The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will fuck us. It will fuck our 11 nation partners. It will fuck their residents and small businesses, their environments and their healthcare systems. It will leave us all fucked. And for what reason? The bottom line of multinational corporations. Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.
That was my abbreviated, R-rated takeaway from Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s speech Wednesday night at P.S. 69 elementary school in Jackson Heights, Queens on the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. The 73-year-old Columbia professor and Clinton administration veteran, of course, did not resort to vulgarities while questioning the Obama administration for supporting the “trade agreement” which could have devastating impacts for all countries involved. The plan being drafted in secret by the Asian-Pacific partner nations and 600-plus corporate lobbyists is its own obscenity, a potential stain on the global market that will not be easily removed, the economist warned.
“When you have issues of secrecy … ” Stiglitz said to the hundreds gathered inside the auditorium, “the natural question is why. What are they trying to hide?”
Stiglitz’s half-hour speech provided the backbone for the night’s meeting, urging New York’s congressional representatives to stand against the partnership. Union, environmental and ethnic leaders followed him with pleas directed toward Rep. Joe Crowley, a Bronx democrat who has stayed mum recently on whether he will support a fast track trade provision that, if approved, would leave Congress without the ability to amend the pact, once it is approved. It is worth noting the majority of people who attended Stiglitz’s speech appeared near retirement age or retirement age, a subject of disappointment for me.
Prior to listening to his speech, my consciousness of Stiglitz stemmed from his book, The Price of Inequality, which I purchased for a libertarian friend in south Louisiana, who in turn mailed me a Ron Paul treatise. Stiglitz’s reputation is that of a liberal academic critical of the plutocrats in our society who would outsource jobs to the gain of corporate executives and stockholders and the detriment of the masses. He is a robust man in person, well-dressed, bearded, a patient speaker who takes great pains to untangle complex issues. In a word: professorial.
The plutocrats’ support for TPP makes sense. Greed drives them. President Obama’s support though? Stiglitz scratches his head on that one. The Affordable Care Act sought to lower health-related costs for American consumers. Yet, the TPP would make it harder for people in the dozen participating nations to purchase cheaper, generic drugs, Stiglitz explained. Obama giveth, Obama taketh away?
The TPP would also make it possible for corporations to sue cities, states and countries for compensation if regulations slice their profits lower than expected. Similar trade agreements involving corporations have provided a window into how this would hurt people. Tobacco giant Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia, accusing both nations of hurting its bottom line with the gross-out images on its cigarette packaging. Such lawsuits could be waged in the U.S., if the TPP is enacted, Stiglitz told the audience.
“You have to compensate them for doing things that are hurting other people and hurting our environment,” Stiglitz said, citing a case in Mexico involving a town sued for blocking a waste dump in the town’s center.
The economist also provided the TPP’s job impact prognosis. Surprise: It’s not good. Expect “American” corporations to continue outsourcing more jobs should Congress rubber stamp the TPP, the economist predicted. The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute has also rejected the notion the TPP will create jobs for the U.S.. After all, job creation and stronger wages for workers are not what such pacts are about.
“This agreement will tie our hands,” Stiglitz said. “It would tie the hands of our trading partners. It’s bad for us. It’s bad for them.”
Post-script: If you are interested in this topic I encourage you to read U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 10 reasons why the TPP must be defeated. Sanders lays out the reasons Stiglitz listed plus many more.