Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

Don’t Shut Down TPP Debate!

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Will the proposed Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement adversely affect the working poor, middle class, unions and laborers by giving corporations more power at the expense of American workers?

Discussion is ensuing about America losing her sovereignty to corporations with this agreement which really has me worried especially given the current culture of corporatism that has virtually overtaken our democracy and shortchanged the power of the American people to fully leverage their government.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for big business, but I believe that such business should be good business and create a fair playing field first for the American people.  I am for big government but not at the expense of good government. In other words, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water or put your furniture into the fireplace to keep the place warm. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”

I believe that such business can be good for America if rooted in the concept of fair and honest trade and not just free trade. Enough of this free trade nonsense. Nothing in life is free and more importantly you don’t give your country away free by establishing trade policies that jeopardize its long or short-term future despite how profitable those decisions may now seem. There will be other prices that we pay for such decisions. What seems good now can spell disaster later.

On the other hand, it is true that you don’t make it easier for your competitors to squeeze you out of the game.  I understand why jobs were shipped overseas for American companies to remain competitive. In many cases, they had no choice. But closing 60,000 factories in twelve years? Many corporations benefited from tax incentives to move their companies overseas. When those cheap labor goods from foreign countries were shipped back to America there were little or no tariffs imposed on those goods to compensate for the financial losses incurred by those massive job exports. If you are going to ship the jobs overseas for profits at least put a tax on the goods when they are shipped back to America.

My questions are why all the secrecy and lack of debate on the merits of TPP? Along with the buy-in of elected officials we need a “read in” of the bill by everybody, especially the American people. So my questions remain. Have elected reps read the bill in its entirety? Are they allowed to speak about what they have read? Will there be vigorous debate on the House floor? Why can’t the people know what’s in the bill? Are Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Ed Shultz and Chris Matthews the only people in Congress and the media addressing the concerns about this impending legislation?

Realizing that nothing in politics is as admirable as a short memory, and with American workers still “rope a doping” and punched drunk from NAFTA, is it fair to have a fast track trade deal brokered without the American people’s input? Is it true that the deal is being fast-tracked because the corporate sponsors and brokers don’t want people or Congress to read or debate it because it risks revisiting the ghosts of NAFTA, which did not live up to all its hoopla of more and better-paying jobs for working Americans?

What’s the rush? Why does the bill need to be fast tracked without discussion especially when so many lives and jobs are at stake?

The President says that we should trust him that this deal is good for America. It’s true that the economy is turning around and that life is getting better for some Americans. He has done much to earn the people’s trust and many do trust him. He has skillfully shepherded them through their own personal nightmares like getting health care for pre-existing terminal conditions, mortgage relief after being chucked out their homes by rogues on Wall Street and saving auto industry jobs in Detroit.

But to shut down debate and rush through this bill without examination or discussion creates the uneasy feeling that the devil may be in the details. Something may be in the bill that will be bad for working Americans. Is that a reasonable assumption or a stretch of the imagination?

Mr. President,  you tell us that this bill will be good for America, but the same sweet words were spoken by former president Bill Clinton, and the results never lived up to the promises. Will it be the same here Mr. President? Was NAFTA ultimately good for America? Will the TPP be good for America? You say so, but a lot of people don’t think so.

Moreover, with all due respect sir why are you jeering those questioning the process and opposing this legislation? You called out some of your staunchest supporters at MSNBC recently for voicing their concerns. Let me say that the people who are opposed to this bill are not against things that are good for America. It’s that they just don’t know what to expect given the current climate of corporatism. The concern is not having a personal say in the bills ultimate outcome. The people are worried that there is no discussion about the content and ramifications of the bill and no debate from our elected representatives about the bills pros and cons. Again, why the secrecy? Why can’t people know what’s in the bill?

So is there a way to change all this? Is there another way to slow down the fast track option and open the floor for discussion? Is there no other way to fashion an agreement where no American workers are left behind?

Is there some other way to achieve the same goals? Can we find an opening, some daylight, just a glimmer of light that might avert the hardship and pain for a country still reeling from NAFTA? Can there be some other approach or other lines of thinking and reasoning which beg solutions to these problems?

Doesn’t charity begin at home? Can we allow the American people to know what’s really in this bill and what they can realistically expect if this legislation is passed?

Free trade should be preceded by free and open discussion about what’s in the TPP bill. Vigorous debate is the essence of our democracy, the bedrock of our constitutional republic.

Too often now we are seeing democracy and the electoral process wither away by such disastrous decisions as Citizens United, voter suppression and by doing deals that keep favoring the rich and hurting the working poor and the middle class. We are watching one of the most beloved experiments in government vanish before our very eyes. If things keep going this way we will not recognize our country in twenty years. It will slip away due to greed and poor decision-making.

Will TPP put us further on the fast track to the demise of our democracy?

Mr. President, please don’t fast-track this bill. It may the worst or best thing for a country still reeling from NAFTA. Give it time to breathe. Let there be debate and discussion so the merits of this proposed legislation speak and stand on their own.


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