Oct. 12, 2007
The Gilding of Obama
Barak Obama’s drunk the Kool-Aid, many must be saying, but his quaff is more like the $10,000 “Martini on the Rock” served complete with a diamond to New Yorkers with more money than sense, or the champagne spritzed away in $150,000 champagne bar-fights by London hedge fund managers.
Although he claims to shun the Midas touch of those obscenely enriched by the rigged system they tout as free trade, they’re still backing him as in prior campaigns — just not directly through their PACs and lobbyists, now that he’s having so much fun shaming Hillary Clinton for taking PAC and lobbyist donations. That he’s still backing the plutocrats who helped install him in Springfield and then Washington is clear from the vote he says he’ll cast next week for NAFTA expansion.
In New Hampshire a few days ago, Obama declared himself satisfied with Shrub’s Peruvian FTA supposedly “fixed” in secret sessions with Pelosi & Co. He evidently has no problem with their tacking on labor and environmental protections, without any independent means of enforcing them, nor with its provisions allowing foreign corporations to sue in international court to overturn local, state and federal environmental and consumer protection laws, while denying unions a comparable right to sue for infringement of labor protections, and banning federal, state and local governments from legislating to slow job outsourcing.
K Street adores this deal, which is vigorously opposed by many of our most important labor, environmental, agricultural, consumer protection, health and human rights groups – and, at last count, even by a large majority of Democrats in Congress. Like Bill Clinton’s odious NAFTA, WTO and Chinese PNTR agreements, it’s going to pass (if it does) mainly on Republican votes.
If there was ever any doubt as to whether Obama is on the progressive or the DLC/Hamiltonian side of the Democratic Party — and there shouldn’t have been — it’s dispelled now. He’s been bought off or snookered into supporting The Whole Free Trade Lie, not only its alleged irreversible inevitability but even the laughable notion that education is the answer to American economic decline, when college graduates are struggling to pay off $140,000 student loans on $20,000 jobs at Starbuck’s.
Exactly the same education pitch has lately been spewing from the mouth of Bubbles Greenspan on his Save Savage Corporatism book tour.
“Globalization is not someone’s political agenda,” Obama asserted in the Chicago Tribune a few months ago. “It is a technological revolution that is fundamentally changing the world’s economy, producing winners and losers along the way. The question is not whether we can stop it, but how we respond to it. It’s not whether we should protect our workers from competition, but what we can do to fully enable them to compete against workers all over the world … (T)hey will have to train more and learn more to get the new jobs of tomorrow…”
This is of course nuts from start to finish. First, globalization IS “someone’s political agenda” — just follow the money and it’s easy to see whose — and, second, there’s nothing even slightly technological about the process of forcing American taxpayers to subsidize companies that take their jobs and the equipment to do them out of this country, so that people earning pennies on the dollar can use the same equipment to do the same work, and then allowing the companies to ship the same goods back here and sell them without any penalty.
Obviously, this practice is destructive not only to individuals ruined and communities left jobless, but also to the planet, in terms of all the needless extra shipping. Moreover, the arrangement has accompanied massive corporate income tax breaks, reduced the US property tax base and allowed companies to skip out on even more taxes by reassigning their patents to overseas branches where royalties incur little or no tax. Atop it all, they can move lock-stock-and-barrel to Dubai and still expect to do business as usual in the US and even with the US government.
When I was a kid, corporation income taxes accounted for 45 to 50 percent of the nation’s total. Today they pay a paltry 6 to 7 percent, while reaping windfall profits. It’s no wonder our roads and bridges are falling apart, is it? And now the same people whose “political agenda” very much depends on this sort of corporate welfare are out to privatize our failing infrastructure, just as they do in their constant looting raids on the developing world.
More and more Americans are coming to realize the truth of what’s been done to us, despite the delusions spread by corporate-owned media and politicians. Yet perhaps there are still enough Democrats in ignorance of why we earn less in real terms than we did in 1970 to make a Clinton-Obama ticket possible.
We’ll see the pair attacking one another in the coming months, but it’s clear where our masters want the primary race to end up. It’s no accident that Obama’s top trade policy advisor comes from the Clinton camp (Daniel Tarullo of the team that gave us NAFTA, the WTO and PNTR for China) and another strong economic influence is Robert Rubin’s protége, Michael Froman. Former chief of staff for the Clinton-era Treasury Secretary, Forman now works with his old boss at Citigroup.
So I don’t see how it can possibly be an accident that Obama isn’t bothered by the sickest provisions in the Peruvian trade deal, which protect Citigroup as the largest shareholder in ProFuturo AFP, one of the private retirement account providers authorized to compete against the public social security system. These empower foreign investors to demand compensation from the Peruvian government in UN and World Bank tribunals, if its widely reviled social security privatization program is ever reversed. Further, Citibank could seek an immense amount of money, because the right to provide the private accounts has no time limit under the privatization statute.
Said Julio Cesar Bazán, president of the Unitary Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CUT), one of the country’s two labor federations: “For 25 years, Peru’s governments have faithfully implemented neo-liberal policies supported by Washington. While essential services have been privatized and institutions that are so important to people’s health and retirement security — like social security — have become harder for people to access, income per person in Peru has scarcely grown in a generation. The Peru-US FTA not only does not get us out of this socioeconomic hole, it gives corporations like Citibank the tools to make sure we’re forced to stay there.”
As an opponent of the measure, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) put it: “The provisions buried in the Peru FTA that would empower foreign investors to demand compensation if Peru reversed its failed social security privatization are just the latest evidence of why the NAFTA-CAFTA model should not be extended ever again. In addition to promoting offshoring US jobs, pushing down wages, displacing peasant farmers in impoverished trade partner nations and banning Buy America and anti-offshoring policies, these agreements frequently contain outrageous buried provisions that favor certain corporations. With the Oman FTA, it was landside port activities. With the Peru FTA, it’s financial service firms profiting from a privatized social security system.”
For more about this atrocious agreement, see Public Citizen.
For more about Obama’s golden path to glory, see The Boston Globe.