Obama’s Pathetic TPP Legacy

Barack ObamaNow the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a done deal for all intents and purposes, it bears looking at again. The argument for it is that it is going to be great for the economy. That’s what President Obama keeps saying anyway. Of course, it’s bunk. Dean Baker made a good comparison recently, Donald Trump Says His Tax Cut Will Lead to 6% GDP Growth and President Obama Says TPP Will Boost Growth. That’s right: he’s saying that Trump’s widely mocked claim that his policies will lead to 6% growth are as ridiculous as Obama’s claims about the TPP.

It turns out that even people who are in favor of TPP don’t make much in terms of claims for it. The Peterson Institute claims that it will increase economic growth by 0.03% per year. This is literally at the level of noise. And in fact, that’s what others say. The United States Department of Agriculture said that the effect would be “too small to measure.” So we are getting a treaty that will weaken local laws, harm workers all over the world, and increase the prices of patented and copyrighted goods. But on the plus side… Well, there is no plus side.

So we are getting a treaty that will weaken local laws, harm workers all over the world, and increase the prices of patented and copyrighted goods. But on the plus side… Well, there is no plus side.

For a while, a lot of people like me thought that maybe the crazy Republicans would step up and make this an issue. After all, isn’t this treaty exactly what they are always claiming liberals are trying to do: create a one world government that will tell the good God fearing people of Texas or Arkansas or Mississippi what to do? But they aren’t concerned about this treaty because they know that the down side will only affect the poor people and the up side will help the rich people. Thus it is everything that Republicans want in a law or treaty: something to screw the poor and help the rich.

But you might wonder: if the TPP is going to produce basically no economic growth, why do the rich care? Well, it is the same reason that drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been such a big deal for such a long time. There is not enough oil there to make any difference to us on a national level, much less a world level. But it did mean billions of dollars for people who were already hugely wealthy. So it is a big deal to do. And it is the same thing here. This treaty is huge for the pharmaceutical industry. It is huge for Hollywood. But are we going to get better drugs or movies? Don’t be silly. This is about them being able to collect more rents on things they’ve already made.

So it is sad that Obama has pushed this through. In the end, I suspect people will remember him for Obamacare. But they will mention TPP in the same way that people mention NAFTA and Bill Clinton. “Oh yeah, well that was a mistake.” Not that Obama will ever suffer because of it. After he’s out of office, I’m sure that Pfizer and Roche will be eager to give him a million bucks to drop by and give a speech on something like volunteerism.

Plutocrats: 1
America: 0

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

39 thoughts on “Obama’s Pathetic TPP Legacy

  1. Oh, I’m 100% convinced that the TPP will cause new “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” movies to be something other than strip-mining the originals for sentimental references. Yay, movies! About drugs, I’m less invested, as I can’t afford any.

    • If I were being kind, I would admit that TPP might turn the $300 million action film into the $350 million action film. But one thing it most definitely won’t do is improve the cinematic ecosystem.

      Also: Chantal Akerman died on Monday.

      • I am not so into movies as I once was. But Akerman sounds like a very interesting filmmaker.

        It kills me that there are terrific writers working in every thinkable genre and Hollywood rarely hires them. Just keep doing remakes of familiar titles created by previous good writers. Doesn’t this become like the snake eating its own tail Kaufmann referenced in “Adaptation” after some point?

        • Well, look at Charlie Kaufman: he’s successful in the sense that he gets films made and they are interesting. But they aren’t huge hits: modest successes, most of them. What the masses want is crap. And there are a lot of people who are very good at producing crap. So sure: the big decision in Hollywood right now is what comic book superhero is going to be the next big thing. Bravo!

          You should check out Akerman’s 12 minute debut, Blow Up My Town. It’s silly and dark. And far too Jean-Luc Godard. But quite interesting.

  2. I was hoping that the Democrats would continue to fight him on it. But as campaign season starts up, they have to appease the money people.

    Its disgusting but really, at this point, I cannot do anything about it.

    • It does look like it isn’t quite as bad as it had appeared to be. For examples, at least the tobacco companies will not be included on the the inter-country dispute system. Also, the worker protections are better. Ironically, as a result of this, the Republicans may turn against it. You know Republicans: all or nothing. If TPP isn’t totally awful, they can’t support it!

      • Plus Obama likes it.

        Jon Stewart had this amazing bit in like 2010 or something about how the Republicans will change their mind about anything if the President likes it-like how they were demanding he bomb some place, so he did, and then they had to do a 180 on it because their sole objective is “whatever he wants, we oppose.” He then had to repeat this bit a lot.

        • I think I remember that segment — it was about Libya and how Fox News was calling for Obama to bomb the country. And the moment he did, they turned on the dime and complained that he did. Meanwhile, Fox News gets First Amendment protection and Edward Snowden has to hide in Russia.

          • I think we probably will disagree on Snowdon but that is okay, reasonable people should be able to disagree.

            Oh my gosh, does that mean we are more mature and sensible than every Republican in Washington? *snickers*

            • It does mean you both are more mature than Repubs, but unfortunately it’s not much of a compliment. It’s like saying you can cook noodles faster than someone who’s morally opposed to boiling water in pots.

                  • I had a secret plan to bribe you with chocolate chip muffins. Now I can just go back to finishing my homework instead.

                    • I’ll bet your muffins are great! About the only edible dessert I can make is muffins, myself. I’m semi-competent at meals but terrible at desserts. I routinely ruin cookies & pies, and when I get them right, it’s by accident. Anybody can cook poultry/pasta/pork, those are easy. Beef is simply impossible, I can’t do it. I screw up burgers and steaks every time. Every damn time!

                    • Basic computing skills-I was about done with my general studies requirements before life interrupted my education so this semester I am finishing my general requirements and then next year sleep walking through my paralegal classes so I can have a degree to go with the skills I already have.

                      A lot of people have been nagging at me to get a bachelors in something, anything but a history degree is the only thing I want and it is pretty much useless these days economically speaking. So I am going to be very practical and get a paralegal associate’s degree. I would go to law school but I hate the idea of being a lawyer.

                      And how on earth can you ruin cookies as long as you set the timer?

                    • Ah. The paralegal work sounds interesting. The truth is that almost no degree is good anymore. An associates in paralegal probably will set you up well.

                      As for the cookies, that must be in reference to James. He’s just the kind to ruin cookies!

                  • I already know all of the stuff a paralegal does (except one or two things that are on the job training.) The field is growing unlike lawyers and it does not require me to have to be in charge of anything. Maybe one day I will be again but being the boss is exhausting.

                    Yeah, I was talking to James.

                    • My problem is the cookies are never done when the timer goes off, so I end up burning them. I’m sure if I practiced more I’d get the hang of it. But it’s more fun for me to try different vegetable recipes!

                      I have a history bachelor’s. It is useless. But at least I got it at community college so the price wasn’t ridiculous. I did end up taking one law class, and the professor was kind enough to use textbooks available at any library. Law and medical textbooks are insanely expensive!

                      I correspond a little with some lawyers and they all regret paying for the degree. One ended up quitting law. The thing most worth doing in law is public defender, but they’re way overworked and underpaid. Maybe if we reformed our criminal laws public defenders could actually spend more time ensuring the system works like its supposed to!

                    • I assume you need certain certification? It just seems that everything associated with the law and medicine requires that. Although you know that the last certification requirements to go will be for the lawyers and the doctors because they make the most money and thus must be protected against competition. Not that I’m against competition. It’s just that competition is always seen as good when it comes to the middle class and not the rich.

                    • James-try using a pizza pan, line the edges with the dough instead. No idea if it will work but no reason to not try.

                      Frank-in theory you do but depends on the law firm. For the big ones, yes you do need a paralegal degree or certificate. For the ones just starting out or who have no standards (HOA law firms come to mind) you can skirt it based on the filings we get at court. Certification of lawyers though? It used to be that you could just read the law since a great deal of it is memorization of rules, laws and cases. In fact one of my favorite first female lawyers, Clara S. Foltz, did that very thing, passing the bar long before she went to law school. She also invented the public defender system that keeps my best friend employed. However the problem is we have a glut of attorneys so reading the law may not actually be the best idea since that makes the problem worse.

                      Medicine is a bit different though-there is so much different from just ten years ago that it requires a great deal of education. That said, there is too much of a bottleneck on purpose to artificially inflate salaries. Opposite problem of the law.

  3. Prepping for certification is part of the cost of a med/law degree, but there’s also just that you can charge prices up the wazoo for tuition/textbooks and students will pay it, expecting a lucrative future career. Business textbooks cost a bundle, too, and you don’t get any certification from a business degree. Theater studies textbooks are pretty cheap!

    Since I lucked into finding a CC run by 60’s hippies, I got away with mostly cheap books. Or even free, the ones I could get at the library. Don’t even get me started on the whole “updated edition” thing, which is largely a textbook industry scam some professors buy into so that students can’t get used copies at the campus bookstore. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were kickbacks, too, like for doctors prescribing certain drugs. Although professors aren’t paid anything, so unlike doctors I wouldn’t blame them for taking kickbacks . . .

    (That one law course? I used the wrong edition I got from the library. The professor noted my mistake and said the fact that poorer students were able to get earlier editions at the library was awesome, he didn’t mind at all!)

    • Get an old set of books at that VNSA book sale I mentioned and a subscription to Westlaw and you are set (because you can go look up the updated cases.) For the law anyway.

      • Ah, thanks — no more college for me right now! But good advice you should pass around when people can use it!

        Also, good cookie recipe, the toffee sounds like a great touch.

        Here’s the best little trick I’ve found all the years I’ve been cooking. For chicken and dumpling soup. You can totally cheat on the dumplings. Just add those $1.00 generic-label grocery-store biscuits-in-a-can from the refrigerated section. Throw ’em in the soup, bring it to simmer, put the lid on, and poof! Perfect dumplings in about 10-15 minutes. I’ve had Southerners say they loved these dumplings, and you know how Southerners are about their comfort food, so it definitely works.

    • Here is a recipe to try for your next baking disaster:
      1 cup real butter, at room temperature
      5 tablespoons sugar
      2 teaspoons vanilla
      1 tablespoon water
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      2 cups flour
      2 cups finely chopped pecans
      3 ounces toffee pieces
      3 ounces mini chocolate chips
      powdered sugar, for rolling cookies
      Directions
      Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
      Cream butter until light & fluffy. Add sugar, vanilla and water. Mix well. Stir flour and salt into mixture. Add pecans, toffee bits and mini chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.
      Roll into tablespoon-sized balls. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
      Roll in powdered sugar while warm. Once cooled, roll in powdered sugar again.

    • There are a few exceptions to this like astronomy textbooks that really do need to be updated all the time. But putting out a new physics or math text book every two years is just a matter of economics.

      • I had a good poli-sci professor on the Middle East who used a cheaper, older textbook and just supplemented it with more recent policy journal articles. But yeah, using a dated astronomy textbook doesn’t quite work. Can’t imagine they cost what med/bus/law ones do, though!

        • The astronomy books (to my surprise) weren’t that expensive — relative to other text books. They were very much like magazines. Intro to astronomy is a really fun class. Going further in astronomy gets really technical, and I wouldn’t have been able to teach it without a lot of study. I don’t know why secondary schools don’t offer astronomy courses. It’s a great way to get kids interested in science.

          • Wait. I just thought of this: how do the young earth creationists explain light from distant galaxies? I’m sure they have an explanation. But what? God started the universe already in progress?

            • I’ll bet they use the “laws of physics were different then” evasion they do with carbon dating. Maybe the speed of light was much, much faster a few thousand years ago. So those stars sent their light most of the way to Earth before light slowed to its current speed.

              It’s really wild. A lot of effort into making bunk science. When I was a kid I was told God did create the world in six days, but one of God’s days can take billions of years. And I accepted that fine.

              Part of this stuff is just fundamentalism at work; it’s in the sacred text, it must be true. (Even though the text gives varying accounts of certain events!) Part of it’s pure stubborn pride and a refusal to realize monkeys are pretty awesome ancestors. Part’s a sneak attack trying to get Christianity back into schools.

              I do think some of the recent focus on this stuff is coming from conservatives who want to discredit scientific consensus. If scientists are making s**t up about geology, biology, astronomy, then they’re making stuff up about climate change.

              Oreskes and the other “Merchants Of Doubt” author have a recent short book, a letter from the future. I liked it. (I liked the short “Prophets Of Capital,” too, thanks!) In the afterword they make a great point. While conservative leaders just want to do nothing about climate change because of energy interests, most conservative voters aren’t into that. Conservative voters fear that international action on climate change will lead to a one-world government. Oreskes observes that by voluntarily doing nothing now, we are setting up such a huge international crisis that something like a totalitarian one-world government might very well arise. (Kinda like your thoughts about Europe/China eventually declaring war on America for blocking everything.)

              • This is why I don’t have much of a problem with non-fundamentalist religion. If you want to take the Bible metaphorically, fine. I don’t know where the fundamentalists get this idea that it is the literal word of God. That’s a very childish theology.

                It still annoys me that people will deny one kind of science because it gets in the way of their dogma, but still use all the other benefits they get from science. Don’t believe in evolution? Fine! But don’t go running to modern medicine, because so much of it is built on evolution.

                It’s really interesting that they said that. I was just writing about how conservatives are always talking about America being destroyed, and now it looks like they are the ones who will destroy it. They really are like children: if they can’t have total control, then they will just throw the game board into the air and end it.

      • Basically. Law books need to be updated when there is new case law but most of the time there is nothing ground changing like Crawford.

        Luckily these days you can rent books on Amazon. I am conflicted by that to be honest but since I never cracked open any of my text books from 1996 after I took the class, it is probably a more sensible idea.

        • As a student, I almost never used my text books. So as a teacher, I required it. A lot of text books are really good. And I don’t believe in traditional lecturing. So a hundred or two hundred bucks is not bad for a book if you are really going to use it. In the physical sciences, most people only use their books for the homework problems. If that’s all they are for, they are incredibly expensive.

          • I am taking three courses and all three books are electronic. One is essentially a tech manual for how to use the MS Office Suite. One is this new hybrid that has lets you do all of the coursework as you read the pages and the end of chapter quizzes. The last one is the traditional book that I barely look at because I already know most of the information in it.

            Although since I am a major bibliophile (my Goodreads is now just over a thousand even though I have more books than that) I generally do not mind spending a great deal.

            • That second thing sounds kind of interesting. It seems to me that the whole world is going to Google Docs. But the world of law seems to be the last to embrace anything new. And Google Docs is pretty similar to Office.

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