Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When it comes to free trade agreements the US government fits Einstein’s definition to a tee. Twenty years ago congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with expectations that it would improve the working conditions for the poorest workers in southern partner, Mexico. NAFTA is being touted by economists as a great success but for workers, both south and north of the border, NAFTA has been a massive failure (pdf) with hundred of thousands of jobs lost, mass displacement and instability in Mexico and corporate attacks on environmental and health laws. Mexico is NAFTA’s biggest lie.
Currently, the US is in secret negotiations to pass a massive “free trade” agreement with fourteen Pacific Rim nations that would radically change international rules to favor multinational corporations. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been called “NAFTA on Steroids” that could significantly hurt not only workers but their families as well due to watered-down safety provisions when it comes to food and products. It could also drive up prescription drug prices, hurt the environment and reduce Internet freedom. Despite the evidence of the damage that NAFTA has done and breaking his 2008 campaign pledge to oppose such agreements, President Barack Obama is now asking congress to “fast track” passage of TPP which would prevent debate or amendment of the agreement. NAFTA, too, was “fast tracked.” This is just repeating the same mistakes that were made by NAFTA only on a larger scale. In an article at Huffington Post, James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, explains the damage that preventing debate and amendment can bring:
The problem with the TPP is that as it stands, the public doesn’t know what’s in it. Which raises the question how can constituents discuss the proposal with elected officials when they don’t know what they should be concerned about? That, however, seems to be of little consequence to some in Congress.
Congressional committee chairmen who favor free trade have agreed to move forward with considering fast track soon after they return to Capitol Hill this month. They obviously believe they are doing the right thing for America. But is it right that corporations take in all of the gains while hard-working Americans get all of the pain? Is that what this country is really all about?
No one is against trade, just unfair trade. We’ve seen enough lost jobs, shuttered plants and abandoned communities. It’s time to make things in America again. When is the U.S. going to approve an agreement that actually helps its own workers?
Letting people see what is included in the TPP is the first step towards letting them decide which direction the nation should take. The next step is to derail the old fast track and replace it with a process that allows Congress to fully debate the deal and make the TPP work for working families.
The last thing that Americans need is another hit to the working class, we need to tell our representatives to stop the “fast track” of the TPP. End the insanity. Don’t Let Congress Fast-Track TPP.