BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Have you been following this latest push for “freer” markets and longer yachts for the prime beneficiaries? It’s been dubbed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and it’s all the rage among the one- and two-percenters. Word has it that leaked details already have top yacht builders like Lurssen, Feadship, and Oceanco champing at the helm, and big-time PR firms like Edelman, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, and Ogilvy snapping up all available Indulgences (it’s rumored that demand for corporate reputation protection and enhancement services will rise like a Bay of Fundy tide once the truth about the TPP comes to light). Yeah, there’s enough warranted sarcasm and cynicism surrounding this kind of corporate subterfuge to float a fleet of 90-footers! But there’s also the altogether sobering matter of an untold number of working folks’ livelihoods that will be profoundly affected, and you can bet the pole sitter in a one-horse race that there isn’t a single political or corporate participant in this argosy of greed who has ever shown it so much as a fathom of concern. There’s a semantics matter involved here that deserves exposure: For all intents and purposes the term “living wage” appears untranslatable in any language. Plutocrats needn’t fret, though. Experience shows it’s the one consideration that will never hinder the world’s corporate chieftains in their relentless pursuit of ever blacker bottom lines.
Remember NAFTA? Well, the TPP is NAFTA on meth. It’s like comparing the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean — literally. Remember all the jobs that were promised to materialize as a result of NAFTA? Turns out they did. In MEXICO! And, it’s not just the probability of a “giant sucking sound” (props to Ross Perot, you had your ear to the tracks on that one) of U.S. jobs flowing elsewhere that should be riling Americans, it’s also what I’ve termed the “paying down” effect these so-called “free” trade (it’s in the dessert section right next to the “free” lunches) agreements always leave in their wake. For instance, let’s say you’re making widgets in the U.S. for a barely livable wage (in fact, you’d probably be a pretty lucky widgeteer in today’s labor market). But the cost of living has been rising steadily and you’re due for a raise. All of a sudden this Trans-Pacific Partnership blossoms and your boss learns that a factory in Vietnam is willing to produce and ship him similar widgets at a lower “out the door” cost. Or maybe he realizes he’d be even better off just buying that operation himself, or setting up one of his own in an even riper labor market in another member nation. Whichever the outcome, what do you suppose is going to happen to your raise and your overall standard of living? You guessed it. Deep six. Your fate has just been sealed to include longer working hours for the same or reduced pay, or perusing a pink slip and watching widget makers somewhere else sign up to do your job for even less than you would have been willing to accept. Somewhat simplistic? Perhaps, but I think you get the picture.
Tomes have been written describing the machinations of “free trade” agreements. I’ll spare you all that “opusology,” however, and provide you with a no less thoroughly researched but completely condensed explanation. So-called “free trade” agreements (keeping in mind that there’s never ever anything remotely “free” about them) are pretty much tit for tat I’ll-drop-my-import-tariffs-if-you’ll-drop-yours arrangements between participating governments that are designed first and foremost to: 1) make a lot of money for the corporations and their chieftains of the participating nations, 2) serve as surreptitious defrayal to said corporations and chieftains for having provided their nation’s politicians with the fiscal wherewithal to be in a position to bring about such agreements in the first place, and 3) to serve as a damper on the growth of wages within the wealthier, more developed participating nations. It seems only fair to note that most Americans only pay lip service to wanting to see their fellow workers’ (other than themselves, of course) standards of living raised. Hell, if that weren’t the case they wouldn’t have made Walmart the second highest grossing corporation in the world, and fast food companies’ revenues equal to the fourteenth. It seems they’ll always buy their widgets — and obviously their nourishment as well — from the lowest priced, most convenient source regardless who made them or where, and to what extent their buying habits directly or indirectly affect the wages and consequent standard of living of so many of their fellow Americans.
But it’s the secrecy surrounding the TPP that truly illuminates its ill intentions. On the other hand, why wouldn’t you want to keep secret the drafting of a document whose deliberate objectives were to: pare down wages and workplace protections; institute pharmaceutical monopolies; deny participating governments the right to control banking practices within their own countries; and reduce or eliminate universal environmental and health safeguards. For years some 600 corporate “trade advisers” have been formulating a document so devious and “classified” that even Congress wasn’t privy to its particulars. Apparently the ONLY interests to be amplified and protected by this so-called “free trade” agreement are corporate “bottom lines.” Henry A. Wallace pretty much nailed it more than 60 years ago: “Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.