More and more is being written about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (the TPP) which is amazing in that the writers have no idea what is in it. Even the negotiators were privy to only the section they were working on. (There is not even a consensus on how many sections there are in the treaty.)
TPP supporters say it would be a boon for all the nations involved, that it would “unlock opportunities” and “address vital 21st-century issues within the global economy,” and that it is written in a way to encourage more countries to sign on. Yada, yada, yada. They don’t know what is in the deal either.
According to economists “trade” increases overall prosperity by eliminating less productive jobs. In theory, the workers find new jobs. In practice, studies show that global competition is increasing unemployment and reducing wages here. In fact, eliminating less productive jobs is the reason for any trade deal: to reduce the costs of creation of sellable goods by requiring fewer workers or less pay or both. Consider the flood of cheap goods coming into the country through the Wal-Mart pipeline. People benefit from having less expensive choices available when they shop (if they shop at Wal-Mart; I do not). But for each of those categories of goods, if Americans are to compete and sell comparable goods, they must do it with similar wages (impossible to match Viet Nam there) or by having the work done by fewer people. Since 1980, productivity of American workers has soared, wages have changed very little.
By this mechanism, the benefits of trade are not distributed evenly. The Plutocrats rake in large amounts of cash, but it doesn’t get shared out with workers. “The argument was always that the winners could compensate the losers,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University economist and Nobel laureate. “But the winners never do. And that becomes particularly relevant when we have a society with as much inequality as we have today.”
So, if the corporations pushing for this deal get their way, more American jobs will be lost, American wages will be depressed either more or longer (which we all pay for in the form of governmental supports for those in need) and profits will be made … then what?
Already American corporations are making record profits. What are they doing with them? Anything to help the American people? Or are they just enriching their CEOs and shareholders. The data says the latter. The “rewards” of trade are going to the wealthy. The costs of trade are being born by the middle class and poor. At the same time, the poor are being demonized by Conservative politicians (“They should go get a job.”) as the jobs they could get are being shipped overseas so the corporate owners of the GOP can make even more profit.
Consider the Wal-Mart model; this is the effect of global trade in miniature. Goods are manufactured overseas with cheap labor and those goods are brought to this country and sold to the less affluent in the U.S. (Any business whose main selling point is their prices are lower than their competitors is not marketing to the affluent.) Wal-Mart has “created” a great many jobs in their stores. Those jobs do not pay well, often at the minimum allowable wage and then Wal-Mart counselors train their workers how to get federal supports for their crappy wages so they won’t quit because they can’t afford to live on what Wal-Mart pays. Plus the advent of a Wal-Mart store means the death of many other local businesses which cannot compete (job losses). So better paying jobs are displaced by poorer paying ones. And wealth flows to the “Wal-Mart heirs,” the children of the founder of Wal-Mart, who now apparently have accumulated as much wealth as has the bottom 40% of the entire U.S. citizenry.
Is that the goal? To concentrate as much money into the hands of the fewest people? Why? Who benefits? Even the people who have accumulated those riches do not benefit as they are accumulating amounts of money that cannot be spent (they were already very, very rich, getting richer didn’t change their lifestyle even a tiny bit). What are they going to do with their riches? So far, the strategy is to a) sit on it or b) buy political influence to slope the playing field even more in their favor, to accumulate even more riches.
Is our thinking so stultifying capitalistic that we just think “profit is good?” Having been involved in a number of businesses, I can say that the lack of profit is bad, and some profit is good, but are there no other indicators on the scale of profits? I, for one, will keep asking “Then what?” as money is not a thing in itself. Why these people need so much of it that they are driven to harm their fellow citizens to get it is still a mystery (or a disease).
As a sop to American labor, the Environmental, Labor and Intellectual Property Standards United States negotiators stress that the TPP would seek to level the playing field by imposing “rigorous labor and environmental standards on trading partners, and supervision of intellectual property rights.”
We can’t trust Iran to keep a nuclear deal because it is a theocracy and we have a poor history with Iran (mostly our doing). But we can trust Viet Nam to keep the labor standards in this trade deal because, well, it is a communist country that we fought a vicious war with for most of a decade. (Like they are going to have legitimate labor unions … right.) Nobody seems to point out that violations of those labor agreements create benefits for the companies doing the trade, so they will be unlikely to “blow the whistle” on abuses.
The next stage in this drama is to immerse us all in so many details that our eyes will glaze over as lobbyists line up to top off the campaign coffers of our Congressional representatives.
Oh, the same economists who say “trade is good” are also saying trade deals, like the TPP, are no big deal, that globalization of trade has mostly been fueled by things like the containerization of cargo and the Internet.
Then why are corporations lining up to spend many, many millions of dollars jamming this deal through Congress if “it is no big deal.”
Follow the money people. (Hint: it is flowing straight out of your pocket into theirs.)