WASHINGTON – The legendary defense lawyer Clarence Darrow said a century ago, “History repeats itself and that’s one of the troubles with history.”
History, unfortunately, is about to take another deadly run at America’s Rust Belt, including Buffalo Niagara, with the proposed signing of President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership.
It’s a free-trade treaty among us and 11 other rim nations. Participants are scheduled to sign it Thursday in New Zealand. The TPP is one of those Obama legacy issues, which oddly – to the folks back home – merges with the dearest desires of globalist Republicans and the horde of lobbyists who actually run this town.
Under our Constitution, it cannot become law until Congress approves it. That approval appeared in doubt when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate probably would not take it up until after the November elections.
The White House cried GOP obstructionism after McConnell spoke. However, Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who hopes to lead Senate Democrats next year, said through spokesman Jason Kaplan that Schumer is against the TPP and will vote against it.
Schumer and Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., last May and prior to its provisions being disclosed, said they opposed it until senators had a chance to amend it. Now that the provisions of the 5,600-page treaty are accessible, Schumer said: “The sad truth is that past trade deals have tended to undermine middle-class wages and spurred the export of family-supporting middle-class manufacturing to nations that have lower wages and working standards. Sen. Schumer cannot support any trade deal that does not improve the current economic conditions of middle-class workers in Buffalo, upstate New York and beyond.”
Yellow dog Democrats will yell foul, but the most dogged proponent of globalization was President Bill Clinton. He lobbied strongly for adoption of NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, and joined with the Republican House to embrace the World Trade Organization. And just before the end of his second term, Clinton opened the gates to imports from communist China. Hillary Clinton says she has serious reservations about the TPP. You can believe her, or not.
The custodian of the largest bulk of unemployed black Americans, and others who have resigned from the workforce, is the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Under pressure from the Obama administration, it has just endorsed the TPP, more concerned with the steady flow of welfare benefits and food stamps than entry-level jobs.
Under the leadership of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the conference of mayors bit deeply into the servings of malarkey that always precede these trade sellouts.
She claimed the TPP will increase incomes and exports, and will be “a shot in the arm” for local economies because the agreement promotes “exports from small and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of our Main Street communities.” The mayor of one of the poorest cities in America, she got her talking points from the right-wing Peterson Institute.
In 2000, Clinton said the China arrangements would be a “good deal for the American worker.” It was doubtless a good deal for him, and his charities.
None of the promises made by the lobbyists about NAFTA, the WTO and China trade came true.
Anyone who cares to look can see the results by driving past “the industrial corridors” of Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Lackawanna and Niagara Falls. These sectors, and those like them in other poor cities like Detroit, Rochester, Flint, Mich., and Gary, Ind., are where good-paying industrial jobs were. They are now empty.
I hope Schumer will raise his voice strongly in opposition to this deal as it snakes through Congress.