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By Bernie Sanders, US Senator, Reader Supported News

03 January 15

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy. It will also negatively impact some of the poorest people in the world.

The TPP is a treaty that has been written behind closed doors by the corporate world. Incredibly, while Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies have full knowledge as to what is in this treaty, the American people and members of Congress do not. They have been locked out of the process.

Further, all Americans, regardless of political ideology, should be opposed to the “fast track” process which would deny Congress the right to amend the treaty and represent their constituents’ interests.

The TPP follows in the footsteps of other unfettered free trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and the Permanent Normalized Trade Agreement with China (PNTR). These treaties have forced American workers to compete against desperate and low-wage labor around the world. The result has been massive job losses in the United States and the shutting down of tens of thousands of factories. These corporately backed trade agreements have significantly contributed to the race to the bottom, the collapse of the American middle class and increased wealth and income inequality. The TPP is more of the same, but even worse.

During my 23 years in Congress, I helped lead the fight against NAFTA and PNTR with China. During the coming session of Congress, I will be working with organized labor, environmentalists, religious organizations, Democrats, and Republicans against the secretive TPP trade deal.

Let’s be clear: the TPP is much more than a “free trade” agreement. It is part of a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge our laws in international tribunals rather than our own court system. If TPP was such a good deal for America, the administration should have the courage to show the American people exactly what is in this deal, instead of keeping the content of the TPP a secret.

10 Ways that TPP would hurt Working Families

1. TPP will allow corporations to outsource even more jobs overseas.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, if the TPP is agreed to, the U.S. will lose more than 130,000 jobs to Vietnam and Japan alone. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Service Sector Jobs will be lost. At a time when corporations have already outsourced over 3 million service sector jobs in the U.S., TPP includes rules that will make it even easier for corporate America to outsource call centers; computer programming; engineering; accounting; and medical diagnostic jobs.

Manufacturing jobs will be lost. As a result of NAFTA, the U.S. lost nearly 700,000 jobs. As a result of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, the U.S. lost over 2.7 million jobs. As a result of the Korea Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. has lost 70,000 jobs. The TPP would make matters worse by providing special benefits to firms that offshore jobs and by reducing the risks associated with operating in low-wage countries.

2. U.S. sovereignty will be undermined by giving corporations the right to challenge our laws before international tribunals.

The TPP creates a special dispute resolution process that allows corporations to challenge any domestic laws that could adversely impact their “expected future profits.”

These challenges would be heard before UN and World Bank tribunals which could require taxpayer compensation to corporations.

This process undermines our sovereignty and subverts democratically passed laws including those dealing with labor, health, and the environment.

3. Wages, benefits, and collective bargaining will be threatened.

NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, and other free trade agreements have helped drive down the wages and benefits of American workers and have eroded collective bargaining rights.

The TPP will make the race to the bottom worse because it forces American workers to compete with desperate workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is just 56 cents an hour.

4. Our ability to protect the environment will be undermined.

The TPP will allow corporations to challenge any law that would adversely impact their future profits. Pending claims worth over $14 billion have been filed based on similar language in other trade agreements. Most of these claims deal with challenges to environmental laws in a number of countries. The TPP will make matters even worse by giving corporations the right to sue any of the nations that sign onto the TPP. These lawsuits would be heard in international tribunals bypassing domestic courts.

5. Food Safety Standards will be threatened.

The TPP would make it easier for countries like Vietnam to export contaminated fish and seafood into the U.S. The FDA has already prevented hundreds of seafood imports from TPP countries because of salmonella, e-coli, methyl-mercury and drug residues. But the FDA only inspects 1-2 percent of food imports and will be overwhelmed by the vast expansion of these imports if the TPP is agreed to.

6. Buy America laws could come to an end.

The U.S. has several laws on the books that require the federal government to buy goods and services that are made in America or mostly made in this country. Under TPP, foreign corporations must be given equal access to compete for these government contracts with companies that make products in America. Under TPP, the U.S. could not even prevent companies that have horrible human rights records from receiving government contracts paid by U.S. taxpayers.

7. Prescription drug prices will increase, access to life saving drugs will decrease, and the profits of drug companies will go up.

Big pharmaceutical companies are working hard to ensure that the TPP extends the monopolies they have for prescription drugs by extending their patents (which currently can last 20 years or more). This would expand the profits of big drug companies, keep drug prices artificially high, and leave millions of people around the world without access to life saving drugs. Doctors without Borders stated that “the TPP agreement is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever for ?ccess to medicines in developing countries.”

8. Wall Street would benefit at the expense of everyone else.

Under TPP, governments would be barred from imposing “capital controls” that have been successfully used to avoid financial crises. These controls range from establishing a financial speculation tax to limiting the massive flows of speculative capital flowing into and out of countries responsible for the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s. In other words, the TPP would expand the rights and power of the same Wall Street firms that nearly destroyed the world economy just five years ago and would create the conditions for more financial instability in the future.

Last year, I co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Harkin to create a Wall Street speculation tax of just 0.03 percent on trades of derivatives, credit default swaps, and large amounts of stock. If TPP were enacted, such a financial speculation tax may be in violation of this trade agreement.

9. The TPP would reward authoritarian regimes like Vietnam that systematically violate human rights.

The State Department, the U.S. Department of Labor, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have all documented Vietnam’s widespread violations of basic international standards for human rights. Yet, the TPP would reward Vietnam’s bad behavior by giving it duty free access to the U.S. market.

10. The TPP has no expiration date, making it virtually impossible to repeal.

Once TPP is agreed to, it has no sunset date and could only be altered by a consensus of all of the countries that agreed to it. Other countries, like China, could be allowed to join in the future. For example, Canada and Mexico joined TPP negotiations in 2012 and Japan joined last year.

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Republished with permission from Readersupportednews.org

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On last night’s edition of the BBC’s Newsnight, actor/comedian Russell Brand, told Jeremy Paxman why anyone should listen to a man who has never voted in his life.

“I don’t get my authority from this preexisting paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people,” Russell responded. “I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity.”

And with that, the first shots of a remarkable interview were fired.

Although the interview took place between two Englishmen, Brand often specifically mentioned the United States as a nation whose political system only serves a few.

“Over the course of the following ten-or-so minutes, Brand and Paxo volleyed back and forth over subjects ranging from political apathy, to corporate greed, to gorgeous beards.

Throughout the interview, Brand repeatedly dodged Paxman’s efforts to trivialize his message — at one point Paxman literally called Brand a “very trivial man” — until finally, even the entrenched newsman appeared to relent against the rushing tide of Brand’s valid arguments.

After Brand reminded Paxman that he cried after learning that his grandma too had been “fucked over” by aristocrats, the Newsnight host was stunned into silence.

“If we can engage that feeling and change things, why wouldn’t we?” Brand crescendoed. “Why is that naive? Why is that not my right because I’m an ‘actor’? I’ve taken the right. I don’t need the right from you. I don’t need the right from anybody. I’m taking it.”

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Contrary to reports of its demise, the Occupy movement is alive and well. Occupy still protests the rule of the 1 percent, and its parasitic qualities vis-a-vis the 99 percent.

Conservatives railed against the video below. Glen Beck and others claimed that Occupy members worship a golden bull, not understanding the sarcasm and the corporate logos  that adorned the bull. In fact, Occupy members used the video to mock Beck and others who worship the almighty dollar and their corporate masters.

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It’s never a good sign, but it’s not always bad. The U.S. economy shrank for the first time in more than three years in the fourth quarter, suggesting massive weakness in the economy caused by the massive redistribution of income during the last 32 years. The strength of consumer spending and business investment may suggest that the economy will grow, albeit slowly, this year.

Gross domestic product—the broadest measure of goods and services churned out by the economy—fell at a 0.1% annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the government’s initial estimate out Wednesday. However, these early estimates are often revised, so it’s too early to tell if the contraction is ominous.

Some alleged experts suggest the contraction was caused by a curtailment of government spending, which is possible. If true, it goes to show that an economic policy of austerity is blatantly stupid, but Republicans like because it will tank the economy.

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The military-industry complex is not the biggest government welfare program of all time. It might be second, and like the biggest welfare program, the military-industrial complex is welfare for the rich, the 1 percent. Such corporations as General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin rely heavily on government spending to keep their profits soaring, their dividends rising and their share prices climbing. The 1 percent owns most of their shares.

That’s why the United States has a bloated military that is greater in size than the next nine largest military’s in the world combined, although some analysts suggest the US spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined. That’s likely.

At the peak of the US conquest of Iraq, the US had somewhere in the vicinity of 150,000 mercenaries earning over a $100,000 each. The government called these mercenaries “contractors,” as if they had been contracted to erect buildings. No, these were just mercenaries that had signed contracts to be US mercenaries. If you count these folks, it is likely the US spends more on its military than all other nations in the world.

Income redistribution from the 99 to the 1 percent. That’s what military spending is all about. Tax money, the blood of working Americans, government lies, they’re all redistributed to the rich.

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Jefferson Smith should be the next mayor of Portland, Oregon. Why? The developers that run city hall don’t like him, so he can’t easily be purchased like a can of tomatoes, such as his rivals Charlie “Wall Street” Hales and Eileen “Loves Developer’s Boondoggles” Brady. Mr. Smith is against the new Columbia River Crossing Bridge, which nobody in their right mind would want since it does nothing to improve traffic conditions on the I-5 freeway; but Brady and Hales support it to the tune of roughly half a billion bucks, but then they’re not in their right minds; they’re in the pockets of the developers.

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