Saturday, January 24, 2015

Progressive Plutocrats, Inc.

Whether you're a Godzillionaire or just a Godzillionaire's toady, whether you're spewing your monster fire at Davos and or whether you're enviously live-chatting the annual capitalist prom from afar, the talk of the global town these days is the corporate coup known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And since it's been such a hard sell -- what with such awfulness as trying to establish corporate sovereignty over national governments and judiciaries, and keeping life-saving drugs out of the reach of the poorest countries on earth -- the neoliberal marketers of "free trade" are out in full force, with all the gaslighting techniques they can muster.

The message is that if you're against global fascism, then there is something mentally wrong with you. Or, as President Obama told it to the plutocrats-errant of the Business Roundtable recently, opponents of TPP are "barking up the wrong tree" and quixotically trying to fight the "last battle" (over NAFTA), which is silly, because globalization is already a fait accompli anyway.

So what better way to herd the recalcitrants into the veal pen than to propagandize the job-killing, environment-polluting TPP as a "progressive" initiative -- and then recruit man o' the people/ New York Times columnist Joe Nocera to peddle it as such to the liberal readership?

Nocera quotes a so-called expert from a "left-leaning" think tank called  Progressive Economy as saying that the American job losses of the late 20th century had nothing to do with the passage of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement). He wants us to believe that globalization is just a natural phenomenon, not the work of greedy men. The passage of NAFTA was all just a serendipitous coincidence, Nocera claims, as he snidely portrays  New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter as a "well-meaning" (subtext: aging and therefore somewhat ditzy) dame for opposing the TPP. He slyly gets her to admit that even though the Rochester Kodak factory closed and jobs went to Mexico, a new breed of entrepreneurs is now taking over those abandoned spaces as part of the New Normal Economy! And isn't that what globalization is all about?

To answer that Godzillion-dollar question, he shamelessly quotes experts without even bothering to inform his readers that they are lobbyists:
Edward Gresser, the executive director of Progressive Economy, a left-leaning think tank, noted that other factors were taking place at the same time as Nafta: the growth of container ships, the lowering cost of communications, the rise of global industries. With or without trade deals, globalization is an unstoppable force. What Nafta really is, Gresser told me, is a proxy for globalization.
That's just what Obama told his confab of plutocrats at the BRT. It's the talking point of the Democratic Leadership Council, the right-of-center think tank co-founded by none other than Mister Nafta himself, Bill Clinton. (It is now more popularly known as the New Democrat Coalition.) Edward Gresser comes to his current stint as "scholar in residence" (TPP marketer) direct from the DLC, as a matter of fact. Nocera doesn't share this detail, either because he doesn't know, he doesn't want to know, or he knows but doesn't care.

But wait. It gets even worse. The Progressive Economy front group, it turns out, is a wholly-owned lobbying subsidiary of yet another lobby shop called the GlobalWorks Foundation, itself the front group for the Fontheim International multinational lobbying enterprise. There is nothing even remotely left-leaning about this Big Fat GlobalWorks Foundation Daddy, given that its executive director is National Association of Manufacturers consultant Wayne Palmer. The NAM is notorious as one of the most powerful anti-regulatory lobbyists in Washington. And why not? It's heavily funded by the Koch Brothers, who'd love the TPP to pass so they can spread their pollution at no cost to themselves and for much obscene profit. Before that, Palmer lobbied for Astra Zeneca. Before that, he was chief of staff to former GOP Senator Rick Santorum, one of the more notorious right wing politicians of the American oligarchy.

Of course, you wouldn't know about Palmer's ulterior motives by casually glancing at his website, which vaguely gushes that:
 Our work supports the elimination of poverty through support for practical policies and innovative programs addressing conditions related to globalization. Since 2001, GlobalWorks has been bringing together leaders from nongovernmental organizations and educational institutions, governments, the business community, and grassroots organizations to identify and promote such policies and initiatives.
Note the carefully worded neoliberal dog whistle, replete with such standard buzzwords as "practical" and "innovative." Translation of this mission statement would go something like this: Our plunder supports the elimination of poverty by eliminating poor people from the equation. Since 9/11, we've used fear and terror to get rich beyond our wildest dreams. Government and corporations transformed the world into their own militarized public-private partnership with a vested interest in identifying everybody and every thing ripe for extraction, at their cost and for our profit.

A look at the Board of Directors of GlobalWorks is interesting, to say the least. In charge of  public relations is its co-founder, corporate reputation-salvager Claude Fontheim, a former State Department trade negotiator and another DLC Clinton alum. Among the services provided to his oligarchic clients are a parade of Thought Leaders -- neoliberal-speak for tycoons posing as social service concern trolls at Clinton Global Initiative and Davos confabs, as well as columnists and other self-proclaimed experts willing to shill for trade deals. I imagine he's got Tom Friedman all lined up for another friendly New York Times column in the very near future.

Except for their Republican executive director, Wayne Palmer, the other board members are all Clintonistas -- and all are affiliated with Fontheim International. Ben Kobren, chief counsel at Fontheim, worked for Hillary Clinton both at State and as her press secretary in the Senate.

As Joe Nocera might say, what a coincidence. As Joe Nocera does say, since the TPP is bipartisan, then it's got to be good and naysayers like Bernie Sanders have to be marginalized. And we can't ever forget that this is good for Obama's legacy, and especially good for the legacies of his heirs and heiresses.

If you want to know the truth, Public Citizen is one of the best places to go for factual info on the TPP. It's the perfect antidote for capitalism on crack.


annenigma said...

Excellent comment to Joe Nocera, Karen. TPP is such a critically important issue that the NYT has virtually ignored, except to support it in opinion pieces.

Here's my comment from the previous post, written before this one was up:

The way trade agreements are being secretly written by corporations, how would we even know if definitions and restrictions on free expression were codified in these agreements to protect the reputation and profits of corporate beings? We know what happened to our rights under the corporate-sponsored and highly lucrative global War on Terror. Freedom of expression can harm profits after all. Corporate owned media such as the NYT already limits what it covers to protect investors or certain countries. I'm so used to self-censoring, I can't bring myself to say who that Is....!

Wall Street felt threatened and demanded the crackdown of the Occupy movement and Homeland Security obliged. Dissenting voices in general can easily become labeled a risk to 'national $ecurity' (corporate reputations, power, and profits) or the $afety of Corporate People by some legal twist in wording in secretly negotiated global trade agreements. Too Big to Fail is now wants to be Too Big to Control by any country's laws. What they can't control through ownership, such as media, they can control by usurping nation's laws.

How did corporations end up taking the seat at the secret negotiating table that rightfully belongs to Congress? Obama invited them in and then locked the doors. They Fast Tracked his rapid ascent into Presidential power and now he is reciprocating.

I'd encourage everyone to comment everywhere about these corporate written trade agreements. Consider it a duty and service to our country and world. Don't be discouraged if you enter at the bottom of the comment pile. Consider it a challenge and reward to see your comment get moved up by those in agreement, even if it's from #200 to #75. It means people think you have something valuable to say that others should consider.

The best outcome is that we share ways of seeing or interpreting things that others might not otherwise consider. Readers who put their stock in the opinions of pundits who have undisclosed ve$ted interest$ need an alternative point of view.

Score one for Karen at:

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks Anne. As has happened many a time before, we was reading each other's thoughts as our posts "crossed in the mail."

annenigma said...

Karen, you so nailed it with this paragraph:

'Translation of this mission statement would go something like this: Our plunder supports the elimination of poverty by eliminating poor people from the equation. Since 9/11, we've used fear and terror to get rich beyond our wildest dreams. Government and corporations transformed the world into their own militarized public-private partnership with a vested interest in identifying everybody and every thing ripe for extraction, at their cost and for our profit.'

Denis Neville said...

Yes! Excellent comment to Joe Nocera, Karen.

@ annenigma, Joe Nocera is just another tool and fool in the NY Times stable. They’re all interchangeable and exhibit lickspittle syndrome. It is amazing how they all tell us we need to resign ourselves to the looting by the plutocrats. It’s Upton Sinclair’s observation in practice, they aren’t paid to understand this stuff and they dutifully don’t.

TPP is a global coup by the giant corporate interests of the world. The coming triumph of corporatism over democracy... free at last!!! Because "free markets" - the freedom to out-source jobs to the Third World and exploit the defenseless people of the Third World; the “giant sucking sound” of jobs heading to cheap labor in Vietnam.

Our politicians, men and women without vertebrae, serve their corporate patrons to the detriment of their constituents. How many Democrats, the traditional party of the dispossessed, will participate in the stripping of their own citizens? Obama is the most convincing impersonation of a Republican ever attempted by a Democrat since Slick Willie, and is utterly contemptuous of the democratic process.

Our world is becoming increasingly barbaric.

“… the relationship of art to capitalism is, to put it mildly, vexed. It has not been a happy marriage. Amused contempt is about the pleasantest emotion either partner feels for the other. Their definitions of what profiteth a man are too different…”

“To me, then, one of the most despicable things about corporate publishers and chain booksellers is their assumption that books are inherently worthless. If a title that was supposed to sell a lot doesn’t “perform” within a few weeks, it gets its covers torn off—it is trashed. The corporate mentality recognizes no success that is not immediate. This week’s blockbuster must eclipse last week’s, as if there weren’t room for more than one book at a time. Hence the crass stupidity of most publishers (and, again, chain booksellers) in handling backlists…”

“Since kids coming up through the schools are seldom taught to read for pleasure and anyhow are distracted by electrons, the relative number of book-readers is unlikely to see any kind of useful increase and may well shrink further. What’s in this dismal scene for you, Mr. Corporate Executive? Why don’t you just get out of it, dump the ungrateful little pikers, and get on with the real business of business, ruling the world?”

Ursula K. Le Guin, “Staying Awake Notes on the alleged decline of reading,”

voice-in-wilderness said...

A major weakness of the NYTimes is their stable of opinion writers. As a group they are dreadfully weak, especially considering that the NYTimes should be able to attract excellent writers. Some like Brooks and Friedman are just interested in promoting their own brands and add nothing to the NYTimes.

A writer like Joe Nocera is a loose cannon, allowed to write astonishingly ignorant and fact-free opinions on economics and the environment.

The NYTimes seems to take a perverse pride in their willingness to allow what they would champion as freedom of expression, without regard to the quality of what is expressed.

Denis Neville said...

“The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.” - General Smedley Butler

Obama's America, the relentless opponent of terror and tyranny, and the light of hope to the world.

"Only North Americans seem to believe that they always should, may, and actually can choose somebody with whom to share their blessings. Ultimately this attitude leads to bombing people into the acceptance of gifts." - Ivan Illich

“The “civilized” have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their “vital interests” are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the “sanctity” of human life, or the conscience of civilized world.” – James Baldwin

Paul Goodman, addressing the National Security Industrial Association in 1967, on reviving American democracy, rescuing the majority of mankind from deepening poverty, and ensuring the survival of mankind as a species:

“You people are unfitted by your commitments, your experience, your customary methods, your recruitment, and your moral disposition. You are the military-industrial of the United Sates, the most dangerous body of men at present in the world, for you not only implement our disastrous policies but are an overwhelming lobby for them, and you expand and rigidify the wrong use of brains, resources, and labor, so that change becomes difficult. Most likely the trends you represent will be interrupted by a shambles of riots, alienation, ecological catastrophes, wars, and revolutions, so that current long-range planning, including this conference, is irrelevant. But if we ask what are the technological needs and what ought to be researched in this coming period … the best service that you people could perform is rather rapidly to phase yourselves out, passing on your relevant knowledge to people better qualified, or reorganizing yourselves with entirely different sponsors and commitments, so that you learn to think and feel in a different way. Since you are most of the R&D that there is, we cannot do without you as people, but we cannot do with you as you are.”

"… past a certain point your operations have increased insecurity rather than diminished it. But this has been to your interest… Although we are the most heavily armed and the most naturally protected of the great Powers, you have seen to it that we spend a vastly greater amount and perhaps a higher proportion of our wealth on armaments than any other nation." - Paul Goodman, "A Causerie at the military-industrial," October 1967

Bill Neil said...

I recall Karen saying that the TPP was not going away, the President wasn't going to abandon it, although it seemed dead on arrival months ago, back in the summer of 2014. That it was fading then as an issue was due to the perception that the Republicans in Congress would give Obama no quarter and no victory, certainly, and what's left of the left in the Democratic Party was never going to support another big trade deal, especially one that hadn't seemed to learn anything in content and approach from previous infamous bills.

But here it is, front and center and we'll see if the old Center-Right coalition from the Clinton days can't rise to the occasion and do something once again for the global economic elite. If things falter, they can always try economist Kenneth Rogoff's marketing approach, which is that globalization had done wonderful things for Asian workers, bitter American workers just had to get the right perspective on their troubles, and look East...they just didn't know their mission in life was to raise Chinese and Indian living standards. These "union types," so provincial!

Pearl said...

State of the Union 2015: Lethal, Predatory, Delusional | Black Agenda Report via @themesnap

Kat said...

The problem with populist politicians who talk about these trade deals "shipping jobs overseas"
is that they help play into the idea that workers are benefiting in another country to the detriment of US workers. It is still pitting worker against worker. Marx saw international trade as a revolutionary force. It didn't quite work out that way.

Kat said...

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering about my credentials, I am a certified political blog commenter (CPB). As such, I have met the high standards of the non profit Blog Certification program. The program's objectives and curriculum are thoroughly vetted by individuals from both ends of the political spectrum (The party of money and the party of money+marriage equality.)

Kat said...

Victory in Greece! Well, for now- the struggle is ongoing.

annenigma said...

Yay, Greece! But as the leader of the Spanish party Podemos said back in October at a Syriza rally:

'Winning the elections is far from winning power'.

'There is a worldwide party that is much stronger than the Third International was. It’s the party of Wall Street, which has servants everywhere. These functionaries have carry different ID cards. Some have cards from New Democracy, others from PASOK, others from Merkel’s CDU, others from the Socialist Party in Spain or France. [But] Juncker, Merkel, Rajoy, Samaras, Hollande, and Renzi are all members of the same party – the party of Wall Street. They are the Finance International.

This is why, no matter how modest our objectives are, no matter how wide the consensus in our societies regarding them is, we must not lose sight that we are confronting a minority with a lot of power, with very few scruples, and fearful of the electoral results when their parties don’t win. Don’t forget that the powerful almost never accept the results of elections when they don’t like them.'

I can just hear Victoria Nuland now - "Fuck the Syriza!" as she plays her part in the plotting of the next coup. Naturally they'll first they'll try to buy them, then bribe them, then threaten them, so they've got a little time. Syriza is really going to need all the help in the world to survive the mighty Godzillionaires.

Godspeed, Syriza!

Denis Neville said...

@ Kat and annenigma

Yes, Godspeed, Syriza!!!

“Brothers and sisters, we are called upon to reconstruct democracy — European democracy — against the totalitarianism of the market.” - Pablo Iglesias, Podemos, Spain’s Anti-austerity party

"We are going to destroy the Greek oligarchy system." - Yanis Varoufakis, front-runner to be Syriza's new finance minister

Pitchforks for the Kleptoligarchy!!!

But, wait, wait … just another audacity of hope? Will Syriza’s Tsipras turn out to be an Obama?

Bill Mitchell says, “I don’t see Syriza as the solution as they shift to the centre (which is really the right).”

“… don’t get the idea that Syriza is a radical party. Its public statements and the proposal it has taken the Greek people is not radical at all and would see it operate within the mainstream (neo-liberal) rules that are set and enforced by Brussels. Syriza is not proposing a restoration of currency sovereignty. Rather it is proposing that Brussels goes soft on Greece for a while and writes down a proportion of the outstanding public liabilities as part of a negotiated easing of the repayment conditions. That is not radical. It ensures that Greece remains within the Eurozone, the dynamics of which are dominated by Germany, which has an economy that is incomparable with the Greek economy and makes it an ‘impossible’ partner to be with in a common currency union….”

“The entrenched interests have helped create the problem and are impoverishing the Greek people (themselves excepted). So they are part of the problem. Syriza talks bit about freeing Greece from the Troika-yoke but has a set of proposals that are mutually inconsistent. They might help around the edge and redistribute income a bit but what is needed is a massive boost in national income and that can only come from a massive increase in spending. The non-government sector is not going to do provide the source of that spending boost to get things moving again. So, ladies and gentleman you know what the answer is – there is only one other sector left in town to do it. And, you also know what is stopping them – membership of the Eurozone and the requirement to obey fiscal rules that restrict necessary spending to stagnation-enduring levels. That is why Syriza’s strategy is mutually inconsistent. Even a debt jubilee – the current favourite of the progressives, which warms their hearts so they can convince themselves that they are different from the neo-liberals will not solve the problem. Repeat: a massive fiscal boost is required, which means deficits above 10 per cent of GDP for many years forward. Repeat: that can only be accomplished within the current political reality if Greece leaves the Eurozone. It should have done that in 2008. It should never have joined. It should do it next week…”

Valerie said...

Thanks for the link, Anne, and your comment was great!

Karen, great journalism! The TPP scares the hell out of me and yet whenever I bring it up, no one seems to know about it.

Bill Clinton and Obama have been great tools of the Oligarchy, pushing through job killing and exploitation of the poorest people of the world as lifting the poor out of poverty and providing more jobs. Yet very few journalists or readers of the news challenge the idea that Free Trade is always a good thing. And I find that many people confuse Trade with Free Trade. Trade deals that benefit both countries are fine - but Free Trade (which costs the middle classes and poor plenty) is another animal entirely.

Karen, you are a star for keeping this story alive on your blog.

Valerie said...

So I just went over to the NYT to read Nocera and the commenters. I was happy to see that the commetariat came out in full form, calling Nocera on his dishonest conclusions. It is clear the commenters, at least in the Reader Picks, were far more informed than Nocera.