by Bill Onasch
The gap since the last WIR is due to what could be called a micro-mini vacation. While I enjoy the flexible schedule of the retired my wife Mary is self-employed—making any vacation the financial equivalent of a suspension without pay. We also have the challenge of finding reliable cat-care in our absence–for which we extend our thanks to good friends Jeff and Tony. While all too short, the trip to the Twin Cities I called home for twenty years was rewarding. We visited museums, stocked up on new titles at MayDay Books, had one last meal at the soon to close Nye’s Polonaise, inspected the newly restored St Paul Union Depot, rode the new to us Green Line light rail, and spent some quality time with old comrades. On our way back we stopped to visit other long time friends in Ames. Fun while it lasted–but now it’s back to my day job.
It’s Party Time
I’m not talking about a joyful fiesta. Working people have little to celebrate these days. In fact, since a Tuesday vote in the Senate the prevailing sentiment in the labor and allied movements is outrage over perceived betrayal.
Since the 2008 election cycle AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka has tried to play Pythias to his Damon in the White House. Shielding the President who could not have been elected without labor support, the once militant Mine Workers leader sold the destruction of 100,000 jobs in the dictated bankruptcy at GM and Chrysler as “saving the American auto industry;” corralled votes for the Affordable Care Act even though his friend refused to give as much as a token “public option;” hailed the President responsible for a record number of deportations as a champion of immigration reform; and in general has tried to shift the blame for numerous Administration attacks on working people to the evil Republicans.
But the rare happy ending to the Greek myth about unshakable friendship has so far eluded him. His fidelity has been unrequited. Brother Number One would have done better emulating another legendary Greek—Diogenes, reputed to have carried a lantern in broad daylight searching for an honest man.
The current white hot rage is focused on what was a deal-breaker for both Obama’s labor-civil rights-environmental electoral base and the President’s Big Business masters. Thirteen labor-backed Democrat Senators joined with nearly all Republicans to move the President’s Trans-Pacific Partnership along a Fast Track to approval. The 13 apostates are:
Michael Bennet (CO)
Maria Cantwell (WA)
Tom Carper (DE)
Chris Coons (DE)
Dianne Feinstein (CA)
Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Tim Kaine (VA)
Claire McCaskill (MO)
Patty Murray (WA)
Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
Mark Warner (VA)
Ron Wyden (OR)
If the 13 are targeted for retribution they will get no sympathy cards from me. But if you don’t like the performance of the circus you best complain to the ringmaster—not the clowns. Using various methods of persuasion available to his office, the President leaned on just enough to secure victory—giving a pass to Democrats whose reelection would be doubtful without labor’s support. It’s unlikely that a Republican President could have pulled this off.
The Fast Track component means future deals can be brought to Congress for an up or down vote for the next six years—no more filibuster threats or other procedural delays.
TPP itself is bad news indeed. It is a devastating expansion of the now familiar methods of NAFTA and CAFTA, eliminating “obstacles” to investment and commerce. Twelve countries throughout the Asia Pacific region have participated in highly secret negotiations–Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam–and Colombia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Korea have expressed interest in joining. There is also a parallel Trans-Atlantic Partnership in the works as well that can be Fast Tracked when ready.
While TPP and TAP work for unrestricted flow of capital they offer no solutions to the desperate humanitarian crisis of “illegal” migration of impoverished workers and farmers in their jurisdiction. The obstacles they seek to eliminate or reduce include labor laws and environmental protection. They are haggling over maintaining patents and copyrights registered in the major powers involved.
As explained in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the patent issue could lead to blocking affordable generic drugs in both developing and industrialized countries. This was a major factor leading to the strong opposition of National Nurses United to TPP. In a statement issued immediately after the Tuesday Senate vote NNU co-president Jean Ross said,
““With this vote, the U.S. Senate, eliminating the ability to amend a deeply flawed trade deal written in secret by corporate lobbyists, has sent an unmistakable message that access to life saving medications and food safety are less important than the profits of the wealthiest corporations in the world….Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce hardly need more handouts.”
The Wall Street Journal saw a further possible bonus from the TPP triumph,
“The president and Republican leaders didn’t bother with chummy get-togethers. They didn’t talk strategy on the golf course, and a long-discussed bourbon summit never materialized. Instead, they passed a major trade bill with a pragmatic strategy that turned Washington’s traditional way of doing business on its head. None of the three principals—President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.)—won votes by steering money to individual lawmakers’ districts or backing pet programs…. Whether that success can be replicated remains an open question. There aren’t many similar policy issues on which the White House and congressional leaders agree, and plenty of bad blood remains from prior blowups. But the patient and controlled way Washington went about its business, a contrast to the rancor of previous years, might be a model.”
Yes, after five years of obstruction and gridlock the President and GOP congressional leaders united to win a top priority strategic objective of the Ruling Class they both serve. The Republicans need a lot more rehabilitation to convince the .001 Percent that they can be trusted to govern. Perhaps the Grand Bargain long sought by the President to slash entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid can become reality—and part of his legacy.
So why do I say it’s party time? Obviously I’m talking about a party aiming to take political power. It should be just as obvious that those benefiting from TPP have two while our side has none.
When President Bill Clinton ruthlessly drove through NAFTA as the launching pad for what came to be known as Globalization in 1993 a probe called Labor Party Advocates took off as well. The unions were furious with that Democrat “betrayal.”
National unions such as the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers (now part of the Steelworkers); American Federation of Government Employees; Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (now in the Teamsters); UE; ILWU; United Mine Workers; Farm Labor Organizing Committee got on board. So did the California Nurses Association (now NNU), the New Jersey Industrial Union Council, and the California Federation of Carpenters locals, as well as numerous central labor councils and local unions. SEIU never formally affiliated but did chip in some material support. Community based chapters also blossomed across the country.
This was not a single issue protest. When LPA called a Labor Party Founding Convention in Cleveland in June, 1996, the 1400 mainly union activists adopted a Call for Economic Justice—a well rounded program. A 1998 second convention in Pittsburgh, also attended by about 1400, agreed to an Electoral Policy and launched issue campaigns around Just Healthcare and Free Higher Ed.
The Labor Party momentum triggered by NAFTA eventually slowed, then stopped for two principal reasons:
* Important union affiliates merged with bigger unions that were indifferent or hostile to the Labor Party.
* Unfairly blaming Green Party candidate Ralph Nader for Bush II’s theft of the 2000 election fiasco, nearly all union officials got frigid feet about being associated with “spoilers.” Repressing the memory of NAFTA, they doubled down their bets on perfidious Democrat “friends,” showering them with hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Labor Party didn’t wither because of lack of interest among the working class majority that is not nearly so forgiving of the transgressions of faux friends as brother Trumka. Every internal poll in unions shows solid majority support for a labor party. And broader polling among the general population shows a majority holds the two boss parties in contempt and support for a new party.
This past Tuesday Kansas City held an election for Mayor and City Council for the next four years. A whopping eleven percent of registered voters were motivated to cast a vote. A few weeks ago 900 packed Town Hall in Seattle for the kick-off rally to reelect Socialist Kshama Sawant to the City Council there.
TPP is worse than NAFTA. There is more disaffection with the two boss parties than in 1993. There’s a much bigger environmental/climate movement than twenty years ago. And socialists are winning elections—not as Democrats like Bernie Sanders but as socialists.
That’s why I say it should be party time again.
There have been many other important recent developments but I’m exceeding my pixel quota. For the benefit of Kansas City readers I want to pass on an announcement of a promising event, Climate Disruption, Moral Obligations, Existential Choices this coming Sunday, June 28, 1PM, at 301 Haag Hall, UMKC, 52nd St and Rockhill. Panelists will speak about the new Papal Encyclical as well as Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything.
That’s all for this week.
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