A demonstrator in Washington, D.C. holds a sign on Jan. 27, 2017. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that aims to slash regulations—an action, advocacy groups say, that puts lives at risk.
The order—the latest of a flurry since he took office—states that “for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination,” fulfilling a campaign promise he made.
“For fiscal year 2017, which is in progress, the heads of all agencies are directed that the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, to be finalized this year shall be no greater than zero,” it adds. Continue reading →
Meeting in private, enthused activists promise that the growing Republican dominance in state government will unleash a wave of laws to cut business taxes, restrict unions and expand school privatization.
The Kentucky State Capitol. Photo: Seifler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Shortly after the November election, with the nation’s political attention focused on the Trump transition, an influential advocacy group met outside Washington to discuss how to leverage the extraordinary shift of power to Republicans in the rest of the country.
The American Legislative Exchange Council — a nonprofit better known as ALEC — briefed its members and allied groups on the bright future for its agenda now that Republicans will effectively control 68 of the nation’s 99 state legislative bodies, as well as 33 governor’s mansions. Among other things, group members said they would push bills to reduce corporate taxes, weaken unions, privatize schooling and influence the ideological debate on college campuses. Continue reading →
McDonald’s workers strike for fair wages. (Photo: Steve Rhodes/cc/flickr)
Burger behemoth McDonald’s has reportedly reached a settlement with hundreds of franchise employees in California, which campaigners and attorneys are saying could be a precedent-setting development in the fight for fair wages.
In the settlement, revealed in a Friday filing in a U.S. district court in San Francisco, McDonald’s agreed to pay a total of $3.75 million in back pay and legal fees to roughly 800 employees of five restaurants owned by a single franchisee, Smith Family LP. Continue reading →
Tom Hayden at the LBJ Library 2016. Photo: Godwin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Progressive icon and anti-war activist turned California lawmaker Tom Hayden passed on Sunday at the age of 76.
Hayden dedicated his life to peace, social justice, and activism: from the 1960s, when he helped found the New Left and worked to organize black southern sharecroppers, to building—alongside his former wife, actress Jane Fonda—a California political machine that for decades advanced progressive candidates and measures. Continue reading →
It seems that the world has become unsafe for trade agreements. In particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major new trade deal among the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, has become a political lightning rod for both the left and the right.
As if to highlight that fact once again, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said recently that he would not bring the TPP to a vote until after the new president takes office in January.
That’s bad news for the trade agreement – and for President Barack Obama, who sees its passage as the final plank in his foreign policy legacy and who is pushing hard for a vote during Congress’ post-election lame duck session.
But the controversial Asian pact is not the only trade agreement potentially on the chopping block. Last month, the European Union’s trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, decided not to fast-track the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) due to the anti-trade climate prevailing on the continent.
And France’s President François Hollande just declared that his country would not support moving forward with the gigantic Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being negotiated between the U.S. and the EU. His announcement came on the heels of a statement by Germany’s vice chancellor that TTIP “has failed.”
It seems that every time we get closer to the conclusion and ratification of a trade deal, a new barrier emerges to block any progress. What, then, are we to make of the tremendous obstacles confronting these three major agreements?
The times they are a-changin’
First and foremost, opposition to trade is a sign of the times. The Great Recession, among other events, has generated strong pushback against globalization and liberal exchange, something that seems to have caught political elites around the world off guard.
The Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) had already come apart well before the recession. Its failure meant that a multilateral deal, one that would have committed nearly all of the world’s countries to the same trade agenda, was no longer possible.
At the heart of Doha’s collapse were the interests of the newly rising BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – which could not be reconciled with those of the U.S. and the EU. The failure of the WTO, in its turn, gave new impetus to regional agreements such as TTIP and TPP.
Initially, these regional agreements, along with their more modest bilateral cousins (deals between only two nations), were treated with suspicion by free traders, who feared that they would carve up the global trading system into inefficient blocs. But, in time, such agreements presented themselves as the best, and only, way forward in a more complex, multipolar economic environment.
Still, TTIP and TPP are more than just victims of the general skepticism for globalization that has arisen in the past few years. They are also the collateral damage from political events in the world’s major trading countries.
Illiberalism on the rise
First among these is the U.K.’s Brexit vote, which is likely to result in the country’s withdrawal from the EU. Brexit, which is itself the fruit of growing illiberalism in England and Wales, has distracted European leaders to such a degree that TTIP and CETA have moved onto the back burner.
Moreover, in the United States, the success of Donald Trump in mobilizing the anti-globalization working class has made Republicans in Congress, who typically support trade as good for business, wary of trade deals. It has also led Hillary Clinton to distance herself from previous statements supporting TPP made during her tenure at secretary of state.
Another problem facing TPP and TTIP is their unprecedented scope. Not only do these agreements create free trade blocs that encompass much of the world’s economic output, but they also touch on a variety of issues from internet freedom to generic drug prices to the right of private investors to sue states for compensation. Many of the most controversial elements of the agreements relate to these issues rather than to the traditional components of trade protection.
What happens next?
What would be the consequences if these agreements fail?
Economically, the U.S. is already tightly linked with both Asia and Europe. The TPP agreement would essentially expand the Pacific trade bloc beyond NAFTA to include nine additional countries, most significantly Japan. Similarly, TTIP would deepen the already significant economic interdependence that traverses the Atlantic.
The loss of these agreements would certainly have negative economic effects on all sides, as least in the aggregate (since some jobs would be saved by the reduced competition). Agreements this large cannot be jettisoned without consequences.
That said, given the deep connections that already exist among Asia, North America and Europe, the purely economic results of killing the agreements are likely to be important, but not enormous. More serious would be the geostrategic implications.
A rejection of TTIP by either side could signal a reduced U.S. presence in Europe, a particular concern in the face of increasing Russian assertiveness.
If TTIP and TPP are not likely to be approved any time soon, does this mean that they are already dead?
A President Trump would certainly kill the agreements. If, however, Hillary Clinton becomes the next president, as the polls seem to indicate, their future is harder to predict. Clinton seems to be, at heart, a believer in open markets, but the current political situation makes it hard for her to say so directly.
If elected, Clinton’s statements during the campaign would make it difficult for her to support TPP out of the gate, especially with strong opposition from Bernie Sanders supporters. As envisioned by Cato trade analyst Simon Lester, she may well try to renegotiate a portion of the agreement as political cover and then resubmit it to Congress for approval.
By this point, if Trumpism has been defeated, Republicans may have a greater appetite for foreign trade. The question, of course, is whether the other TPP signatory countries will be willing to reopen portions of the agreement that have already been concluded.
Similarly, in Europe, it seems unlikely that much progress will be made until the Brexit issue is resolved and growth starts to pick up.
Despite all the obstacles, however, I believe that it is important to keep moving forward on free trade. The rejection of these important agreements could risk becoming merely the first step in a gradual erosion of support for the global economic architecture.
This architecture, so carefully created and maintained by the United States after 1945, has contributed mightily to international prosperity and peace. Maintaining it is of critical importance.
Editor’s note: Occupy World Writes believes that TTP/TTIP would be bad not only for American workers, but for workers around the globe. However, we feel that there is another side that deserves to be heard concerning the potential impact of not ratifying these agreement. Hence, this article.
At a Verizon strike earlier this year. (Photo: Thomas Altfather Good/flickr/cc)
The decline of organized labor in the United States has contributed significantly to wage stagnation and rising inequality, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
The analysis finds that as the share of private-sector workers in a union has fallen precipitously—from one in three in the 1950s to about one in 20 today—wage inequality has risen as a result. In particular, EPI states that the labor movement’s decline has contributed to wage losses among workers who don’t even belong to a union, which “translates into
millions of lost dollars to American workers.” Continue reading →
The 2013 Rana Plaza disaster killed more than 1,100 people. (Photo: Jaber Al Nahian/flickr/cc)
Some of the world’s biggest retailers, including Walmart, Gap, and H&M, have failed to improve workplace safety three years after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1,100 people and turned a spotlight on dangerous labor conditions faced by some of the world’s poorest workers.
A series of new reports released Tuesday by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a coalition of rights groups and trade unions, finds that tens of thousands of laborers in Bangladesh are still making garments in buildings without proper fire exits, while pregnant workers in Indonesia and India face discrimination and wage theft. Continue reading →
Fast food giant also faces renewed calls to ditch controversial ‘McTeacher’s Nights’
By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-25-2016
Fight for $15 protesters outside a Chicago McDonald’s in 2013. (Photo: Steve Rhodes/flickr/cc)
As McDonald’s prepares to hold its annual meting on Thursday, low wage workers—buoyed by successes from the “unstoppable” Fight for $15 movement—are gearing up to confront the burger giant and again demand a decent wage and union rights.
On Wednesday, in addition to a mid-day strike at the flagship Rock N Roll McDonald’s in Chicago, organizers say thousands of underpaid workers will stage a protest at the company’s headquarters just outside the city, in Oak Brook, Illinois. Continue reading →
“This report validates that the TPP is not worth passing,” said United Steelworkers (USW) International president Leo W. Gerard. (Photo: SumOfUs/cc/flickr)
The government’s own assessment of the toxic Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) shows that the controversial trade deal will produce negligible economic benefits while damaging most Americans’ jobs and wages.
The U.S. International Trade Commission’s (ITC) report (pdf), issued Wednesday, shows that the TPP “would likely have only a small positive effect on U.S. growth,” Reuters reported.Continue reading →