The TPP and the Washington Post

tppThe Washington Post’s jihad against American workers continues with its latest [June 10] unrestrained attack on critics of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Since March, the newspaper that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos purchased in 2013 has promoted the multi-lateral free trade deal in a number of lead editorials.

Currently, Republican House leaders are trying to round up enough votes to grant President Obama Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). If TPA is granted, the House and Senate would only have the right to vote up or down after negotiators finalize the TPP’s language. This would almost certainly lead to the bill’s passage.

Based on those sections of the TPP that have been made public or discussed by insiders, my sense is that the TPP will almost certainly be a bad deal for the American people. The American working class is likely to be hardest hit, especially if the pact is approved without emendation. Nevertheless, the Post’s full-throated support would be a little easier to take if it presented, or attempted to present, a cogent defense of the proposed pact.

Instead, the editorial is long on harsh rhetoric against Democrats who refuse to support the TPP but largely fact-free. Maryland Congressional Representatives Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards have both declared their opposition to the bill.  Interestingly, the Post trains all of its ire on Democrats. The few Republican holdouts are excused for refusing to concede to Speaker John Boehner on the ground that the trade deal is one of “President Obama’s priorities and Mr. Obama is a Democrat”.

Apparently, this form of rank partisanship is acceptable to the Post. On the other hand, Democrats who buck their leader are “saying a lot about the current state of American politics in general and the Democratic Party in particular – none of it good”. Ignoring the Republican opposition to the TPP, the Post slams “organized labor” for “using the current battle to polarize Congress further by enforcing a strict Democratic party line against trade agreements.”

The Post insists that “the [postwar] expansion of prosperity both in the United States and abroad has vindicated” the view that free trade is in America’s best interest. But the paper provides no specific examples of American industries that have benefited from free trade. Moreover, it ignores the plethora of data that free trade deals have led to job loss and income stagnation. Hard-right conservative Patrick Buchanan’s critique of free trade is far more compelling than the Post’s attack ad in favor of it.

In two particularly moving paragraphs, Buchanan describes negative impacts of free trade:

The average U.S. family has not seen a rise in real wages in 40 years. This is directly traceable to the loss of more than one-third of all U.S. manufacturing jobs. And that loss, that deindustrialization of America, is directly tied to the $10 trillion in trade deficits since Bush I. Writers who celebrate how U.S. imports have risen in this month or that year almost never mention the trade deficit for this month or that year. Perhaps that is because the United States has not run a trade surplus in four decades, whereas, in the first 70 years of the 20th century, we never ran a trade deficit. Trade surpluses add to GDP; trade deficits subtract from GDP.

And when in a company town the company closes the factory, the town often dies. And all the little satellite businesses—bars, diners, food stores, pharmacies—that rose around the factory, they die, too. The tombstones of countless dead towns across America should read: Killed by Free Trade. Tenured economists on college campuses call this “creative destruction.”

After summarizing arguments in favor of and in opposition to globalization, economist Ellen Frank concluded back in 2003:

Whatever else they have wrought—more jobs, fewer jobs, more or less poverty—globalized trade and production coincide with greater inequality both within and between countries. The reasons for this are complex—globalization weakens unions, strengthens multinationals, and increases competition and insecurity all around—but the data are clear. Markets do not distribute wealth equitably.

Significant increases in wealth disparities both internationally and within the United States over the past twelve years have only strengthened Frank’s conclusion. Yet the Post insists that any result other than passage “would represent a setback for the U.S. economy and for the country’s standing in the world.”

What explains the Post’s indefensible position on the TPP? Well, the paper was never the liberal champion some on the left and right have made it out to be. But, there can be little doubt that every editorial in favor of the TPP puts a smile on its new owner’s face. The company that made Bezos over $20 billion and allowed him to purchase the Post for 1/80 of that amount is a global behemoth. Successful execution of Amazon’s business model depends on low wages and the cheap and easy flow of goods across natural and man-made borders.  Personally, Bezos has expressed strong libertarian leanings with a particular preference for deregulation, anti-labor, and other business-friendly policies.

In sum the Post’s editorial page is championing a trade pact that, if enacted, will lead to job loss, hurt wages, and increase the wealth gap. It is doing this by attacking labor and those Democrats willing to stand up to corporate interests. The Post’s influential opinion page is arguing that our government, which represents 350 million Americans, should ignore the interests of the many and do that which is urgently desired by one multi-billionaire who just happens to own the paper.

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