After the U.S. House of Representatives voted last Friday to kill "fast-track" to give Obama authorization to pass a major and secretive trade agreement, presidential contender Hillary Clinton may yet have another opportunity to give the American people her open and honest opinion on the TPP trade agreement. Or she may (again) take a "wait-and-see" approach to test the winds of public opinion. Or, to appease her corporate backers, she may just say nothing at all — or she might say something with a wink and a nod to her biggest campaign donors.
Michael Wessel, who once worked as a senior policy advisor for Bill Clinton, recently wrote in Politico: I’ve read Obama’s secret trade deal. Elizabeth Warren is right to be concerned:
"Anyone who has read the text of the [TPP] agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents ... So-called “cleared advisors” like me are prohibited from sharing publicly the criticisms we’ve lodged about specific proposals and approaches ... The law prohibits us from talking about the specifics of what we’ve seen ... Only portions of the text have been provided, to be read under the watchful eye of a USTR official ... We have to travel to certain government facilities and sign in to read the materials. Even then, the administration determines what we can and cannot review and, often, they provide carefully edited summaries rather than the actual underlying text ... At last count, there were more than 600 cleared advisors. The vast majority of them represent business interests."
A spokesperson for Hillary Clinton had said: “She will be watching closely to see what is being done to crack down on currency manipulation, improve labor rights, protect the environment and health, promote transparency and open new opportunities for our small businesses to export overseas. As she warned in her book Hard Choices, we shouldn’t be giving special rights to corporations at the expense of workers and consumers."
So after plugging Hillary's book, are the American people to assume than someone who is running for the President of the United States doesn't even know the details of a major trade deal that is currently being debated — a trade deal encompassing 40% of the global economy? All we know so far about Hillary's opinion on TPP is that "trade is good". But all other presidential contenders (on BOTH sides of the political aisle) have already weighed in on the issue.
13 "free traitors" (Democrats in the Senate) had already voted for the pro-business/anti-worker TPP trade deal before it had went to the House for a vote last week (The 13 are listed here at the end of this post). After the Senate vote, but prior to the first vote in the House, GOP leaders had believed they already had enough Republican votes to give Obama "fast-track" (TPA) for trade agreements. This may be the one and only issue the GOP and the president have ever agreed on over the past 6 years.
Then last Thursday another 28 more Democratic "free traitors" in the House voted to fast-track TPP. The Hill had reported that fast-track passed in the House on a 217-212 vote, but the Huffington Post had reported a vote of 219 to 211, which appears to be the correct tally.
According to The Hill, 8 of these 28 Democrats had waited until the last minute to vote because they didn't want to go on the record for voting in favor of fast-track; but towards the end of the vote (when they realized it wouldn’t pass without their votes), it was only THEN did they vote to save TPP at this stage. According to The Hill, those 8 were:
- Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)
- Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.)
- Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.)
- Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)
- Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.)
- Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas)
- Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.)
- Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.)
But all total, there were 28 Democrats in the House who voted for fast-tracking TPP (plus 3 other Democrats who didn't vote). They are listed here at the bottom of this post.
Now it becomes a bit more confusing. Last Friday Obama lost the key vote for TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance), which is a funding measure that pays to help re-train workers whose jobs are lost due to these trade deals. To give Obama fast-track (TPA) to negotiate trade agreements (such as TPP) Congress would have also needed to pass TAA. So knowing that killing TAA would also kill TPA, Democrats voted against TAA for a final House vote of 302 to 126 — and for the time being, ultimately stalled the TPP trade agreement. (The 40 Democrats who voted for Obama to get TAA/TPA/TPP passed are listed here at the bottom of this post.)
Editor's Note -- My first question: Why would some Democrats in the House vote for fast-track (TPA) to enable TPP one day (on Thursday), but then vote against TAA to kill TPP the very next day (on Friday)? This is where I was confused. The way it was explained was, the TAA measure that just failed in the House on Friday was included in the fast-track bill in a bid to win Democratic support. But it attracted opposition because funding for the TAA program was seen as too low — and also because earlier the Senate decided to pay for it in part by cutting $700 million from Medicare. (A post at the National Journal might better explain.)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said the TAA bill included "substantially less funding than the administration has said was essential to protect those who lose their jobs through expanded trade."
Editor's Note -- Which brings me to my next question: If these trade agreements were supposed to protect current jobs from being offshored to foreign countries, thereby displacing more American workers, then why would we even need TAA to re-train workers who might otherwise lose jobs due to any trade deal? According to Obama, his congressional supporters and his corporate backers, they have repeatedly claimed that TPP was supposed to save domestic jobs and create more jobs in America with expanded trade. So if we won't lose more jobs with TPP, then why would we need cut Medicare by $700 million to fund TAA if more jobs won't be lost and/or offshored? Did you get all that?
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said "Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers, they don't live in this country. So if we want to create more jobs in America, we've got to make more things here in America, and send them over there."
Mister Ryan would be right — if that were true — but that's not what American-based multinational tax-dodging corporations have been doing. Instead, they make stuff over there (i.e. China), creating more jobs over there, and then export their stuff over here, driving up our trade deficit and putting Americans out of work. A spokesman for Paul Ryan said the GOP leadership had plans to bring up TAA for another vote on Tuesday, but that this time, there would not be another vote on TPA. As the Huffington Post notes:
Passing fast-track [TPA] gives hope to Obama, but if Democrats block TAA again on Tuesday, it will further delay his agenda from moving forward. And if Democrats do that, they run the risk of Republicans pushing through a fast-track bill without it, essentially killing the job assistance program. [Getting the TTP trade deal passed is their primary goal, and funding for re-training displaced workers is only consequential for them.]
Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), while denouncing unions' arguments against Obama's trade agenda, had compared the unions' work to the infamous Nazi propaganda minister for the Third Reich: "Goebbels would be very proud of them."
Editor's Note: According to The New Republic, a new WikiLeaks report exposes TPP (the Asian trade agreement that's currently being debated) as only the tip of a very huge iceberg. There's also the TTIP, which would bind the two biggest economies in the world (the U.S. and European Union). But the largest of all the trade agreements is also the least known — the 51-nation TiSA. The TPP was described as NAFTA on steroids. By comparison, the TTIP would be thermonuclear. [Whereas TiSA might create a new corporate world order.]
Why has Hillary Clinton been so silent on TPP?
According to another post at the Hill, in her first memoir (Living History, published in 2003), Hillary Clinton called NAFTA one of "Bill’s successes." Yet in a presidential debate during her first White House run in 2008, she declared, "I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning." And back in 2012, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton praised the framework for the TPP as setting "the gold standard in trade agreements." Now she's saying absolutely nothing about TPP, only that she's "for free trade".
Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of Democracy for America, says: “Not being clear on where you stand [on TPP] is problematic. For Hillary Clinton specifically, here is someone who has a history of supporting bad trade deals in the past.” Before a recent brief press conference, Hillary Clinton made remarks distancing herself from the TPP trade deal that Obama is pushing, one that she supported while serving in his cabinet. Hillary Clinton had been conspicuously silent on Congress' imminent vote on the trade promotion authority (TPA) bill that would allow President Obama to move forward with a big Pacific Rim trade agreement (TPP) and other trade deals such as TTIP and TiSA.
As Congress was preparing to vote on granting President Obama trade promotion authority and fast-tracking the controversial TPP trade agreement, Adam Hersh (an economist at the Roosevelt Institute) wrote at The Hill that TPP is about “rewriting the rules of the global economy to favor big businesses at the expense of almost everyone else.” Hersh had also participated in a press conference call that included economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich to explain their opposition to the deal.
Senator Bernie Sanders (who is also running for President) and progressive Democrats — along with tea party Republicans — oppose both the "fast track" legislation and the trade deal. Here's Bernie Sanders' take on Hillary Clinton's position on the TPP trade deal: "If she's against this, we need her to speak out, right now. Right now. Be for it or against it, but I don't understand how on an issue of such huge consequence you don't have an opinion. My own very strong view is that when you try to understand why the middle-class in this country is disappearing, trade has got to be one of the issues you look at for an explanation."
Prior to Hillary's speech at Roosevelt Island last Saturday, VOX wrote, "The President she will identify herself with won't be her husband, Bill Clinton, or either of the presidents who appointed her to posts in their administrations — Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter. Instead, she will reach back through the generations to the Democrat who wins the highest marks from political scientists, Franklin Delano Roosevelt."
Hillary had given her speech in the presence of a giant bust of FDR (a progressive Democrat), on a tiny island off the affluent Upper East Side of Manhattan. But she gave very little policy substance while at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. Even though Robert Reich had previously asked her, Hillary never once mentioned the proposed TPP trade deal. Instead, she spoke in broad strokes about inequality and her own story to make the case that she’s on the side of the middle-class. Specifically, here's all she had to say about trade in general:
"Advances in technology and the rise of global trade have created whole new areas of economic activity and opened new markets for our exports, but they have also displaced jobs and undercut wages for millions of Americans."
She has refused to make any solid stance on fast-track, or on any pending trade deals (or those in the past), but only to say "trade is good". Hillary's senior spokeswoman repeatedly refused to answer questions from CNN about whether she supports or opposes the TPP legislation that House members has just voted against hours earlier.
Hillary Clinton has avoided taking a firm stand on a number of other the economic policies that divide the pro-corporate wing of the Democratic Party from progressive activists and unions, including: detailing her views on Wall Street regulation (i.e. Dodd-Frank and bank reform) and tax reform; whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; her position in the battle between teachers unions and school reform advocates; whether she thinks the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is a good idea, and whether the U.S. should allow construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. On other issues (such as social issues, and ones that usually divide Republicans from Democrats) she has opined on immigration, voting rights, gay marriage and equal pay for women. (Bravo Madame Secretary, bravo! But what about all the other issues? After decades in politics, do you still need more time to form an opinion?)
In her speech last Saturday, Hillary was only pandering to the Warren Wing of the Democratic party, knowing there has been a groundswell for more progressive and economically populist ideas, not pro-corporate "third way" ideas like hers of the past. It was almost funny and pathetic and pitiful (all at the same time) to hear Hillary say, "Prosperity can't be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers, democracy can't be just for billionaires and corporations" — when that is exactly who she and her husband have been catering to for decades — and they are still catering to them (especially with their foundation and in their speeches).
Hillary Clinton — a member of the top 0.10% — chastising those in top 0.01%. (With a wink and a nod?) It's was ludicrous. When was the last time she has ever proposed, endorsed, sponsored or co-signed any bill or legislation that would raise or eliminate the cap on Social Security taxes, or to tax capital gains the same as wages, or to close all the loopholes for corporate tax dodgers? Simple answer: Never.
But the people who were there to hear Hillary's speech must be living in Limbo, because they all cheered for her — as though they believed her — the same way they believed Obama before he pushed for the TPP trade agreement. Hillary's audience had cheered her the same way Republican audiences cheer their candidates when they make proposals to cut their Social Security benefits. It's ludicrous.
The New York Times noted that the new economic agendas proposed by liberal/progressive groups like the Center for American Progress in its "Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity" and the Roosevelt Institute’s "Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy" (put together by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and others) calls for substantial changes in tax, spending and trade policies. Polling data suggest that the approach to tax reform in both those reports have substantial public support. A Gallup poll found that those surveyed agreed 63-to-31 that “money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people."
But who sincerely believes that Hillary would ever make that sort of commitment to reversing income and wealth inequality in the U.S.? Just like President Obama's pro-corporate "third way" agenda has been coming unraveled, Hillary's is also being exposed for what it really is. And it's not what little is left of the middle-class that inspires her. Like others before them, it's all about the top 0.01% — those who are invested in and run those multinational corporations that wants more of these horrible trade agreements — and who have been greatly pushing for MORE income and wealth inequality.
Also this week, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a respected government watchdog group, sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he ask his appointee (Mary Jo White) to step down as Chair of the SEC, and that he designate a new head of the agency. This was on the heels of a scathing 13-page letter by Senator Elizabeth Warren which had been sent directly to Mary Jo White. Senator Warren had called out the SEC chair for refusing to move forward crucial rules, letting corporate criminal activity go unpunished and even lying to her about the status of pending regulatory matters. (Credo has a petition asking for Mary Jo White's removal.)
After the Great Recession — with a further decline in the middle-class, moving more into the working poor — after all these years, most of our politicians still favor big business and big banks over average workers. All except people such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. It turns out that even most of Obama's "Hope and Change" was just more of the same old bull$hit we've been hearing for years (with the same old lies just being told with a brand new twist).
David Geffen, once a good friend of the Clintons, said of Hillary in an interview with Maureen Dowd at the New York Times in 2007: "Not since the Vietnam War has there been this level of disappointment in the behavior of America throughout the world, and I don’t think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is — and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? — can bring the country together ... The Clintons were unwilling to stand for the things that they genuinely believe in. Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it’s troubling."
It's been 8 years since that interview and when she ran against Obama. Did Hillary really "evolve" all that much since that time?
The Democrats Wall of Shame ...
- Ron Wyden (OR) who also voted for the NAFTA and CAFTA
- Bill Nelson (FL) who also voted for the CAFTA
- Maria Cantwell (WA) who also voted for CAFTA
- Patty Murray (WA) who also once voted to double the number of H-1B visas
- Dianne Feinstein (CA)
- Claire McCaskill (MO)
- Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
- Michael Bennet (CO)
- Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
- Tom Carper (DE)
- Chris Coons (DE)
- Tim Kaine (VA)
- Mark Warner (VA)
- Ben Cardin (MD)
- Earl Blumenauer OR
- Gerry Connolly VA
- Jim Cooper TN
- Henry Cuellar TX
- John Delaney MD
- Eddie Bernice Johnson TX
- Ron Kind WI
- Rick Larsen WA
- Susan Day CA
- Sam Farr CA
- R Hinojosa TX
- Gregory Meeks NY
- Scott Peters CA
- Jim Costa CA
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz FL
- James Heinz CT
- Jared Polis CO
- Kurt Schrader OR
- Mike Quigley IL
- Terri Sewell AL
- Suzanne Bonamici OR
- Suzan DelBene WA
- Ami Bera CA
- Beto O'Rourke TX
- Derek Kilmer WA
- Brad Ashford NE
- Kathleen Rice NY
- Donald Beyer VA
Jackie Speier CA (not voting)
Mike Thompson CA (not voting)
Juan Vargas CA (not voting)
- Sewell, Terri AL 7th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Bera, Ami CA 7th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Costa, Jim CA 16th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Eshoo, Anna CA 18th
- Farr, Sam CA 20th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Bass, Karen CA 37th
- Peters, Scott CA 52nd (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Davis, Susan CA 53rd (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Polis, Jared CO 2nd (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Perlmutter, Ed CO 7th
- Larson, John CT 1st
- Himes, James CT 4th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Carney, John DE
- Wasserman Schultz, Debbie FL 23rd (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Quigley, Mike IL 5th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Foster, Bill IL 11th
- Richmond, Cedric LA 2nd
- Hoyer, Steny MD 5th
- Delaney, John MD 6th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Ashford, Brad NE 2nd (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Israel, Steve NY 3rd
- Rice, Kathleen NY 4th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Meeks, Gregory NY 5th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Price, David NC 4th
- Bonamici, Suzanne OR 1st (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Blumenauer, Earl OR 3rd (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Schrader, Kurt OR 5th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Clyburn, Jim SC 6th
- Cooper, Jim TN 5th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- O'Rourke, Beto TX 16th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Cuellar, Henry TX 28th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Johnson, Eddie TX 30th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Beyer, Donald VA 8th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Connolly, Gerald VA 11th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- DelBene, Suzan WA 1st (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Larsen, Rick WA 2nd (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Kilmer, Derek WA 6th (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
- Smith, Adam WA 9th
- Heck, Denny WA 10th
- Kind, Ron WI 3rd (Also voted Yea in previous House vote)
Related Post at Politico: Inside the relaunch of Hillary Clinton (June 12, 2015)