Dear Senator Feinstein (re “Fast Track”, TPP, etc.)
The following is the text of a note I just sent to Dianne Feinstein, my US Senator, via the Senator’s “e-mail” comment form. For what it’s worth, you can read it too. I’ve edited out some embarrassing typos.
Dear Senator Feinstein,
As a constituent, I felt betrayed by your vote in favor of 3-6 year, no-supermajority “fast track” for TPP and other trade-related deals negotiated by the executive branch. On procedural grounds, “fast-tracks” should always be supermajoritarian. The usual checks and balances that block or at least shave the edges off of bad law are not present under a straight up-or-down vote on an externally prepared text. To counterbalance that, any fast track should require a much stronger consensus than 50% plus 1 vote. 50-50 fast tracks are just bad political engineering.
On substantive grounds, given what that has been released about TPP, TTIP, and TISA, you should frankly be ashamed to have once endorsed a procedure that realistically makes their passage extremely likely. “Free trade” in the abstract is a good thing, and there are many trade deals I would support. Maximalist intellectual property law and “elimination of nontrade barriers” that in practice means submitting democratic choices about governance to review of unelected corporate arbitration panels are not free trade at all. They are harbingers of the sort of post-democracy that we see operating already in the European Union. They are instruments of plutocracy.
The most cynical argument in favor of these trade deals is the geopolitical argument. “If we don’t write the rules, then China will!” If we don’t write good rules, then maybe China should. The United States should wield global authority not merely because it is our team. The United States should wield global authority because it exercises that authority for the good. Not for the good of well-connected interest groups within the United States, not even just for the good of US and its citizens, but, if we are to exercise global authority, for the world. From the bits that ordinary citizens have been able to learn about the contents of the various deals under negotiation by USTR, we have fallen down badly on the job. Good for well connected interest groups, foreign and domestic? Check. Good for US citizens or the world broadly, no.
I urge you not to betray me and the vast majority of your constituents once again with a vote in favor of fast-track without the “sweetener” of trade adjustment assistance. TAA is a nice idea, but in practice it has never remotely been effective at ameliorating the sometimes troubling distributional effects of trade deals, and would not in this instance either. Still, it is at least a token.
Please undo your first misbegotten endorsement of “fast track” by voting “no” on the mulligan that has been arranged in the Senate after so many of us worked so hard to halt this terrible train in the House. Unbetray us.
Steve Randy Waldman