Tag: free trade agreement

The State of the American Worker

On this Labor Day, the 122nd Labor Day commemorated as a federal holiday, the state of the American worker is not good.

Over the past few decades, the American worker has had to deal with stagnant wages that haven’t kept up with inflation or increasing productivity, free trade policies that have cost America millions of jobs, union-busting efforts at all levels of government, a lack of true workplace equality, and increasingly rampant income inequality.

The wages of the American worker have been stagnant, while prices of goods and services have risen, and the productivity of the American worker has risen. Simply put, the amount that workers are paid in this country hasn’t kept up with the costs of providing for their families or their own productivity. I support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and indexing the minimum wage to productivity, in order to set a minimum wage that values work, instead of valuing a low-wage economy.

The “global trading regime”, as anti-worker U.S. Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin once described free trade policies, has resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs to foreign countries over the past few decades. Free trade agreements like NAFTA and other free trade policies like Most Favored Nation status for China have resulted in American companies moving jobs to countries like Mexico and China, so that those companies can pay workers low wages. I support repealing free-trade policies and restoring the constitutional ability of the federal government, as outlined in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, to unilaterally set tariffs and other U.S. international trade policies.

Over the past few decades, politicians, most of them Republicans, have tried, both successfully and unsuccessfully, to bust unions and weaken the power of the American worker. Some of the more notable examples of this include the busting of the air traffic controllers’ union by then-President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980’s and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stripping collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin public employees four and a half years ago. I strongly support the existence of labor unions and the right of unionized workers to collectively bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. However, the right-wing wage theft agenda also includes other measures to weaken the power of the American worker, such as repealing prevailing wage laws. I strongly support prevailing wage laws and other laws designed to protect the American worker.

The American workplace is still far from equal. Working women are, on average, still paid considerably less than working men, and unemployment rates for black and Hispanic workers are still considerably higher than those for white workers. Even worse, many employers are still discriminating in their hiring practices based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and, believe it or not, military service. I strongly support strengthening equal pay for equal work laws and prohibiting all forms of workplace discrimination.

Over the past few decades, income inequality has become one of the most serious issues facing our country. The top 1% of income-earners in this country now control nearly half of the nation’s wealth, while the middle class is being destroyed, and more and more people are entering the ranks of the poor. Government policies like tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate welfare for large corporations and major sports teams are major reasons why income inequality has become a serious issues in this country. I support raising the federal income tax rate on those who make over one billion dollars per year to 70% and eliminating federal income taxes on those who make less than $25,000 per year.

Because of the weakening of labor unions, corporate greed, and government policies that bust unions and encourage corporate greed, the state of the American worker is not good. However, enacting more progressive policies when it comes to the minimum wage, workers’ rights, international trade, workplace equality, and wealth distribution, we can rebuild America’s middle class, lift millions of Americans out of poverty, and make the American worker better off!

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CONFIRMED: Hillary Clinton was actively involved with developing TPP before she was against parts of it

Since launching her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has voiced opposition to parts of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free trade agreement that, if fully implemented, would undermine American sovereignty and result in thousands of American jobs being moved overseas.

However, Hillary Clinton wasn’t simply for the TPP before she was against parts of it; she was heavily involved in developing the TPP before she was against parts of it. To prove this point, International Business Times, a business news website, linked to seven leaked diplomatic cables from September 2009 to February 2010 in their report about the U.S. State Department’s role in developing TPP under Hillary Clinton. These cables outline the then-Hillary Clinton-led U.S. State Department’s involvement in developing the TPP with other countries that would be parties to the TPP if fully implemented.

In chronological order according to the timestamp on each cable, here are the cables outlining how Hillary Clinton’s U.S. State Department was involved with the development of the TPP:

  • September 18, 2009 – New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser “expressed his firm belief that the U.S. Administration would move forward on expanding multilateral trade when the timing is right”.
  • September 30, 2009 – Then-U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg “was interested in moving beyond” the current bilateral trade agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam. Additionally, Then-Vietnamese Vice Foreign Minister (now-Vietnamese Foreign Minister) Pham Binh Minh complained that the U.S. was “too protective” regarding international trade.
  • November 27, 2009 – Then-U.S. Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats visited Japan on November 16 and 17, 2009, and his visit was viewed by Japanese officials as “a strong sign of the importance the United States attaches to the U.S.-Japan economic relationship”. However, Japan was “not ready to join a broad regional trade agreement due to sensitivities over agriculture” at the time.
  • December 22, 2009 – Then-U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak hosted a dinner for representatives of would-be TPP member countries, and said representatives “inquired about the goals and objectives of the United States at the upcoming Melbourne (Australia) meeting March 15-19, including the shape and content of the agreement to make it a 21st century agreement, timing, and rules for new members”. Michalak was only mentioned by last name at the very end of the diplomatic cable and was never mentioned by first name in any part of the cable.
  • January 6, 2010 – Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand requested “an additional officer in the Political/Economic Section” for, among other purposes, “allow the Economics Officer to focus on preparations for Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations”.
  • January 28, 2010 – Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia advised Then-U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis, who was referred to as an ambassador in the cable, on strategies for convincing Malaysia to join the TPP, including advising Marantis to “highlight the priority the Administration is giving to the Trans Pacific Partnership initiative, and the role that the TPP will play in promoting economic competitiveness and trade opportunities in the region”.
  • February 19, 2010 – Then-U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Frankie Reed engaged with New Zealand officials “on a wide range of topics including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)”, and Mark Sinclair, New Zealand’s chief negotiator for the TPP, stated that the New Zealand government “views the TPP as a platform for future trade integration in the Asia Pacific (region)”.

The Deputy Secretary of State, Undersecretary of State, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, U.S. Ambassadors, and U.S. Embassies are all part of the U.S. State Department, both when Hillary Clinton was the head of the State Department, as well as today.

If you needed proof that Hillary Clinton’s recent opposition to parts of the TPP is purely political expediency, there it is. Her U.S. State Department has played a key role in developing the TPP, and that’s something that, as much as she wants to, she can’t deny.

ENDORSEMENT: Russ Feingold for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin

It’s official…the old Russ Feingold that Wisconsinites have known and remembered for decades is back and running for a seat in the United States Senate.

Initially, I was skeptical of whether or not the old Feingold, known for his crusades for progressive, pro-middle class, and pro-good government ideals, as well as creative campaign ads, would return. Well, HE’S BAAAAAAAAAAACK!!! Feingold is sharply criticizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free trade agreement that is a key part of President Obama’s plan to destroy American sovereignty and kill the American economy. Oh, and Feingold is posting some cool web videos, which feature him meeting with ordinary Wisconsinites, to his Facebook page. You can view a couple of his web videos here and here.

While I would have zero problem with a competitive Democratic primary in the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin, don’t hold your breath for one. In the unlikely event that one or more Democratic primary challenger(s) enter the race, I will consider pulling my endorsement of Feingold and endorsing a primary challenger to him, although it would require a near-perfect candidate for me to endorse a primary challenger to Feingold. I’m not a fan of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) endorsing Feingold despite the fact that it’s over a year until the congressional and state legislative primaries in Wisconsin.

Judging by what I’ve seen on social media, Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and the Wisconsin GOP apparently think they’re running against failed gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke for some odd reason. Johnson and his far-right Republican allies have tried to paint Feingold as a political insider, a label that easily stuck to Burke, but doesn’t fit Feingold at all. Of course, the only reason the Republicans are trying to paint Feingold as a political insider is because Johnson has a track record of voting against the interests of Wisconsinites, making political attacks against college students, protecting sex abusers, and just plain being dumb.

For Bernie Sanders to be President of the United States and Russ Feingold to be back in the Senate would be a delight, to put it mildly.

Supporter of Martha Laning campaign for Wisconsin Democratic chairperson attacks supporters of American sovereignty

While it’s 100% clear to me that Democratic National Committee (DNC) member Jason Rae would continue the failed, out-of-touch, insider-oriented, consultant-driven leadership of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) that Mike Tate has become infamous for, at least Rae opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). However, Rae refused to publicly criticize President Barack Obama and Wisconsin’s own U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) for waging a war on american sovereignty by supporting the TPP. The TPP, if fully implemented, would cost America thousands of jobs and allow unconstitutional courts to dictate what economic policy our country can implement.

For merely opposing the TPP, Rae has alienated some of his would-be corporate allies, who are supporting the candidacy of former Wisconsin State Senate candidate Martha Laning for DPW Chair instead. Paul Geenen, a Laning supporter who was identified as an organizer for the Laning campaign by Blogging Blue’s Zach Wisniewski, went onto the page of a Facebook group associated with the DemTEAM candidate recruitment/support organization that is associated with Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and publicly attacked Rae and other opponents of the TPP for criticizing the proposed free trade deal. Geenen stated that Laning intends to run a “big-tent” approach to running the DPW, focusing on issues that have near-universal support among Democrats, such as raising the minimum wage, implementing universal background checks on gun sales, and addressing the growing climate change problem. While I agree with Laning on those three issues, Geenen’s description of her strategy reminds me a lot of the failed Mary Burke strategy from the last year’s gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, which proved itself to be an unmitigated disaster that resulted in Republican right-wing extremist Scott Walker winning re-election in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race.

While Laning’s supporters are accusing progressives of being divisive, there’s two people among the five who are running for DPW chair who are either acting in a divisive manner themselves or have Wisconsin-based supporters who are acting in a divisive manner. One of those candidates is Jason Rae, who blocked me on Twitter after I questioned him over fundraising for a campaign for state party chairperson, which is not regulated by state election authorities in Wisconsin. The other candidate is…you’ve guessed it…Martha Laning, who has a very vocal supporter, Paul Geenen, who is publicly attacking those who oppose the president’s efforts to destroy much of what little American sovereignty remains and ship thousands of American jobs to foreign countries. In fact, Laning is trying to somewhat distance herself from Geenen’s divisive, unpatriotic remarks by…get this…praising both prominent supporters and prominent opponents of the TPP while opposing the fast-track authority for the TPP at the same time:

I am supportive of Senator Elizabeth Warren and our own Senator Tammy Baldwin’s stance to stop the fast track of TPP and I have signed that petition. I did this because the pieces that have leaked, if true, are deeply concerning. I like most Americans, want to be sure that thoughtful consideration is being given to each and every part of the agreement and I feel we should have more transparency. I have heard concerns about the lack of financial oversight by our government on big corporate deals that could result in another financial crisis like we had in 2008, which is unacceptable. I have heard this bill would hurt jobs here in the US like NAFTA did, and that too is unacceptable. On the other hand, I respect President Obama and understand his desire to help shape the rules for world trade to prevent China from shaping them without us. Bottom line is that for me to have an opinion on TPP, I need the details of the bill. TPP has not been completed and submitted for a vote yet and therefore, most legislators and the public do not have access to the details of the bill, only leaks, and we don’t know the credibility of the leaks. Many legislators that I respect, like Senator Tammy Baldwin and Senator Elizabeth Warren, have expressed their deep concerns, but stop short of saying they would vote no, likely because the details are not available. Out of respect for the President of the United States, I express deep concerns about what I am hearing about TPP, but will reserve final judgment for when the document is made public and we clearly understand what is included.

Wisconsin Democrats and progressives cannot afford the continuation of Mike Tate’s Chicago-style machine politics, which is what would happen if Jason Rae is elected DPW chair, nor can they afford the corporate, Mary Burke-style “leadership” that Martha Laning would bring to the DPW if elected chair.

ENDORSEMENT: Bernie Sanders for President of the United States

I am pleased to announce that multiple media outlets are reporting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will announce his bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination on Thursday.

I’m also pleased to announce that I am probably the first person in the entire country to officially endorse Bernie’s presidential bid.

While most Americans are not yet familiar with Bernie and his style of politics, those who know him know that he’s a progressive firebrand who wants to put the American government in the hands of the people, not just political elites and the wealthy. As Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie helped make Burlington one of the most attractive places in America to live. As a member of both houses of Congress, Bernie has fought for progressive policies to rebuild the American middle class, protect American consumers and workers, and provide for the well-being of all Americans. Most recently, as a U.S. Senator, Bernie has railed against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and fast-track authority for President Obama’s Global Trading Regime. The TPP and other proposed free trade deals, if fully implemented, would destroy much of what little American economic sovereignty remains and cost America thousands of jobs. In his upcoming presidential campaign, Bernie has promised to make universal health care, rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, making the U.S. Tax Code more progressive, and putting Americans back to work.

For those of you who doubt Bernie’s ability to win the Democratic presidential nomination, the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential nomination contest of any kind in the entire country, usually see extremely low turnout, which means that, if Bernie can get Iowa progressives to turn out in a big way, he could very well win many of Iowa’s delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC). After Iowa is the New Hampshire primary, which will be held in a state that is trending more and more Democratic thanks to people from Bernie’s home state of Vermont moving to New Hampshire and bringing their progressive political views with them. If Bernie can win both of those contests, he’ll be in a hotly-contested race for the Democratic nomination, if not the favorite for the nomination.

I hope that I’ll be able to vote for Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination in the Illinois primary next year. I’ve longed for a Democratic presidential candidate who is more than willing to make the wealthy and the political elites squeal, and now we’re going to have one!

If there’s anyone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to trade, it’s President Obama

After over six years of, outside of a few issues like Social Security and domestic spying where he’s sided with the far-right Republicans, largely relying on progressives as a base of support, President Barack Obama has launched a full-on War on Progressives by openly antagonizing opponents of proposed free-trade agreements, including the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that would destroy most of what little sovereignty America still has.

This is what President Obama said at an Organizing for Action (OFA) summit in our nation’s capital:

When people say this trade deal is bad for working families, they don’t know what they’re talking about…I take that personally. My entire presidency has been about helping working families.

If there’s anyone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to international trade, it’s President Obama and his corporate allies in both major parties in this country. In fact, the fact that the TPP and other free trade deals and policies

For many decades, tariffs and other trade protections made America great by building a strong economy and manufacturing sector that provided middle-class jobs and American-made goods that Americans could actually purchase. Now, because of NAFTA, CAFTA, Most Favored Nation status for China, and other agreements and laws that have loosened American trade policies, most goods sold in the United States are made in foreign countries

Over the last three and a half decades, we’ve seen the effects of current free-trade agreements and other free trade policies between the U.S. and foreign countries, and they’re almost entirely negative. For several very brief periods in the early 1980’s, the U.S. actually had a very small trade surplus. Since then, because of free-trade policies that have been pushed by every president from Ronald Reagan onward and a bipartisan corporate coalition in Congress, wages in this country have been driven downward, the manufacturing sector of our economy has been annihilated, our trade deficit with foreign nations has exploded, the vast majority of goods sold in this country are foreign-made, and the American economy has become an economy full of low-wage jobs. Here’s a graph showing how our nation’s trade deficit has exploded since 1980:

U.S. Balance of Trade 1980-2015 (Graph Courtesy of Trade Economics)

For someone who professes to be a constitutional scholar, President Obama clearly doesn’t understand that the TPP itself and the fast-track authority for it are both blatantly unconstitutional.

The TPP itself is in blatant violation of Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the structure of our nation’s court system. Article III, Section 1 reads as follows:

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

(emphasis mine)

While I’m not an attorney, I interpret Article III, Section 1 as allowing for the creation of a single Supreme Court of the United States and any number of federal courts that are below the single Supreme Court. Since the TPP would create the Investor-State Dispute System (ISDS), a de facto court system that is effectively above the U.S. Supreme Court, this means that the TPP is blatantly unconstitutional.

The fast-track authority for free trade agreements blatantly violates a different part of the Constitution, specifically, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, which reads as follows:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(emphasis mine)

Again, I’m not an attorney, but I interpret Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 as requiring approval by two-thirds of U.S. Senators who are present for such a vote, for ratification of any treaty negotiated and signed by the President on behalf of the United States. However, since fast-track authority, among other things, allows for free trade agreements, which I consider to be a type of treaty, to be ratified by a simple majority of members of both houses of Congress who are present for votes on such agreements, fast-track is blatantly unconstitutional.

I know I’m going to say something controversial, but I’m willing to say it: President Obama and his corporate allies in both parties in Congress have a deep-seeded hatred of the concept of American economic sovereignty, and they are pushing to enact a corporate globalization agenda in order to drive down wages, pollute our environment, and destroy the American economy without any regard for the U.S. Constitution or the American people. While some international trade is necessary due to consumer demand, globalization and weak trade protections are destroying America and our economy, and we certainly don’t need more of the same.

For President Obama to effectively claim that the overwhelming majority of those who twice elected him President of the United States are stupid is absolutely disgusting and traitorous.