The TPP Will Sink the Middle Class

Six years into his presidency, President Obama is now taking heat from a surprising place: congressional Democrats, who are lining up against his plan to force the Trans-Pacific-Partnership, or TPP, through congress without any debate whatsoever.

If approved, the TPP, or as I like to call it, the Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement - SHAFTA - would create a whole new set of rules regulating the economies of twelve countries on four different continents bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately, because the TPP is being negotiated almost entirely in secret, we don’t know a lot about it. What we do know about it, though, comes almost entirely from leaks, and those leaks paint a pretty scary picture.

Thanks to groups like WikiLeaks, we now know that the TPP would give big pharmaceutical companies virtual monopoly patent power, let corporations sue countries in international courts over regulations that those corporations don’t like, and gut environmental and financial rules. Given facts like this, you’d think that President Obama would want Congress to actually take the time and debate whether or not the TPP is a good idea for the American people. But that’s apparently not the case.

To push the U.S. onto the TPP as soon as possible, he’s asked Congress to give him “fast-tracking” powers that would prevent lawmakers from making any amendments to the TPP. Instead, the treaty would be sent right to the floor where it would only have to pass a simple majority vote.

Sounds pretty, anti-democratic, right? Well it is, and that’s why Congressional Democrats are now speaking out against President Obama’s request for fast-tracking powers. But the fight against TPP is about more than just whether our elected representatives should get a say in the trade policy of our republic - it’s about whether the middle-class will survive through the next generation.

As economist Adam Smith pointed out in his classic book The Wealth of Nations, manufacturing is what really creates the wealth of nations. That’s because manufacturing creates things of real value like cars that can be sold to create wealth. This, in turn, helps create a middle-class made up of working people who make the things that fuel the economy.

Every single great power in modern world history has understood this. That’s why they protected their domestic industries with strong tariffs that made goods produced by domestic factories cheaper than those made abroad.

The Founding Fathers understood the importance of manufacturing as well. One of the first things George Washington did when he took office was ask Alexander Hamilton to come up with a plan to boost American manufacturing. The result was Hamilton’s famous Report on Manufactures, which proposed using tariffs and subsidies to grow the industry of our young republic.

While controversial at the time, Hamilton’s report eventually became the playbook for 200 years of trade policy that made America the greatest industrial powerhouse the world has ever seen. And then everything changed.

Starting the 1990s, Washington began embracing a new school of thought about how to grow the wealth of nations. This new school of thought, pushed by Wall Street and corporate America, said that so-called “free trade” deals were the best and fastest way to riches. All free trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA really did, though, was take the most important part of our economy - manufacturing - and send it overseas.

According to Public Citizen, NAFTA alone led to a net loss of over one million jobs.

As a result of all this, manufacturing now makes up just around 12 percent of our GDP, a far cry from the 1950s, when it made up almost 30 percent of our GDP. This is about as bad as it gets.

Without a strong manufacturing base, no great power can survive as a great power. It will instead become dependent on foreign goods and the financial world to create wealth out of thin air - a recipe for economic disaster after economic disaster. And without strong manufacturing jobs that actually create things, the middle-class will wither and die, just as it has started to do here in America over the past few decades. This is why the current debate over the TPP and fast-tracking is such a big deal.

Two decades of free trade deals have eviscerated the middle-class and bloodied the American dream. If President Obama goes ahead and signs us onto another free-trade deal, especially one as destructive as the TPP, that will be like tying a cement block to the feet of a drowning man. It will spell the end of the American middle class, and, for that matter, the vision of the United States that Alexander Hamilton first put forward over 200 years ago.

So call your members of Congress today and tell them to "just say no” to the SHAFTA/TPP and President Obama’s request for fast-tracking powers.


what do I know's picture
what do I know 8 years 9 weeks ago


I am from Michigan, and the damage from NAFTA is still being felt here. I have heard estimates that as many as 400,00 - 600,000 jobs have been lost here in Michigan just due to NAFTA alone.

That is why this state suffered a one-state Depression from 2000 - 2011.

TPP will finish off the Middle/Working Class. And yes, it will begin in this state because frankly, the Middle Class BEGAN in this state. Want an early canary in the coal mine for the Great Depression of 2016?

Just watch Michigan's unemployment rate. When it starts to spike,....that means we're all going down. Just ask David Stockman,....right?

He coined the expression,

"When the country's economy gets a cold,....Michigan gets pneumonia."

Intermittent Instigator's picture
Intermittent In... 8 years 9 weeks ago

So President Obama is pushing a "NAFTA on Steriods" trade agreement (what would candidate Obama say?). What a surprise. It was Democratic President Clinton who ushered in NAFTA & GATT, expanded corporate welfare, and slashed the social "safety net", allowed all kinds of corporate mergers and the Telecommunications Act, backed corporate prison expansions, etc..

Ralph Nader nailed it years ago when he pointed out the lack of a real difference between our two major parties, each of which serves the corporate interests who support them, not the people.

So a few concerned Democrats (and Republicans too, I understand) will fight "fast-tracking" this thing, or maybe the TPP itself. I sure hope they succeed.

Maybe it's time for another party - one that represents people, not corporations. If the real democrats were to bolt for something better, maybe the Democratic Party would close up shop. Maybe one corporate party is (more than) enough.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 9 weeks ago

And so the worm turns...Obama is slowly becoming more of a repugnican.

Not surprising after his statement today that being gay is a "choice".

What a wool-covered wolf he turned out to be.

what do I know's picture
what do I know 8 years 9 weeks ago

"Wool covered Wolf"? Would you rather a President Romney?

Anonymous prevented that.

I'm convinced of it.

I voted for Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic primary.

SteveS's picture
SteveS 8 years 9 weeks ago

I think the way people need to talk to (and wirte to) Republican lawmakers is to emphasize how fast-track would take authority away from them. In additoin, emphasizing how "buy American" provisions would go by the way would also be helpful. (No Repblican wants to be seen as un-American). Many Republicans don't like NSA spying on citizens, so they would probably not like the SOPA-like part of the TPP.

Older Americans, who always vote in large numbers, often use prescription meds, so they need to remind lawmakers how unpopular an increase in drug prices would be. In short, people need to emphasize the un-American aspects of fast-track and these so-called free trade agreements.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 8 years 9 weeks ago

Great Post Intermittent In...

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 8 years 9 weeks ago

Thom, Fast Track is essentially the equivalent of the Line Item Veto that Reagan was demanding in the eighties. The response to Reagan also applies here in that this would essentially allow the Whitehouse to make law without the full approval of both houses of Congress !

oneworldatpeace's picture
oneworldatpeace 8 years 9 weeks ago

I was a CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTOR and I actually read the contracts I signed (before!) and occasionally I would object to some clause that was not understandable by mere mortals and it usually ended up ommitted because the Lawyer would say the Insuror or bonding company wanted it inserted.

Soooo I hear this abomination consists of 500 pages and it was pretty much produced by Corporate LAWYERS and DIPLOMATS (?) and you think it might be hard to read?

I've sent requests to my politicians that I have concerns that China Inc. might just use the TPP to build Factories in the US using imported workers and Material, ignore our building codes, ignore our regulations by employing imported workers to operate the plant, ignore environmental regulations and when the place blows up, ignore any responsibility for negligence because that all threatens their profits and there WON'T BE ANYTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT!

Do you think that little giftee might just be tucked into some paragraph somewhere in 500 pages?

You wanna bet?

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 9 weeks ago

"You have never seen a TV ad which said vote for a Republican so we can cut Social Security and Medicare, so we can give tax breaks to the rich and large corporations." But that's what they do...... Senator Bernie Sanders.

You have also never seen a TV ad which said vote for Obama so we can send jobs overseas and let our middle- class continue to wither and die. But that's what could happen if Obama gets TTP fast tracking power.

The fact that TTP is being negotiated in secret tells us all we need to know!

Gator Girl 8 years 9 weeks ago

I just can't believe that President Obama could even consider signing on to TPP after we see what has happened with the outsourcing and off-shoring that has been dragging our country down for so long. I do so wish that all of that was transparent so that, maybe, we could see what he sees to try to make it a positive thing but as it stands now from what we know - or don't know it appears - it will mean more jobs/money leaving our country and screwing us even more than NAFTA did. If anyone has Obama's ear, tell him DON'T DO IT!! DON'T SIGN ON TO TPP!!!

PFNELKAK 8 years 9 weeks ago

aljazeera news announced today---
China to build almost 2 billion dollar methanol plant in Louisiana. Chinese workers? Chinese materials? Also today --- xl pipeline is using Chinese steel. I guess China does own the U.S.

PFNELKAK 8 years 9 weeks ago

Hey Thom, if you read these blogs, with Obama wanting to go out with a bang, I bet, if you let your investigative hounds loose, they will be able to find a connection between closing ANWR here in Alaska with the Arabs lowering the price of oil. They want to keep control of the oil price and shut down U.S. production at the same time. Obama had to have made some kind of deal.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 9 weeks ago

What Thom just described is precisely why I couldn’t care less about listening to President O’bummer’s soaring rhetoric, which in reality, is just a lot of hot air. His efforts to fast-track this massive piece of legislative excrement is a major factor in what identifies our president as a corporate fascist. This next election I will refuse to vote for ANY presidential candidate who gets propped up by corporate money. O'bummer got propped up by corporate money and look what we've got. I ain't going back for seconds. - AIW

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 9 weeks ago

There is this phenomena where everything is counterintuitive in that only Reagan, for example, could've gotten the START treaties passed because he was Ronald Reagan. George H.W. Bush said at the time that "all the blockheads and dummies are for Reagan so only Reagan can do this". IOW, if a Democrat had tried those blockheads and dummies would've said, "Oh, Democrat peacenik, no way!" but because he was Ronald Reagan they accepted it.

Similarly, Bill Clinton effected more privatization than any other president but nobody noticed because he was a Democrat. Everybody still thinks he was a liberal. He could get away with it like a Republican couldn't.

The most liberal lefty president since WW II was Richard Nixon - and largely that's because the people's social movements were most mobilized then - like the rich people are well organized and mobilized now and were in Clinton's time - but also, it may had helped that he was Richard Nixon and thus the conservative "silent majority" then stayed silent and didn't put up a howl when he effected a lot of liberal, lefty policies..

Similarly with Obama, he can do all this right wing shit and nobody will notice because he's Obama, liberals won't notice and think that if he does a lot of oligarchic shit that that must then be "good" oligarchic shit because he's Barack Obama.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 9 weeks ago

Thom, this is disingenuous political posturing from the Democrats. These cynical political games played by the Democrats, operate as farcical tools, to stave off political suicide is unworthy of acknowledgement. The token opposition to the TPP after 14 years of negotiation is only worthy of contempt. When you consider, that Democrats are no longer in a position to stop it.

After conceding the House in 2010 and then the Senate in 2014, Democrats, after being politically neutered, must have been granted permission from their financial backers that it’s now okay to oppose the TPP in hopes of political survival. With the business interest of the US investing billions in 2014 elections, thank you Supreme Court, the mandate to pass the TPP was made clear. Until after the 2014 election, Democrats remained in political limbo hoping to avoid any votes on TPP legislation. Now with pressure off and no real political influence, Democrats can lobby against the TPP without the worry of alienating their campaign contributors, or the ones that count anyway.

My hope is that the Democratic Party would be headed to political obsolescence with the opportunity for a social democracy party to develop from the demise of donkeys, but the left leaning Americans along with the “left” media keep falling into the delusional trap that the Democratic Party still acts as the party of the people. It is literally the definition of insanity to keep putting our faith in the existing American political system, and expecting any result other than failure for the majority of Americans is bat fecal crazy.

Baffled, frustrated and unamused by these apologetics for the Democratic Party.

tom kauser 8 years 9 weeks ago

hiding behind political parties provides perfect cover when you are selling out the rest!

dianhow 8 years 9 weeks ago

US is going down the tubes Run by Greed & hate Since 1981 Reaganomics , deregulation, removing common sense regulation, to reign in Greed . Wages are down in real dollars , .labor unions gone, GOP gives Massive Corp welfare aka tax cuts, loopholes & subsides, Long failed wars that wasted trillions , our soldiers coming home maimed or broken .

dianhow 8 years 9 weeks ago

God knows Dems have many flaws but GOP's wealth favoring-anti middle class policies and laws ( Citizens United - deregulation, busting unions- creating huge un funded debt ) is killing working families - lowering wages. Well connected Powerful corps / billionaires run our country ! GOP has been trying to cut and or privatize SS, medicare even disabled benefits for years. These progrmans are NOT welfare.. Rercipients paid into SS / medicare for years Congress are ones who live off the gov't , receive great pay and & benefits for not much work.

FICA deductions stands for ' Federal insurance' .

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 9 weeks ago

Reply to #15 & 16: I hear ya Richard and Tom. I agree.

Penny Rewis 8 years 9 weeks ago

NAFTA destroyed North American economies (Mexico, USA, Canada) for the middle class, and made the poor even poorer. Check out Chomsky's ROGUE STATES. Now the plutocrat's representativeS (TPP needs a simple congressional majority to pass so it's not JUST Obama) are going to include the Pacific in the slaughter. This pact will ensure that the Pacific ocean is truly an "American lake" economically as well as militarily/politically.

Free trade agreements are excellent for funnelling riches to the rich and controlling workers. The requirement of treaties and pacts for trade make the term "free trade" an oxymoron. Nothing about it is free today.

Progressive Republican's picture
Progressive Rep... 8 years 8 weeks ago

This could be where/how we discover the mettle of the GOP.

Constantly whining about America's national sovereignty (not to mentiion 'exceptionalism'), will they 'man up', as it were, to stand for America? Or will their continued obeisance to their corporate masters hold them in willful thrall?

"Gentlemen, place your bets!"

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Right through the worst of the Bush years and into the present, Thom Hartmann has been one of the very few voices constantly willing to tell the truth. Rank him up there with Jon Stewart, Bill Moyers, and Paul Krugman for having the sheer persistent courage of his convictions."
Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth
From Screwed:
"Hartmann speaks with the straight talking clarity and brilliance of a modern day Tom Paine as he exposes the intentional and systematic destruction of America’s middle class by an alliance of political con artists and outlines a program to restore it. This is Hartmann at his best. Essential reading for those interested in restoring the institution that made America the envy of the world."
David C. Korten, author of The Great Turning and When Corporations Rule the World
From Unequal Protection, 2nd Edition:
"Hartmann combines a remarkable piece of historical research with a brilliant literary style to tell the grand story of corporate corruption and its consequences for society with the force and readability of a great novel."
David C. Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World and Agenda for A New Economy