Washington, D.C. – When President Obama delivers the 2014 State of the Union on January 28, it is expected that he focus a substantial portion of his agenda on America’s growing economic inequality and steps to address this critical issue.
The President may call on Congress to pass fast track trade promotion authority so negotiators can finalize, after more than four years, the massive and controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact which involves 12 countries that comprise nearly 40% of all global economic activity. Fast track would strip Congress of its Constitutionally-granted role on trade agreements in favor of a “take it or leave it” stamp of approval, without which TPP will almost surely never get approved.
As Esquire’s Charles Pierce asks, how can a President “who speaks so eloquently on income inequality” in one minute call for reducing economic disparities and then the next minute call for “an easier time passing a trade deal that inevitably will make that inequality worse?”
“If he does both — bemoan rising inequality and promote yet another free-trade agreement — his speech will rate a chapter in the annals of self-negation,” said the Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson. Trade deals like TPP “increase the incomes of Americans investing abroad even as they diminish the incomes of Americans working at home. They worsen the very inequality against which the president rightly campaigns.”
With fast track authority facing opposition from both Tea Party Republicans and progressive Democrats, what President Obama does, or does not, say in the State of the Union will be a key story line to follow.
Here are key questions to watch for regarding TPP and the State of the Union address:
Will President Obama even mention TPP or fast track authority in his address?
If so, which members on both sides of the aisle will clap in support and which who will stay silent?
Will State of the Union reactions mention on the disconnect between the President’s focus on inequality and the potential focus on TPP?
How much focus will he devote to twisting arms on Capitol Hill to get it passed?
What part of his agenda will he forfeit to gain enough Republican support?
Which swing 2014 races will the President have to avoid campaigning in due to the growing opposition to TPP across the country?
Will the President’s push for TPP cost Democrats the grassroots and financial support of labor, environmental and small business activities?