Tuesday, October 6, 2015

TPP And The International Working Class

Just about everything the Obama Administration is saying about the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty is disputed by people who know something about it, and now it's coming to light that because it was so desperate to make a deal the administration caved on key issues in the final moments of the negotiations.

One is that foreign automakers who have US plants can import 70 percent of the parts from China. That's huge. I know. I grew up in Michigan, where much of the state economy is, or was, dependent on the manufacture of auto parts. Automakers make the bodies and paint them and usually make the engine blocks, and they assemble the final car, but most of the parts are contracted out. When I was young I worked in a place that made push rods, valves and various fittings. Earlier I'd worked in a place that made some of the plastic parts -- tail light lenses, arm rests, and so forth. Much of my father's works as a truck driver was hauling auto parts. When he had an accident my mother supported us by working at the plastic factory. There was a swath across the southern half of Michigan, between western Michigan where I lived and Detroit on the east side, of towns and cities and counties whose economies were tied to the auto industry.

The Obama Administration says it fixed some things people were complaining about but the TPP still has those tribunals made up of corporate lawyers who, because the TPP is a treaty, can override US law and fine governments in the US for making laws that foreign companies don't like, like environmental laws. There's nothing to prevent currency manipulation. It could affect our internet. It's guaranteed to make some critical medicines more expensive. And on and on and on.

Even the supposed good things you read about the TPP are good only because they'll increase corporate profits at US workers' expense. CBS has an article that says that the US may benefit because the middle classes of countries like Vietnam will expand. You almost want to laugh. The Vietnamese middle class will expand because they'll be making things we used to make.

Think also about how, after NAFTA, the export of jobs affected US worker pay and tax revenues. All a company had to do was threaten to move overseas and unions buckled, and governments fell all over themselves to make their taxes practically disappear.

And yet. Nothing like the TPP would ever happen if the working class was organized internationally. Capitalists couldn't play one set of workers against another. They couldn't find any tax havens. They couldn't keep scurrying around in search of cheaper labor. Politicians couldn't manipulate us by appealing to our nationalistic sentiments because we'd already have dropped them to make common cause with our brothers and sisters in other lands.

If workers from different countries figured out how to cooperate, just a little bit, this world would be a vastly different place.



  1. I was told at one time that the American economy was like a barnyard with the farmer being at the top of the heap and the American citizen being like the chicken pecking at some handfuls of grain and scraps thrown down amongst the droppings of the cattle, sheep, horses etc.

    The farmer in the end got to eat of all the animals, in the meantime some animals got better feed or more or different feed, but all eventually ended up on the table as fare for the farmer. The chicken's trip to the table was after a lifetime of feeding on scraps and crap.

    The answers are there but they are extremely complicated and the average Joe cannot ever figure it out, seems like the best we can do is work our way to the up among the echelons of chicken society.

    On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the bottom chicken and 10 being the top I think I worked my way to the 4.5 or so level after a lifetime of work.

    1. Thanks NM. That's a great vision of the American economy. I guess my role was to haul chicken feed in and chicken crap out.