The labours of Hercules? Minor, compared with those of Economist Dean Baker

Good ole Herc never had it so good, even cleaning those challenging Augean stables while suffering the desperate urgency of a long shower afterwards, which brings us to Dean Baker.

On 30Jan15, excellent economist though he is, Dean Baker took a shot at meteorology – bad idea, that storm turned out to be a Category 5 Hurricane.

At CEPR of which he is co-director, he had posted a forecast along with his acerbic economic analysis, The BS Stsorm is Coming on Trade Deals.

But before getting there, a cleansing, musical question, which, while refreshing, still fails to capture the extent of the bad forecast, Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

Well, rain this thing is not, thick and unrelenting in its intensity. And the stench.Which brings us back to Baker, and an excerpt from that forecast of his,

Okay folk, get out those umbrellas, we are about to showered with all sorts of garbage as the corporate interests pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact ((TTIP) go into overdrive to get Congress to approve their deals. We are entering the logic-free zone where ostensibly serious people say any sort of nonsense imaginable to advance these trade deals (not free-trade deals).
Today’s entry is a piece by David Ignatius in the Washington Post pushing the merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Ignatius’ big punch line is:

We can just ignore that Ignatius punchline, which is, well,… But back to the present. Umbrellas? Galoshes? Utterly useless. But much higher ground and under strong shelter and squeezed noses, more like it..

The US President had weighed in, and aggressively so, to push his corporate ‘legacy’, these ‘free trade’ things, TPP, TTIP, and TiSA, passage of which would be expedited once he gets his TPA – lots of ‘T’s in these acronyms. Two of his fellow Democrats from the Senate (several others in the House), Sen Sherrod Brown and Sen Elizabeth Warren, on the basis of their vast experience in trade and law respectively, dared to express their disquiet with the process and some of the possible results of these ‘free trade’ proposals as inimical to the interests of the US populace – unforgivable heresy and treachery from the US President’s perspective, even if, rhetoric aside, rather limited. Unfortunately, attacking specifically Sen Warren, and so publicly, served to shift the focus onto himself as more and more reputable analysts set forth their views.

While Baker would continue to rebut the unrelenting, massive downpour of misleading analysis from the corporate media, as this, or especially this, and myriad other ‘this’, alternative media would take a detached, even increasingly, suspicious view of the arguments of the proponents of the ‘free trade’ things.

In one case, at HuffPo, the ‘always available’ outlet for opinions of the incumbent régime, its more independent reporters reach uncomfortable conclusions in their posts. One from Zach Carter, Obama’s Trade Agenda Rewards U.S. Companies That Profit From Slavery. And recent migrant tragedies, on sea and on land, only served to accentuate the extent of the slavery and abuse.One excerpt from that report,

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s effort to include Malaysia in a major pending trade pact has baffled human rights advocates, who see it as a reward for a regime with one of the world’s worst human trafficking records. But the myriad interests involved in the trade fight include some very large American corporations, which are currently padding their profits with labor costs kept low by modern-day slavery in Malaysia.

Any lingering doubts on intended Presidential ‘legacy’? Another post, again, HuffPo’s Carter and Shanien Nasirpour, Warren Pushes Obama To Keep Slavery Ban In Trade Deal. Still on just one problematic element in these ‘free trade’ deals, and, specifically the TPP, the inhumanity of sourcing the labour supply (including abuse and murder) for the MNCs, we have this Stan Sorscher at the common dreams blog,TPP Reduces Human Trafficking and Child Labor to Misdemeanors. Illuminating excerpts,…

For months, arguments in favor of the huge new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership have fallen flat with the public. His “hit parade of failed arguments” gives the deal an air of desperation. The overwhelming public impression is that TPP is written by and for corporate interests, and has little for workers, communities, or the environment

[snip]

Just days earlier, the Senate Finance Committee had voted to exclude from TPP any country on the State Department’s “Tier 3” list of worst countries for human trafficking, as defined in the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Malaysia and Vietnam are TPP countries. Vietnam is in Tier 2 – bad for human trafficking, but not worst. Malaysia is on the Tier 3 list of worst countries.

[bold added for emphasis]

To date, rebuttals against the clearly frivolous arguments in support of these ‘free trade’ deals and ‘fast track’ authority (Trade Promotion Authority) have come from most economists and their fraudulent underpinnings exposed by blogs and alternative media. One economist, former Chief Economist at the IMF and of the Peterson Institute, summarises the arguments and adds in his own two cents, What Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Really All About? As Dean Baker goes about labours not even Herc would undertake, we have a framework from Simon Johnson. But, if in a hurry to find out ‘it is the butler who did it’, we have, succinctly summarised,

When you strip out the distractions, TPP comes down to essentially three things:

  • A free trade agreement with Japan. We need to see the details of that, including the FDI dimension, to understand if there will be GDP gains for the US or not. The impact on US inequality and median wages also remains at best unclear.
  • Investor State Dispute Settlement. This is of very dubious value to residents of the United States, at least unless the administration agrees to introduce greater safeguards against abuse.
  • Greater protection for pharmaceutical patents. This will almost certainly reduce access to affordable medicines, both in the US and in our trading partners.

There are also vague claims about improving labor and environmental standards. But, as far as outsiders can discern, any agreement along these dimensions will not require actions before TPP goes into effect. Enforceability of such clauses after the fact is typically weak or nonexistent.

Most people of ’emerging economies’, even those not party to those ‘partnerships’, are already more than familiar with the severe costs – from the ISDS to ruthless environmental destruction to land and resource dispossession. And, yes, the MNCs with the strong and coercive support of their governments. A push to a global corporatocracy has long been evident, barely disguised, with the BRICS and some Latin countries excluded by their failure to submit.

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