Citizen Action Monitor

Big money from Wall Street drives Obama’s push to fast track new Pacific Rim free trade deal

And America’s working class will get screwed again, worse even than with NAFTA

No 1218 Posted by fw, December 28, 2014

“Barack Obama, Bill Clinton see it in their political interest to ally themselves with Wall Street. Wall Street, because they can raise money from Wall Street. Wall Street loves “free trade,” quote-unquote, because it equals cheap labor. All these trade agreements, and NAFTA in particular, are investment agreements that make it safer for American corporations to set up shop in cheap labor locales. Wall Street thinks that’s great. It’s great for the shareholders. And it’s great for the corporations. The profits go up…. So as long as the cash keeps coming to both parties from those interested parties, short of a revolution, short of an uprising among the working poor, you’re not going to see any change.”John R MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine.

Count Canada’s Prime Minster Stephen Harper in on the proposed new Pacific Rim trade deal. What’s good for America’s political and corporate elites is good enough for Harper. And if Harper’s in, Canada’s working class will be the big losers.

Watch John MacArthur in conversation with Bill Moyers, as he assesses the probable fallout for America’s working class should Congress grant Obama fast track authority to negotiate in secret the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Short of an open revolt in the streets, Wall Street and a Congress on the take appear unstoppable.

Watch the embedded 25-minute video below, followed by an abridged transcript with added subheadings in bold italics, inserted as hanging indents, plus added text highlighting, and added hyperlinks. Alternatively, click on the following linked title to access the video and complete transcript on Moyers & Company.

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Democrats Bow Down to Wall Street John R. MacArthur, Moyers & Company, December 12, 2014

 

ABRIDGED TRANSCRIPT

(Unless otherwise noted, the speaker is John R. MacArthur)

[Introduction]

Negotiators from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are in Washington this week for a new round of talks which they hope will lead them closer to agreement on the trade deal. President Obama has called passage of TPP a “high priority.”

This week, Bill speaks with outspoken veteran journalist John R. MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine, about the problems with TPP, which is being negotiated in secret, behind closed doors. MacArthur says that the “free trade” agreement will take jobs away from Americans: “I guarantee you, this is a way to send more jobs [abroad], particularly to Vietnam and Malaysia.”

Obama’s commitment to trade is just another example of his indebtedness to Wall Street for massive campaign contributions. Hillary Clinton, who MacArthur describes as to the right of Americans’ political beliefs, may be scaring off progressives looking to run in 2016 as she is “very much in harmony” with Wall Street.

“There are a lot of people who would make good candidates, but they’re intimidated by the Clinton fundraising machine.”

The reason more people aren’t listening to voices opposed to free trade agreements is that big money and bog media don’t want them to listen

John R. Macarthur — The big money doesn’t want them to listen. And the editorial pages of most American newspapers are pro-“free trade”. They don’t know, or they don’t pay attention to what the costs are. Obama himself, in the 2008 campaign, said that NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, had cost the country a million jobs.

To understand the cost of free trade, in terms of lost jobs, visit the hollowed out city of Fostoria, Ohio

But in order to understand what’s happening, you got to go to these cities that are being hollowed out and destroyed, like Fostoria, Ohio. I did a big piece about three years ago, for a foreign newspaper, because nobody wants to read it here, about the closure and the moving of the Autolite spark plug plant to Mexicali, Mexico. These–

During his 2008 re-election campaign, Obama argued NAFTA cost 50,000 loss jobs in Ohio

He did it to hurt Hilary Clinton. Because he wanted to hang NAFTA on the Clintons, on the Clinton couple. [Bill Clinton promoted NAFTA as a job creator in 1993].

Thanks to Clinton’s NAFTA deal, what was the “working class” in America is now becoming the “lower class”

[Clinton] made a tactical political decision that it would be a great thing to move the Democratic Party to the center, I would call it move it to the right, on matters concerning the working class. The working class today, thanks to what Bill Clinton did on NAFTA, is now becoming, I would call it, the lower class.

In a 1996 NAFTA debate, the CEO of a Fostoria factory predicted NAFTA would increase the number of jobs at his plant.

Larry Bossidy, who was the CEO of AlliedSignal — which owned Autolite [maker of spark plugs] in those days – Larry Bossidy, on CNN, [famously proclaimed] “The NAFTA Debate, December 1996: Right now, you can’t sell these in Mexico because there’s a 15 percent tariff. If we can, if this NAFTA’s passed and that tariff is removed, we’ll make these in Fostoria, Ohio. We won’t have 1,100 jobs, we’ll have more jobs.

In 2007, the Fostoria spark plug factory was moved to Mexico where labor was cheaper

And of course in 2007, the factory was moved to Mexicali under the [new] ownership of Honeywell Corporation, which had merged with AlliedSignal.

Soon after, Obama championed the business stimulus program of Honeywell, the very company that moved the spark plug factory to Mexico

And Barack Obama was soon seen after that with Dave Cote, the chairman of Honeywell, promoting his business stimulus program. Barack Obama is not going to say to Dave Cote, what are you shutting down the Autolite spark plug plant for? Why are you putting Allyson Murray and Peggy Gillig and Jerry Faeth, these are people I interviewed who were production line workers, who raised their families and sent their kids to school. Jerry Faeth is a particular favorite of mine, because he got two of his daughters through college paying most of their tuition as an auto worker.

The Democratic Party is no longer interested in the working lower class because they aren’t campaign contributors

These people are being wiped out. The statistics that you hear about, where the country is economically, don’t reflect the devastation to these individuals. But the Democratic Party’s not interested in those people. They don’t contribute to campaigns. To some extent, I blame the media [for letting the political class get away with this callousness]. They don’t report on it.

But in the larger political scheme, the Democratic Party, it is split. There are still a few democrats who care about the working lower class.

Wall Street loves “free trade”. Wall Street has money. So Obama and Clinton love Wall Street. Their political success depends on Wall Street

Barack Obama, Bill Clinton see it in their political interest to ally themselves with Wall Street. Wall Street, because they can raise money from Wall Street. Wall Street loves “free trade,” quote-unquote, because it equals cheap labor. All these trade agreements, and NAFTA in particular, are investment agreements that make it safer for American corporations to set up shop in cheap labor locales. Wall Street thinks that’s great. It’s great for the shareholders. And it’s great for the corporations. The profits go up.

Short of a popular uprising to bring about system change, the big money game won’t change

So as long as the cash keeps coming to both parties from those interested parties, short of a revolution, short of an uprising among the working poor, you’re not going to see any change.

In 2008 Obama promised to reform NAFTA. He hasn’t. Even worse, he’s aggressively pushing more free trade deals

As soon as he got into office, he announced, we really don’t need to reform NAFTA. We’ll find other ways to help people who’ve been hurt by NAFTA, which they, and of course, they’ve done nothing. In fact, he’s pushed more free trade deals, Korea, Colombia, et cetera, you know, he keeps pushing, and now, the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, which will make things even worse.

Wall Street loves free trade. Wall Street has money. So pushing free trade is a great way for politicians to raise lots of money from Wall Street. Money is power

[Obama is] the fundraiser in chief. And again, this goes back to Bill Clinton. Because Obama’s really just imitating Bill Clinton. Clinton made an alliance with the Daley machine in Chicago, which Obama, he’s inherited that alliance with the two Daley brothers. The people who were thriving are the people in power. Rahm Emanuel is now mayor of Chicago. Bill Daley and Rahm Emanuel were the chief lobbyists for passing NAFTA under Clinton. They’re the ones who rounded up the votes. They’re the ones who made the deals with the recalcitrant Democrats and Republicans who didn’t want to vote for it. These people are in the saddle. Daley succeeded Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff. These are the people Obama talks to all the time. And they’re saying, free trade, great. We don’t know about factories closing. But it’s a great way to raise money.

With pro-free trade Republicans controlling the new Congress, they will give Obama authority to negotiate TPP in secret

They [Republicans] have already announced that they’re going to try to work together [with Obama]. And if history is repeated, you will see fast track passed. Which means you give the president, you give the executive branch, the authority to negotiate the trade agreement in secret. That’s what Congress gives away, which I think is unconstitutional. Because the Senate is supposed to advise and consent, right? But so far, nobody has challenged it on constitutional grounds. You give fast track authority to the president. They negotiate the deal. At the end of it, a gigantic bill, very complex, because I’ve read the NAFTA agreement, it’s very complex language. You give it to Congress. And you say, okay, vote for it, yes or no, up or down.

Big money wins again – UNLESS the people rise up and stop it before it gets to fast track

No amendments allowed, no amendments allowed. And so that’s when the heavy lobbying starts. And most times, at least in the past with PNTR, [Permanent Normal Trade Relations] that’s permanent normal trade relations with China, and NAFTA, the big money wins. And this is what’s going to happen again with TPP if people don’t stop it before it gets to the fast track stage.

TPP will mean cheap labor with minimal environmental protection

And I guarantee you, this is a way to send more jobs, particularly to Vietnam and Malaysia. What’s happening now is that labor rates are going up slightly in China. This panics the corporations. They want other places to go. Vietnam’s an even cheaper labor platform than China. And so it’s cheap labor coupled with really minimal environmental protection. You can do just about anything you want to.

In 2006, Obama places personal political advantage over morally right action over minimum wage bill

It’s the typical Obama. You know, during the big — it goes back. Early in his political career, there was a big fight in Chicago in 2006. The city council voted to pass a big box minimum wage bill, $13 an hour. They said there’s no factory work left, thanks to NAFTA and PNTR. So if Wal-Mart wants to move into Chicago, we’re going to force them to pay a living wage.

And they came up with $13 an hour, with benefits, some kind of health benefits. Mayor Daley vetoed the bill. Because he didn’t want to offend his friends in business in Chicago. He was also, I think, personally offended that democracy had broken out in the City Council. You know, it’s like the Soviet Union in Chicago, 49 Democrats, 1 Republican.

And so they passed the law. He vetoes it. And there’s a big fight to try to override his veto. What do you think Obama does when he’s a State Senator and then a Senate candidate, U.S. Senate candidate, then Senator? — he kept absolutely mum on it. He didn’t say a word. And nobody asked him to say anything. Because they didn’t want to compromise him with Mayor Daley. They didn’t want to get him in trouble with Daley and force him to make a choice.

As President, Obama repeatedly failed to champion minimum wage campaigns because it didn’t fit his “fundraising and his pro-business, pro-Wall Street goals”

Same thing happened at the get go in first two years of administration. That was the time to raise the minimum wage. He had a big majority in both houses. People were panicked. It would’ve put more money in the hands of desperate people who had lost a lot of income.

He didn’t propose an increase in the minimum wage in 2009 and 2010, not again in 2011 or 2012, when his own caucus was pushing for one. He had no interest in raising the minimum wage at that point. Because it didn’t conform with his fundraising and his pro-business, pro-Wall Street goals.

With his appointment of a pro-free trader as trade representative, Obama continues to march to Wall Street’s drummer

[Wall Street views] Obama’s presidency as a success. In other words, Wall Street thinks Obama’s done right by them. And if they could get Hilary Clinton in, things will stay right.

The November 2014 issue of publisher MacArthur’s Harper’s Magazine, ran a feature “Stop Hilary!” essay

It was our effort to force a debate. And we did. I’m actually quite pleased with the outcome that all our competitors were then forced to do cover stories and commentaries on other candidates who might come into the race: Elizabeth Warren, Jim Webb has already announced an exploratory committee, Bernie Sanders, I wish that Sherrod Brown from Ohio would run. There are a lot of people who would make good candidates, but they’re intimidated by the Clinton fundraising machine.

There’s “absolutely” no room in Hilary’s tent for the working class, the poor, and lower class

There’s absolutely no room, there’s no tent that can hold the working class, the poor, the lower class that I’m talking about, and the Steven Rattners of Wall Street, who go around saying, oh, don’t you love us? We’re social liberals. We’re for civil rights. We’re for all the rights that you care about. We’re for tolerance, and so on and so forth.

But what they’re not for is worker rights. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or black or an impoverished white former factory worker. You all have worker rights in common. That’s the commonality. Citizens’ rights, I would say also, but worker rights. They [Wall Street] never talk about worker rights. They just talk about cultural liberalism. That’s what they’re interested in.

Things are getting “worse and worse and worse” in America

  • You’ve got to actually take political action and present candidates with an alternative point of view. But you also have to go to Fostoria and then come back and tell me and tell your colleagues, that their town is falling apart, they can’t send their kids to school anymore. They’ve got to work in a fast-food place. Do you know that today there are more part-time workers than there were before the recession, before the great recession?
  • I think it’s about seven million part-time workers. Median household income has dropped about $5,000 in the last five or six years. Where are the economists getting their information? You really have to look at the human cost.
  • There’s a social element to this that somehow doesn’t get talked about. We talk about incomes dropping, income disparity. We don’t talk about the demoralization of the American lower and middle class. It’s demoralizing to lose your job. It’s demoralizing to feel like there’s no future, that you can’t pay to send your kids to college.
  • Things have gotten really bad in the country. There is no relief for these people who have lost their jobs. The deindustrialization of the country continues rapidly.
  • And every time one of these factories closes, another town drops a couple of notches sociologically. It gets poorer, you can’t fund the Little League, you can’t fund the public schools, you can’t fund local community colleges, nobody’s got work, nobody’s got any hope. It gets worse and worse and worse. You can’t just keep farming the laborer, the jobs out to Vietnam and China and expect things to get better at any point.

In order to compete for the presidency, marginal candidates must rally the people and get lots of small donations

In order to compete, you’ve got to rally the people and get lots of small donations. And Howard Dean did that [in the 2004 Democratic primaries] and he paid the price. He didn’t even last as Democratic National Committee chairman, because Rahm Emanuel saw him as a threat. They got rid of him as soon as they could.

Americans have two options – open revolt in the streets or mass acquiescence

Well, there’s two things can happen. You could have revolt, you could have rioting. I guess you could have open revolt in the streets. Or you could have a demoralized, lower two-thirds of the American population that doesn’t benefit from the advantages of the top third or the top fifth. And people just get used to it.

I mean, up to a point, people get used to these things. They do in other countries, where things are even more inegalitarian. We in America have a higher opinion of ourselves than maybe we deserve. We’ve always believed that we’re Democrats, we’re fundamentally egalitarian. Whether or not there’s inequality in society, that there’s an egalitarian impulse in America that will always save us. But I see that egalitarian impulse disappearing. I see it either being numbed or actually snuffed out. I take umbrage with the liberal elite in this country that I think has also abandoned the white, black, gay, working class across the board.

They [the liberal elite] just don’t care about them anymore. They think, well, we’re doing all right here in our bubble. And we’re, you know, we’re not going to threaten our position in society or offend certain people because on behalf of people who don’t have anything.

For there to be real system change, the progressive elite must join with opposing forces

For there to be a change, the progressive elite, I guess I would call them, have got to say, we don’t care what these people say about us anymore. We’re breaking with them. We’re going to start, we’re going to join the opposition.

End of online interview

BILL MOYERS — At our website BillMoyers.com, my conversation with Rick MacArthur continues, and you can read more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and another trade deal that both President Obama and members of Congress are trying to fast track – and fast talk – into law.

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