If politics make strange bedfellows, then bad trade deals make for even stranger politics.
When Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, is the pitch man for President Barack Obama’s latest legacy-building proposal, and Frank Miele is cheering for far-left Democratic firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her populist opposition to Obama’s power grab, you know the wheels have fallen off.
What we’re talking about is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and if you haven’t heard about it yet, you are not alone. If you have heard of it, but you have no idea exactly what is in it, then you are in very good company indeed. That’s because — according to the White House — the United States got such a good deal that if anyone found out about it before it is approved, the whole thing would fall apart.
Yep, as part of “the most transparent administration in history,” the draft Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is kept under lock and key somewhere in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center. Only members of Congress can read it, and then only under the watchful eye of some basement bureaucrat who will ensure that no sly senator slips out a cell phone to transmit the secret details of this “free trade” deal to Twitter or Instagram.
In what sounds like a scene from “Scandal,” members of Congress are allowed to take notes on the lengthy document, but they have to turn them over to the federal flunky before departing the imperial dungeon. Want to consult with experts later about whether the “partnership” is good or bad for your constituents? Well, you’d better have a good memory.
“It’s like being in kindergarten,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. “You give back the toys at the end.”
Yeah, like kindergarten or like the Soviet Union. Take your pick.
What is really infuriating about this nonsense is that we’ve all been here before, watched the dismaying outcome, and yet seem to be incapable of learning from our mistakes.
The secrecy is comparable — if not 10 times worse — than what we saw with Obamacare. You remember the outrage heard when Nancy Pelosi bragged that Congress would have to pass the bill before the rest of us found out what was in it. Democrats didn’t care, but passed the abominable thing on a pure party-line vote. Secrecy be damned, they said. Full speed ahead.
Well, this time, you have to give the Democrats credit. Folks like Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Sen. Warren are fighting tooth and nail against the president. They can smell a rat, and they are demanding transparency and accountability. Meanwhile, the Republicans are acting all cool with the secrecy on the assumption that there is going to be a big payday for corporate America somewhere down the road.
There will no doubt be a big payday for someone down the road, but in case you missed the news — corporate America doesn’t exist any more. What we have now is corporate globalism, and all those new jobs that are being created are just as likely to be going to Mexico, Australia, Chile, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam or one of the other 11 likely partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Indeed, they are more than likely to be going in that direction. What multinational corporations want is cheap labor, and they are much more likely to find that in Vietnam than in America.
So, not only did the Republicans not learn anything from the secrecy of Obamacare; they also didn’t learn anything from the “giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving the United States after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. We don’t need free trade; we need fair trade.
Bottom line? The Republican Party seems intent on shooting itself in the foot once again. This is an apparently incurable condition, and President Obama doesn’t mind handing the clowns in the GOP enough ammunition to get the job done.