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The Villages
Friday, July 12, 2024

Obama’s latest power grab

Aileen Milton
Aileen Milton

There is a contentious – although not well publicized – debate ongoing in Washington, DC, about international trade policy. And its outcome will have far less to do with exports and imports than it will with preserving state sovereignty and our system of checks and balances.

President Barack Obama is demanding that lawmakers hand over their power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations,” as clearly outlined in the U.S. constitution.

Through Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, commonly called “fast track,” he is asking that Congress enable the White House to negotiate massive trade pacts in secret.  When Obama’s negotiations are complete, lawmakers will then rubber stamp his treaties with little time to even read the details, let alone thoroughly discuss or improve them.

That’s because TPA rewrites normal congressional procedure by forbidding amendments, removing vote thresholds normally needed in the Senate, limiting debate and requiring strict vote timelines.

It’s yet another example of unthinkable overreach by the current president, who has already unilaterally passed onerous regulations on Florida businesses and farms and tried to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

Why on earth would Florida lawmakers willingly cede the power granted them by our founding fathers and upset the delicate balance between the executive and legislative branches?

Because President Obama is promising them that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal he is currently negotiating in secret with Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, Brunei, Singapore and others will lead to an economic windfall for America.

Both of the state’s senators already voted yes for fast track, falling for presidential promises of deficit reduction and job growth at the conclusion of the giant trade agreement he won’t open up for public review.

It’s amazing that anyone would believe too-good-to-be-true sound bites coming from the White House podium. After all, this is the same president who once told us that we could keep our health insurance if we liked it, and it’s the same administration that conveniently loses emails when hard questions are asked.

President Obama’s track record for trade dealing hasn’t exactly been noteworthy. Since signing his U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, America’s trade deficit with Korea has worsened by more than 70 percent and we’ve lost 80,000 jobs.

Even the supposed shining star of the Korea trade deal – the massive automotive sales that Obama said were just around the corner – turned out to be a bust. So far we’ve imported 450,000 Korean cars while exporting just 23,000 more.

Determining whether the contents of the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact will be any better is nearly impossible since it is being kept under lock and key. This deal is so secretive that WikiLeaks is  offering a $100,000 reward for peek.

Easier said than done since the handful of lawmakers who have been allowed to skim its contents weren’t even permitted to take notes.

What little is known about TPP is terrifying. There’s nothing in it to hold foreign countries accountable for the subsidies, consumption taxes and currency manipulations so often used to cheat U.S. businesses.

Then there’s the provision known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). This language would let foreign companies that don’t agree with Florida laws, for example, sue Florida in a foreign World Bank tribunal.

ISDS is nothing new.  It’s already part of other trade deals, and since 2000, the more than 500 cases have filed in foreign courts, costing U.S. taxpayers $400 million.

There is no arguing that free trade is a good thing. Floridians benefit and our economy grows when goods move freely. But this president cannot be trusted to deliver, especially if the price is the erosion of state sovereignty and congressional authority.

The TPA is not about free trade, it is about control. Foreign policies and these type of secret trade agreements are threatening our American freedom and  liberties and the idea of what free trade is really about. American businesses and worker’s livelihoods will find themselves being ruled and judged by foreign tribunals with no protection or fair outcomes.

“Free trade” deals are being dealt from the bottom of the pits and cold dark basements and the shark infested far corners of D.C. Why on Earth would this Congress give any more authority and power to a president who has abused these privileges with a stoke of a pen and a phone. “Power tends to corrupt , and absolute power corrupts absolutely….”  Urge your member of Congress to vote No on TPA.

Aileen Milton is president of The Villages Tea Party.

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