Friday, August 05, 2016

The subtext of this election is the Trans Pacific Partnership

I believe that we are seeing yet another instance of wagging the dog by the mainstream media. In fact, this election has been beset by a sort of parade of distractions put on by the news media. Instead of giving us useful information, we get tales of death and woe unto other people, far, far away.

Now it seems that the topic of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has returned somewhat, to the surface. The story arc at The Intercept illustrates a clear pattern of distraction on the part of mainstream media. According to The Intercept, analysis of news transcripts shows that for the last two years, the mainstream media has ignored the TPP in favor of other things like missing planes, this election and every other police shooting they can find. The Intercept says that the recent surge of interest centers around the efforts of Bernie Sanders to unite the Democratic Party against the TPP. Note also that Donald Trump has denounced the TPP.

In fact, Donald Trump is the one remaining candidate from either major party that is firmly against the TPP. Even Clinton favors the agreement, but only if she can make a few tweaks to it. Right. Fast track authority was passed so that no one could make "a few tweaks" to it. This is the point. She knows that she will not be able to make any tweaks to the agreement and that would take time to do if she ever found the opportunity to do it. I don't think she wants to take that time as some analysts say that if the TPP is not ratified this year, it won't be ratified for a few more years if at all.

Note that Tim Kaine was praising the TPP a few hours before he was selected as vice presidential running mate for Clinton. I guess she told him to "cut it out" because now he's against the TPP.

Contrast the way Clinton has been treated by the press with every other candidate. She got the lion's share of coverage after Trump. Trump knows how to use the media, so I don't think reporters can resist reporting on him. But for Trump, it's almost all negative. For Clinton, the mantra is that she's the first female nominee of the Democratic Party and it's mostly positive, without any mention of her support for the TPP.

The TPP represents an enormous power grab that few of our "leaders" are willing to talk about. Isn't that just so ridiculous, Sarah Silverman? It will cover about 40% of the world's economy, yet it will do little to grow it. The focus of the TPP is all about intellectual property rights and an investor state dispute resolution system, also known as ISDS. I know, that sounds like another disease, but it's really just a business friendly legal framework that doesn't get much press. It used to be reserved for banana republics, but I guess the US is a banana republic, too. This framework would allow business to sue governments when they pass laws that would infringe upon their future profits.

People familiar with the story of the TPP might find it difficult to name an executive at any multinational corporation that isn't lusting after the power promised by the TPP. Imagine a world where Congress passes a law to help "the people" only to find the Treasury writing a check for a few hundred million to a corporation in damages for that law. Why?

Here's how it could play out. MegaCorp is domiciled in Delaware, but it has completed an inversion, setting itself up so that most of the business is offshore in Ireland. Congress passes a law that hurts Megacorp, but Megacorp can't sue. Hey, look at that! It's subsidiary in Ireland can sue! The subsidiary sues and the "trial" is judged by a panel of friendly corporate lawyers who may have worked for the same corporation that is suing. Remember, this is corporation against government, not corporation against corporation. If the subsidiary in the suit wins, they get a check and the people who pay the taxes pay for that check. That's how ISDS will work, in a nutshell.

The ISDS system will be run by and for lawyers. High-falutin' lawyers will take turns on the panel set up by the TPP to arbitrate disputes. There is no stare decisis in the decisions. In other words, legal precedent will be ignored. The settlements are likely to be covered by non-disclosure agreements and the decisions that are published will have a binding effect on governments that have signed on.

We've already seen this this with NAFTA, another agreement that has ISDS built in. The US has already been sued under that agreement several times, but so far, the federal government has managed to avoid paying out. I think that TPP will be different. Why else would 600 corporations be given access to the working papers for this agreement and a seat at the table while excluding NGOs and other interested parties? Why was the agreement such a big secret for so long?

In sum, under the TPP, governments will be free to pass any law they want, but if a law infringes upon the future profits of a corporation, a defendant government may be forced to pay out millions if not billions in damages. The TPP is NAFTA on steroids.

Why was the press silent on the issue? Because they are in the business of selling intellectual property. What is the TPP about? Mostly, stronger provisions for intellectual property and ISDS. Ask any economist or read any peer-reviewed study of the TPP. They all say pretty much the same thing: the gains from the TPP amount to a rounding error in GDP, but if you've got a plump patent and copyright portfolio, this is your ticket. The real gain is corporate control of government. That might explain why even Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is so gung-ho for the TPP.

Trump is anti-TPP, and that's probably the only thing I can say that I like about him. Sanders was anti-TPP and we saw what happened to him. Jill Stein is anti-TPP and the press tarred her with an anti-vax story about her. She's a doctor and she's not anti-vax. But Hillary Clinton?

Hillary Clinton marshaled NAFTA through Congress in the 1990s. She hosted strategy meetings on how to get it through Congress and to get the public to submit to it. She has the experience and the skills needed to get the TPP through. She's already done a ton of work as Secretary of State to grease the slide for the TPP. As president she can finish the job.

Look beyond the money and the corruption and look for the common theme. The upper class, the wealthy, the billionaire class, the 1% - whatever you want to call them - they have one goal in mind. They want to pass laws for everyone else but themselves. The TPP represents the perfect gateway to their fantasy world, a world where governments take orders from corporations, not the other way around.

This election is not about who will be president in January. It's about getting the TPP passed. We had a chance to stop it with Sanders but he's out for now. If Clinton has a fainting spell during a debate or is somehow apprehended before the election then Sanders could step in. I think Trump is just controlled opposition. Jill Stein? She could have a shot at it. If we managed to get polling up for her by 15% she might be on the same stage with Hillary Clinton and Trump. That could prove to be a very real challenge to Clinton.

As far as the race for president goes, Jill Stein is our best bet. For everyone else down ballot, check with this list to find Berniecrats who support the Sanders platform. There is still a chance to stop the TPP. With a little bit of publicity, we could make it an issue for the debates and put Jill Stein in that debate.

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