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« The GOP: skipping from nothing to nothing and blame to blame | Main | Shooting at Krauthammer's duck-in-a-pond logic »

May 22, 2015


Peter G

And pretty much all the economists who aren't paid to believe otherwise have come to the same conclusion, it will have little impact on manufacturing jobs. Those manufacturing jobs in the US, and there are a lot of them, have been earned with productivity and innovation and they are among the best paying jobs in that sector worldwide. The argument that trade settlement mechanism may force foreign laws on the US would be somewhat less hypocritical if the same people weren't claiming the need to impose US environmental and labor laws on trading counter parties. For it is claimed the good of those foreign workers. How will these extra-territorial laws be enforced? We don't have to guess.

I do agree with Krugman that this is mostly about protecting intellectual property. Who has the most of this to protect? It is awfully nice of the trade opposition to insist that, say, drug development costs in the US(and they are enormous) be paid for by US consumers and made freely available to other nations. Instead of those costs being shared by all beneficiaries. Thanks. But that isn't going to help your pharmaceutical industry. Or protect the very high paying jobs it produces. Similarly the patent protections for new manufactured products shouldn't be recognized internationally by treaty? Isn't that one of the primary reasons you have high tech manufacturing industries? If you want to give that away too, the world will no doubt thank you. Ditto for copyrights and trademarks. I'm quite certain Hollywood is quite anxious for foreign nations to have the right to freely use these things at no charge. Thanks again.

I do find it odd, however, that the same people who think not protecting the family jewels is the right thing to do are the same people who are outraged that foreign earnings by American corporations are not repatriated for taxation. Since your policies would,carried to their logical conclusion, mean there wouldn't be anything to repatriate.


Steven Pinker is the type whose ideas are taken seriously by the international intelligentsia. In 'The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined' besides centralized states he also names international trade as a way of damping conflict. Though his approach is from the angle of cognitive science, it's not exactly an original idea since there's been empirical evidence to support the hypotheses for many years. That said, trade has always been a political issue too and with the new expansions we now see pols of every stripe lining up to score points.

It's not as if there aren't legitimate issues. Basic cultural differences play a large role in the perceived fairness of trade. Supposedly it's easy for Americans to use certain web sites to buy pirated Chinese goods at a fraction of what the legit thing would cost on, for example, Amazon. And things aren't likely to change soon: ( ) ( ). The complaints of Big Pharma, however, are something of a joke since they do much of their research through government grants to universities and are always willing to manufacture pills in India to run up profits to the thousands of percents; safety be hanged.

But let's not kid ourselves - the ride is going to be bumpy for a lot of people. Anyone who lives in the Northeast or Midwest and likes to drive has passed through plenty of ex manufacturing towns decimated by "free" trade and they are not pretty. There are also famous big city examples ( ).

It's hard to make a case that, despite it's flaws, trade should be limited in favor of a return to a more Balkanized and probably violent world, but there are alternatives that can improve American lives and the country as a positive force. The fact that American corporations and banks are just sitting on cash reserves instead of investing in education, training, research, infrastructure improvements and so on is maddening. That Elizabeth and Bernie would rather take the low road is not encouraging. Worse is that conservatives are concerned only with protecting their corporate paymasters and doing all they can to prevent, for example, replacing our shoddy old fossil fuel equipment with alternative energy sources and a modern power grid.

The Raven

What's your point? This is a secret treaty that's being rushed into law without any public debate. Banker Daniel Davies observed, "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance." Or kept secret and rushed into law without debate.

What this is, is an end-run around the US legal system, which has sinned against the great Profits, and it surprises me that a social democrat like you doesn't recognize it and oppose it.

- Here's a 14 year old account of the abysmal failure of labor protections in NAFTA:

- Doctors without Borders is concerned that the TPP: “would dismantle public health safeguards enshrined in international law and restrict access to affordable generic medicines for millions of people in developing countries.” (

- Public Citizen says, "The TPP would require us to limit food labeling and to import meat and poultry that do not meet U.S. food safety standards” (

And on, and on, and on. What do you think? Is this secret treaty better than we expect? Really?

If this is such a wonderful treaty, let it be published and and publicly debated.


@ The Raven

I've made the same points you make here myself. However, dwelling on the shortcomings of NAFTA and CAFTA, while politically expedient for some on the left, is tilting at windmills. Fast Track Trade authority has been legal since the Trade Act of 1974 and has been extended continually since. The secrecy aspect is troubling in its anti-democratic nature, but is not unique to trade. And thanks to Wikileaks you can read the agreement ( ) - BTW, note the spaces between the parins and URL.

Instead of all the sneaking around I'd like to have Hillary come out with a JFK type campaign issuing a challenge to improve life for Americans. Why can't we take the lead in civilization and technology? Why can't we encourage expansion of international law to meet the country's needs? The argument that progress can't be made without lying to the public is cynical, lazy, elitist, and discouraging.

Peter G

That's one way of looking at it. The other is that the other nations part of such a negotiation each have their trade reps and the US has theirs. Plus the US has about five hundred back seat drivers all with special interests who claim the right to shape the international agreement. The secrecy thing is bullshit. You just want to kill all these treaties exactly the way the Republicans wanted to kill the the nuclear deal with Iran. I could understand that if they wanted to be honest but what I don't get is the stupidity of it. This treaty they say protects corporations. Yes it does from arbitrary and discriminatory behavior by any signatory nation. Who the hell do you think most people work for? Are your manufacturing exports mostly Etsy crafts? Protecting their intellectual property rights protects your jobs. Mine too. How hard is that to understand?

Now about food labelling. It may interest you to know that agricultural products are among your biggest exports. Which are being kept out of the European and other markets based on phoney GMO horseshit. That's something for which there is not the slightest bit of evidence. Those are called non-tariff barriers and it is costing you a bundle. Still think taking fair labeling requirements off the negotiating table is good idea? Ask your farmers what they think.

Peter G

The question is, who is lying? It isn't the president. Who is saying it is about losing manufacturing jobs when it isn't? It's about protecting them. I agree with investing in education and research and development. Those are key to having any well paid jobs now or in the future. Why would anyone make such investments if the fruit of those investments isn't protected nationally and internationally. Four months to assess the language of the proposed treaty is plenty of time for anyone to study it and make their case and they can democratically decide, considering the whole, to accept it or reject it. What they can't expect is a whole lot of special interests trying to rewrite the damn thing either as it being negotiated or afterward. Take six months. Take a year. Just don't expect American special interests to be the author of it.

Btw in most areas of fundamental technological innovation the US still has commanding leads. That's because of a huge public investment in just about the best technical universities in the world. This is reflected in such mundane things as Nobel prizes and which countries get the most. And the partnerships between the public and private sectors that fund a lot of it. You have a powerful winning system and that I will submit is worth protecting. It doesn't guarantee you get all the jobs. Just the best paying ones.

Peter G

Interesting coincidence your mentioning Pinker. I don't know if you saw this but it is worth a read: Both these works just went high on my reading study list. Mostly because I am very curious about their methodologies. I notice no one is doing much carpet bombing lately. And drones seem to be having a positive effect on minimizing civilian casualties. Yet I wonder how accurate mortality statistics are in those dark places of the world where conflicts do rage. They often do not know who was born in some areas never mind who dies and how. And then there is this to consider, it was trade sanctions against Japan which precipitated their military grab for natural resources and eventually their war on the US. That could easily happen again.


First off, I have no experience in statistics anywhere near the level Nassim Nicholas Taleb is working. However, I do notice his belligerent tone, atypical for a scientist, and am left wondering. And experts, presumably their peers, don't agree Cirillo and Taleb get the math right. So on general principles, though I can't dismiss it, I'm not overly impressed by their hypothesis.

The body count is indeed a problem. I've seen numbers ranging from 100 thousand to 1.2 million Iraqi deaths resulting from the 2003 invasion, and I'm sure there are a variety of ways to classify what constitutes death by war. I should also admit I haven't finished Pinker's book. Even though he's a good science writer, the thing is a doorstop. What I've seen so far seems well presented and convincing, though. But what really matters is that his and similar preceding work is taken seriously by policy makers, which seems obvious. If you want to get even further into the weeds, there's this:


Maybe lying is too strong a word. What Elizabeth and Bernie are doing probably involves playing politics with NAFTA, though there's no way to tell if they're sincere or not. However, I can't understand why you're so insistent the US is benefiting more than Canada from the deal. "According to a November 12 Washington Post article, a study done by three Federal Reserve economists showed that NAFTA increased wages in the U.S. by 0.17%, in Canada by 0.96% and in Mexico by 1.3%" ( ). A single source, but I've posted similar stuff here from other sources that expressed similar gains in other terms.

The US probably does still excel in most basic research, but we're way behind in application. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Germany gets about twice what we do in renewable energy despite having less sunlight. We have a less sophisticated train system than China. Our health care system, while improving, is still the most expensive in the world by a factor of about 2 without the best outcomes, education is becoming unattainable for many, and so on and on. That's why we need some inspiration from the Democrats. If Hillary insists we improve these things how can the Republicans respond? Usually they spout a lot of manure about how we should live within a budget, as if they'd never heard of investment. Considering their current unpopularity, I don't think it will play.

The Raven

"You just want to kill all these treaties"

It's always interesting to encounter a telepath. What else can you tell me about myself?

Seriously, get a grip. If there are valid arguments for this treaty, based on its merits, lay them out.

It's silly to argue for something that you don't know about, wouldn't you agree? If the Obama administration can defend this thing on its merits without attacking the liberal wing of his own party, he can go for it. But its merits, if any, are secret. Other than that, I figure it's just like his failure to punish anyone for the biggest bank failure ever. I do not understand the hold of big money over this administration, but it is profound.

As to what we think we know about this treaty…

Some of the IP "rights" protected seem to be--remember, we don't actually know--the rights of drug companies to continue to overprice drugs globally. I've known people in that industry, and they wouldn't be impressed--I'm not either.

The thing to remember about food exports--Europe isn't involved--is that it cuts both ways, and some Asian countries have notoriously corrupt regulatory systems. Animals have already died from these regulatory failures. It is entirely possible that people will die, too. And, without honest and accurate labeling, it will be hellish hard to identify the source of the contaminated products.

Etc., etc. This thing isn't defensible, and I don't understand why anyone who isn't in the hip-pockets of its shadowy sponsors defends it.

The Raven

Citing the problems with NAFTA and CAFTA is not simple political expediency--these things are signs that the labor and environmental protections in the TPP will be of equal efficacy, which is to say, none. This doesn't only apply in the USA. Part of the reason we had so many Mexicans migrate to the USA in the last decade of the 20th century was major collapses in Mexican agriculture due to NAFTA.

I don't understand why you mention legality and precedents for secrecy. This is still bad policy, regardless.

In my opinion, the best policies we could undertake to improve the life of US citizens are policies that would improve employment and the labor market. Obama passed on doing that. Hilary Clinton has never supported those policies in the past, though it is possible her feminism will lead her to do so in the future.

Peter G

I have laid them out. So if you believe that regulations are essential why do you believe yours are always the best? On the contrary, many who are against trade treaties, seem to be arguing out of both faces. If other countries have better regulations shouldn't you want those to become the standard? As a citizen of a country that has seen how the US goes about equitably settling trade disputes, you always win, I think I will side with the other smaller nations who are a little tired of the self serving bullshit. Please stop pretending you are out to protect the interests of your trading partners. No one but you believes it. We certainly don't.


I have commented on the collapse of Mexican subsistence farming caused by the import of US subsidized corn and complained about all the small manufacturing that's been lost in the US several times on this blog. I mention legality and secrecy because the modern state can't operate in a state of full disclosure. For example, the whereabouts of troops and weapons, weapons systems capabilities, spy programs both domestic and international, biological research, and a long list of other programs are kept secret or near secret, often for good reasons. Not that I approve or disapprove - it's just fact.

It is simply incorrect that Obama has passed on creating jobs. The US was bleeding jobs at the end of Bush II and Obama's stimulus legislation helped put him solidly in the pack of job producing presidents ( ). If you're one of those people that doesn't trust Wikipedia you can always follow the external links. Look especially at the chart titled "Private sector job creation per month since 1953."

In my comment you replied to I made several suggestions for things that could put people back to work in meaningful ways.

The Raven

What are you talking about? Obama's record on jobs is better than Herbert Hoover's, but that's a pretty low bar.

The jobs created between 2010 and 2014 just about kept up with population growth. Here, go look at the employment/population numbers at .

Job-seekers/job-openings only returned to a normal level in 2014:

U-6, the unemployment measure that counts people who would like to work but can't find work, has at least has slowly but steadily improved since 2010—by 2018 it may be back to where it was in 2008:

Compensation does not even bear thinking--most new jobs pay poorly.

The data does not show this great job creator I keep hearing about. Even now, a substantial stimulus and pro-labor policies would make matters much better.

But the banks could do it all again—every effort made to fix the financial system was spiked by the administration, with the enthusiastic support of the right wing of the Democrats and all of the Republicans. We have gotten the CFPB, but that's a small bandage on a great gaping wound.

The Raven

A lawyer I know, after winning a case by having it dismissed on a technicality, commented: "It would be nice to win on the merits." But, of course, he had won, and that was enough. A case that goes to trial may be won or lost; technicalities just win. For a single fight, winning on nonsense may be best. And the public's memory (Krugman also reminds us) is short. But over the long term, you end up with a public believing, for instance, that foreign aid is a substantial part of the Federal budget, and having to justify foreign aid to a public that believes that.

And, given this administration's abysmal performance on jobs and the economy, why do you trust it on anything related?

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