If America’s So Great, Why Does Our Trade Policy Put Corporations Over People?

“It’s out. And it’s UGLY,” declared an indignant Thom Hartmann after looking over the newly-released rolling U.S. trade policy disaster known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Or, as he calls it, “Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement,” or “SHAFTA” for short. That’s a more accurate name for TPP by a long shot, because — as with NAFTA and all our other so-called “free trade” agreements — U.S. workers get the shaft.

As Hartmann takes care to point out, this long-dreaded trade policy agreement with our neighbors in the Pacific has nothing to do with “free trade.”

“This is NOT free trade, this is MANAGED trade. And it is not managed for the benefit of you and me, it is not managed for the benefit of consumers, it is not managed for the benefit of the United States of America, it is not managed for the benefit of the health and safety of any of its partner countries. It is managed almost exclusively for the profit of the corporations that wrote the ‘free trade’ deal.”

The sad thing is, U.S. trade policy didn’t always encourage corporations to ship our jobs, money, blight and misery overseas. Hartmann remembers a time when corporations — although were still just as evil as they are now — allowed America’s workers to share in the prosperity we helped create.

“You know, there was a time when ‘what was good for GM was good for America.’ It was a phrase that was popular back in the 50’s and 60’s, and it used to be largely, if not at least somewhat true. General Motors made everything in the United States, all the parts in GM cars were made in the United States, all the money stayed in the United States; when GM grew, the economy grew, jobs grew, everything grew.”

How quaint things were back when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. For starters, he was a Republican who — like many Republicans of the time — supported unions. Now, you can barely even find Democrats who support unions. As Hartmann explains, America’s leaders took a very different approach towards trade policy back in the day. Since our nation was founded, our international trade barely amounted to one or two percent of our total economy, and we only imported what we couldn’t produce at home.

As for shipping American jobs overseas, that was flat-out illegal, according to Hartmann.

“Not only [was that] never envisioned as one of the reasons for having international trade, it was specifically outlawed by Alexander Hamilton in 1793.”

Believe it or not, this basic foundation of U.S. trade policy stood fast all the way until Ronald Reagan embraced “free trade” in the 1980s. It’s no coincidence that the decline of America’s middle class began almost immediately.

The “giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving the U.S. started then and has kept going for so long we no longer hear its high-pitched whine. Fully three decades worth of U.S. presidents — Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — have supported these so-called “free trade agreements” as a cornerstone of our nation’s trade policy.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, we had to get the full text of the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, because, frankly, our own government doesn’t give a damn.

TPP Is A ‘Blockbuster Disaster.’ How Did It Get So Far?

Here’s the video with an appalled Thom Hartmann taking a long, hard look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and how U.S. trade policy has been screwing American workers for over three decades.

10 Most Disturbing Facts About TPP.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, in its current form, is a boon for big corporations and a disaster for working families, human rights, and the environment. Luckily, it’s not too late: We can still reject it. U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle oppose this travesty of a trade agreement (though for different reasons). If our president actually wants this thing to pass, he’s got a long, uphill battle ahead of him.

1. “The TPP is 30 chapters and [over] 2,000 pages long, but less than a third actually deals with trade policy,” notes Thom Hartmann. The rest, apparently, consists of all sorts of special rights for global multinational corporations.

2. The Pacific “free trade” pact was written by hundreds of corporate lobbyists. While members of Congress and the American people were kept in the dark and fed manure like mushrooms, 605 “trade advisors” from the world’s big corporations had access to TPP documents, according to Sojourners. Oh, and Open Secrets adds that since 2006, 356 lobbyists’ filings contained the words “Trans-Pacific Partnership” in it .

3. “SHAFTA” really does give U.S. workers the shaft:  Like NAFTA and all the so-called “free trade” agreements before and since, TPP lowers wages by forces America’s workforce to compete against desperately poor workers in third world countries who have few rights or even basic safety protections.

4. The TPP allows unfair currency manipulation to continue. You’d think a trade policy agreement would address something as basic as currency, but no the TPP doesn’t. Sure, the U.S. and 11 other countries signed a pact very nicely promising to avoid “unfair currency practices and refrain from competitive devaluation.” But there are no meaningful penalties for doing so. Why bother with creating a check on China if we’re going to allow our TPP partners to engage in the same destructive practices? [Editor’s note: This originally said the TPP allows China to manipulate currency, that came out wrong.]

5. Corporations get to override nations and governments. That’s right. Now corporations have the same level of sovereignty as the world’s nations, possibly more. If we pass laws to protect our people and shared natural resources, and those laws cut into a corporation’s bottom line, they can sue us for infringing on the profits they expected to make on the “investments” we never asked them to make…And the odds are highly in their favor. Instead of instead of going to an actual court of law with an actual human judge, companies who choose to challenge no-longer sovereign nations will face a three-judge International tribunal composed of corporate lawyers! And the decisions made in these Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) cases cannot be appealed.

6. Drugs will cost more. Way more: TPP marks a big win for the pharmaceuticals industry with 5-12 years protection for drugs, even though some countries already offer cheaper generic versions of those drugs. The trade deal also places restrictions on whether countries can use drug pricing as a factor in their approval process. [NOTE 11/6/15 | 2:38/EST] : This item got left out when this document was first published, we added it.]

7. Forget about Internet privacy and consumer rights. The E-Commerce segments of this massive trade policy tome have serious implications for online privacy, Public Citizen reports Peter Maybarduk, a non-profit consumer rights activist told reporters in his statement on TPP: “The text reveals that policies protecting personal data when it crosses borders could be subject to challenge as a violation of the TPP.”

8. No protection for our natural resources: Thanks to our world’s governments willingness to sell themselves out to corporations, the TPP (a) rolls back environmental protections from previous treaties and trade agreements;  (b) fails to outlaw illegal trade in plants or endangered wildlife; (c) allows corporations to roll back environmental regulations (see numbers 5 and 6 above); and (d) contains exactly zero mentions of climate change.

9. TPP poses a threat to our national security: Thom Hartmann also points out, “the national security provisions have been removed [from TPP]. The United States can no longer make decisions about trade based on national security.” For example, TPP makes it harder to keep manufacturing for U.S. military technology in the U.S.

10. No enforceable human rights provisions. If we’re going to open our markets up to Asian countries, we should at least require them to end their notorious human rights abuses against children, women, gays and political opposition. But, apparently, TPP will still allow the Sultan of Brunei to whip homosexuals and adulterers with impunity. Then again, we barely even recognize human rights here in the U.S.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade policy nightmare. If you care about working families, human rights, the environment, Internet privacy, consumer rights, and/or our national sovereignty, please contact your congressperson — or sign this petition — and demand they vote “NO” on TPP.

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