Corporate Power Prevails over People Power on Fast Track


The Senate voted today 60-37 to support Fast Track.

If there was ever any sliver of doubt that Congress on issues that really matter to the power elite represents the public over corporations, it should end. Corporate power prevailed over people power.

There was no public outcry supporting Fast Track…and the mis-named “trade” negotiations behind them. No mass rallies. No bottom up organized call-in days. Not even any “astro turf” phony front groups bankrolled by corporate interests promoting it. Just power politics of the all-too-common variety — featuring swarms of lobbyists and, no-doubt as in the House based on public records, political campaign investments “contributions” to Senators.

Call it Exhibit # (fill in any four, may even five, digit number here) of how our government isn’t broken, but instead fixed.  It will only get unfixed when there’s much more mass education and organizing to address the rigged ground rules favoring big money and corporate interests over those of real people.

On the positive side, our efforts will become in one respect easier. We’ll need to waste far less time challenging the “we live in a functioning democracy” propaganda that has mesmerized far too many.

After Obama signs Fast Track, then comes the individual expanded corporate rule treaties: TPP, TTIP and TISA. Born of secret negotiations (to the public and media that is, but not to the corporate consultants), there may be opportunities to lift up the essence of each of them — the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) resolution process with their corporate attorney-dominated “Tribunals.” The opportunities for us to raise the contradictions between how our representative talk about “democracy/sovereignty/self-determination” and how the ISDS trumps “democracy/sovereignty/self-determination” to benefit corporate profits will be there.

If nothing else, these will be teachable moments. May we take full advantage of them.

This is also further underscores why we need a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and money as speech, ala Move to Amend. With no political potency from major corporations, Fast Track doesn’t even get a congressional hearing, let alone a vote, let alone passage.


Is Big Labor going to sell out on Fast Track?


AFL-CIO’s Shifting Line in the Sand on Fast Track and TPP
By Alan Benjamin / The Organizer
(June 19, 2015)

During the past several months, I have been pleasantly surprised by the hard line in the sand that the AFL-CIO leadership has drawn in opposition to Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership “free trade” agreement (TPP). The trade unions have stood firm against the many attempts to water down Fast Track and/or sell it to the public by adding side agreements or parallel bills to make the deal more palatable. Even the Big Business press — from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal — has credited the resolve and mass lobbying by the labor movement for the various failed attempts by Obama to secure passage of Fast Track.

When I received yesterday (June 18) a copy of the statement by Richard Trumka denouncing the stand-alone Fast Track bill just passed by the U.S. House by a vote of 218-108, I felt reassured that the labor movement was not going to cave in to the new pressures, or be misled by the latest maneuvers, by Obama and the Republicans. Trumka stated: “Workers’ resolve is firmer than ever. We will fight at every level and in every way to protect American workers and our economy by rejecting Fast Track and this corporate trade deal.”

Hence my astonishment to read this morning the “Accountability Alert to all State Federations, Area and Central Labor Councils” sent out by Geoff Wetrosky, the AFL-CIO’s national organizer of the Fast Track/TPP campaign. Instead of affirming that the labor federation must defeat Fast Track unconditionally, the Alert Memo reads as follows:
“This fight is not over.  Our focus now shifts back to the Senate where we expect votes as early as next week. We need a full-court press on the following 14 Senate Democrats [their names follow — AB] who voted wrong on Fast Track. We need to ask them to stand with us and ensure that Fast Track doesn’t get a vote until the customs bill passed by House Republicans is fixed and TAA [Trade Adjustment Assistance] is on the President’s desk ready for signing.”

The problem with this stance — and the overwhelming majority of anti-TPP activists understand this full well — is that the TPP, like all “free trade” agreements before it, cannot be improved. The very purpose of these agreements, their very nature, is to dismantle all the rights and gains won by working people in the name of “removing the barriers to trade and investment.” Moreover, to think you can kill Fast Track by making it a condition to get TAA and a fixed customs bill is equally misguided; a significant number of Republicans could easily reverse course and support TAA.

The notion of improving Fast Track by adding a “fixed” customs bill and TAA — i.e., providing funds for the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of U.S. workers who will lose their jobs on account of TPP — is a notion that has been put forward by a wing of the corporate class, and most specifically by Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, both of whom have been straddling the fence on Fast Track and TPP. (Pelosi has been calling to “slow down” Fast Track in order to “improve” it. Clinton, whose silence on the issue has been deafening, rallied at the 11th hour to the view that Fast Track needed to be “improved,” albeit without giving any specifics on how to do this.)

So now we have the sorry spectacle — the typical shell game of mainstream politics in Washington — of Republicans pushing for Fast Track without TAA — while Democrats, claiming to be defenders of labor rights and democracy, are now supporting Fast Track . . . but only if it includes TAA. This clever maneuver by Obama and the Republicans would have us believe that the “bad guys” are the ones who want Fast Track without any compensation for workers’ displaced by this rotten trade deal, while the “good guys” are the ones urging Fast Track with this TAA.

It is understandable that officials in the Democratic Party, one of the two parties of the bosses, should take such a stand. But what is not acceptable, and must be reversed, is for labor to be calling for support to Fast Track with the so-called “fixes” of an amended customs bill and TAA.

As Ohio anti-TPP activist Greg Coleridge put it, “We will not be fooled, distracted or mesmerized.”

Labor must stick to its guns: No Fast Track! No TPP!


NEO AFSC June 19, 2015 Podcast


Listen to podcast here

We summarize last week’s activities; share upcoming events for next week; and comment on the on Fast Track roller coaster votes in the House (and the need to now call your Senators!), ongoing successes of Occupy Wall Street, what’s behind a report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on how the IMF is killing prosperity (and how banks in this country are doing the same), and how the Pope’s “Encyclical” document on climate change is an indictment of capitalism and endless economic growth.

House punts on Fast Track


Looks like the corporate-captured elected officials (led by President Obama, John Boehner and Paul Ryan — how’s that for a coalition!) realize they don’t have the votes to ram this through Congress this week. They are reassessing how to reframe it all, maybe add a few more relatively meaningless token provisions and come back in late July when fewer people at the grassroots they hope are paying attention. It’s testimony to how powerful grassroots pressure was — understanding that Fast Track wasn’t/isn’t about “trade” as much as about “expanding corporate rule” with provisions that allow corporations in the guise of “impediments to trade” and/or “loss of future profits” to challenge and overturn democratically enacted laws and regulations at the federal, state and even municipal levels. We will not be fooled, distracted or mesmerized.

House punts on trade

Overturning Citizens United will NOT End Money as Speech NOR Corporate Personhood

A coalition of Arkansas public interest groups are circulating a petition to “get big money out of politics,” as claimed by its advocates. Their goal is to collect sufficient signatures to place on November 2016 ballot a measure calling for a Constitutional Amendment. The Amendment would overturn the 2010 Citizens United decision.

There is no doubt awareness of the antidemocratic role big money from wealthy individuals and corporate entities plays in public elections. Actions and campaigns are launching and spreading. It’s hard to keep up with all that’s occurring. People are fed up with the obscene amount of money in elections. More are figuring out the power of corporations to influence public policies — with Fast Track/TPP being merely the latest grotesque example. Who at the grassroots, after all, is clamoring FOR Fast Track?

A recent New York Times article summarizing the public money in elections mood:
Poll Shows Americans Favor an Overhaul of Campaign Financing

It shows that a stunning 39% of those polled favor fundamental changes in the campaign financing system and another 46% want a complete rebuild — or 85% for major changes.

It’s important, however, to be clear what the Arkansas proposal constitutionally is and what it isn’t.

It seeks to overturn Citizens United, which would prevent corporate entities (business corporations, unions and non-profits) from spending unlimited sums of money “independently” (i.e. not in coordination with candidates) via Super PACs and 501 (c )4 social welfare organizations.

That’s great as an initial step. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes.

This will not “get big money out of politics.” And it doesn’t end corporate personhood.

Overturning Citizens United alone:

– Still permits corporate entities to funnel money into politics via conventional PACs (Political Action Committees).

– Doesn’t reverse the McCutcheon decision of last year which “limited” aggregate contribution limits from a wealthy contributor to $46,000 for federal candidates and $70,800 for political parties. Wealthy contributors following McCutcheon can now donate (or invest) the maximum individual limit per candidate to EVERY candidate running for elected office across the nation.

-Will also not affect the December 2014 federal law expanding contribution limits to political parties from $194,000 to $1.5 million.

-Will not overturn the Buckley v Valeo 1986 decision equating money as “free speech.”

-Will not reverse the corporate constitutional right “not to speak” which is being used as a legal defense in Vermont by corporations against having to label products containing genetically modified organisms.

-Doesn’t reverse the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision establishing corporations as possessing “religious beliefs,” nor any of the other constitutional doctrines establishing corporations as legal “persons,” which in a variety of ways has superseded fundamental self-determination.

The Arkansas effort and those like it elsewhere are without a doubt more doable and winnable than the Move to Amend approach because they seek to pick off the “lowest hanging fruit.” They are using Citizens United not as merely the latest instance of a very long history of examples of misuse and abuse of Supreme Court decisions to solidify power and control by the few over the many, but instead framing the case as the only instance. If presented as the only basic problem, then, of course, solving it via a constitutional amendment is basically the only required solution.

With so much going on, so many separate critiques of the problem and so many various strategies for change, it’s important to take the time to reflect and assess. Not all strategies are the same. Some are not what they say they are. The more we can understand the approaches (specifically, the plusses and minus of each), the better change agents we become.

House Votes NO on Fast Track


People Power Prevails! At least for now.

Thanks to everyone for calling, emailing, texting, twittering, face booking, and/or visiting your Representative. People power prevailed over corporate power.

House Rejects Trade Bill, Rebuffing Obama’s Dramatic Appeal

While many activists and in Congress cast Fast Track and the international agreements connected to them principally about “trade” and/or “jobs,” the core issue has always been about governance — specifically self-determination, self-rule, right to decide, sovereignty, democracy — whatever you want to call it.

That’s the emphasis in the letters we sent yesterday to several NE Ohio House members, urging them to oppose Fast Track.

Read the letters here.

Seen through a “democracy” prism, Fast Track can’t be made acceptable by simply adding a few more protections to workers here or decreasing a trade barrier or two there — since at its core Fast Track is about decreasing citizen power and increasing corporate power by challenging democratically enacted laws and regulations.

This is essential to remember if and when the next version of Fast Track is introduced.

In the meantime, thank you for doing your part to achieve this grassroots victory!

NEO AFSC June 12, 2015 Podcast


Listen to podcast here

We summarize last week’s activities; share upcoming events for next week; and comment  on only 1 issue: the vote today on Fast Track legislation in the US House of Representatives. We do so to emphasize its importance and to underscore the urgency of taking immediate action – to call your Congressperson asking them to vote NO. The toll free # is 888-804-8311.