Bad grammar and old rap references aside, why I’m not down with TPP is made pretty clear in the transcript (below) of my letter to my district’s Rep. and state Senators, sent recently via email to all three (Warren, Markey and Clark). I wanted to share my letter with readers, and to show that my assertions did not come out of thin air, I’ve linked sources throughout the letter itself and included a pretty extensive set of footnotes. Whether you support the TPP or not, I hope it inspires you to write a letter of your own or to generally get involved in grassroots action in whatever way that makes sense for you. – JP
Dear Senators and Representative:
First off, I’d like to thank you for your continued service on behalf of the people of Massachusetts. As a registered Independent voter I have voted for all of you, and I consider myself fortunate to live in our “purple-ish” state where reason can play a part in the political process.
With regards to the TPP, I think I already know how your vote will go and hope that I am correct in assuming you will vote against this horrific (and binding) agreement. As I learn more about the details I am left scratching my head in wonder trying to understand why our supposedly Democratic President would think this agreement is a good idea.
Never mind wonder – it alarms me that your fellow colleagues might also be supporting this agreement along with our President. I implore you to reach out to them and convince them this would be a disaster for not only our country, but people around the world. Rising cost of medicines, US industrial farming pushing small eco-friendly farmers out of the market, and potential for more fracking are all a likely by-product of this agreement.
I am currently reading through the Intellectual Property section on Wiki Leaks, and though I’m not a lawyer I can understand that digital rights and freedom of expression will be inhibited under the terms, and that copyright infringement will be treated as a criminal offense. Sanctions against those who “misuse” digital property accessed from a computer (which seems deliberately vague) could ostensibly harm what’s left of our free press. As a writer myself, I find this unacceptable.
We all know how the political process has been corrupted by special interests, and in this case we are not only inviting them in for a hot meal but also handing them the keys to the castle. It infuriates me that the will of the people would be LEGALLY overruled by corporate interests. We the People already have so little influence on outcomes: academic studies have shown the average citizen literally has a net zero effect on current policies enacted. (It’s under 1%.)
The fact that a multi-national corporation could sue the United States for infringement on their profits is not just a possibility, but a sure thing under the provisions of the TPP. TransCanada has already sued us under NAFTA for blocking fracking and Wall Street crybabies have had hearings to fight reduction in subsidies to their industry. These companies get to bid on taxpayer funded contracts and/or benefit from tax breaks and subsidies, and then they follow up with lawsuits against our government because they want more… Talk about ridiculous.
I don’t even know if you will read this letter. I expect that a lot of these mass-emails get lost in the shuffle. But I wanted to speak up and will continue to pay attention and do my part as a citizen to keep the pressure on. The fact of the matter is, sadly, is that less-than-1% influence I referenced is shrinking even as I write this. Please ask yourselves and your colleagues to call upon integrity now and fight for the rights of folks who have no voice. Don’t let the voice and will of the People completely disappear.
Care to blow off a little steam of your own? Write a letter to your state reps in the House and the Senate and let them know you are paying attention. Also linked below are some other references of potential interest.
LOCAL – Find House of Reps from your district by entering your zip code here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.
NATIONAL – Find your state’s elected Congress officials here: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.
The academic study I referred to is by Gilens and Page: Average Citizens have little impact on public policy. Published in Perspectives on Politics, April 9, 2014. PDF of study is linked in my letter but the abstract can be found here: http://www.pnhp.org/news/2014/april/gilens-and-page-average-citizens-have-little-impact-on-public-policy
The TPP – or most of it – is available on Wiki Leaks, and notably was not made public initially by the current U.S. administration. https://wikileaks.org/tpp/.
Electronic Frontier Foundation: a website dedicated to understanding rights in the digital world, breaks down key elements of the Intellectual Property chapter of the TPP. https://www.eff.org/issues/tpp
Footnote about Bank subsidies: this relates back to the comments in my letter about businesses being able to sue the U.S. Government – read: the taxpayers – when their profits are at stake. The example I cited in the letter is possibly a little vague for readers but I expected the state Reps to know what I was referring to. A brief history of my perspective follows:
1913: Entitlements: 6%, just for showing up: The banks receive an annual dividend of 6% from the Federal Reserve, which totals roughly $350 million apiece for JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. It was first established in 1913 as a reward for banks, just for joining the Federal Reserve system. Readers should note that Federal Reserve is an incredibly independent government agency which is not audited by Congress and can basically create money out of thin air. But I digress.
The Fed payouts to banks are not structured to exert any influence or encourage banks to push the benefit out to the public in any way. This is just one example of the types of kickbacks and payouts our taxes support. There are many more. (Sort of outrageous when one considers the outcry against welfare for the poor, which is comparably only 5% of the entire federal budget. Hypocrisy rules this country.)
In the meantime, our infrastructure needs improvement and people need good-paying jobs.
2014: White House Fact Sheet: President Obama’s Infrastructure plan, laid out in February of 2014 lays out the initiative to improve American infrastructure and funnel funding to the states for local projects, the by-product of which would be more blue-collar jobs. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/02/26/fact-sheet-president-obama-lays-out-vision-21st-century-transportation-i.
2015: Senator Sanders proposes a deficit-neutral Amendment to the Infrastructure Bill: Bernie Sanders is the ranking member of the Senate’s Budget Committee, and asked the Finance Committee to close corporate tax breaks for companies to fund the proposal. He was denied, even though the federal Highway Trust Fund is nearly depleted. The members of the Finance Committee would not budge on long-term subsidies for big business, saying it would be a “tax increase” on business, which is an incorrect twisting of semantics – it is a subsidy decrease. Subsidies are kickbacks to companies from our government. The newest proposal by Obama was that the funding would come from the Fed’s 6% payout, which would not suddenly end, but rather decrease over a period of time. 2016 would be the first year the cutback in the payout would take effect. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/478b-infrastructure-bill-blocked-senate-123000148.html
2016: Banks fight back with a letter from Rob Nichols, CEO of the American Banking Association arguing for banks’ 5th Amendment rights under the Constitution of the United States. He argues that the 6% Fed payout is protected under the 5th Amendment and that these funds should not be diverted to boost America’s failing infrastructure. Link to ABA for all kinds of interesting info: www.aba.con.
I have to say, calling upon the 5th Amendment and claiming that taking the payout away is akin to theft is pretty fucking genius. These bankers have serious chutzpah. When recently asked about the payouts (July, Wall Street Journal article), Fed Chair Janet Yellen lamely said that she didn’t want to discourage banks from participating in the Federal Reserve system — even though the Fed has the same oversight powers over banks whether they take part or not.