what workers screwed over by recessions and depressions get. What a horrible patchwork.

And skeptical, because in today’s post-crash and crapified labor market, is training really the answer?[4] Especially for over-50s?

So I’m not convinced that TPP + TAA nets out positive for workers, or even makes them whole. Wikipedia (sorry) has a summary of program effects with reasonable sources; one of them is a study done by Kara M. Reynolds and John S. Palatucci[5] of American University:

Reynolds and Palatucci compared the employment and salary trajectories of TAA beneficiaries with those of workers laid off in similar circumstances who weren’t eligible for the program. In 2007, approximately 150,000 Americans received a total of $850 million of TAA aid in the form of income support, health insurance, job search assistance, relocation compensation, and retraining. The 2009 stimulus expanded the program’s roster and benefits.

After controlling for geography and other factors, the authors found that TAA beneficiaries fared no better at getting new jobs than those who didn’t participate in the program. Furthermore, the TAA beneficiaries who did find jobs earned roughly 30 percent less than they did in their previous positions, while the other workers typically earned 18 percent less. (This disparity owes much to the fact that the TAA program targets workers who are most in need of help.)

There is a silver lining: Workers who participated in the voluntary training component of the program increased their likelihood of finding a job by 10 to 12 percentage points over those who did not. Their wages were also higher than those of beneficiaries who didn’t undergo training. Even these brighter numbers, however, did not make the TAA cohort more successful than the other group.

Oh well. That’s not a very good result for a program that’s been around for 40 years, eh?

Bottom line is that TAA is a bandaid on a cancer, and the Democrats — assuming good faith, which I think with Sherrod Brown it’s fair to do — traded away something for nothing, as so often. If corporations can go to a rigged court and sue for lost profits, how come workers can’t go to a rigged court and sue for lost wages?


TPP is a bad bill, made worse — let me go all tendentious, here — by stealing money from sick old people to pay for it.

* * *

Is there anything more I can do to oppose the TPP?

Why, yes! Besides drawing attention to another rotten policy outcome from bipartisanship, I wanted to write this post to introduce one more method of bringing pressure to bear on your congress critters — besides letters to the editor, letters to your congress critter, faxes, phonecalls, and email to your congresscritter, as well as signing petitions and so forth — and that’s putting together a group delegation to visit their office in your district. The difficulty of the method chosen correlates to its effectiveness, which is why a personal, physical letter ranks high, and clicking an online petition ranks low. Getting a group together, and travel, are both reasonably difficult, and so the group delegation ranks high.

Make a reservation beforehand, and I think you’ll be surprised at how well the staffers receive you. I would recommend that the group span the political spectrum, left and right, making it much harder for political operatives to dismiss you as crazies. Arguments against TPP that I think left and right share:

1) The ISDS system is a surrender of national sovereignty to transnational tribunals;

2) Fast Track is a surrender of legislative authority to the executive;

3) The American people should be able to read the complete text of the bill immediately.

And of course, the point of this post: I don’t think left or right wants Medicare cut. Outside of the political class, that is.

I know that left and right have a boatload of issues they do not agree on, but how about we put those aside for now, and then duke it out when we’ve stopped TPP? Personally, I’d never carry a “Don’t Tread on Me” banner, but there’s no denying those banners were there when the latest landfill was stopped, and the East-West Corridor put on hold, hopefully permanently, and I’m thankful for that.

Also, after your visit, follow though with a letter to the editor — or, if you’re really wired, an Op-Ed in your local paper — describing the position your Congress critter took, for good or ill. That will let them know they’re being watched, and letters to the editor are high impact, again because of degree of difficulty; op-eds even more so.

Regardless of the outcome, I urge that forms of civic engagement like this are valuable in and of themselves. Think of putting together your delegation as exercising your democratic muscles. Because we need that strength, and will need more of it.


[1] To be fair, Medicare has problems, starting with a neo-liberal infestation presenting the usual symptoms of needless complexity and fees every time you turn around, with privatization as the end game. And then there’s unneeded care, and a general sense that our health care system isn’t one that it makes sense to enter with a trusting or joyful heart. That said, I have a hard time with policy makers who’s first thought is always cuts, and the devil take the hindmost.

[2] In the headline, I say “cut from Medicare as a result” rather than “cut from Medicare to pay for the program” to avoid the “pay for” locution, which implies that Federal taxes “pay for” Federal spending.

[3] Kudos to Brown for using mapping software; truly, we live in a golden age of data visualization.

[4] I mean, except for the Democratic-leaning Non-Profit Industrial Complex of trainers, marketers, managers, counsellors, website designers, help desks, and consultants for which programs like TAA provide walking around money.

[5] So far as I can tell, Reynolds and Palatucci are not conservative apparatchiks, though they’re cited by some on the right. I’m not an expert in this field, so if there are better studies, please give them in comments.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Ep3

    This sounds like to me that poor ppl have a finite amount of govt resources. We are given choices, but we can’t have both. So if we want to help ppl that lose their jobs due to bad trade deals, then we have to give up our Medicare to pay for it. Of course, this is unlike the banks, who get anything they want given to them, free.
    And I thought Medicare was broke? I guess this will somehow help it be financially secure?

    1. jrs

      Well is the help to people who lose their jobs actually REAL help? Permanent unemployment insurance extension would be REAL HELP if temporary. But it doesn’t seem it’s that or a job guarantee (or even just a public works program to employ some people), nor a permanent B.I.G. for those permanently unemployed which would be real help (consider it early retirement which if it ended up being 50 somethings it would be, and no jobs are not rewarding in themselves, but permanent retirement of 30 year olds would be pretty disruptive at this point).

      If it’s just lousy job retraining it’s FAKE help. I want them to take their job retraining and shove it. It’s almost worse than useless. I mean education may be good and nice and all (learning and knowledge are good. But more and more years of education in the existing society I kind of doubt it), but education or job training of people employers consider to old to hire for a brand new profession (this is not true, but employers may think this way regardless) for non-existent jobs isn’t.

      And this is supposed to be better than Medicare which ACTUALLY DOES help the unemployed over 65 by paying their healthcare costs which in many cases makes retirement at least in a more gentile poverty *possible*. We should picket against job retraining at this point, carry signs against it, it’s such utter garbage. Sure in a better world it might be good. But not this one.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        ????? Does it matter? How are those unemployed by the TPP and other such monstrosities in any way related to Medicare? Why not cut the funding for foreign wars? Why not re-instate taxes that Bush cut and whose cuts Obama continued?

        Medicare reduction is a TOTALLY BOGUS way to pay for TPP — assuming there were ANY reason to continue with TPP (Bogusity in multiplicities! — Adhering scrupulously to the admonition “Use no ‘!’ frivolously.”]

        Any “””””Democrats””””” who followed this path MUST BE ousted and never again see the light of Day in politics.

        I am so weary of considering such false trade-offs! Get rid of these A–holes.

        No More! The stillborn argument about a “skills-mismatch:” must be buried along with any “economists” who even mention it.

  2. Gerard Pierce

    Trace adjustment assistance sounds like just the thing for me. Maybe.
    Since Micro$oft and IBM shipped a fair percentage of my software consulting work overseas I’ve had to scramble to find replacement work.

    I’ve considered adding a law degree to the mix if I can get our “progressive” congress to pay for it. I’m too old to make a new career out of it, but it’s probably still a better deal than being trained for IT jobs that have already been shipped overseas. (This seems to be the usual government training program.)

    This would keep me off the streets for a few years, seriously piss off conservatives, and even if I earn only a small amount of money it would give me the ability to plant a size twelve boot where it could do some good.
    So what could go wrong – besides not having medical care?

  3. Mary Wehrheim

    The Plutocracy has always been masterful at divide and conquer….diverting the spotlight of blame from themselves on to the poor, minorities, and immigrants….the Fox channel serving as the Bible according to GOP. The two huge programs financial elites have been salivating over for privatization are social security and medicare. This would be the ultimate in the crushing of remaining traces of the New Deal and Great Society. This will necessitate a generational attack…such as to fund training for younger workers and cut benefits for the elderly. Make both sides squabble over the table scraps provided…the more they fight the madder they will get….glaring into each other’s hurt eyes. Since Fox News is the main propaganda tool of the GOP’s trusty base of OLD white guys….it will be fascinating to see how they whip up a shit-souffle that their elderly audience will happily eat.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      …it will be fascinating to see how they [Fox] whip up a shit-souffle that their elderly audience will happily eat.

      If you find it “fascinating”, you would be cheating yourself out of good viewing pleasure to consider Fox the only outlet dedicated to pushing privatization of our last vestiges of national decency. In reality, NBC and CBS, particularly their cable stooges, do far more heaving lifting than Fox since they must convince the rubes that the Democrats are not doing what our lying eyes tell us they ARE doing which is the exact same thing the Republicans are doing except under the delusion that vanishing cream (the Democratic party) actually hides what monstrous traitors they are.

    2. anon

      This is being achieved through careful discussion. Despite claims that Millennials are the most progressive or liberal generation in decades, they are perhaps the first generation to have gone through the full gamut of neoliberal education and media. They view these ideas as self-evident, and cannot imagine a world where Social Security and Medicare will be available for them because of course “government is the problem”. What may happen is that benefits will be maintained for current enrollees (who are also some of the most active voters), and benefits for enrollees many years out will be gutted. Slowly, these programs will eventually exist in name only.

      1. C

        As a counterpoint to that I would note that Millenials are also the first generation to be facing the real consequences of Neoliberalism as soon as they graduate from high school or college rather than later in their 50’s. This is significant because: a) these are people that are looking at these trade deals with both the immediate experience of NAFTA and others and the concern about their own working future not just an abstract thought of “the future”; and b) they are not old enough to have ossified to a Knee-Jerk single party voter like most older voters who will often vote the same way forever based upon their memories of what the party was under Regan or JFK rather than what it is now.

        As a related point this is a generation that has immediate experience with official lies that are endorsed by the mainstream press and have faced the personal consequences of them (i.e. Iraq).

      2. Praedor

        I would like to believe they are liberal but I fear they are more libertarian than liberal, meaning they will go for self-interest (or what they believe is self-interest based on idiots like Rand Paul and his ilk). They tend to like the idea of a “freedom”. It’s just that libertarian dolt leaders don’t tell them that this means “freedom” to starve, to die of untreated cancer because you can’t afford healthcare, freedom to gut/destroy the environment, etc.

  4. Code Name D

    TAA sounds a lot like Bill Clinton’s Job Retraining Program only rebranded. My observation of that program was that it tended to retrain workers into sexy jobs, rather than jobs that were in demand. For example, when textile workers lost their jobs, jobs retraining enrolled them into privet vocational schools to turn them into electronic technicians. (I remember because I was looking for work as an ET at the time too.)

    Just as consumer electronics fell off a cliff. Because all of the production jobs started to migrate to Japan at the time and designers had change from serviceable devices such as TVs, radios, VCRs extra, to Wall Mart brands that were too cheap to be worth fixing. Thus there was a huge wave of ET hopefuls flooding the market just as the jobs were disappearing.

    Oh, and here is the real kicker in the nads – this was really a student loan program. Prospective students had to barrow for their tuition.

    This happened several times. It seemed that what ever “career” Jobs Retraining decided to push always ended up getting boxed up and shipped out. Machine fabricators and avionic grade welders were next, programmers, customer support (phone bank), to name those off the top of my head. And guess who is left holding the bag when they still can’t find work two to four years later.

    1. ian

      I get the impression that these training programs are more for the benefit of those administering the program than they are for the trainees.

  5. timbers

    Also I would not be surprised to see corporations sue to void the employer contribution part of the payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare. It affects their future profits since other nations don’t have this.

  6. Rob Urie

    It is difficult to be too cynical about worker ‘retraining’ based on what I saw in the early 1990s. During that era workers who had held middle income corporate and manufacturing jobs were being ‘retrained,’ in the rare instances when spending a couple of months jumping through bureaucratic hurdles landed a spot, to do data entry or to run a cash register at a fast food restaurant. Ask yourself exactly how it would be determined that the TPP led to particular job losses when the politicians who brought us NAFTA are still claiming large job gains from the deal?

  7. jrs

    Yea building a coalition is tricky, even among the politically active. Ok I don’t even know anyone on the right except for a rare Ron Paul fan. But there’s those leftish or liberal who try hard only to make change locally. This is all well and nice and sometimes successful …. and the TPP may make it all irrelevant, but they don’t see it. Then there are those concerned only with hard core social justice issues of the down and out and truly marginalized, the homeless, blacks people killed by police etc.. Only the most marginalized need apply. This is perfectly legitimate and fine for a coalition, but I have tried in vain to bring up the TPP … Meanwhile the rest of us, temporarily “privileged” (as in not being the most down and out) are cows on the conveyor belt to slaughter – moo. But yes the coalition is a good idea.

    What it even like to be middle aged in this society? Medicare may be discontinued before even one’s parents are dead (never mind oneself ever having it (or one’s children if one has them). One has afterall LONG since given up on themselves and knows there is a good chance they will die starving in the dirt or something and possibly on an inhospitable nearly dead planet – one just doesn’t want it for their parents …). And then what if one is over 40, too old to retrain (maybe 35 is as it’s too old for some fields apparent?), a future of nothing but existing jobs being outsourced and filled with immigrants.

  8. Dan Lynch

    Good information, Lambert. Thanks for posting.

    If you bury 9 bones and send 10 dogs out to look for the bones, at least one dog will not be able to find a bone. Giving the dogs more training will not change that.

    1. jrs

      At this point the patient is dying. STOP THE @#$# BLEEDING. The bleeding is known as outsourcing (and insourcing) of jobs. Training is a utopian bandaid on a patient flat lining in the ICU (as in sure help with paying for retraining might be nice in an economy with jobs, might be better than no help with it in such an economy, just like getting that infected toenail seen to might be nice if one wasn’t on the way to the mortuary).

  9. jrs

    Btw the left really needs to stop even going along with RHETORIC about education being the answer to our problems. We need jobs, jobs, and maybe job sharing (full time jobs are pretty alienating – they are just much better than a future with NO jobs or income sources at all), or a permanent BIG, not more education. An informed citizenry is nice and all, but even if education produced that the cost is too high at present and besides academia is too corrupted to produce too much of that at present. We’d be better having teach-ins to wake people up. Sure vote for that local education funding measure, it probably is a good use of money to prevent things from getting worse but that’s just keeping things from falling ever more apart, stop pretending it’s a real solution to what ails us.

    1. sd

      I’ve had to keep my skills sharp to keep working as a freelancer. (There are very few full time staff jobs in my industry.) Most of the training in new software can be achieved in under two weeks. The bigger issue is that I am responsible for buying the software and maintaining my own equipment and keeping it up to date which is currently costing me on average about $2500 year, every year, year after year. Those who don’t make this investment or often can’t make this investment, really suffer. Increasingly, there is no work for them.

      If there was more work than job seekers, employers would be perfectly willing to hire those with lesser skills because what they lack in software training, they make up with experience.

      So in my eyes, “training” is a bit of a red herring where the underlying problem continues to be lack of jobs. Those jobs are chasing subsidies and slave wage labor in an effort to boost the quarterly corporate profit reports. At some point, someone has to notice that the current American business is actually failing and is not in fact a profitable model in the long term.

  10. chitownrdh

    My initial reaction to this post makes me afraid. I am in my forties and my mom is mid 70’s and healthy for now. But what will be left in 2025 and worse what will be left when My husband and I are of retirement age? I fear that these critters who want to cut S. S./ Medicare will eventually get their way. I have worked and contributed since I was 16.
    These are unbelievable times we live in and the future seems very unpredictable. Sigh.

  11. human

    “If corporations can go to a rigged court and sue for lost profits, how come workers can’t go to a rigged court and sue for lost wages?”

    Why can’t we go to a _real_ court and sue? There seem to be any number of RICO or Class actions here.

    1. Gerard Pierce

      Too quote the late George Carlin: “It’s a big club – and you ain’t in it”.

    2. susan the other

      To argue that the TPP/TTIP agreements are not just undemocratic but are in fact unilateral and unconscionable in the contract sense would be a good argument since it is really an obfuscation of economics to leave out labor rights as if they did not exist. We already need to take action in whatever courts are available. It has been a taking. Of jobs. Of livelihood. Of constitutional rights. And a violation of long held labor rights. The complaints could go on for pages. And the damages could be enough to fund new jobs programs, get your house back, get plenty for pain and suffering, and future deluxe medicare for your old age – far into the future. Just don’t throw “fraud” into the suit because it is still a practice that is fully condoned and protected by the Federal Government. So naturally it is very hard to prove.

      1. nippersdad

        I have been thinking about this as well. A court case would take far too long, however, a GoFundMe campaign for a class action suit against DiFi et al would hit the airwaves almost instantly. I imagine that even the threat of a Federal class action suit for treason would not look good in the coming elections, and nominating those who have already voted for cloture would have an effect on anyone else thinking about voting for it in the future.

        I would be interested in y’alls views here at NK. Seems like there are a lot of savvy people here who could assess the PR value of such an action.

  12. Ben Johannson

    How about we provide work to any American unable to find it, then offer training for whatever career they’d like to transition to?

    1. jrs

      Well if they paid one’s tuition and living expenses through an M.D. and/or a provided a job that will use you now – whichever one your little heart desires, then it begins to sound sweeter. But still not worth giving up medicare or passing the TPP for.

        1. jrs

          well I guess if one can work 40+ hours and go to med school at the same time there is no either/or.

      1. Ben Johannson

        A job is created for you in your field utilizing your skills/experience. If you wish to transition to another sector of work, a training program/apprenticeship approach can be utilized with a guaranteed position at the end. No need to touch Medicare or any other program although it will likely render more than a few redundant and unnecessary.

  13. Toni Gilpin

    Jrs above was right to say that job training programs are often worse than useless — this in-depth report from ProPublica a few years back makes that point, as laid-off workers in Janesville, WI who went through retraining actually fared worse, in terms of both employment and earnings, than did their fellow workers who were not retrained. And retraining funds are often used by corporations for cost-cutting or more nefarious purposes. Companies are shirking their own training responsibilities, and also using these publicly-funded programs to eliminate union labor, as I said in an article I wrote sometime back for Labor Notes. Caterpillar is especially adept at this, not surprisingly, given that executives there are really practiced at taking public money (tax incentives, too) and then using those same funds to screw their workers and the communities their plants are located in.

    1. ian

      I think a lot of the retraining is a racket. Corporations lay off older workers, then pay for their ‘retraining’. If they are sued, they can always say ‘hey, we made a good faith effort to help him find a new job’ – pure CYA.
      There is a lot of money to be made in providing the _appearance_ of retraining (not to mention the benefit to politicians).

    2. jrs

      Caterpillar got Federal Reserve bailout money and possibly stimulus spending as well. They are one of the firms pushing the TPP. We pay for our own destruction with this government.

      Even if retraining doesn’t accomplish something it keeps a myth alive: if you are unemployed it’s because you lack skills!!! The whole purpose of the entire retraining thing besides a money funnel may be primarily to keep the myth alive.

  14. Steven Greenberg

    The reason why the politicians like the “pay for” paradigm is that it is a way to try to get people to stop complaining. I have always said that when you ask Congress to close tax-loopholes, their response has always been, “Ok, if you want us to close tax-loopholes, we’ll gladly cut the ones that you use.” They hope that the lesson people will finally learn is that you’d better not ask Congress to close tax-loopholes.

    If the politicians have to make cuts in government programs, they first make cuts in the most popular programs that help the most people. They want you to feel the pain, so you will stop pestering them.

  15. Steven Greenberg

    You also notice that when there is a price to pay for something that benefits corporations and the oligarchs, such as TPP, the Congress never says, “Sorry, you can’t have it because we can’t afford it.” Instead they say, “Don’t worry, we’ll get the little people to pay for it.” Even if the Congress would realize there is no “pay for it”, they still want to get the little people to bear some pain. Their ultimate goal is to shrink the size of government, no matter what. What doesn’t matter is whether or not shrinking of government in the particular way they have at the moment is actually a good idea or a bad one. There is almost nothing else to consider in their minds when they have something that will shrink the government. The one thing that they will take account of is whether or not rich people and corporations will lose anything.

  16. marym

    Under the TPP will for-profit medical care providers be able to sue the government for lost future profits due to the sequester? Watching the system eat itself is so confusing sometimes.

    Thanks for the post, Lambert. I received two requests to sign petitions objecting to this, but hadn’t been able to find any further info.

    1. Kokuanani

      Mary, I suggest doing something far more effective than signing a petition [although still not guaranteed]: call or e-mail your senators & representative and tell them to oppose TPP.

      There are numerous posts on NC providing the necessary e-mail addresses, and other ones providing a few bullet points to use. This is a much better use of your time than a petition, which the congressional offices will ignore. [They realize that it takes less effort to “click” on a petition than to send an actual e-mail.]

      1. marym

        Thanks for the reply. I agree with your assessment of petitions. I’m on a few email lists from groups that do petitions, don’t mind signing them, especially if that group or others are doing other more substantial activism for the issue, but I also do the email, phone call, and public comment stuff.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I mind signing if I view the people pushing them as having a destructive effect, regardless of the merits of the petition. Most of these people have a business model where every clickthrough yields a tiny commmission.

          1. marym

            Can you explain who would be getting commissions from whom? I try to avoid those from Dembot-ish orgs just building their mailing lists, but what about requests like those from the ACLU on projects they’re pursuing in the courts, or orgs working on net neutrality? Am I missing something? Thanks. It’s not a big deal, in that I don’t think petitions matter in themselves, but it would be interesting to know if signing is possibly a negative. Thanks.

  17. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thanks for this post, Lambert. The blatant attempt to divert, “divide & conquer” using an utterly unrelated oblique attack is very enlightening. I am encouraged that more and more of our fellow citizens, including many conservatives who hold influential positions, are awakening to the true nature of this secret TPP agreement and its underlying ideology to transfer legislative powers of Congress to the executive branch; and judicial powers to three member corporate-appointed panels to rule in disputes between Investors (Transnational Banks and Corporations) and governments, including federal, state and local governments.

    “As reported by Rick Manning on the Investors Business Daily editorial page, the “Key Features” summary of TPP he obtained from the U.S. Trade Representative specifies that TPP would be a “living document.” …

    … “This means that additional nations could be added to TPP without congressional approval and that the president would be authorized to implement modifications to TPP “as appropriate”. …

    … ‘[T]he Constitution explicitly states (Art. 1, Sect. 8, para. 3) that Congress shall “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.” There is no constitutional authority for surrendering or transferring this congressional responsibility to the executive branch. … Like the sham democracies where there has been “one man, one vote, one time,” once Congress would sign off on a “living document,” it would forfeit control over trade policy. … if TPP were an open-ended document, the rule of law and republican government itself would be lost. … No president should have such immense discretionary power, particularly this one.”

    … “Unless TPP is structured in a way that preserves congressional control over the laws by which we live, it should be scuttled. … We should draw the line, though, at making TPP a “living document.” Trade is valuable, but not more valuable than the rule of law and constitutional government.” —Mark Hendrickson, “TPP: A Threat To The Rule Of Law”,; May 15, 2015 @ 1:58 PM

    Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has issued a memorandum titled “Critical Alert: Top Five Concerns with Trade Promotion Authority” in which he cited five reasons to deny the president fast-track authority for the TPP, also mentioned in the IBD opinion price linked above, including the “living agreement” feature under which changes to the secret TPP agreement would NOT be subject to congressional approval.

  18. ErnstThalmann

    Why is it that some persist in seeing in-system reform as the most sensible alternative to depredations of this kind when anyone in their right mind by this time realizes that maintenance of that myth is part and parcel of the problem. Lets make it clear, its them vs. us and the only way out of this mess is to organize and take direct action against those that rule us, and that means all of them, Sherrod Brown included. As it has evolved, representative democracy has turned out to be a cruel joke. What is needed is the justice that only a workers’ state can bring to the future.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Right, I’m all for mystical incantation, too. In the mean time, people need to exercise their political muscles for less lofty objectives, and organizing a delegation is a fine way to do that.

      1. ErnstThalmann

        And in what better way to experience “mystical incantation” than in efforts to realize political ends though means guaranteed to bring nothing more than emotional satisfaction, say with delegations, for example? Some people find punching bags helpful in a similar way.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Not sure why you have a problem with emotional satisfaction; presumably emotional satisfaction serves an adaptive purpose, having survive in nature.

          That said, when fighting the landfills and the East-West Corridor, “exercise” like that recommended was very helpful, and helped build trust networks that I expect to be very useful in whatever is to come.

          Perhaps you would have a greater level of comfort were you to return to contemplating the Great Runes of Vanguardism?

          1. hunkerdown

            Was it de Tocqueville that said something about revolutions arising not on the downslope but out of the first substantial success, however modest?

          2. ErnstThalmann

            While you’re making adaptations, I’ll organize. Not every rune has a vanguard.

  19. susan the other

    Social Security and Medicare funds have been rehypothecated under the table for many decades. Mostly in behalf of the Military/MIC. It was said that LBJ pushed Medicare through because he needed to use that money for the war. The same was said of FDR and Social Security. The TAA and TPP fast track “negotiations” are a shell game. On Cspan Friday night after the Senate passed fast track, Wyden gave a triumphal sounding speech like a first class populist. Gag me. But following Wyden, a young senator from Oklahoma gave a speech on all the games the senate plays. He elucidated the language in the TPP to do with taxing corporations in 2023 and then directly refunding those taxes in 2024. These dates just happen to coincide with the date that funds will be taken from Medicare – to cover the tax refund anticipated for the international corporations. Interesting. What bullshit.

      1. susan the other

        don’t know how to reference it… it was Friday evening, taping the last speeches on the Senate floor on Cspan and the senator from OK is an R and he was refreshingly intelligent. He followed Wyden directly, unless the tape was edited.

        1. just me

          James Lankford R-OK May 13 (Wednesday) Senate speech transcript and video (which I can’t see, sorry).

          “So the way this is set up is to have this basic gap. Halfway through you are deficit-neutral. At the other end of it, you’re also deficit neutral. Well, here is what the preferences bill does. The preferences bill sets up this unique something called the corporate payment shift. Corporate payment shift. So here’s how it works. Six years from now, every corporation that has a billion dollars or more in assets has a 5.25% tax increase in year six. In year seven, every one of those companies that has a billion dollars or more in assets gets a 5.25% tax refund. Let me run that past you again. This is set up and the way the bill is written six years from now taxes go up on every company, that’s 2,000 companies in America that has a billion or more in assets by 5.25%. And until thes in — in the next year, they get a refund of that same amount.

          “Can somebody help me understand exactly why every company in America has to gear up, change the way they do all their tax policies, pay an extra tax that year and so the next year they can get a refund? That’s additional costs, that’s additional expense, only to help this body circumvent the basic rules that we have said we’re going to abide by. Now, in all likelihood, these companies won’t actually do that six and be seven years from now because in all likelihood next year this body will come through and will waive the corporate tax shift because it’s now not year six and be seven. Now it’s year seven and eight and so it doesn’t apply. This is ridiculous.

          (“year six and be seven”?)

          But I don’t see it as you describe, back to back with Wyden, in caption search of 8 hours of c-span video of the May 14 TPP fast track debate, which C-Span says aired Thursday.

            1. susan the other

              Thanks Just Me. Lankford. Smart guy. I’m going to watch for him now more often. I think I goofed on the dates by a few years – didn’t exactly coincide – but not by the spirit. They will take whatever they need from Medicare and think they have “balanced the budget.” And etc.

  20. Marko

    We can’t evaluate the efficacy of our TAA program because we’ve never had one to evaluate. It’s like trying to detect the impact of fiscal policy using a stimulus of 0.1% of gdp – the stimulus effect becomes lost in gdp noise.

    TAA falls under the “active” labor market program designation ( unemployment insurance is a “passive” program ). This chart shows how the U.S. active program compared to other advanced economies in 2012 :

    The TAA program used to be $ 575 million/yr and has been cut to $450 million/yr. I suppose some of this recent activity is an attempt to restore some of the cuts by stealing from Medicare. The point to remember is that it’s all smoke and mirrors – our TAA has always been piss-poor , and the current tweaking won’t come close to fixing it.

      1. Marko

        Agreed , but it’s pretty unlikely that the U.S. is going to lead that particular parade. On the other hand , the sorts of TAA programs used in Scandinavia are nearly jobs guarantees in effect. I bet you’d find that even die-hard progressives in those countries are much more trade-friendly as a result.

        Over the last few years , Obama could have used these free trade deals as the reward to Republicans if they agreed to a more robust TAA program – even one merely approaching the median plan in the OECD would represent an exponential improvement to the one we have now. He didn’t do so – probably didn’t even think to do so – because he doesn’t give a crap about labor. We need to make sure he pays for that.

  21. Jess

    Shorter: They’re out to f&@k us, and will continue to until we take to the streets in mobs of millions, day after day after day. A few guillotine demonstrations using water melons probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

    1. Jess

      Speaking of guillotines, just for shits and grins I googled “guillotine plans”. Lo and behold, there are a lot of places out there with blueprints, construction instructions, even YouTube how-to videos for building said devices of social justice. Also learned by accident that the French Revolution sent 17,000 folks to the blade. Wonder what the population of France was at that time and what that ratio would mean for our population today.

      1. Ishmael

        The population of France was approximately 26 million in 1770. Populations did not change fast in the 18th century so I believe that is a good estimate of the population at the time of the revolution.

        1. Marko

          Let’s see , 17 thousand out of 26 million – that would take care of the majority of the top 0.1% plutocrats , and would no doubt adequately temper the ambitions of the rest. It seems like a reasonable model to me.

  22. Oregoncharles

    “stealing money from sick old people ”
    That would be me. So far, I’m not terribly impressed with the results – I think it’s time to see a naturopath at my own expense – but at least it’s there.

  23. Phil

    At some point, continued screwing over of those who work for a living, or want to work for a living, is going to result in surprisingly upsetting unintended consequences for those who are doing the screwing over. I’m not talking violent revolution (which wouldn’t work, in any case), but a quiet revolution of many thousands and millions of adaptations made from necessity that will coalesce into an entirely new ethos for humanity.

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