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America Was Once a Superpower – Now It’s Not

George Washington would be rolling over in his grave if he knew what President Obama was up to.

(Image via Shutterstock )

George Washington would be rolling over in his grave if he knew what President Obama was up to.

Right now, the president is preparing push through what has the potential to be the largest trade deal in human history: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or as it’s more commonly known as, the “TPP.”

If approved, the TPP would create a whole new set of rules regulating the economies of twelve countries in four different continents bordering the Pacific Ocean. These rules cover everything from pharmaceuticals to digital copyright law and could permanently change the way every day Americans and people all over the world interact with the global economy.

So, you’d think Obama administration would want to keep the public as up-to-date as possible on such a big trade deal, right?


The United States has negotiated the TPP almost entirely in secret and most of what we know about it actually comes from leaked documents.

And those documents paint a pretty scary picture. According to Public Citizen’s Trade Watch, TPP would allow private foreign corporations to sue countries that try to pass regulations they don’t like, reward companies that send jobs overseas, and gut regulations that keep big banks in check.

That’s why the TPP is way more dangerous than normal trade deals like NAFTA. As Dean Baker wrote in a recent piece for the Huffington Post, “[Free trade] is not what the TPP is about. The TPP is about crafting rules that will favor big business at the expense of the rest of the population in both the United States and in other countries.”

So why is the TPP so friendly to big corporations?

Easy – they wrote it.

While the Bush and Obama administrations have kept the public in the dark about what’s in the TPP, they have let big corporations to look at draft versions of the treaty and even let those corporations make changes to them.

It shouldn’t be any surprise, then, that President Obama doesn’t even want Congress to look at the TPP.

To push the U.S. the onto the proposed treaty as soon as possible, he’s proposing a special legislative trick called “fast-tracking” that would prevent lawmakers from making any amendments to the TPP. Instead, the treaty would be sent right to the floor where it would only have to pass a simple majority vote.

Given what we know about the TPP and what we know about how the President wants to push it through Congress without debate or amendment, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

For over 200 years, since the founding of the Republic, our economy was built on a system of tariffs, which are small taxes on importing goods. These tariffs made American goods cheaper in the United States, thus protecting American manufacturing, and made our country a global superpower.

American businesses and American workers didn’t have to compete with cheap products or cheap labor from abroad, and so the economy flourished.

Everything worked fine until the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan abandoned the system of tariffs that had worked so well for centuries and ushered in the era of so-called “free-trade.”

Every President since, including Democrats like Bill Clinton and Republicans like George W. Bush, has followed Reagan’s lead, signing us on to free-trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA. These deals were supposed to grow the economy, but instead they decimated its industrial base, its most productive source of wealth.

As a result, the United States is now what Economy in Crisis has called a “service (or servant) economy.” In most parts of the country factory jobs have been replaced by non-union service-sector jobs.

There’s nothing wrong with working at some place like McDonald’s or Walmart, but the fact of the matter is that Walmart jobs don’t pay nearly as well as a good union factory job does. As Adam Smith pointed out in his 1776 book The Wealth of Nations, the only way to create real wealth is to make things. Economies are built from the ground up and when an economy doesn’t have a strong base of well-paying manufacturing jobs, it doesn’t produce enough wealth to stay healthy.

Thirty years of tariff-busting and so-called free-trade have already changed our country’s economy for the worse. If President Obama gets his way and pushes the TPP through Congress, it could put the middle-class on death watch.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the TPP, but what we do know– the giveaways to Big Pharma and the bankster class, the privileges for job-killing outsourcers, and the courts that let corporations fight regulations – would put the final nail in the coffin of the economic system our Founders created.

The TPP would complete the transformation of our economy from one that produces wealth to one that bleeds wealth. The only people who would benefit from it would be the same class of people who have benefited from every trade teal and anti-tariff bill since the Reagan administration: the banksters, corporate lawyers, and CEOs who have spent the past three decades fleecing the American people.

In a perfect world, President Obama would reject the TPP outright. But we’re not in a perfect world, so at the very least he should let the American people – and our Congress – see what’s in the treaty.

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