Monday, March 2, 2015

Dictators, Disease, and Destruction (and how we might boost all three in one fell swoop)

Those who follow politics closely may have heard talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new deal trade that the Obama administration is doing its best to sell. Obama is seeking to fast-track the deal, meaning that whatever agreement is ultimately hammered out would be put to a simple yes-or-no vote in Congressno amendments, no filibusters. So, what is this thing, and why should anyone care?
From Wikileaks

In short, the TPP is a proposed between a whole bunch of countries that would impose a lot of new rules on those countries. It's called a trade deal, but it doesn't have a whole lot to do with trade, when you get down to itit's more about creating the best possible atmosphere for huge, transnational corporations to make an even more obscene amount of money than they already do. As for the average people living in these countries? The deal's a little nastier for them.

For instance, the TPP gives businesses the right to sue any country that's signed onto the deal if the government of that country introduces any law or policy that could interfere with that business's profit. This is a pretty big concern given the minor issue we have with our climate currently falling to pieces and the fact that a lot of environmental legislation that desperately needs to be enacted would cut into the profits of companies that are polluting the atmosphere; if a country enacted one of these laws, under the TPP, they could be sued by one of those polluters for "unfairly" cutting into their profits. Not exactly the best way to address the climate crisis.

There's an even more immediate impact to be felt due to the provisions when it comes to prescription drugs. Prescription drug companies have a huge role at the negotiating table for the TPP, and, not surprisingly, aren't big fans of the fact that people in developing countries are buying cheaper versions of their drugs from someone other than them. The TPP "fixes" this "problem" by having increased "intellectual property" protections; in short, higher drug prices for people in developing countries. Some would say that making drugs harder for poor people to afford is not too likely to get us closer to a disease-free world, but don't worryaccording to President Obama, those people are just conspiracy theorists who don't understand how great the TPP really is.

As appealing as I'm sure the deal sounds from what I've said so far, there's still more that's worth mentioning. Two of the countries whose governments are helping to negotiate the TPP are Brunei and Malaysia, both countries that harshly punish any same-sex acts; Brunei punishes homosexuality with death by stoning. This means that the TPP, in effect, offers trade benefits to countries that are punishing LGBT citizens, sometimes with death. Sort of makes you wonder how sincere Obama's commitment to LGBT rights really is.

Aside from basically just flat-out lying about what the deal will do, the White House has defended it by saying that, because it's good for businesses, it'll be good for the workers toothat's right, it'll trickle down. Let that serve as a reminder that Republicans have no monopoly on this stupid justification. In fact, it's been used by both parties for decades to justify their economic policy; Democrats may use debates over relatively minor tax increases as an opportunity to paint themselves as the anti-trickle down party, but the major parts of their agendatrade deals like NAFTA and the TPP, repealing New Deal legislation, appointing Wall Street insiders to high positionstestifies otherwise. Neither of the major parties stands for the economically exploited, and that's something we would do well to keep in mind.

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