Representative Gregory Meeks, a Queens Democrat sympathetic to the emerging trade deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), said on the eve of the vote... "If labor was neutral on this issue, and members were allowed to just make a decision on their own, this bill would not have a problem in passing."
But corporate lobbyists wrote the bill and also influenced members of Congress. Maybe if they were also "neutral" on the issue, we wouldn't have had a debate at all, and TPP would have died immediately after the first time it was voted on. But big American multi-national businesses weren't "neutral" — they gave almost $200 million to influence the vote!
Economy in Crisis reports that, in total, $198 million was given to Representatives for a YES vote to pass fast track (TPA) — whereas only $23 million was given to stop fact track. Fast track had passed with a mere 2 votes (219-211) when only 218 was needed to pass.
Then afterwards Obama lost the key vote for TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance), which is a funding measure that pays to help re-train workers whose jobs are lost due to trade deals. To give Obama fast-track (TPA) to negotiate trade agreements (such as TPP) Congress would have also needed to pass TAA. So knowing that killing TAA would also kill TPA, Democrats voted against TAA for a final House vote of 302 to 126 — and for the time being, ultimately stalled the TPP trade agreement. The TAA measure that failed in the House on Friday was included in the fast-track bill in a bid to win Democratic support. But it attracted opposition because funding for the TAA program was seen as too low — and also because earlier the Senate decided to pay for it in part by cutting $700 million from Medicare.
The 40 Democrats who voted for Obama to get TAA/TPA/TPP passed are listed here at the bottom of this post.
"Economists point to overall benefits from expanded trade. All of us gain access to cheaper goods and services. But in recent years the biggest gains from trade have gone to investors and executives, while the burdens have fallen disproportionately on those in the middle and below who have lost good-paying jobs. So even though everyone gains from trade, the biggest winners are at the top. And as the top keeps moving higher compared to most of the rest of us, the vast majority feels relatively worse off."
Reader Comment: As in Fed policy, economists ignore the distributional consequences and other negative effects of policies they promote. What's encouraging is that some have finally woken up on trade. Regarding Fed policy, he could just as well have written "So even though everyone gains a little bit from ZIRP and QE, the biggest winners are at the top." Makes you wonder when economists besides Stiglitz and Piketty will finally wake up to this.
Reader Comment: The power of the liberal intelligentsia to ram things down the throats of the rank and file has been diminished. In the 90's, people bought neoliberalism, there was broad public support for the neoliberal agenda. The neoliberals had to fight off labor, but for the rest of the public NAFTA was a shrug. Now after seeing the effects of NAFTA and a whole bunch of other 90's era neoliberal policies spread devastation, skepticism and opposition to continuing the agenda is much more passionate, and the politicians much more fearful of the backlash. I'll bet that in the 90's, if you asked people, "Should we make it easier for American businesses to invest abroad and protect their investments", most people outside the labor-protectionist bloc would have said yes. Now, after seeing the financially destabilizing, American job-destroying, and inequality-exacerbating effects of 30 years of liberalized capital flows, I doubt the same level of support exists.