The Fast Track to Hell

Florida Rep. Alan Grayson Explains Why TPP Is Bad for America

“Trade promotion authority” is something that’s about to be proposed again in Congress, and I was on TV recently explaining:

(a) What the heck that is, and
(b) Why it’s really bad.

Listen:

Thom Hartmann: In “Screwed” news, some lawmakers in Washington want to give the Obama Administration so-called “fast-track” trade authority to approve so-called “free-trade” deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. That’s a terrible decision. A new report from the Public Citizens Global Trade Watch shows just how devastating fast-track trade deals have been for the American people, and the economy. According to the report, thanks to fast-track trade deals, over the past twenty years, trade deficits have ballooned, millions of American jobs have been shipped overseas, wages have stagnated, and inequality has exploded. So, given all of the destruction to our economy and our middle class over the last two decades, how can Washington be considering approving fast-track trade authority and signing on to yet another so-called “free trade” deal? Let’s ask Congressman Alan Grayson, representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District, the Congressman with Guts. Congressman, welcome back!

Congressman Alan Grayson: Thank you, Thom.

Thom: It’s always great having you with us. What’s your take on this new report from Global Trade Watch about the damage fast-tracked trade deals have done to our country?

Alan: Well, frankly, it’s stating the obvious. The basic problem is very simple. Trade is supposed to [work like this:] “You sell me yours, and I’ll sell you mine.” But it’s transmogrified into something very different in the United States, ever since NAFTA went into effect. For every year, before NAFTA went into effect - 200 years of American history - we never had a trade deficit as large as $140 billion. Now, every single year since NAFTA’s gone into effect, our trade deficit has been $140 billion or more. In fact, in the last 14 years, we’ve run the largest trade deficits in human history, larger than any other country anywhere in the world, larger than any country in history, larger than in our own history. It’s a disaster, and it’s not simply an abstraction.

Let me explain what’s really happening here. What’s happening is that American consumers are buying goods and services from other countries, putting tens of millions of people in other countries to work. That would be fine if they bought an equal amount of our goods and services. The trade deficit reflects the fact that they are not; they’re not, to the tune of half a trillion dollars every year. So what’s happening is that they’re taking those rectangular green pictures of dead presidents that they’re getting from us when we buy their stuff and, instead of buying our stuff, they’re buying our assets. They’re driving the price of our assets higher and higher, benefiting the 1% only, not creating any jobs in this country, and pushing us deeper and deeper into debt. In fact, at this point, on the basis of these trade deals, one seventh of all the assets in America - all the farmland, all the homes, all the cars, all the stocks, all the bonds, all the real estate, all the small businesses - 1/7th of all our assets are now foreign-owned. And the end game is that they will all be foreign-owned, and we will have to declare national bankruptcy. That’s where this is headed, and NAFTA and Fast Track want to grease the skids.

Thom: You know, we’ve been well-trained over the last, God, 30 or 40 years, with increasing levels of Republican hysteria about our federal deficit-although they were notably silent during the Reagan years. . . . In my lifetime, there’s never been a serious debate, outside the 1992 Ross Perot-Bill Clinton-George Bush debate, about trade deficits. Why do you think it is that the average American knows about budget deficits and our national debt, and has no clue either that we have a trade deficit, what a trade deficit is, or the consequences, those horrible consequences that you just described of our trade deficit?

Alan: Because, Thom, people don’t understand that one causes the other. You’ve got a $14 trillion economy. Take out half a trillion dollars so we can buy foreign goods and services, and you’re left with $13.5 trillion. We have to make up that half a trillion dollars somehow. The way we make that up is called “the federal deficit.” That’s the federal government borrowing and spending, to make up for the fact that foreigners are not buying our goods and products and services, so the federal government has to make up the difference. One causes the other. One often equals the other.

Thom: Wow! . . . Fast Track is almost certainly coming, [and] TPP (I prefer to call it the “Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement” [or] S-H-A-F-T-A). In any case, how do you see this playing out? Because it looks to me like there’s a coalition forming between progressive Democrats like yourself and conservative Republicans, who are concerned about the surrender of sovereignty associated with these things.

Alan: Well, we see it differently. I mean, progressive Democrats recognize that, because of these trade giveaways, this trade treachery, because of this we’ve lost five million jobs in manufacturing in the past twenty years, and maybe 15 million other jobs. So that’s why progressive Democrats are against this. Republicans are against Fast Track because they recognize it as a power grab by the President. The Fast Track legislation prohibits subcommittee debates, subcommittee hearings, subcommittee markups, full committee debates, full committee hearings, full committee markups, and it limits us in the House of Representatives to 88 seconds of debate for each one of us. Eighty-eight seconds to extend to 40 other countries (if we count both trade deals the President is working on), the disaster that’s been visited upon the U.S. economy simply by having a dozen existing countries with these deals in effect. They want to put our $30/hour workers directly in full head-to-head competition with the $0.30/hour workers in Vietnam and Brunei and in other places like that, who have no environmental protection, no labor rights, and in many cases are [relying on] slave labor. That’s what these deals are trying to do. It’s the Fast Track to Hell.

“Fast Track” - a bill that only Snidely Whiplash could love.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on January 25, 2015

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