My guest today is political activist, the PEN. Welcome back to OpEdNews, PEN.
JB: Usually, I wait at least a little while before returning to interview someone. But there are compelling reasons for another interview right now. What can you tell us about what you're currently working on?
PEN: There are many people who even now have never heard of a proposal for a trade agreement called The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). And there is a reason for that, which is that it is being negotiated in the most extreme possible secrecy. That alone ought to raise red flags and start alarm bells loudly ringing. We had heard nothing about it ourselves until our own participants started emailing us asking when we were going to do an action page on it. Over the years, the people on our distribution list have self-assembled into what we believe are the most informed and mobilized progressive activists in the country, and we can always trust them to keep us on our toes.
JB: So, fill us in, please. Our readers would love to know as much as possible about this far-reaching treaty proposal.
PEN: Quite simply, it is the most outrageous attempted corporate power grab yet. Suppose some foreign transnational corporation wanted to come into your country and start fracking. Under this proposed deal, there is nothing you could do about it. Suppose they wanted to unilaterally rewrite your labor laws, you would be forced to submit to that. This sounds like the kind of hysterical hyperbole that right wingers are so fond of trafficking in, but this is what is actually being pushed in secret. It's like NAFTA on steroids.
JB: It does sound incredible, PEN. Who's behind this and why is it even being considered?
PEN: You'd better brace yourself. The big pressure is coming from the White House itself.
JB: Are you joking? Why? This sounds like a really terrible idea.
PEN: President Obama has been urging (demanding?) that the deal be done by literally the end of the month, while members of Congress have been ordered not to disclose any of the proposals, and many have complained they can't get access to them even if they wanted to. Now, it would be one thing if someone was disclosing our bottom line trade negotiation position. But they are forbidding anyone from even talking about proposals put ON the table for other nations to consider. This stuff is for the eyes of mega-corporations and their lobbyists only. But what we do know from leaked and often heavily redacted documents is truly horrifying. A lot of our people are asking themselves, "Who is that guy in the White House and what has he done with President Obama?"
JB: Sad. And scary. Why the secrecy and why the huge rush? Just that alone is enough to make me suspicious.
PEN: Well, the answer is contained in your own natural reaction to hearing about some of these proposals. And that reaction is almost universal. And we are just starting to talk about the obnoxious things in their initiative: crippling of internet freedom, a broad expansion of corporate property rights. I hesitate to use an expression like "up in arms," but clearly they knew we would be just as upset as we are if we knew what they were up to.
JB: Has the legislation been crafted, once again, by lobbyists representing Big Business?
PEN: Yes, of course, that's it. It's pretty much a Christmas gift list of everything your average billionaire fascist would want in his billion stockings. And yet, the reason it has not already happened behind our backs is apparently that no other country in the world is willing to go along with it. That's right, folks, the biggest thing protecting the American people right now is the protest of foreign leaders, who actually feel they have some accountability to their own people. It just boggles the mind.
JB: How fortuitous. At least someone is looking out for their constituents. Even if the someones reside outside our borders. On the home front, I understand that even conscientious members of Congress can't do much about this. The fast track provision means that they have to vote up or down on the bill in its entirety. And it's long and complicated. Who will even have time to read the whole thing, let alone figure out all its ramifications? And all that by the end of the year? Yikes!
PEN: The good news is that we have time to mobilize. Clearly it's not going to happen before the end of the year, with no other countries on board. But just to protect ourselves we need to ensure that this deal is not given fast track treatment. So our current action is to demand that Congress assert its constitutional duty to regulate trade, and to allow no such fast track treatment.
JB: Where is Congress in all this? And what about the press?