POVerty and the shadowy TPP

I have been reflecting on the American way of life recently.  All the tumult over the Affordable Care Act has dredged up a great deal of emotion, mostly fear, and of course as I have said repeatedly in past posts here, stoked by international as well as national corporate interests.  There are corporations, backed by CEOs and shareholders who do not want Americans to adopt a more enfranchising social system in line with that of other modern 21st century nations. They want to keep us distracted, anesthetized and docile. This is the Davos/Bilderberger crowd. Republicans rail against foreign influences, but are secretly in bed with them, especially from the fossil fuel and banking sectors.  By the way, if you want more on this read books on the Super-rich and Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.

senior citizen working at mc donaldsPart of that syndrome is absolutely dependent on making all of us work harder and longer hours for less and less money.  It can be seen in the depreciation of all public sector positions (like teachers, nurses, librarians, postal workers) as well as keeping wages depressed in large businesses like the fast food franchises. The very fact that Governor Brown in California is viewed as a radical for gradually  raising the minimum wage to $10 in 2016, is evidence of how deeply ingrained this callous indifference to basic needs has become.  Ten dollars is viewed as robbery by everyone carrying the water for these corporatists.  That is an annual salary of less than US$21,000 and yet I hear people excoriating Brown for being a socialist and encouraging welfare.

What in the world is wrong with our country these days?  What happened to the idea that we are a compassionate, helpful people.  I know for a fact that the most penurious Pilgrim believed in the group taking care of one another.  Why has this been expunged from the American soul?  Why do people who call themselves followers of Christ take this selfish and hard-hearted attitude toward people who are struggling.

Don’t these Americans realize that wages have declined and prices have skyrocketed over the past 50 years?  College, cars, housing, even food are literally being priced out of reach of millions of hard working Americans.  And US employers are not scaling back hours because of the ACA, they have been doing that for the past 20 years, quietly and with little attention.  The ACA has given them a convenient excuse.  Don’t be fooled.

Yet, I read in blogs, hear on TV, see in internet columns all kinds of voices clamoring that we are becoming socialists.  That poor people are lazy, that the poor are Democrats because party on the “left” offers them ‘candy’ and ‘free stuff’.

Stop and think about this.  Could the CEOs of McDonalds make as much money as they do if they couldn’t find workers willing to labor for stagnant wages? These guys are absolutely dependent upon modern slavery. That is what the minimum wage (or lower – some on the right want to abolish it altogether – watch what you wish for, folks) really is.  And what built the wealth of the upper strata in the antebellum South? Free labor!  Guess where the stronghold of the two class system is still alive and well, and where the tea party has its staunchest supporters.

The mature adults who have found themselves outsourced out of living wage jobs have to take these minimum hourly jobs — and often several of them — just to live and feed their families.  But, as I discussed in my post on SNAP, a lot of Americans begrudge them a minimum standard of living and the ability to put food on the table for their children.  The majority of SNAP recipients stay on it for only a year or so, to help them over a difficult period, and they overwhelmingly have jobs.  The fact that Fox News and their audience can distort the true picture of food stamp recipients by using a purely anecdotal and minority case of a California surfer who is ripping off the taxpayers, shows you how limited the intellect and reasoning ability, as well as education, of those audiences are.  They ought to know that percentages mean more than single cases.  There is always someone who will game any system.  Look at AIG, JP Morgan, and Bernie Madoff, just to name a very few recent notorious examples. They gamed the system and took down literally billions of people with them. Why isn’t Fox News outraged and consumed with those cases?  Could it be they are wealthy people and that means they are above scrutiny and the law, in the minds of these corporatists and their shills?

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Business Round Table

Now we have something else to be concerned about and it is slipping under the radar because we are all wasting air time on this theater of the absurd orchestrated by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.  And that is, the TransPacific Partnership Trade Agreement, aka, the TPP.  I am sorry to say that our President recently told the Business Round Table* members (take a look at that description below – look at the number of people and the amount of revenue that hangs in the balance while these CEOs rub their hands together in anticipation of what is right on the horizon, thanks to the TPP) that he is looking at and seriously considering signing the US to this agreement between us and a handful of our wealthier fellow nations as well as notable Asian countries where the hourly wage is around 25 cents per hour (Vietnam, for example).  Japan, Indonesia and Thailand may also join.  Of course the idea is that this partnership will combat the might of China, in the Pacific Rim, where we share a border with these nations.  But, what it really means is that international corporations will be able to use workers in those impoverished countries to make goods that will be sold in the US for a fraction of what they would cost using our domestic labor force.

“…the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being put together in extreme secrecy. This secrecy comes complete with a total lack of mainstream media coverage despite serious potential long-term effects…”

The idea is that our goods would also be sold in these other countries at attractive prices.  But the key here is the word “our”.  What it really means is products that bear the American name of the corporation that sells them, but not necessarily the stamp of American workers.  In other words, our US companies will be free to hire Vietnamese workers, for example, at $0.25 per hour, make the product with an American name on it and sell it all over the US and the Pacific Rim. Who will benefit from this deal?  Why, the mega corporations and the slave laborers in poor Asian countries.

http://www.aflcio.org/Issues/Trade/Trans-Pacific-Partnership-Free-Trade-Agreement-TPP

The American economy will be dealt another severe blow.  Some fear this Trade agreement portends to gut what remains of our working middle class. Florida Representative Alan Grayson said the terms of the agreement also make the US subject to international laws – superseding our sovereignty. Moreover, corporations will have the right under the terms of this agreement to sue to the US government.  What is going on here? And why is no one talking about this, other than Ed Schultz,who has been standing up for the American worker on the air, for years and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio whose state has a lot to lose if this pact is not defeated or substantially restricted.

To make matters worse, many products will be made in violation of our EPA standards, in countries where these laws and regulations do not exist, further damaging our environment. Take a look at this article.  Included is more destruction of precious rain forest, and of course adding to carbon emissions and global warming.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michele-nashhoff/the-transpacific-partners_1_b_3568136.html

Don’t we recall the terrible effects of NAFTA and CAFTA of the 1990s?  NAFTA alone cost this country 680,000 good, living wage, middle class jobs.shrimp farm in vietnam

Think about this.  The middle of this country is agricultural.  Farmers and ranchers overwhelmingly vote Republican.  Republicans and corporations are driving this deal forward.  Do our farmers and ranchers realize that once Vietnam or Malaysia come on board no one will buy beef from the US when the same meat will be sold for 10 cents on the dollar by the Vietnamese?  It will be sold in this country just the way shellfish from Vietnam are and that influx of cheap shellfish has devastated and virtually ended the shrimp industry in the Gulf states.  As Ed Schulz said, that ought to get their attention.  Oh, and by the way, what makes you think these food products are safe?  The shrimp imported from Vietnam has been judged to be seriously polluted.  Do Americans even realize they are eating Vietnamese shrimp from a place where the workers use the shrimp pools as latrines?

The auto companies are all for it because they will be able to buy cheaper parts to put in American cars, from these foreign sources.  There goes all the benefit of resurrecting our US car industry on the idea that support and downstream or stovepiped businesses would be crushed if the big three went out of business. Not only that, there are apparently provisions in this agreement that the US must buy a certain amount of goods, particularly food, from these Asian countries every year and foreign interests can sue us, if we don’t!

Why are we doing this?  Why has this been a secret negotiation?  Members of congress apparently have been shut out of the talks on this trade deal.  Why the opacity?

Make no mistake, we would not be bringing those poor Pacific countries and their workers up to our level. Our workers will be brought down to their level in a fierce race to the bottom.  No such lofty humanitarian compassion drives this juggernaut.

We are wobbling on the edge of severe financial collapse and poverty that only third, fourth and fifth world countries have seen up to now.  If you think poverty is only among those who refuse to work, wait until this deal is struck.

Your neighbors are going to be lining up for SNAP, Medicaid, and homeless shelters.   Maybe that will even shake the conviction of the hardest-hearted, misguided tea partier.middle class family on food assistance

That is my take on this terrifying and heartbreaking topic.

*”Business Roundtable (BRT) is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies with $7.4 trillion in annual revenues and more than 16 million employees. BRT member companies comprise more than a third of the total value of the U.S. stock market and invest $158 billion annually in research and development – equal to 62 percent of U.S. private R&D spending. Our companies pay more than $200 billion in dividends to shareholders and generate more than $540 billion in sales for small and medium-sized businesses annually. BRT companies give more than $9 billion a year in combined charitable contributions. Business Roundtable was established in 1972, founded on the belief that in a pluralistic society, businesses should play an active and effective role in the formation of public policy. ” –BusinessRoundtable.org

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Images: SF Gate, FIS.com, BRT.org,, Daily Mail

POST A DAY 2013

6 Comments on “POVerty and the shadowy TPP

  1. “percentages mean more than single cases”

    I’ve been arguing this single point with my family for so many years, They watch Fox news, hear one outrageous story about a group of people pretending to be homeless when they really have apartments and cars, and decide that there isn’t a single beggar on the streets who isn’t really living in the lap of luxury. This is how it goes for every single issue.

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    • This is the same exact argument I have with members of my family. One brother-in-law accused every person on SNAP of sitting on the couch and operating the remote as their only exercise or “activity”. What does one say to something like that! How insulting! And why is it that everyone is outraged at relatively poor people taking advantage, but not billionaires or mega-corporations ripping people off? Honestly, I don’t get it!

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      • I suspect it has something to do with not wanting to realize the reality of one’s own situation. People want to distance themselves from the “poor” they are really much, much closer to joining than they are willing to accept. The only thing separating my parents, for example, from the truly poor are the credit lines they are still able to open up here and there to buy nicer things. But they want to convince themselves that they are never going to get that low because they work hard, whereas these other people don’t – and that’s their salvation from ending up just like them. Or something. Not sure that makes sense.

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        • You must be psychic. This particular BIL, the family baby, has dabbled at working, mostly from home. Grew up with a platinum spoon, parents providing every luxury including top of the line education at all private schools (the kid is very smart, IQ-wise, but a total Rush Limbaugh-er to coin a phrase, LOL) – only hangs with rich brats like himself, waited to get married and then found his wife on one of these dating services, specifically looking for her to have a stable job and money. He found her, convinced her to marry him and now is Mr. Mom. He is essentially lazy, explosive, narrow minded and syrupy with people that matter. He hates me, so anything I am for, he is against, no matter what I have tried to do (like babysitting him when his parents spent more time in NYC). Without them, without his hard working wife, I think he would be skirting poverty right now. So it is easy for him to sneer at others, from his privileged perch. [Hope they never find me here! :-)]

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  2. A very well written piece, Beth. Things are different yet similar in Canada and I confess, I am not familiar with our legislative intricacies (yes, I suffer from ostrich syndrome 🙂 I do have compassion for those struggling to live and I would prefer my tax dollars pay for a decent living wage than stop-gap welfare. I do what I can – contribute to our church Food Bank and to helping groups – but you’re right, there is a strong element of fear. It takes all the running I can just to stay in one place (Alice in Wonderland) – ie., it’s not easy for a single working woman the other side of 50 in a large expensive city. The middle class is shrinking, hardpressed on both sides.

    It behooves us to do what we can, and to vote for the changes we desire, and to pray for those who govern us to do what’s right and not what’s easy or good for the elite.

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    • Thank you for commenting and liking this Vera. I think for me the idea that we would leave the poor, who are largely elderly, handicapped, sick or children, to the mercies of charity is worrisome. I don’t think that is a system that will address the genuine needs of those who for are truly poor and cannot even eat. Charities and charitable work are very important, but the problem is too big to leave to chance.

      I am not rich either but I do believe that society means we give up a little of what we have to take care of those who truly have little or nothing. If I were wealthy, I would be a philanthropist. As it is, I contribute to charities all the time and volunteer at soup kitchens some Thanksgivings, since I don’t eat meat. Anyway, each person has to do what they must for themselves before they can be asked to help others. I just want the US Government to be able to function and provide the services that the majority agree are worthwhile and vital, like SNAP and the child lunch program in public schools and Head Start.

      What is going on right now in Congress is shameful on every level. Truly the corporations are overstepping their bounds and Americans need to wake up and do something. It is a huge dilemma. At least you have good health care in Canada! I envy you that and your weather. 🙂

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