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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/5/12

The Great Unraveling Continues

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TPP -- Terrible Policy for the People

The Trans-Pacific Partnership aims to make whole countries into consumers, not just their citizens.   This is a critical difference, in that it makes countries subject to a new tribunal, independent of national judicial systems.   Says Common Dreams:

"Although the TPP has been branded a "trade" agreement, the leaked text of the pact's Investment Chapter shows that the TPP would:

-        Limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S.  boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;

-        Extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries;

-        Establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges; and

-        Allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms."

Note the third and fourth points.   Although not mentioned by Common Dreams, or anywhere else that I've seen, there is another legal and economic paradigm being promoted by this "agreement" (agreed by who?   Not Congress, which hasn't been allowed to see it yet.   Not by the American people, 16358 of whom have so far signed this petition, http://tpp2012.com/, to block it.   Not by the many progressive and not-so-progressive groups concerned about America's last bit of sovereignty slipping away).  

 

The paradigm being promoted by the neo-conservatives is called Willingness to Pay (WTP).   It's opposite is Willingness to Accept (WTA).   It works like this.   Suppose a coal plant wants to open up near you.   Now, of course there will be pollution.   So, instead of taxing that pollution (see end of this article for an example of how that works in British Columbia), or fining the company if it goes over a threshold, the question is put to the community -- which may be poor, low in population, and certainly outclassed legally -- "what would you be willing to pay to have clean(er) air?"   It makes a certain amount of intuitive sense to those whose religion is The Free Market: if you want something badly enough, you will pay for it.   But, it breaks down in real life.   After all, the slaves in the old south didn't vote out Congressmen who supported slavery, even though slaves were in the majority, because they had no ability to vote.   Similarly, says Wiki:

Unlike WTP, WTA is not constrained by an individual's wealth. For example, the willingness to pay to stop the ending of one's own life can only be as high as one's wealth, while the willingness to accept compensation to accept the loss of one's life would be an extremely high number, perhaps approaching infinity.

Now, without going into details, the major thrust (phallic pun intended) of TPP is to protect the investor, that is, the supposedly anonymous backer of the corporatocracy (in practice, this is the members of Executive Suite, who receive huge compensation in stocks and options that ordinary investors can only dream of).   If this canonized investor is harmed by seeing his/her profits reduced, the logic of the TPP goes, then there must be compensation!   Perhaps the Obama Administration thinks that the supposedly richest country on Earth can pay for whatever environmental restrictions it imposes, but tell that to a crumbling Middle Class family whose taxes are already subsidizing the ultra-low tax cuts to the 1%.   So, while TPP will guarantee more globalization, it will also extract more money from the beleaguered Middle Class (you do want clean air, don't you?).   How much are you willing to Pay very quickly becomes How much are you Able to pay?   The upshot of this will be vast swaths of the country turned over to industry as Sacrifice Zones, people displaced into supposedly safer cities, until the polluted environs reach them too, and a permanent feudal system where the serfs (the 99%) pay an ever-escalating and ultimately unpayable tithe to their corporate overseers for the privilege of living.   Instead of serving their customers, the corporate model will be turned on its head, and we will be serving the corporations who will decide, or not, whether it is profitable to provide us with essential goods and services.

 

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Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:
http://www.americaisnotbroke.net/

Scott is a former President of Common Ground-NYC (http://commongroundnyc.org/), a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written dozens of articles for (more...)
 

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