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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/29/15

A plucky (and smart!) grassroots coalition has pushed the dastardly Trans-Pacific Partnership to the edge

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Reprinted from Hightower Lowdown

Lessons from confronting the Global Goliath

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Progressive forces battling that God-awful gob of global corporate gobbledygook, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, encountered an odd problem: Incredulity.

As the Lowdown has detailed (August 2013,January 2015), the 1,000-page TPP trade scam is an unprecedented power grab by corporate elites. It is so unbelievably bad for workers, consumers, the environment, and our democracy that people literally can't believe what they're hearing.

While the deal is crammed with uglies, two impacts are downright nasty...

One: Consistent with every "free trade agreement" of the past 20 years, TPP provides US corporations more and bigger incentives to export shiploads of our remaining middle-class jobs to low-wage countries. Still throbbing from Bill Clinton's 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, the US majority no longer swallows the myth that free trade is invariably good for us. So people fume with disbelief and outrage when they learn that, far beyond Bill's three-nation agreement, they're about to be pounded with a 12-nation, nuclearized NAFTA, pitting our workforce against exploited labor in such repressive regimes as Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam (where some workers get 59 cents an hour).

Two: ... and worse, TPP would sanction direct attacks on US sovereignty by tens of thousands of foreign corporations. The real intent of this agreement is not to eliminate trade protectionism, but to protect global corporations from you, me, and any elected officials who stand up for us. BigPharma, BigOil, BigFood, BigFinance, and all the other Bigs would get sweeping new "profit rights" that would trump our people's democratic rights. Of the 30 chapters that comprise this agreement, 24 don't deal at all with trade, but instead provide new privileges to multinational corporations. Incredibly, TPP provides the authority and means for global corporate profiteers to attack directly our democratically enacted laws and regulations. All of this happens outside US courts.

The audacity and enormity of this power grab is mindboggling. Indeed, my mind boggled when I first learned about the proposal some three years ago from Lori Wallach, the hard-charging bundle of brains and energy who heads Public Citizen's ever-vigilant Global Trade Watch (GTW). Holy Thomas Paine, I thought, she's describing a coup d'etat by the jefes of Corporate World! Surely this couldn't be. If it was true, wouldn't Obama and even the corporate-hugging, Boehner/McConnell Tea Party Congress be in an uproar?

No, explained Wallach. They're in on the deal, which has been in the works since the Bush-Cheney regime. You haven't heard about it, she pointed out, because the schemers shut out the media and public with a shroud of secrecy -- even officially classifying parts of the proposal as "national security" secrets. This "partnership," Wallach added, is solely between top government officials of the 12 member nations and representatives of about 500 multinational corporations. It is, in fact, a carefully calculated conspiracy.

My friend Lori and the indefatigable GTW diggers, along with a network of US and international allies, have steadily unearthed the truth of this coup, including the smoking gun: a leaked copy of the draft language of TPP's corporate supremacy mechanism, called "Investor-State Dispute Settlement."

ISDS sets up a secretive, supra-national, private government that would use corporate-run tribunals to enforce the "right-to-profit" doctrine that the agreement fabricates. Through these unelected, autocratic, foreign tribunals, corporations from any member nation that has set up shop here could sue our sovereign governments (national, state, and local) to eviscerate any domestic laws -- such as those protecting health, food safety, labor, "Buy American," and clean air -- that, they claim, might potentially pinch their future profits.

Wrestling the world from fools

QUESTION: How do you battle the bosses, bankers, bastards, and bullshitters who have bribery money, mammoth amounts of political muscle, and most of the mass media behind their push to further empower and enrich themselves through artifices like TPP?

ANSWER: Take it to the people.

I can tell you from experience that we populists win big legislative battles not by going inside capitol buildings, but by going out to the countryside. I learned this 30 years ago when, as Texas agriculture commissioner, I took on the prodigious clout of the chemical lobby by proposing strong pesticide protections for farmworkers, farmers, and consumers. Facing a wall of opposition from industry-funded legislators, I said to a group of allies: "You realize the odds are against us, don't you?" To which one replied: "Some of the evens are against us, too."

We ended up winning, but only because we got the hell out of the capitol city, took the issue directly to the grassroots, and rallied the outsider majority to stand against the self-dealing insiders. That approach, on a larger scale, is how we'll stop the global elite from hanging this TPP albatross around democracy's neck.

It would seem to be a hopeless undertaking to inform, organize, and mobilize (in a very short time) a grassroots rebellion so massive that it can stop passage of a deal that (1) masquerades as arcane trade policy, (2) is written in corporate gibberish, and (3) is officially hidden from public view as a state secret. Yet that's exactly what a plucky, populist coalition is doing, to the utter consternation of the corporate and political powers that are used to getting everything they want. The conventional media have missed the story entirely due to their corporate aloofness, lack of journalistic curiosity, and their own membership in the global corporate club. They have been blind to the BIG news that a new expression of anti-corporate power is on the rise and on the move.

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Jim Hightower is an American populist, spreading his message of democratic hope via national radio commentaries, columns, books, his award-winning monthly newsletter (The Hightower Lowdown) and barnstorming tours all across America.

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