I recently attended a Democratic Party event in Fredericksburg to support Matt Rowe, who was one of the speakers. While I was there I participated in the Q & A session with Bellamy Young and Judith McHale and was quoted in the local paper for my comments on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP):
"Fredericksburg resident Shelley Pineo-Jensen attended the Women for Hillary event in Fredericksburg despite supporting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary. She said she now supports Clinton because of the candidate’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. But she added: “She needs to be stronger on these progressive issues.”
GUEST VIEWPOINT Help Merkley, DeFazio stop TPP in its tracks By Shelley Pineo-Jensen For The Register-Guard JUNE 11, 2015
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Perhaps elected representatives who favor the Trans-Pacific Partnership have good intentions, but I doubt it — it’s more likely that the bobsled to hell is paved with influence peddling. The TPP will cede national, state and local control of environmental and labor regulations to transnational corporations.
An International Business Times poll found that 62 percent of Americans opposed Trade Promotion Authority, or fast track — the legislative process that would grease the skids for congressional approval of the TPP — with 43 percent “strongly” opposing it. Eighty-five percent of moderate and conservative Republicans opposed fast track. One of the top concerns was that it’s unfair to expect U.S. workers to compete with a flood of imports made under conditions less costly to employers.
In response to widespread criticism of the secrecy surrounding the TPP, the trade deal will now be available to the public for two months before the president signs it. This claim that the TPP process is now transparent ironically sends the message that no matter what the American public thinks about the TPP, the president is going to sign it.
Key players who will benefit from the TPP include tobacco companies such as Philip Morris, fossil fuel companies such as Exxon, financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, military-industrial profiteers such as Halliburton, makers of genetically modified organisms such as Monsanto, lobbyists such as the Business Roundtable, polluters such as PPG industries, agribusinesses such as Cargill, and companies that exploit workers such as Wal-Mart and Nike. These power players are spending a fortune to corrupt our public officials, and they are succeeding.
Oregon has two members of Congress who represent the people and not corporate masters. If you are still uncertain about the TPP, read Rep. Peter DeFazio’s column in the April 10 Register-Guard, or watch the YouTube video of Sen. Jeff Merkley’s floor speech, in which he said, “The trade agreement would undermine U.S. sovereignty by allowing foreign countries to challenge American laws.” DeFazio and Merkley are joined by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in strongly opposing the TPP in its current form, as well as the fast track process. They are not lying, and they are not mistaken.
But Oregon’s members of Congress who support the TPP are not confused or uninformed. They are tools. They serve the interests of corporations instead of fighting for human beings and life on the planet.
Rep. Greg Walden supports the Keystone XL Pipeline and privatization of Social Security. He strongly opposes taxes on the wealthy, protections for clean air and water, and funding for green energy. It is no surprise he supports the TPP.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer was thought to be a strong environmentalist, but he mysteriously dropped his advocacy for the environment to follow Sen. Ron Wyden’s lead and support the TPP and fast track.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici has increased her net worth by more than $2 million since her election to Congress in 2012, an annual increase of 52 percent. Her district is home to Nike, a key advocate of the TPP, which claims a global workforce of more than 800,000, of whom 6,625 are Oregonians — less than 1 percent. Nike extracted massive tax concessions from Oregon before it would agree to keep some of its operations in the state. Rep. Kurt Schrader supports the Keystone XL Pipeline, and reasoned that since the current version of the TPP is better than the older one, he will support it. He has fallen in step with Wyden.
And then there’s Wyden, whose estimated wealth in 2010 was $6.8 million, a 365 percent increase since 2004. He has received large campaign donations from Akin Gump, the lobbyist who successfully represented Monsanto in its U.S. Supreme Court seed patent case. Environmentalists, labor activists and community rights advocates have been petitioning Wyden for years to stop supporting the TPP. He isn’t listening; his true constituency lies elsewhere.
These legislators disingenuously point to improvements in the TPP to justify their support, instead of acknowledging the real dangers of the trade pact. First and foremost is the lack of transparency; the only reason we even know what is in it is because brave individuals have shared the documents with WikiLeaks. The leaked passages reveal a massive handover of national rights to corporations.
What can you do? Call, write, text or visit your representatives in Congress. We have the power to halt the voracious consumption of resources in the service of profit; there are more of us than there are of them. We can save our beautiful planet — or, more precisely, the biosphere that supports all life. At least it’s worth a try.
Shelley Pineo-Jensen, a retired public school teacher and union leader, blogs at drpj.weebly.com/tpp.