TPP Walks, Talks Like A Lame Duck

tpp-countries-mapDonald Trump is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Bigly.

Hillary Clinton is also against it.  But she was for it before she was against it.  Trump says Hillary is still for it, quoting her claim that the TPP is “the gold standard of trade agreements.”  And according to a recent WikiLeaks leak, she actually is still for it, but she’s upset that the people who were assured she was against it have learned that she is secretly still for it, even though she says she’s against it.


Most Americans don’t have a clue what the TPP is, and Clinton’s flip-flops on the issue don’t help matters.  The TPP is only one part of a bigger policy issue: the importance of free and fair international trade to our economy.  So let me try to sort this thing out, as best I can, in layman’s terms.

The TPP is a multi-national trade agreement that was intended to counterbalance China’s dominance in world trade.  About six years ago, a dozen Asian and Pacific nations (see map above) starting working on a plan that would eliminate tariffs on most trade between the partners, and would make doing business with each other smoother and easier.  Sounds good, right?  What could be wrong with easier trade between a bunch of countries who, for the most part, get along with each other pretty well?

As you might expect, things got complicated in a hurry, and this perfectly illustrates why trying to bring a bunch of countries together for any group activity is like herding cats.  Everybody will try to protect his own interests and maximize his own profits.  And nice guys finish last.

There is no such thing as a simple agreement between twelve nations, especially when some want to force others to do things they don’t want to do.  Right from the start there was disagreement over whether and how the pact should include measures to address concerns about global warming (aka climate change).  There were issues about nation-of-origin labeling, and workers’ rights, and enforcement of patents, trademarks, and intellectual property rights.  The lines of authority between government and big multi-national corporations were blurred, including who could sue whom, in what courts, in case somebody’s underwear should get in a knot.  Some governments subsidize certain industries and agriculture; others do not. And a major concern was whether and how workers would be allowed to move between member nations.

Donald Trump says his top priority is to put “America First” in every international policy decision.  Clearly, complex, multilateral trade negotiations will not ordinarily result in our interests being placed above all the other partners.  He is alarmed that our balance of trade has been so profoundly negative for so long.  He worries that we are losing jobs to other countries, and opening our borders to foreign workers would not help.  So his opposition to the TPP makes sense in the context of Trump’s defense of American interests.

Hillary, on the other hand, is a victim of the very “divide and conquer” strategy she and the Democrat party have favored for decades.  She panders to dozens of small groups of constituencies who, over the long haul, are just another herd of cats all going in different directions.  Her union constituency is opposed to the TPP, fearing loss of jobs.  Some of her environmentalist constituency favors it, assuming the USA would have to accede to the liberal environmental policies espoused by many of the partners; others fear the TPP would not be stringent enough. Hillary has said that she dreams of a “hemispheric common market with open trade.”

President Obama, with help from Republican speaker of the house Paul Ryan, passed a fast-track provision for the TPP last year.  And U.S. trade representative Michael Froman said this week he thinks the TPP has enough congressional support to pass in the lame duck session after next week’s election.

As for me, I’m with Trump.  Shouldn’t we just negotiate trade agreements with each nation individually? And negotiate from a position of relative strength, taking advantage of the many perks we offer our friends – like military protection, for instance?

At the very least, let’s not pass this thing in the lame duck session, when Congress is least accountable for their actions.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

All of a sudden I began to change
I was on the dance floor acting strange
FlCapping my arms I began to cluck
Look at me . . . I’m the disco duck!

Disco Duck – Rick Dees


Believe it or not, this song was the big hit of the year when my daughter was born (1976).  I’m pretty sure this is what started the “Disco Sucks” movement, and the genre mercifully died in 1979.

Protect Jobs in China or in the U.S.? Take a Stand!

Why does our economy continue to decline as more Americans are reduced to government-dependency every day?  Please take two minutes to watch our vice-president Joe Biden try to defend the US free-trade policies of recent years (including the Trans-Pacific Partnership which is currently being fast-tracked through Congress) and see Pat Buchanan destroy them:

Biden, his boss President Obama, and Harry Reid claim to be motivated by the dream of a “New World Order”, a “level playing field”, and “the success of those with whom we compete”.  Sadly, many Republicans including house speaker John Boehner are rolling over as well.

Could it be that these Washington, DC elites are owned by the incredibly wealthy business tycoons and their lobbyists who have profited greatly by shipping 55% of our manufacturing jobs overseas?

In his upcoming state of the union speech President Obama is expected to decry income inequality, while out of the other side of his mouth he promotes free trade.  The two are incompatible.  Free trade clearly creates income inequality by creating enormous corporate profits without domestic employment.

Isn’t it about time our leaders take a stand for American jobs and families?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Now stand in the place where you work.
Now face west.    [toward China!]
Think about the place where you live,
Wonder why you haven’t before!




Side note for Montanans:  Rep. Steve Daines (R) and Sen. Max Baucus (D) have supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership; Sen. Jon Tester (D) appears to support the treaty, but has demanded protections for the US timber industry.


Steve Daines (R-MT), Other Congressmen Can Do Better

Steve Daines 1Here is what’s wrong with politics in the United States today.

Steve Daines was elected to the US House of Representatives from Montana in 2012.  While he was never touted as a “Tea Party Conservative,” Daines courted the increasingly politically powerful coalition of Tea Party groups from across the Big Sky State and enjoyed their support through his primary push and the general election.

You will hear enlightened voters lament often, and everywhere:  once a politician of either party gets to Washington, DC, they are swallowed up by the federal power structure.  Men and women of the highest integrity, with the best of intentions, land inside the Beltway and in very short order become pawns of their respective parties, losing their autonomy and values along the way.  Blame the money, blame personal ambition, or blame the system, it seems to happen over and over again.

Maybe Congressman Daines is the latest victim.

A conservative friend of mine recently wrote to Daines encouraging him to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  The TPP has received criticism from both Democrats and Republicans alike, for widely varying reasons.  The benefits to the US of joining such a broad-ranging multi-lateral trade agreement are sketchy at best, dangerous at worst, and the secrecy of the proceedings has caused considerable alarm.  President Obama’s recent overtures toward inclusion of communist China in the agreement is a five-alarm fire.

I am not arguing the merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in this post.  What upsets me is the way Congressman Daines responded to his constituent.

It’s clear that the Daines staff has two form letters prepared for citizens who contact his office about this issue.  (This procedure likely applies to every issue about which a constituent might contact the congressman.)  Form letter “A” would be sent to a constituent who supports the congressman’s position.  Form letter “B” is sent to one who opposes.

My friend, a conservative supporter of Daines, received form letter “B” because she opposed the TPP.  And here is the ugly, cynical, political part of the process.  Republican Daines’ staff assumes that if a constituent opposes his position, he/she must be a Democrat.  And by deductive reasoning, he/she must be a big supporter of labor unions and environmental causes.  So this is the response that Congressman Daines’ conservative constituent received:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and international trade in general. As someone with nearly three decades of experience in the private sector, I value your point of view on this important issue and appreciate the opportunity to respond.
As you know, the United States is currently negotiating a TPP agreement with twelve Trans-Pacific countries. The purpose of the potential agreement is to create jobs and boost economic growth in our country by increasing U.S. exports to this growing region. You may be pleased to know that labor and environmental concerns are being addressed as part of the negotiations. (ed. emphasis) The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has noted that such provisions “are now standard (in U.S. trade agreements) and increasingly enforceable.” I respectfully support our efforts to expand trade in the Trans-Pacific region, and I am monitoring the negotiations.

I’m pretty sure Congressman Daines did not personally read the letter from his (former) supporter.  If he had any personal or political sensitivity, he would not have suggested that his Tea Party Conservative supporter’s top priorities are “labor and environmental concerns” – especially at a time when the indefensible and incredibly expensive “global warming” hoax is being laid bare by record ice packs and an “inconveniently truthful” pattern of global cooling.

How cynical, how disingenuous, how condescending is this letter to a conservative supporter?  Did this come from Congressman Daine’s office, or from Speaker of the House John Boehner’s?

I know how difficult it is to get elected to a national office.  I understand that a congressman must represent all of his constituents – even those who did not vote for him.  But shouldn’t a congressman have principles from which he can articulate and defend a position?  Must he pander to the beliefs he assumes to attribute to a given constituent?

I’m tired – very tired – of politicians who are quick to say whatever they think the nearest voter wants to hear.  And of those who try to ride the fence to election without studying an issue and coming to a conclusion that they are able and willing to defend.  Has our vaunted system of government – the federal republic – been reduced to nothing more than a poll-driven, focus-group, finger-in-the-wind marketing campaign?

Steve Daines, and the rest of you in Congress and the Senate:  you can do better than this.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideI’ll even tell you that I love you,
If you want me to.
Third-rate romance,
Low-rent rendezvous.

Third Rate Romance – Amazing Rhythm Aces

Sorry there are no “live” video performances available of this great story/song by the Amazing Rhythm Aces.  There are many covers, but nothing compares to the original.  I sing this song almost every weekend – it is not only a poignant vignette about the sometimes sad state of romance in our culture, but it also serves as a reference point to the “bend over” current state of politics in our once-great nation.