Saturday, June 13, 2015


The trade deal has crashed and burned in the House, and what's pathetic to me is the thought that corporate chieftains are now up at their multimillion-dollar weekend houses staring with furrowed brows at their iPhone 6s, looking to David Frum in The Atlantic to explain to them why the natives are so restless on the subject of trade:
... from the 1940s through the 1990s, freer trade benefited from the almost unanimous elite consensus in its favor -- and the strong public instinct to defer to elites when unanimous.

That deference has eroded. A recent Pew Research poll found that although 58 percent of Americans felt that free trade benefits the national economy, just 43 percent thought such deals benefited their own families finances. And pluralities of Americans believe that free trade slows economic growth, lowers wages, and leads to job losses.

... The trouble is that Americans no longer trust their leaders. If polls can be relied upon, trust in leaders and institutions has plunged to the lowest levels ever recorded, lower even than during the dismal days of the mid-1970s.

The belief that the economic system is rigged in favor of the wealthy and that ordinary people can no longer get ahead run is especially intense. Americans increasingly perceive the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer. Their view of business corporations has turned especially hostile, very nearly as hostile as their view of government.
It's 2015, and the fact that the public feels economically screwed by both business and the government is something the readers of The Atlantic still need explained to them?


Buford said...

government and corporate business are one in the same....

oc democrat said...

"is something the readers of The Atlantic still need explained to them? "

YES!! They live in a BUBBLE, and as they love to say: What are you talking about? ALL MY friends are doing good!

Victor said...

The anti-government feelings Reagan sowed, bloom year-round now.

Philo Vaihinger said...

The problem is capital flight and job loss.

Among the slow learners are those who think the solution is fair trade.

It is not.

Fair trade provisions do not protect American workers or American jobs.

They protect the foreign workers who get the American jobs.

The solution is protectionism, aka economic nationalism.

The rest is lies covering up for the dominance of the real pensee unique whose aim is cosmopolitan, anti-nationalist, anti-democratic, globalist corporatocracy.

petrilli said...

Pensee unique could apply to other to mainstream assumptions we always hear that are assumed to be gospel such as, "those manufacturing jobs are gone forever and are never coming back" or, "It's a global economy, we have to compete"

Of course those jobs can come back. Our workers certainly can and do compete. The world needs our markets more than we need this stinking trade deal. And Planet Earth has been an international world economy for the last 1000 years.

Our long national neoliberal nightmare will be over as soon as such fairy tales are demolished.

Fair trade is a ruse. Free Markets are a ruse. Small Government is a ruse.

All designed to distract from the Arriere Pensee, cosmopolitan, anti-nationalist, anti-democratic, globalist corporatocracy;)

Victor said...

Now, now, @petrilli, you're hurting the corporations feelings.

Corporations are people too, you know.

At least according to 5 Fascist conservative corporatist judges on our Supreme Court.

petrilli said...

Soylent Green is also people, Victor.

Victor said...



Victor said...

Btw - that's a very under-rated - if somewhat schlocky - movie.

It was the last film performance of the great Edward G. Robinson.

And Charlton Heston over-acted his pants off - in other words, a typical performance for him.
All, with a noir murder story.

I watched it again a few years ago, and I still really liked it.

Paul Canning said...

Erm. Looking at this from across the Atlantic (ocean, not magazine), and as we start our debate on the European Union, it is hard not to smell the whiff of Yankee protectionism and isolationism.

I don't know the details of TTP and I'm well aware of corporate power, being an actual socialist, but any debate smothered with talk of 'them foreigners, stealing our jobs' ... really?

Our EU debate is smothered with economic talk but I see it more about ideals. The EU was founded, in part, in order to ensure war never happened again in Europe.

Trade is part and parcel of bringing the world together and breaking down barriers between countries. Sure this gets abused but the idea of the US freely trading with other nations should not seen as some sort of horror and I have to wonder why so called liberals would cast it that way. Are those complaining about TTP coming up with any alternatives?

Dark Avenger said...

If we were allowed to know exactly what it contains, Paul, then some of those complaints might be put to rest, or amplified, depending on what it contains.

But hey, free trade is good! Why bother our poor, provincial American minds with the details in the first place. Am I right?

petrilli said...

Are those complaining about TTP coming up with any alternatives?
First, you need to convince me with something more than the strawman BS in your post, that there is a problem requiring this trade deal in the first place. I'm from Buffalo, Dude. I've seen what so-called "Fair trade" does to people. Maybe you'll get the message when European cancer patient are paying $75,000 a year for their "Freedom" meds Like they do here.

Victor said...

I'd like to know what's in it before I opine.

We in America have many outdated notions - from back when after WWII, we were the only major economy on the planet that survived - if not actually thrived.

The rest of the world took 30+ years to catch up, but, eventually, many countries did.
Thanks, in large part, to "The Marshall Plan," Europe and Asia started to come back. That may have helped prevent another World War.

And then, after Nixon's visit to China, and the ensuing trade with that country, and the fall of the USSR in the late 80's-early-90's, our wealthy corporate leaders didn't need to fear an alternative economic system, like Communism.
From the Russian Revolutions until the fall of the USSR, our corporate leaders paid American workers livable wages, so that we could claim OUR system was far, far, superior to Communism.
They feared another "American Revolution" - but this time, aimed at the political/corporate leaders.

When the USSR fell, American workers lost more leverage than many of them realized.
There was no longer any incentive to pay workers livable wages, since Soviet-style/Chinese/style Communism had obviously failed.
No Communist revolution was in the air.

Now, we Americans have to deal with the transition from being the world's dominant economic power, from the end of WWII until the mid-70's and the early-90's. to being one of many nations.

I'm not against TPP, per se.
I just wish I knew more about it, xo that I could have an opinion one way or the other.
I'm a liberal, but not a reflexive one - at least, not all of the time.
Tell me what's in it, and I'll make a decision.

Is that too much to ask?
I guess so...

petrilli said...

"The EU was founded, in part, in order to ensure war never happened again in Europe." is hard not to smell the whiff of Yankee protectionism and isolationism."

Any questions?

Paul Canning said...

Gee, did I sh*tstir much ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

@Dark Avenger - of course the details matter, and being able to know them. I'm not arguing for corporate power (I is socialist, recall), more that 'progressives' should naturally support free trade for *non economic* reasons.

@petrilli 1 - Europe is the place with 'socialist' health care. may have been covered in US media once or twice.

@petrilli 2 - You should have mentioned Bosnia, where I would argue Europe failed dismally. Whereas in Kosovo Europe actually acted, and quickly. Obviously with US help through NATO. I assume that is your point regarding Dayton?

Look, it is messy getting 28 countries to agree. That's one of the issues with Ukraine. But it is better than the alternative.

@Victor - as before, I'm not arguing that we shouldn't know what is in the deal. My issue is with the tone of the opposition. @petrilli says he sees no problem requiring a solution - the problem is obviously trade barriers and protectionism. So my question is how do liberals propose to deal with those or do they actually support them? Has Liz Warren come up with a proposal or is she just doing the 'no' thing that Maggie Thatcher perfected three decades ago?

Paul Canning said...

Regarding the wonders of 'economic nationalism', as covered above. George Orwell put it better than I ever could:

George Orwell
Notes on Nationalism

Dave Schuler said...

Assertions to the contrary notwithstanding what is being proposed is not a free trade agreement. You can write a free trade agreement on the back of a napkin and agree to it before dessert.

What's being negotiated is a managed trade agreement. What Mr. Frum doesn't understand is that the peasants have caught on to the fact that in these managed trade agreements trade is not being managed to their advantage.

petrilli said...

I should have mentioned Bosnia. My mistake. The point is, another genocide on European soil that so-called isolationist Americans had to mitigate. In the same half of the same century! And we would do it again if asked.

IMO, Protectionism and trade barriers are just not the cause of our problems right now. Debt and Global Oligarchy is. This trade deal strengthens the plutocrats. It is written BY them FOR them.

I don't think that my country should subsidize American Corporations with tax breaks for building factories overseas. Does TPP regulate that? We do know from leaked documents that under TPP, Many developing nations will be hampered in trying to pass laws in their own interest deemed by the agreement to be unfriendly to business, or that may cause foreign businesses to lose money. Why should Businesses be protected from investment losses? What's so free market about that?

This isn't a nationalist position, Paul. Smaller developing nations will lose their sovereignity. Mine won't. We do whatever the hell we want.

Fortunately you don't have to live with the consequences of the shit sandwich called NAFTA that we were lied into 20 years ago. It hurt a lot of Americans. But it has DESTROYED Mexican farmers and agriculture. Haitians forced to buy our cheaper rice no longer grow their own and are now starving.

The burden of proof for the new shit sandwich is on TPP supporters this time, not the other way around as you seem to think.

petrilli said...

@Paul, Sorry, I forgot to address your health care point.

The fault is mine for not directly saying that pharmaceutical companies are heavily involved in TPP negotiations to force market rates for their drugs onto price regulated single-payer countries like Canada and yours.

One of the reasons drugs are cheaper elsewhere in the world is because drug companies can gouge us legally here to make up the difference. So yes, Socialized or not, TPP will raise your health care costs. Count on it.

Paul Canning said...

@petrilli - cheers for response.

I hate to say it but that's a bit of a triumphalist reading of the Bosnia war. Clinton, like the European foreign ministers, including the sh*thead UK one, refused to intervene for years. This was the same President who deliberately undermined the Rwanda response, to his (non existent) eternal shame.

i don't think anyone comes out of that period smelling well.

I agree that you make a great case regarding the offer that is on the table. It sounds like a 'shit sandwich'. Boringly I just return to my points about tone and whether the US 'left' has proposed an alternative.

I would make another point, which is that trade obviously does have good outcomes for developing countries. It is not either/or but grey. Positives and negatives. (Has NAFTA been entirely bad news for Mexicans?) But it is economic development which is, for example, lifting Africans out of poverty rather than development aid. Same goes for millions of Chinese.

It is Dickensian development in many cases but I think 'progressives' lucky to be born in countries like the UK or USA need to at least think about whether their actions end up hurting these people. I don't hear any of that but I'm not there so may be missing something.

Dark Avenger said...

progressives' should naturally support free trade for *non economic* reasons.

Even if right now it's a pig in a poke? How we can analyze it for anything if we don't know what's in it?

That's a new definition of socialism/progressivism to me. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

petrilli said...

BTW, the TPP agreement does not involve Europe. That's TTIP. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Equally secretive and odious. Get ready to eat lots of American GMO food, Europe! Savor our delightful pasteurized cheeses and nitrite infused Boars Head Prosciutto, Italy and France. You will SAVOR!

Ken_L said...

All the hostility directed against the TPP is misplaced. There's no doubt it will be a great benefit for American corporations. The true problem is that benefits for US corporations don't translate into benefits for ordinary Americans. That's a problem grounded in the US system of political economy. Holding back economic growth isn't going to help solve it.

Dark Avenger said...

It doesn't hold back economic growth, unless you're thinking of the 1%,mwho've made out like bandits in the recent recovery in his country.

Glad to see you privilege economics over people, Ken. That's the kind of thinking that gave us the recent recession in the first place.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Free - or even "fair" - trade is a problem when Americans are forced to compete for jobs in production for the US domestic market with overseas labor cheap and exploited, sometimes, almost to the point of being slaves.

I don't see how that applies to trade with Europe.

No doubt it applies to some extent to Japan and a much greater extent to China, India, and the East Indies.

The alternative to free (or fair) trade is a system of protective tariffs, appropriately graduated.

Yes, it would be complicated, difficult, and less than ideally effective.

But lots of things are complicated, difficult, and less than ideally effective but still very worthwhile or even necessary.

As to the fluffy stuff about free trade breaking down barriers and bringing the world together, well, that's just fluffy stuff for idiots and girls.

What has actually happened in the last four decades, or so, is that China has become a much richer and more powerful enemy thanks in large part to stupid American trade policy, oil money has made Islamofacism much more dangerous, and the standard of living of ordinary Americans has stagnated or fallen while the wealth and power of international finance capital and the corporatocracy have skyrocketed, perhaps to the point at which it is no longer possible to end this new, global Gilded Age.

International capitalism is building supranational, global institutions quite deliberately to remove power over economic policy, including but not only trade policy, from national power and hence from the reach of democratic constraint (see the current battle between Syriza on the one side and the EU, the IMF, and the German bankers on the other), turning the nations of the world into mere subdivisions of giant, ruling corporations.

In this project, the purpose of US military globalism is to provide the global security for global capitalism.

Just another way the US is being hollowed out and sucked dry by the neoliberal capitalist elites.

While airheads sing Kumbaya about global multicultural togetherness.

BTW, I am not a socialist.

Paul Canning said...

@petrilli - well aware of TTIP. It is being strongly questioned in the European parliament!

p.s. I have no issue with GMO. There is no scientific argument against.

petrilli said...

@Canning, I only mentioned TTIP to correct my point about subsidized drug prices in Europe. I gave the erroneous impression that it was a TTP initiative. I was also incorrect to state that TTIP is as secretive as TTP. I think that is no longer the case.