With Trans-Pacific Partnership, Obama Victim of His Own Lies


Though the talking heads in the media are focused on the intra-party leadership fight following the unexpected and sudden resignation announcement of House Speaker John Boehner, Democrats have an internal battle of their own going on.

On Monday, the United States and Japan, along with ten other North American and Pacific Rim nations (Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, and Vietnam - which together comprise 36% of the Earth’s global domestic product), concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade agreement that seeks to facilitate greater trade among these nations by reducing tariffs and other barriers to trade.

The negotiations, ongoing for the last decade, produced an agreement with mixed results for American interests. For example, U.S. negotiators claim the pact will strengthen intellectual property rights (which will benefit American pharmaceutical and technology companies) and open up foreign markets to American agricultural and dairy products. However, it would also reduce the duration that companies have market exclusivity for their products before they compete with generics.

The greatest argument in favor of the trade pact, however, might be as a tool to counter the rise of China as a regional and global player. China has long manipulated its currency to gain trade advantages, and it is no secret that China has often been guilty of the theft of intellectual property, but in the last few years China has overseen a significant increase in the size and capability of its military, and especially its navy, which could be used to threaten sea lanes as leverage in other negotiations.

But, back to the internal Democrat disputes.

Obama has spent the last eight years vilifying Republicans and treating them as America’s greatest enemy (consider how he describes Republicans’ positions and motives, as compared to the far more accommodating language he has used regarding Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism). However, now he finds himself in a position of needing the Republicans in order to pass a trade agreement that he sees as crucial to his legacy.

Democrats are heavily opposed to the deal primarily because labor unions are against it, and labor unions are against it because it increases competition, which labor unions loathe. Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO labor union, warned on Twitter, “Now that negotiators have rushed to reach a final deal, the world will see how bad #TPP really is.” Environmentalists also rabidly oppose the trade agreement because it increases the production of goods and services, which will lead to increased industrialization. Such opposition is to be expected from environmentalists, who are reflexively against the free market anyway, which they eagerly declare by tweeting on their iPhones while sipping lattes at Starbucks.

Self-described socialist and Democrat presidential nominee Bernie Sanders declared the deal “disastrous”, claiming that “Wall Street and corporations have won again.” Likewise, seeking to curry favor with the radical Leftist base, Hillary Clinton, who supported the deal while serving as Secretary of State, is now hedging on that support, fearful of angering the anti-free market primary voters she needs to win the Democrat nomination for president.

And so it is that Obama finds himself needing the majority of Republicans to vote in favor of the deal in order to save it for him.

In any other year and with any other president, this would sail through a House and Senate dominated by Republicans, who are generally champions of free trade, lower taxes, and fewer barriers to trade. Republicans tend to agree with the wisdom of Alexander Hamilton who, writing in Federalist No. 12, declared “The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of its political cares.”

Or, stated more succinctly by French economist Fredric Bastiat, “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”

The problem, as noted earlier, is that Obama has spent the last eight years vilifying conservatives and Republicans, accusing them of hateful hearts and malevolent motives, and using coercion, compulsion, deceit, and lawlessness to achieve his aims. The Republicans neither respect nor trust Obama, and with good reason.

How ironic, then, that Obama now needs them to rescue one of his signature legislative agenda items, which he desperately needs after the disastrous results of his prior legislative “achievements” like the stimulus bill and ObamaCare.

As of now, it appears to be an uphill battle for Obama. Democrats vehemently opposed the Trade Promotion Authority that was passed by Congress earlier this year, with only 28 of 188 Democrats voting in favor. TPA was considered a prerequisite for pushing the TPP because it grants the president an up or down vote of Congress on the trade agreement, with no amendments allowed, which was considered essential in getting other nations to agree to the deal.

Based on the comments from Democrats immediately following the announcement of the completion of the trade deal, Obama may get even fewer Democrats supporting him on TPP than he did on TPA. And with Republicans even more distrustful of Obama now than before, it is not at all assured he will get the necessary Republican votes to pass TPP.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a big proponent of the TPA, and of the TPP in principle, has expressed reservations about the deal as submitted, stating he will “carefully scrutinize” the deal, but withholding any declarations of support. Other leading Republicans who previously expressed support for the deal are also now expressing concerns.

There is no small amount of irony in seeing now, after years of slamming free trade, Obama have to defend and champion free trade, and be undermined by his own party, using the same tsunami of disinformation and character assassination on this deal and its supporters as he has so often used against the Republicans. Obama, a master of political hackery, is now getting a taste of his own medicine.

As usual with anything Obama touches, it is the American people who will suffer most.

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