Last month I offered “What You Should Know About TPP.”
I got some good reader feedback, not least because so many terrific progressives have decided — wrongly, I think — that the TransPacific Partnership is a very bad idea.
Maybe take a minute to re-read that prior post?
Then consider two examples of the criticism:
I. ROBERT REICH
One of you sent me this two-minute video by former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. She asks: “Well, which of you is right?”
I admire him greatly, but think this is not Professor Reich at his most thoughtful best. There’s a lot in the clip that strikes me as misleading, but let me focus on just one theme: that corporate lobbyists and the big banks are all involved in shaping this secret deal, but not the American public.
Yes! [Sarcasm ON]
If only the PEOPLE, not just the corporate lobbyists, had a seat at the table as this deal gets negotiated!
Indeed, I’d demand that a representative of the people – maybe a former community organizer, maybe someone Ted Kennedy would have endorsed – that kind of guy – were not just ONE of the voices at the table – I’d demand he be in charge of orchestrating the whole damn thing!
(Oh wait: he is.)
(And the rest of his team, like Labor Secretary Tom Perez, are pretty progressive, too.)
II. A HUGE NEW CUT TO MEDICARE
Another friend asked if I knew about the $700 million cut to Medicare the Republicans have added to the trade bill.
And as it happens, I had just gotten an urgent email from a liberal group I support and admire — I won’t embarrass it by saying which one — that began . . . “Andrew — Have you heard the terrible news? . . . [T]here is a huge new cut to Medicare in the Fast Track bill for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
That was their bold-facing, not mine — a huge new cut to Medicare. Alarming news indeed. Like you, I oppose any cuts to Medicare, unless they come via gains in efficiency or tougher negotiations with health care providers.
But guess what? Google tells me that, wherever this “huge new cut” would come from, it would “slash” Medicare by a quarter of one percent. (“Slash” was another word from the email, urging me to action.) Which is to say a cut of $25 for each $10,000 in Medicare benefits I would otherwise get.
I’m not pooh-poohing $25 — if I had a daughter, I’d name her Frugality (and wouldn’t she grow up loving me for that?) — but remember that this is also the President who’s surtaxed wealthy investors 3.8% to do things like close Medicare’s donut hole by 2020, saving many seniors not $25 a year but $1,000! or $2,000!
So even if that $25 on each $10,000 would come directly from seniors and not from efficiencies or big hospital chains — and even if this Republican provision had to be accepted as part of TPP (which it may not be) — how does this become “terrible news”?
If a quarter of one percent is “a huge cut,” what would half a percent be? Catastrophic? And a full one percent? Apocalyptic? (If I had two daughters, I’d name the second, Hysteria.)
My point is simply that — with best of intentions that I entirely share — some of our progressive allies have lost perspective.
If in the greater scheme of things we have a President who saves seniors $2,000 a year on drugs by taxing the rich, but accepts a possible $25 a year cut (and I’m not saying he would!) to boost American economic competitiveness in the world, boost jobs, improve worker and environmental standards around the world (see my earlier post) — well does that really rise to the level of “terrible news?”
If the TransPacific Partnership is concluded and accepted by Congress, it will not be perfect and it will not be without costs.
If (for the sake of discussion) it would be 80% good for everyday and struggling Americans and others around the world — but 20% bad — we can easily agree it would be FAR preferable to have it be 99% or 100% good and only 1% or 0% bad.
But if that’s not possible, then getting approval for 80% good / 20% bad would seem to be (A) very difficult, because opponents will, understandably, focus passionately on the 20%; yet (B) desirable.
Those working to reduce the 20% (or whatever number you assign it) are to be commended. And I hope to post further as I learn more about some of the specifics.
But I just don’t accept the notion that the President and his team have suddenly turned stupid on us. Or suddenly become stooges of big business. And that the TPP they will present Congress would be 80% bad — with “huge new cuts to Medicare” to boot.
Our side seems to be saying, at a very high decibel level – MAINTAIN THE AWFUL STATUS QUO! (See my earlier post.) And to be appending — WE DON’T TRUST OBAMA!
I have more faith in our community-organizer-in-chief. I do trust him.
(I saw the same thing on the LGBT front. Many of activists quickly decided he had somehow become the enemy . . . that his “long game” was not, in fact, real. And yet, somehow, we got hate crimes signed and DA/DT repealed, and marriage evolved – with progressive Justices confirmed to vote our way – and transgender inclusion, and just tons and tons of stuff that’s improved millions of LGBT lives. Not perfect, or finished; but pretty good, considering.)
My own sense is that the worst a thoughtful progressive should think about the TPP effort is, “It will be an improvement over the status quo, as we and China vie to write the rules of world trade. I just hope the President’s team drive the hardest possible bargain with respect to labor and environmental provisions, because the world badly needs a race to the top, not the bottom – as the President appears to understand very, very well.”