by Tom Sullivan
Progressive groups are sure to be fuming over the agreement among congressional leaders on approving "fast track" authority:
In what is sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama’s last 19 months in office, the “fast track” bill allowing the White House to pursue its planned Pacific trade deal also heralds a divisive fight within the Democratic Party, one that could spill into the 2016 presidential campaign.
With committee votes planned next week, liberal senators such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio are demanding to know Hillary Rodham Clinton’s position on the bill to give the president so-called trade promotion authority, or T.P.A.
"NAFTA on steroids" may have bipartisan support, but the secret trade agreement — congressional staff must have security clearances to view the draft trade pact text — also "enjoys" bipartisan opposition. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in January showed Americans were in no hurry to expand trade: "59% said it could be delayed until next year and 16% said it shouldn’t be pursued at all." Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said in a press release yesterday, “Congress is being asked to delegate away its constitutional trade authority over the TPP, even after the administration ignored bicameral, bipartisan demands about the agreement’s terms, and then also grant blank-check authority to whomever may be the next president for any agreements he or she may pursue.”
Florida Democrat Rep. Alan Grayson said “we’ve had, I hate to say this, a sellout government.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, wrote in the Washington Post that the “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS provisions, in TPP "would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty." For that and other reasons, the T-party derisively calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership Obamatrade.
The agreement in Congress follows a 240-179 vote in the House to repeal the estate tax. The White House theatens a veto, and The Hill reports Republicans do not appear to have the votes needed to override.
Elizabeth Warren spoke Thursday with Esquire's Charlie Pierce about the estate tax vote:
"I can't believe it," she said. "Well, yes, I can. This isn't just a really bad idea. This is an attack on our values -- getting rid of the estate tax in order to help a handful of really rich people, and telling our children that there's no money for them to go to school, to help them with their student loans, to build the necessary infrastructure so that they can get to and from the jobs that will help them pay off those loans...well, that's just...obscene."
As Digby observed yesterday at Salon, even the Washington Post's Dana Milbank agrees the estate tax, as it now stands, is not preventing the growth of "a permanent aristocracy" in this country, and "abolishing it entirely turns democracy into kleptocracy." That is, repeal would codify what we have now. Perhaps we should call our present struggle a fight to ward off regal-atory capture.
Many of our flag-waving, fellow Americans, both rich and poor, are royalists by temperament, predisposed to government by hereditary royalty and landed nobility, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal. During the Revolution, they sided with the British. After the Treaty of Paris, most stayed here. Their progeny and others so disposed have made it their project, as Digby suggests, to restore control to those whom Republican Sen. Dan Quayle once called "the best people." And to corporations. Because corporations are the best people too, my friend.