Tag Archives: trade

Pulaski: Congress Must Reject Job-Killing TPP

by Steve Smith

ARTPulaskiTPPOn Monday, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, representing a fake astroturf group  called the “Progressive Coalition for American Jobs,” penned a misleading op-ed in the Sacramento Bee in support of the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Cabaldon used a study from the Peterson Institute to help make his case that the TPP is good for jobs. Unfortunately for Cabaldon, he must not have actually read the study he cited because it actually says the flawed deal wouldn’t create any jobs AND it would lead to fewer good-paying manufacturing jobs.

Today, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski set the record straight with his own op-ed in the Bee, pointing out the many harmful effects of the deal.

Like every other recent trade pact, the TPP is chock-full of goodies for corporate special interests while woefully inadequate on labor and environmental safeguards. The chief problem that plagued deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement is that labor standards were weak or unenforceable, encouraging corporate CEOs to move their operations to countries that pay meager wages in comparison to U.S. wages. NAFTA led to 700,000 jobs shipped overseas.

The TPP is no different. In fact, the Peterson Institute report that Cabaldon cites finds that the trade deal wouldn’t be a job creator for America, but would lead to 121,000 fewer manufacturing jobs by 2030…That’s a major red flag for anyone concerned about the future of our middle class.

Another recent study by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University paints a much bleaker picture. It projects that the TPP will lead to GDP contraction in the U.S. and job losses and increased inequality in all participating countries. Experts say the deal could also undermine California’s efforts to combat climate change, result in higher prescription drug prices and allow rampant currency manipulation by other countries.

Anyone who thinks this rotten deal will help address inequality in America clearly isn’t paying attention (or even worse, they’re drinking the corporate Kool-Aid).  Bottom line, progressives like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are rejecting the deal. Conservatives are also blasting it, including Republican congressional candidate Scott Jones, who’s running against Rep. Ami Bera, who sold-out workers on last year’s fast track vote. The notion that Cabaldon and his bogus “progressive” coalition are supporting workers is laughable. Real progressives (as well as many other folks across the political spectrum) oppose the TPP and know from experience this deal will further gut out the middle class.


The legacy of America’s broken trade policy is shuttered factories, outsourced jobs and a widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for Congress to take a stand in support of working people instead of kowtowing to corporate lobbyists. For the sake of our future, Congress must reject the TPP.

Cross post from Labor’s Edge

Art Pulaski: Workers are Left in the Dark with Fast Track

by Rachel Johnson

There’s trouble brewing in Washington D.C. for American workers. In the coming weeks, our congress will decide whether or not to pass Fast Track legislation that will allow trade deals to be made behind closed doors and without any oversight from the people most impacted: American workers.

In a recent opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee Art Pulaski, Executive-Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation, cautioned against turning a blind eye to Fast Track:

In the case of pending legislation authorizing fast-track authority for trade agreements, politicians and corporate lobbyists are pushing to eliminate transparency in favor of expediency. That’s a dangerous course with major implications for our economy. Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority has resulted in secretly negotiated agreements that benefit big corporations at the expense of workers and their families.

Fast Track legislation will allow trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be negotiated by a select few, without any attempt to represent the people who may lose their livelihoods as a result. If we’ve learned anything from history, similar deals have created more harm than good for generations of American workers. Pulaski emphasizes:

The job-loss numbers directly related to seriously flawed trade deals are staggering. Between 2000 and 2014, American manufacturing employment dropped by 4 million jobs. And these were family-supporting jobs that strengthened communities. Since Congress approved permanent normal trade relations with China, the growth in the U.S. trade deficit with China has resulted in the net loss of more than 3.2 million jobs, including nearly 600,000 in California, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

That’s 3.2 million hardworking Americans who, through no fault of their own, found themselves ripped from the middle class and forced into low-wage jobs or, even worse, long-term joblessness.

It’s imperative for our representatives in Congress to withstand significant political pressure to pass Fast Track and uphold their duty to the represent hard working families who voted them into office. Pulaski underscores the need to reach out to your elected representative and insist they vote no on Fast Track:

We must do better. Stopping the outsourcing of good, American jobs should be a top priority for our nation’s leaders. It’s time to reform trade negotiations so that workers in California and around the country are no longer getting the short end of the stick. Fast track needs to be replaced with a new process for negotiating and approving trade deals that increases congressional and public oversight so we can harvest the benefits of expanded trade without gutting the middle class and undermining basic tenets of American democracy.

We urge Reps. Doris Matsui and Ami Bera and all members of Congress to reject fast-track authority so that future trade deals help, not harm, California’s economy.

Click here to tell your member of the House of Representatives you oppose Fast Track, or dial 855-712-8441 and we’ll connect you. Learn more about Fast Track here.

iCarly: In This Case, the I Stands For Iran


If we’re going to have to deal with eMeg, then we also must contend with iCarly (and anyone with sons, daughters, nieces or nephews knows the reference).  Weeks into her brave transition from failed CEO and failed Presidential campaign surrogate into the bold new world of failed Seante candidate, Carly Fiorina has hit a snag in the form of her extremely dicey past:

Over the past dozen years, Hewlett-Packard has sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of printers and other products to Iran through a Middle East distributor, sidestepping a U.S. ban on trade with the country.

Now the person who headed HP for much of that time, Carly Fiorina, is ramping up to run for U.S. Senate. And questions are emerging about what Fiorina knew about HP’s growing presence in Iran during her six-year tenure at the Silicon Valley firm from 1999 to 2005 […]

Fiorina, a Republican who is gearing up to challenge three-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010, declined an interview request. But she issued a statement through her campaign spokeswoman saying that she was unaware of any sales to Iran during her time at the company.

“It is illegal for American companies to do business in Iran,” the spokeswoman, Beth Miller, wrote. “To her knowledge, during her tenure, HP never did business in Iran and fully complied with all U.S. sanctions and laws.”

iCarly’s stock response when questioned about her awful tenure at Hewlett-Packard is to say that she was unaware of the misdeeds and only aware of the deeds.  For someone running on her success as a go-go CEO, that’s a curious position to take, that she didn’t know about large chunks of HP’s business.  Especially when the evidence has been clear for years that HP products found their way into Iran, with their printers becoming “nearly ubiquitous there,” according to a Boston Globe report.  HP has finally gotten around to severing their relationship with a Dubai-based distributor which clearly funneled their products into Iran.  That distributor worked for HP throughout iCarly’s tenure.

This is fun:

One former federal trade enforcement official said HP’s dealings with the country are ripe for further investigation. If Fiorina or other HP employees based in the United States were aware that HP products were being resold to Iran, they could face fines or even prosecution for violating the trade embargo, said Mike Turner, former director of the Office of Trade Enforcement at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“If I was still sitting in my chair today,” said Turner, who retired as head of the enforcement agency two years ago, “I’d be looking at who at HP had knowledge of this and when did they develop that knowledge.”

I actually appreciate iCarly entering the race.  It would be so boring watching Chuck DeVore play the Washington Generals to Barbara Boxer’s Harlem Globetrotters.  iCarly will add a dash or two of corporate failure, espionage, illegal trade practices and possible indictment, all the while giving the state economy a stimulus by spending all her money in defeat.

CA-31: Becerra Out, Garcetti In?

Xavier Becerra, a Congressman from Hollywood, is at the least being strongly considered for the post of US Trade Representative and may have already accepted the job.  Becerra is in the House leadership as Vice President of the Democratic caucus, and while he voted for NAFTA he has since regretted doing so, and he led the fight against CAFTA and other trade agreements which he felt did not have the proper safeguards, or labor and environmental standards.  And channeling my inner David Sirota, the fact that pro-business conservatives are worried about the direction Becerra will take US trade policy confirms that he would be an excellent choice:

And now Business Week reports on some rumblings of opposition from the pro-business and free-trade camp:

Philip Levy, who’s now with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told the mag that the choice is “troubling,” arguing that “to oppose Nafta is in many ways to lash out symbolically against trade.” A business lobbyist added to the mag that he and his colleagues are “pretty concerned.”

Well, I’m sold.

If Obama brushes off the concerns of the American Enterprise Institute (and really, everyone should) and Becerra gets the job, a very safe Democratic seat in the heart of Los Angeles would be up for grabs.  Considering the density of the city it’s actually a pretty large district (with lots of it in rapidly gentrifying Hollywood), and has a good deal of Latino voters.  However, this would be up for grabs in a special election, and the universe of special election voters is probably a smaller Hispanic universe than on a normal Election Day, so I wouldn’t say that only a Latino candidate could win here. In fact, LA City Council President Eric Garcetti represents a good portion of the district on the council.

Garcetti would be a progressive leader in the Congress and a major upgrade.  Becerra is a member of the Progressive Caucus and generally solid on the issues, but he’s not particularly outspoken, and as part of the leadership team, wouldn’t stray too much from the party line.  On the other hand, Garcetti is a smart, committed young leader, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and a graduate of the London School of Economics who has led on so many progressive issues in the city it’s hard to even count them all.  It would be great to have someone in the Congress with the background of dealing with key urban issues from graffiti to housing to development, while at the same time having led on important national initiatives like clean money, the war in Iraq (the LA City Council was among the first to pass a resolution opposing it) and renewable energy.  Garcetti jumped aboard the Barack Obama campaign from almost the very beginning as a California chairperson, so he would be able to tap that network of organizers pretty easily.  He would make a fantastic member of Congress, among the best in the nation in my view. (and that’s not just because he appeared on Calitics Radio on primary election night!)

Rep. Becerra would get to set trade policy, and Los Angeles would experience no dropoff in leadership.  Everybody wins!

UPDATE: In this LA Times article, Sen. Gil Cedillo is also mentioned as a possible candidate.  I’m a fan of Cedillo’s as well, particularly his leadership on the DREAM Act and his advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform.  Garcetti is quoted in the article saying “it was premature to speculate on a possible run but did not rule it out.”

One Effect Of Money’s Influence On Policies

Dave Johnson, Speak Out California

A new briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute titled The China Trade Toll [PDF document] says that since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 our China trade policy “has had a devastating effect on U.S. workers and the domestic economy.”  

The report shows that since 2001 California has lost 325,800 jobs (55,400 of these just in the last year) to China due to these policies.  And since 2001 2.3 million jobs were lost nationally.  According to the report even those workers able to find new jobs saw their wages drop an average of $8,146 per year.   (These figures are only for jobs and income lost to China and do not include jobs and income lost to other countries.)

And, of course, this effect is not limited to the workers who lost their job.  This also has an effect on works’ ability to ask for raises and imporvements in working conditions.  From the report,

It is also critical to recognize that the indirect impact of trade on other workers is significant as well. Trade with less-developed countries has reduced the bargaining power of all workers in the U.S. economy who resemble the import-displaced in terms of education, credentials, and skills. Annual earnings for all workers without a four year college degree are roughly $1,400 lower today because of this competition…

Specific industries were affected more than others by our massive trade deficit with China.  Computer and electronic product manufacturers were hit hardest, losing an eliminated 561,000 jobs in this period.  Jobs lost to the deficit tended to be better-paying ones,

More than two-thirds of the jobs displaced by China trade deficits were in manufacturing, which tends to employ a higher-than-average share of workers with a high school degree or less (43.7% of workers displaced) and to provide those workers with good wages and benefits. More than half (55.6%) of the jobs displaced came from the top half of the U.S. wage distribution, and among this group a disproportionate share came from the top 10th of all U.S. wage earners. African Americans (230,000 jobs lost), Hispanics (339,000), and other ethnic groups (219,000) all suffered from the loss of jobs such as these that pay substantially more and offer better benefits than jobs in other industries.

Here is what is going on.  First, China “pegs” its currency to the dollar instead of letting it follow market rates as the dollar does.  So the dollar’s decline does not make it cost less to manufacture here, which would bring manufacturing jobs to the U.S.  Next, China doesn’t allow workers to organize labor unions.  So their workers are not really benefiting from all of this.  Wages there are kept low, and prices grow ever higher due to the currency manipulation of “pegging” to the dollar.  And finally, China imposes barriers on imported goods.  So while they manufacture and sell to the rest of the world, they keep their own people from buying things made elsewhere.

As a result China exported $323 billion in goods to the U.S. in 2007, and purchased only $61 billion in goods from the U.S.  

The report concludes,

The growing U.S. trade deficit with China has displaced huge numbers of jobs in the United States and has been a prime contributor to the crisis in manufacturing employment over the past six years. Moreover, the United States is piling up foreign debt, losing export capacity, and facing a more fragile macroeconomic environment.

And, the report points out that this isn’t particularly in the long-term interests of the Chinese people, either,

Is America’s loss China’s gain? The answer is most certainly no. China has become dependent on the U.S. consumer market for employment generation, has suppressed the purchasing power of its own middle class with a weak currency, and, most importantly, has held hundreds of billions of hard currency reserves in low-yielding, risky assets instead of investing them in public goods that could benefit Chinese households. Its vast purchases of foreign exchange reserves have stimulated the overheating of its domestic economy, and inflation in China has accelerated rapidly in the past year. Its repression of labor rights has suppressed wages, thereby artificially subsidizing exports.

Of course trade is good, when it is a two way street.  If trade is fair, it benefits everyone involved.  But this report shows that what the people who run American corporations call “free” trade is hurting our economy more than it is helping.  Now that several years of these policies have passed we can measure the results, and the results have not been good for the American people.  

Because of our country’s trade policies with China 325,800 jobs have been lost in California.  Meanwhile China is allowed to manipulate their currency, prevent unions, and set up barriers that keep their people from buying goods we make here.  

What this has meant is big corporations can get out of paying American workers a fair wage because they can get away with paying Chinese workers hardly anything, while a very few people at the top of the American and Chinese food chains pocket the difference entirely for themselves. If you consider the huge amounts that some of these individuals are pocking from this scheme  — some receiving hundreds of millions of dollars each yeararen’t we at least benefiting from the taxes they pay?  Unfortunately no, because of the tax policies of California and national Republican: low taxes for the rich, higher taxes for the rest of us, and borrowing to cover the resulting deficits.  Here in California the Republicans are even blocking an effort to ask the super-rich to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay on everything we buy when they buy yachts and private planes.  But no, they don’t even have to pay that tax.  

The result of these tax policies is that while we lose jobs,and the remaining workers get pay cuts, we also lose out on government services like schools, fire protection, police, roads, mass transit and everything else our government does for us.  And that’s not all.  Because of these tax policies the state and national governments are borrowing huge amounts, and we have to pay that back with interest.

All of this — the China trade policies, the tax policies, the massive borrowing — come from the influence that money buys in our political system.  The minute someone is able to use some money to gain an advantage, of course they use that to get even more money, which lets them buy an even bigger advantage, and the cycle continues.

You can easily see the effects of the money with the massive ad campaigns around California’s elections and ballot initiatives — and the resulting budget gridlock as a few corporate-connected Republicans block every effort to ask the rich and connected to pay their share.

We are in a stranglehold situation.  A very few wealthy people are exporting our jobs and pocketing the money they would have paid as wages and benefits.  They are not even paying taxes on the ill-gotten gains, which forces our state and national governments to borrow.  And they are getting away with it because they are able to use some of that money to further influence our political system.  

Here’s the thing.  They’re not even using their own money to purchase this influence.  Since they have control of the resources of large corporations, they are using the money from those corporations to fund the system of influence, which directs much larger amounts of cash back to themselves.

I think the way to stop this is to prevent any use of corporate money for anything other than operating the corporation. I’ll share some ideas on that in later posts.  

Click through to Speak Out California — Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

Harman Speaks to Westside Progressives in Los Angeles

My post about Jane Harman’s remarks at a town hall meeting yesterday about the secret “torture memos” revealed this week by the New York Times is up at Think Progress, submitted through their Blog Fellows Program, which I can’t recommend enough.  Let me contextualize those remarks a bit more, and add some of the other interesting things Rep. Harman had to say.

I asked the question to Harman about the secret memos.  Earlier this week, the White House claimed that all relevant members of Congress had been fully briefed on the classified program sanctioning harsh interrogation techniques by the CIA.  At the time of the memos, Harman was a member of the “Gang Of Eight” routinely briefed on intelligence matters.  Harman was shaking her head as I asked the question if she was fully briefed, chuckling almost in disbelief.  Her answer:

We were not fully briefed. We were told about operational details but not these memos. Jay Rockefeller said the same thing, and I associate myself with his remarks. And we want to see these memos.


Harman is now the third member of the Gang of Eight, joining Jay Rockefeller and Nancy Pelosi, to reject the White House’s claim that they were fully briefed about these memos.  The Administration is lying, again, and it is now incumbent upon Congress to make every effort to obtain those memos and to enshrine into law a full repudiation of the arguments therein described.  The follow-up question I wanted to ask Rep. Harman, but could not, was how she would go about pressuring the White House to get those documents.  Obviously the vehicle for this is through the confirmation of Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey.  Considering that these memos came out of the Justice Department, there should simply be no movement on his confirmation without an exchange of the memos.

Let me add some additional information about the town hall.  I wrote in my Think Progress post this tidbit:

Harman later revealed that she was speaking with an unidentified Republican in her office, who told her that if President Bush were to attack Iran, then even he would vote for impeachment.

You have to understand the environment of this town hall meeting.  The audience included the hardcore progressives that made up the core of the Marcy Winograd primary challenge to Harman in 2006; in fact, Winograd was on a panel right before Harman’s arrival.  These people were SCREAMING for impeachment; the first two questions were about this issue.  And Harman could do nothing but reiterate that Nancy Pelosi, not her, had taken impeachment off the table.  She went on to describe her no votes against the Clinton impeachment and how MoveOn.org was born out of the impeachment debate (odd of her to approvingly cite MoveOn, considering she voted to condemn their remarks in the “General Betrayus” ad).  But when she brought up Iran, she said “this little anecdote should make you smile,” and mentioned the above exchange.

Here are some of the other notable tidbits in Harman’s meeting.

• She recommended Jack Goldsmith’s “The Terror Presidency” as the best source for understanding how the Bush Administration attempted to expand executive power through neutering the Office of Legal Counsel.  She had the book with her.

• She reiterated that “intelligence was politicized again” on the FISA bill, referring to the fake terror attack hyped by the White House designed to get wavering Democrats to sanction warrantless surveillance.  It was a cold-blooded tactic, and it should be heavily publicized.  I thanked Rep. Harman for speaking out on this, and I hope that she’ll continue as well as encourage other members to corroborate her allegations.  Harman said she is working to change the new FISA bill, which will “probably be introduced this week.”  The goals are that any surveillance must be done through the FISA court, with a warrant, and with minimization protocols if a US national is involved.

• Harman spoke about her legislation to close Guantanamo, restore habeas corpus, and end the use of national security letters outside their initial purpose.  She spoke glowingly about the vote this week to put Blackwater contractors under the auspices of US law, and thanked both Rep. Waxman and Rick Jacobs, who produced Iraq for Sale, with their efforts to get the word out about Blackwater’s numerous abuses and how they fell into the “legal black hole” regarding their activities.

• She recommended the Seymour Hersh article about developments with respect to Iran, and said that she has invited him to speak to the Congress.  Harman was adamant in saying that “targeted sanctions are working” with Iran, and that the government should “stop the saber rattling” that could lead us to another catastrophic war.

• She trumpeted her contribution to the House energy bill, a measure to retire the incandescent light bulb by 2012.

• On trade, she made a disappointing statement.  Despite voting against NAFTA and CAFTA and claiming that she was proven right on those votes, she said that some trade deals are admissable with proper labor and environmental standards as well as trade adjustment assistance, and referring to the current Peruvian Free Trade Agreement that will come up for vote in a couple weeks, she said that “It was approved by Charlie Rangel.”  Uh-oh.  We know that this bill, crafted in the dead of night to appease corporate interests, does not go nearly far enough to ensure labor and environmental standards, and would be nothing more than NAFTA-light.

• Someone asked Rep. Harman about the Walt-Mearshimer book “The Israel Lobby” and AIPAC’s support for endless war, including war with Iran.  Harman, who has been linked in the past to lobbies like AIPAC, said “I’m not a member of AIPAC… I support a two-state solution where Palestine can thrive economically with borders that are defensible to Israel.”  She pretty much dodged the question.

• On the still-unresolved EPA waiver that would allow California to make their own rules on tailpipe emissions that contribute to global warming, Harman said that she signed on to a letter protesting the slow-rolling from the EPA and the Department of Transportation, and she added that Gov. Schwarzenegger should work harder to get DoT to “back off” (they’ve been accused of lobbying lawmakers to pressure the EPA to block the California law).

• Finally, Harman asked for education activists to call her office and tell her about the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.  While she said that Rep. Miller has claimed to her it has been improved, she said “I am prepared to oppose it” if the changes are not satisfactory.

Arnold’s Canadian Vacation – All-Expenses Paid!

This is about the eighth time I've seen a report simliar to this one that undisclosed donors are financing a Schwarzenegger trade mission.

Fifty-two business delegates will join Schwarzenegger on the trip, according to a list the Governor's Office released Friday. A third of those going represent interests that have donated to Schwarzenegger's campaigns.

The governor's trip will be financed by the California State Protocol Foundation, a tax-exempt organization not required to disclose its donors. California Chamber of Commerce leaders, including President Allan Zaremberg, serve as the group's officers.

The foundation is not required by law to disclose its contributors and has not done so. In 2005, the last year for which IRS forms were available, the group received nearly $2 million in revenue. It reported $1 million in travel expenditures that year after Schwarzenegger led a weeklong trade mission in China.

The excuse put forth by the Governor's spokespeople is always the same: this SAVES taxpayer money because they don't have to finance these trade missions!  Really?  What about all the corporate welfare checks that get cut as a result of this access?  What about all the watered-down regulations that cost taxpayers, not only with money but with public health and quality of life?  What about the state contracts that could go to lower bidders who don't have the same relationships (read: bribery poke) with the Governor?


Frank Russo is right:

Take a look around and you'll see that this is a bipartisan problem that needs fixing–the same way that a true reformer, Hiram Johnson– took on the railroads which controlled our state a hundred years ago. His legacy is a California Constitutional prohibition against accepting any gifts of free transportation from railroad or other transportation companies. It needs to be extended to cover today's corruption, subtle and otherwise, of our elected officials. […]

We've seen a record of obscene campaign contributions in California the last election cycle–topping $600 million dollars. The next campaign season is upon us, and the Governor has proposed bans on fundraising during certain months of the year when the budget is being considered and at the end of the session and bill signing times. The California Progress Report has railed against the influence of campaign contributions on the political process and the corruption of state government. But these other “gifts” to public officials also need to be scrutinized.


Action is needed, not because our elected officeholders are corrupt–any more than anyone else–but because they are human and influence is why campaign donations and private funding for trips and the like are given by private interests in this state. The same was true in when bold Progressive Reforms were needed in 1911 and human nature is the same today. Only now it's not the railroads.

 It should frankly be outlawed for a private company with business before the state to finance the Governor's travel, especially when it's supposed to be official business.  This is government for sale from the guy who was supposed to be such a big reformer because he was richer than dirt.  This is also why I've been so adamant about the CDP-Chevron donation.  Influence peddling in the capital is an epidemic that needs to stop.