Don’t let lame duck Con­gress pass TPP

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Christo­pher K. Croft Christo­pher K. Croft is an ad­junct pro­fes­sor of global en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy and sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties at the Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more and chair­man of po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic jus­tice pro­gram of Mary­land Sierra Club’s Greater Bal­timo

Dur­ing the lame-duck ses­sion of Con­gress that be­gins this month, a trade agree­ment called the TransPa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) will likely be passed into law if it comes up for a vote. Al­though both pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates stated that they do not sup­port the TPP, this “hot potato” has been ef­fec­tively re­moved from pub­lic de­bate. Yet, if en­acted, the TPP will likely have a greater ad­verse im­pact on the lives of av­er­age Amer­i­cans than the election re­sult it­self.

What does a Pa­cific trade agree­ment have to do with Mary­land and sur­round­ing ar­eas? In­ter­na­tional trade agree­ments have a habit of mak­ing the rich richer, strength­en­ing multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions and send­ing our na­tion’s jobs over­seas. Al­though there is much talk about the threat of a glob­al­ized and cen­tral­ized “one world” gov­ern­ment, few con­nect the gov­ern­ing body be­hind such trade agree­ments, the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion, to it.

It is not by ac­ci­dent that there is a blind spot re­gard­ing the WTO and its grow­ing con­trol over our well-be­ing. It is or­ches­trated and ex­e­cuted through the “iron law of oli­garchy,” which states that or­ga­ni­za­tions, no mat­ter how com­mit­ted to democ­racy, will in­evitably suc­cumb to the rule of an elite few. In the Dark Ages, it was known as feu­dal­ism, when no­bles ruled the peo­ple; later it be­came fas­cism, when dic­ta­tors and ap­pointed gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials ruled the peo­ple; then com­mu­nism emerged, where state elites ruled the peo­ple; and now there is oli­garchy, where a small num­ber of rich rule. What do they have in com­mon? Wealth goes to the few. That is, un­less there is a vigilant ef­fort by the peo­ple to main­tain bal­ance. This is an area where many in the po­lit­i­cal right, left and cen­ter can come to­gether. Our ral­ly­ing point is against class war and grow­ing eco­nomic inequal­ity. Un­for­tu­nately, it ap­pears that the TPP will make these prob­lems worse.

A cen­tral pro­vi­sion of the TPP will sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand the use of the In­vestorS­tate Dis­pute Set­tle­ment (ISDS) Au­thor­ity, the coup d’état for elites. This pro­vi­sion es­tab­lishes a court that some say will “rule the world.” Com­posed of lawyers be­holden to multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions, this court’s de­ci­sions will be fi­nal and will trump na­tional laws. ISDS is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a tool for rich in­vestors to make large, un­capped set­tle­ments from spec­u­la­tive law­suits, re­sult­ing in re­wards that tax­pay­ers are forced to pay. If these trade courts agree with cor­po­rate claims of less-than-ex­pected prof­its, the gravy train for 21st-cen­tury rob­ber barons could be end­less, and we would have no re­course but to pay the bill. Dozens of cases re­sult­ing in more than $100 mil­lion in set­tle­ments are pend­ing al­ready. This sys­tem is work­ing beau­ti­fully for rich own­ers of multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions, thrust­ing them into world dom­i­nance over our na­tional sovereignty. Al­ready, “made in Amer­ica” and “coun­try of ori­gin” la­bel­ing have been rolled back be­cause of the ISDS.

There is hope and it is found in the old maxim: think glob­ally, act lo­cally. Imag­ine the world con­sist­ing of a glob­ally quilted pat­tern of lo­cal economies, ground­ing wealth in our com­mu­ni­ties and fairly al­lo­cat­ing the re­wards to its work­ing res­i­dents. It is this process that our im­mi­grant fore­fa­thers mas­tered in places like Lit­tle Italy, Chi­na­town and other eth­nic neigh­bor­hoods. Through buy­ing from and sell­ing to each other, wealth is grounded in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. In­stead of as­sem­bling one mas­sive global trade vac­uum for the rich, let’s re­build our economies from the ground up and re­dis­cover our great­ness through worker-owned co­op­er­a­tive busi­nesses. When work­ers own their busi­nesses they don’t de­cide to close down and move over­seas where la­bor is cheaper.

Al­though com­pe­ti­tion is dra­matic and mem­o­rable, co­op­er­a­tion is far more wide­spread and im­por­tant in na­ture. Pro­mot­ers of cap­i­tal­ism falsely claim that the driv­ing force be­hind na­ture is ruth­less and cun­ning com­pe­ti­tion. This logic suits the rich, but di­vides and con­quers the pub­lic by pit­ting us against each other. We can no longer af­ford to be vic­tim­ized by such dis­tor­tion. Co­op­er­a­tion, not com­pe­ti­tion, is the key to fight­ing class war.

It’s time to take back our jobs and coun­try. We can start by writ­ing our U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tives and in­sist­ing they pre­vent the TPP from com­ing up for a vote in the lame-duck ses­sion (Nov. 14 through Dec. 16), thereby de­rail­ing it, and then ad­vise Gov. Larry Ho­gan and your state rep­re­sen­ta­tives to in­cen­tivize the cre­ation of worker-owned co­op­er­a­tives.

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