With a Congressional vote coming as early as this week to give President Obama fast track authority to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the racketeers of the ruling class are out in full force. They're trying to force a gigantic financial tapeworm down our collective gullet by hiding it in containers of frothy propaganda product.
The actual taste sensation of financial parasitism depends upon what part of The Castle's right wing kitchen its political chefs work within.
One popular bipartisan flavor resembles Neapolitan ice cream. But instead of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, they tempt us with competitiveness, fear, and patriotism. If we don't allow the good rent-seekers over here the chance to destroy democracy, then the bad rent-seekers over there (China, Russia) will beat them to the punch of punching regular people in the face. Wouldn't you rather the predator brand you know than the predator brand you don't know? The Kochs and the Waltons are so much more palatable than Deng Jiagui and Liu Chunhang.
Allowing billionaires to have their way is the very epitome of National Security, proclaims Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. In one recent typical New York Times article soft-pedaling the TPP proposals, Carter's brand of verbal pathology spreads the creamy message that at the same time they keep you safe by keeping the unwashed migrant children and ISIS out, they must open up our precious borders so that megatons of untaxed capital and weapons and filthy oil may flow with abandon all over the planet.
If the United States does not go through with the pact, a 12-nation accord that administration officials view as a linchpin for the Obama administration’s strategic pivot to Asia, “we are going to take ourselves out of the game,” Mr. Carter said during a speech at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University.
As well it should be, given his sweet role in procuring billions of dollars' worth of lethal weaponry during his public service stint at the State Department, seamlessly meshed with his work in the Wall Street sector. According to Wikipedia,“Time is running out,” he said of the accord, which is still under negotiation but nearing completion. “We already see countries in the region trying to carve up these markets.”For the Defense Department, it was an odd foray into the world of trade politics, which involve shifting alliances of high tech industries and big businesses in California and the Northeast versus the more traditional skeptics of wide-ranging trade agreements, including some labor unions and manufacturing states. But Mr. Carter appeared to relish it, claiming that “passing TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier.”
In addition to his public service, Carter was a Senior Partner at Global Technology Partners, focused on advising investment firms in technology and defense. He has been a consultant to Goldman Sachs and Mitretek Systems on international affairs and technology matters, and speaks frequently to business and policy audiences.In other words, he is a member in good standing of Ruling Class Racketeers, Inc. The TPP is very important to him. It's personal. Yet the Times proclaims itself amaaaaaazed that the warmongering and financial industries are one and the same pathogenic behemoth, and that Ashton Carter can straddle it so amazingly. You might call him a Renaissance Man of the New Abnormal.
He was also a member of the Boards of Directors of the MITRE Corporation and Mitretek Systems and the Advisory Boards of MIT Lincoln Laboratory and Draper Laboratory. Carter was also a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Physical Society, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Carter was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The faux-liberal caucus of the Democratic Party, meanwhile, is slapping the safe plain vanilla label "progressive" on a tub of arsenic. For the TPP is, for all intents and purposes, a corporate coup of epic, poisonous, regressive proportions. Operatives from the White House and its campaign arm, Organizing for Action, are running astroturf propaganda campaigns to sway public opinion. If you love Obama, it just naturally follows that you'll love getting punched in the face by the TPP. Because Obama has the preternatural gift of making assault by a predator feel like a kiss from a suitor with an ice cream cone. Our president promises that the 30 cents-an-hour peasants in Vietnam will now enjoy the same wonderful worker protections as the underpaid no-benefit Uber drivers over here. (Pay no attention to CAFTA and Obama's feigned ignorance of Colombian trade unionists getting assassinated by drug cartels fronting for multinational corporations.)
Then there are the hardcore Neocons who don't even bother pretending to care about you. They lie with abandon, and then get their lies published in the New York Times in order to fairly balance truth with the obligatory mendacity, and to counter Democratic masochism with Republican sadism. Still, Roger C. Altman, investment banker, and Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, did bury some unintentional truth deep within their Big Lie of an op-ed last week: (parentheses are mine)
Free trade leads to greater overall prosperity. (for the top .01%) The gains from free trade need to be widely shared (among the 80 billionaires owning half the world's wealth), but defeating the TPP would not solve America’s problems with inequality. (because there are so many other many ways of forcing our plutocratic tapeworm down your throats) Instead, it would further rattle our allies. (because we're snakes) “Further” is the key word here, as there already are rising doubts about American reliability — the result of the debt-ceiling crises, government shutdowns, the failure to follow through on threats in Syria and, most recently, the letter addressed to Iran from 47 senators. If the TPP fails, countries that, rightly or wrongly, see Washington as ineffective will pay America less heed.Translation: if the obscenely rich ruling class doesn't get its way on the TPP, then the facade of American exceptionalism will crumble and the coddled rich assholes will be seen as wimps by the rest of the global oligarchic clique.
The Status Quo losing status? Bring it on.
If today's latest #WealthyLivesMatter manifesto in the New York Times is any indication, the malefactors of great wealth are getting a little desperate, if not delusional. Conservative pundit Arthur C. Brooks informs us that pop culture icon Andy Warhol would have absolutely looooooooved the TPP. Sounding more like an off-key crooner of the old I'd Like to Give the World a Coke (Koch) commercial than an editorialist, Brooks strove to make the impending corporate coup sound like an artsy-fartsy religious experience. Only instead of Coke cans, Brooks conjured up those iconic Campbells Soup cans.
The TPP might seem arcane and boring to the untutored masses, but it is truly a work of art, just like Warhol's cans. If only we stupid people could see the same Buddha-like beauty in global trade that Brooks and his smart friends do. If it weren't for free trade, after all, Chinese peasants couldn't have been lifted from rural starvation on failing farms up into their new lives at polluted big-city FoxConn electronics suicide factories. Less-bad poverty is better than abject poverty, dontcha know. Especially when American
Interestingly, Warhol himself once remarked on the democratizing effect of global commerce with his characteristic ironic edge. “The President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too,” Warhol said. Fortunately, President Obama appreciates the benefits of trade and is currently fighting for the latest international trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). It would knock down barriers between North American, South American and East Asian nations, benefiting rich and poor people and countries alike. Admirably, the president is standing up to critics in his own party (as well as some in the opposition) who oppose the deal. With luck, T.P.P. will make its way through the House and Senate this spring or summer, and receive the president’s signature.My published response:
Why are the TPP's contents being kept secret from the public? Why can't members of Congress take notes, or bring their staffs along during their rare piecemeal glimpses of it under the watchful eye of the security state?
Why does the newly-leaked clause calling for the replacement of sovereign courts with investor state tribunals come with the caveat that this de facto overthrow of democracy may not be revealed to the public for at least four years after the treaty is ratified?
Because if the public knew about it, the president would never be granted fast track authority to seal a deal which, for all intents and purposes, is the death knell of what little still remains of both the American and global working and middle classes. The vote that would give him this right is coming this week.
Contrary to what Arthur Brooks claims, "trade" deals have increased inequality, destroyed jobs, communities and ecosystems, depressed wages, and have actually worsened the US trade deficit. Public Citizen has more of the grisly details. They will hopefully inspire you to urge your congress critter to Just Say No to fast track authority for the president.
The only people appreciating the "beauty" of the TPP are the very billionaires who stand to benefit from it most egregiously.Besides calling your congressional reps, you also might want to consider joining a conference call on anti-TPP strategy this Wednesday evening with Senator Bernie Sanders. Details are here. As Bernie wrote in his email, the mainstream media has done an absolutely crappy, abysmal job of bringing this story to public attention. Just witness the trio of propaganda pieces linked above in the Paper of Record. Just witness the way the editors quickly buried even these stories when readers had the audacity to express their shock and dismay at the onslaught of mendacity.
What Brooks is selling as a plutocratic moment of Zen is as dented in its logic as a botulism-infested can of Coup Soup.
Thanks but no thanks to both their warmed-over, tainted down-home soup and their parasite-laced frozen fake dairy product.
*Update 4/14. To its credit, the Times today published a guest op-ed by Margot Kaminski of Yale Law School's Information Society Project, decrying the secrecy of the TPP negotiations. We'll see how long they let her piece reside on the prominent top right corner of the homepage.
It seems that of all the partner countries negotiating the TPP and its European counterpart, the TTIP, only the United States is insisting on secrecy of paranoid proportions. And the Obama administration describes itself as the Most Transparent Administration Evah? As Kaminski writes:
Secrecy also delegitimizes trade agreements: The process has been internationally criticized as undemocratic. The European Parliament, for example, rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in large part over legitimacy concerns. In some of our trading partner countries, citizens have objected to trade agreements by calling them undemocratic. And they rightly fear that the American commitment to these agreements is weak because the United States public might rebel once the texts are released.To give you a clue about how successfully the government has been keeping the TPP contents a big fat secret from the public, there were only 14 reader comments on Kaminski's piece published as of 9 a.m. today. (Maybe there are hundreds more awaiting moderation. Let's hope.) Here is mine, to which I appended a link to my recent post about the White House propaganda campaign:
Congress is soon likely to consider whether to authorize an up-or-down vote on a trade deal, with what’s known as “fast track” legislation. Free trade now involves dozens of areas with complex subject matter, and the agency responsible for negotiating it often fails to tap key expertise. The discussion over the trade negotiating authority is not a question of which is better: the executive branch or the legislative branch. It’s a question of whose input we’re getting on decisions that reach far beyond trade — into questions on the price of generic drugs or whether websites will have to monitor users online.As it considers fast track here, Congress must address the secrecy, and the views of the privileged advisers, that shaped the agreement. Otherwise, “fast” will be little more than a euphemism for “avoid the public, and benefit the fortunate few.”
The only aspect of the TPP more disgusting than its secrecy and the democracy-destroying contents is the propaganda campaign to sell it to the public. The White House strategy is to put the magical "progressive" label on it. It has even set up an astroturf group called "270 Solutions" to spread the message that supporting this corporate coup of a deal would be a way for Obama's fans to show their loyalty and appreciation.
The shameless usage of the cult of personality is another clue that we no longer live in a functioning democracy.
In a conference call a couple of weeks ago with members of the Obama campaign arm, Organizing for Action, White House communications staffer David Simas had the gall to tell the president's supporters that the TPP is really nothing but a renegotiation of NAFTA. He instructed the troops to go out there and spread the message that if you were against that job-destroying travesty, then you're going to absolutely love the TPP! Also, he advised, spread the fear and the patriotism. Our plutocrats are more palatable than Chinese plutocrats. If not "us", then who? The propaganda is all about Obama's "legacy" and America's superior standing in the world. It actually borders on the xenophobic.
This mental manipulation and the ginning up of xenophobia by the ruling class at the expense of the working class is also a hallmark of a society degrading into fascism and feudalism.