Colson: Just saying ‘NO’ to Obama’s give-away
I rejoice in the news that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), President Obama’s miserably flawed “free-trade” initiative, is in deep ca-ca, as they say in preschool.
The TPP is a give-away that involves various Pacific Rim nations but would benefit no one except corporate border-jumpers and union-busters.
On June 8, an odd combination of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in Congress, pushed by unions and other activists, defeated a relatively obscure piece of legislation that would have set up a new federal program, called the TAA or “trade adjustment assistance,” which would have provided federal aid to workers who lost their jobs because of free-trade agreements.
The “no” vote was not aimed at downtrodden workers, though.
It was aimed directly at the TPP and Obama’s strange partnership with multinational corporations and some in the Republican party, who want to duplicate Bill Clinton’s betrayal of the working class with the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s, and give Obama “fast track” authority to craft similarly anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-democratic trade pacts.
The TAA was designed, you see, as a diversion to confuse those who oppose any more “free-trade” agreements, which are nothing more than legislative inroads intended to further undermine unions and activists determined to keep jobs in this country rather than send them overseas. This job-exportation has depressed U.S. wages and reduced U.S. workers to virtual slaves in America’s increasing tilt toward feudal tyranny by the 1 percent and their corporate masters.
The TPP, criticized by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as too secretive in its formative stages, and too open-ended because of its proposed six-year “fast-tracking” authority sought by Obama, would undermine U.S. sovereignty by allowing multinational corporations to challenge U.S. environmental protections and labor laws.
Obama, unfortunately, is just another corporate shill, even though he claims to be more progressive than most in his politics and his ideals. Just as unfortunately, thanks to a Republican legislative maneuver in the wake of the TAA defeat, he is closer than ever to getting his “fast-track” authority.
As a lame duck, Obama should right now feel pretty comfortable telling the lobbyists and corporate political donors, “Hey, I know you got me elected, and that was good. But I don’t owe you as much as you seem to think I do, and I certainly don’t owe you carte blanche to further degrade America’s economy by allowing trade pacts that have the potential to override this country’s environmental and labor regulations at the whim of foreign nations and corporate interests.”
That’s what our president should be saying.
Instead, he is kow-towing to Big Business and showing his true colors, proving to all that in many ways he is a Republican dressed up as a Democrat.
There seems, though, to be some vestige of progressively-oriented strength left in the country, as evidenced by the fact that unions provided a big part of the strength and determination behind the defeat of the TAA and, I hope, behind the ultimate defeat of “fast-track” authority for Obama and of the TPP.
Unions have been viewed by many as moribund, or simply dead, ever since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker so nastily dismantled the bargaining power of the state’s public employees four years ago. Adding insult to injury, Walker earlier this year managed to turn Wisconsin, which was the first state to grant public workers the right to organize 80 years ago, into a “right-to-work” state. That means that unions can no longer require employees to pay dues, which is how unions historically have kept themselves in the fight for workers’ rights.
Interestingly, the June 14 New York Times carried two stories about unions, one on the front page of the paper about the TAA defeat, and the other in the New York Times Magazine about the Wisconsin right-to-work vote.
The front-page story reported that unions last Friday uncharacteristically stood together against the TAA and, by proxy, the TPP, and engineered the roll-back of Obama’s “free-trade” agenda. Unions representing workers whose jobs might not have been directly affected by the TPP, but who recognized the anti-union undercurrent of the issue, decided they needed to stand up and be counted.
The story noted that the unions failed to stand together in this way in the face of Clinton’s push for NAFTA, a hint that maybe the unions have learned from that earlier mistake.
Union-busting politicians of every stripe have succeeded for decades in convincing vast number of Americans that unions are “special interests” and evil actors in this nation’s ongoing experiment in republican democracy.
But unions are the reason we have a five-day work week, an eight-hour day, and laws that prevent children from being pressed into service as essentially slave labor, among other hard-won benefits.
I can only hope that recent developments are signs that unions are coming back, that voters in this country will see unions as their allies instead of enemies, and that maybe our national slide into a new kind of feudalism can be slowed, if not stopped in its tracks.
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With COVID-19 health and safety practices in place, who is up for a road trip to see the Denver Art Museum’s hotly anticipated exhibition on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera?