Obama & TPP: Every One That Doeth Evil Hateth the Light

By William K. Black
Quito: April 25, 2015

President Obama wants the world to know that he takes it personally that the Democratic Party’s base opposes his latest effort to sell out the people of the world to the worst corporations through the infamous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal. Obama blurted out at a press conference a number of conservative Republican memes as his sole basis for pushing TPP. He then launched personal attacks on Senator Elizabeth Warren and labor leaders (without naming them). Obama, who is famous for keeping his cool when criticized by the GOP, is thin-skinned when criticized by Democrats. Obama never raged at the Republicans’ “death panel” attacks on him, but he raged at Warren as supposedly making an equivalently openly dishonest attack on TPP’s secret drafting process.

One of the most reprehensible aspects of TPP is that it is (still) being drafted in secret – that it from us, the people – but with corporate lobbyists literally drafting their wish list. Obama made the critical mistake of personally attacking Warren, which is roughly equivalent to a small town mayor launching a personal attack on Jon Stewart. You know the results will be that Stewart will wipe the floor with the mayor.

Or, to move the metaphor to Hollywood, the character playing the President in the movie The American President warns his political opponent to limit his attacks to the President rather than his girlfriend: “you better stick with me, ’cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league.” Warren is way out of Obama’s league in this arena of protecting the American people from CEOs’ frauds and abuses. Obama is the one who infamously told the bankers he was protecting them from the American people’s demands for the restoration of the rule of law so that the banksters would be held accountable for leading the fraud epidemics that drove the financial crisis and the Great Depression. Obama, being Obama, phrased that in the form of a vile slander of the American people, claiming that they wanted to use “pitchforks” rather than prosecutions.

Here is the “money quote” from Warren and Senator Sherrod Brown’s letter responding to Obama’s attack.

“‘Executives of the country’s biggest corporations and their lobbyists already have had significant opportunities not only to read [the TPP text], but to shape its terms,’ the letter reads. ‘The Administration’s 28 trade advisory committees on different aspects of the TPP have a combined 566 members, and 480 of those members, or 85%, are senior corporate executives or industry lobbyists. Many of the advisory committees — including those on chemicals and pharmaceuticals, textiles and clothing, and services and finance — are made up entirely of industry representatives.’”

In sum, Obama stacked the committees to ensure that the CEOs’ lobbyists would completely dominate the secret drafting of TPP. And everyone in America know that the result of that has to be a Faux Trade agreement crafted to allow the CEOs to plunder with impunity.

Obama is demanding an additional reprehensible element – “fast track” – in which the cynical “CEOs’ Christmas in May” deal cannot be amended to remove even the most despicable provisions of the bill placed like land mines by the CEOs’ lobbyists. I don’t think opposing the TPP should be a partisan issue. Republicans should help lead the effort to stop Obama’s latest sell out.

TPP, of course, is being sold through a full court press of the economists who brought us the financial crisis and the Great Recession and the multiple Great Depressions in Spain, Italy, and Greece. Their lie, as always, is that this travesty of special interest deals drafted overwhelmingly by corporate lobbyists represents “free trade.” They first torture the language and truth before they torture the world.

TPP is the opposite of “free trade.” In the jargon of its economic supporters, it is a moldering midden hiding the secretly drafted “rent seeking” provisions designed to help CEOs enrich themselves at the expense of the people of the world. Adam Smith, who supported freer trade, warned over two centuries ago that when CEOs meet secretly it promptly turns into a conspiracy against the public interest and warned that CEOs use their power to aid their own interests at the expense of shareholders and the public.   Smith’s warned that it “ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Similarly, the even more conservative Frédéric Bastiat famously warned:

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

TPP is the legal system designed to authorize plunder with impunity. Economists are the priests that glorifies the CEOs’ plunder. When you allow CEOs’ lobbyists to secretly draft a deal and then make it impossible through “fast track” for the public or our representatives to vote down even the most despicable of these acts of CEO plunder you make it certain that the law will bring plunder rather than “free trade.”

There are five aspects of Obama’s deal that are indefensible and will cause immense damage to the base and the public at large – and Obama’s efforts to smear critics of these indefensible provisions adds a sixth aspect that cries out for rejection. It is indefensible to:

  1. Draft the deal in secret from the public – through classifying the TPP drafts as purported “national security” information. There was, and is, zero basis for classifying the drafts.
  2. Allow CEOs’ lobbyists to secretly draft provisions of the deal
  3. “Fast track” the bill, making it impossible to remove even the worst plundering through the lobbyists’ language
  4. Give away U.S. and other nations’ sovereignty to a kangaroo (non) court dominated by lawyers for CEOs
  5. Allow these kangaroo non-courts to destroy vital regulations and bankrupt nations at the behest of the worst corporate CEO plunderers – exposing the world to even more frequent and severe financial crises. I have explained these last two points in more detail in the past. These provisions of TPP are so bad that they are depraved – and we have abundant, terrible, and global experience under past, more limited Faux Trade deals with the same provisions to know that the word “depraved” is the appropriate description.

As Zach Carter explained, Obama’s “rage against the base” appears to be based overwhelmingly on criticism by Senator Warren and labor of the first indefensible element of the CEOs’ scheme to plunder.

“Obama surprised reporters by appearing on a conference call with Labor Secretary Thomas Perez in effort to rebut criticisms from Warren and other key Democrats, who worry that his pending Trans-Pacific Partnership deal will exacerbate income inequality and undermine key regulations.

‘The idea that we can shut down globalization, reduce trade … is wrong-headed,’ Obama said on a conference call. ‘That horse has left the barn.’

While Obama did not mention Warren by name, much of his commentary appeared to be directed at her. The two have already traded barbs on TPP this week. Obama said in a TV interview on Tuesday that Warren was “just wrong” on the issue. Warren responded by sending a fundraising email to her supporters warning that Obama’s promises on the pact were hollow, since ‘people like you can’t see the actual deal.’”

Obama’s argument is that members of Congress can “see” the text of the TPP now. His wording suggests that he continues to forbid even members of Congress to obtain copies of the draft, which is essential for effective review and demands for removal (except that Obama’s express goal is to remove Congress’ ability to remove even the worst acts of CEO plunder from TPP. It is not clear whether members of Congress are now allowed to take notes on the text as they read it. Obama forbade them do so – again, for the express purpose of making it impossible for them to oppose the lobbyists’ plunder. Zach Carter noted Obama’s legalistic parsing of his failed effort to refute Senator Warren’s criticism.

“Obama seemed to implicitly reference Warren’s response on the call on Friday, noting that members of Congress can now view the text of the pact and will have months to review the agreement before voting on the final version.

‘Every single one of the critics saying this is a secret deal, or send out e-mails to their fundraising base that they’re working to stop a secret deal, could walk over and see the text of the agreement,’ Obama said. ‘When I just keep on hearing people repeating this notion that it’s secret — I gotta say, it’s dishonest. And it’s a little concerning when I see friends of mine resorting to those sort of tactics.’”

Carter has a new article about Warren and Senator Sherrod Brown’s letter responding to Obama’s personal attacks on them. The letter is devastating.

“On Saturday, Warren and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) responded with a letter essentially telling Obama to put up or shut up. If the deal is so great, Warren and Brown wrote, the administration should make the full negotiation texts public before Congress votes on a ‘fast track’ bill that would strip the legislative branch of its authority to amend it.

‘Members of Congress should be able to discuss the agreement with our constituents and to participate in a robust public debate, instead of being muzzled by classification rules,’ Warren and Brown wrote in the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

In essence, Warren and Brown have invoked scripture.

John 3:20-21King James Version (KJV)

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Obama did not simply allow lobbyists to largely draft TPP in secret – he classified their drafts – treating them as national security secrets. This would be downright funny if it were not so wicked. It is most certainly revealing about the fact that Obama and the lobbyists knew that the drafts were so outrageous in their substance that Obama had to take preposterous steps to safeguard them from honest experts. Carter’s most recent article explains:

“Democrats and some Republican critics have been particularly frustrated by Obama’s decision to treat the TPP documents as classified information, which prevents them from responding to Obama’s claims about the pact in detail.

‘Your Administration has deemed the draft text of the agreement classified and kept it hidden from public view, thereby making it a secret deal,’ the letter reads. ‘It is currently illegal for the press, experts, advocates, or the general public to review the text of this agreement. And while you noted that Members of Congress may ‘walk over … and read the text of the agreement’ — as we have done — you neglected to mention that we are prohibited by law from discussing the specifics of that text in public.’

Warren and Brown appeared particularly miffed at being accused of lying.

‘We respectfully suggest that characterizing the assessments of labor unions, journalists, Members of Congress, and others who disagree with your approach to transparency on trade issues as ‘dishonest’ is both untrue and unlikely to serve the best interests of the American people,’ the letter reads.

Obama’s “Three-card Monte” tactics with regard to members of Congress ludicrously limited ability to effectively review and discuss the draft deal are a very old game in Washington, D.C. that was well-developed when I began working there forty-two years ago. But Obama is not simply being disingenuous about TPP being drafted in secret. “I gotta say” that he is “resorting to [the] tactics” of being “dishonest.”

TPP is a deal that Obama, the failed economists, and the CEOs knew could not survive the light. They were aware of the truth of Justice Brandeis’ famous observation that “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” TPP was drafted in secret to avoid that disinfectant. People who are doing straight up deals in the public interest would never allow lobbyists to draft the deal and would have welcomed criticisms of their drafts. The secret drafting of TPP largely by the CEOs’ lobbyists was designed to maximize the ability of CEOs to plunder.

Obama cannot deny these facts so he tries to steer the conversation to ignore the drafting by the CEOs’ lobbyists and the removal from Congress of the power to stop even the most depraved assault on the public interest by amendment. What Obama does not tell you is that only a tiny section of TPP’s critics get to see the draft – members of Congress. I have begun to explain how even their ability to criticize was deliberately hamstrung by Obama’s “Three-card Monte.” Anyone who understands Congress knows that the members are strongly dependent on their staffs doing the analysis of complicated legislation like TPP that has been carefully crafted by corporate lawyers to conceal its plunder behind abstruse legalese. It is like trying to spot the “Easter eggs” hidden in a single frame of movie – except that the CEOs’ lobbyists’ task is to ensure that they are all rotten eggs. Congressional staffers overwhelmingly lack the clearance to even review the TPP drafts. An administration “briefing” on a TPP draft is meaningless given the administration’s cheerleading for TPP and its successful efforts to ensure that Congress cannot “kick the tires.”

Someone like Hillary Clinton should plainly be taking a position on TPP, but Obama has given her the perfect out. H. Clinton is not permitted even the limited “Three-card Monte” sneak peak at the TPP drafts. And that illustrates the broader point. Anyone who really wanted TPP understood and the rotten Easter Eggs identified would have given the drafts to teams of people like me to review so we could strip them out of TPP. But Obama makes sure that independent experts like me are excluded from removing the many scandals that the CEOs’ lobbyists have hidden in the TPP legalese.

Mankiw’s Maulers: The Economists Who Mauled Our Economy and Democracy

The fact that experts are excluded from reviewing the draft TPP means that when the failed economists who designed our recurrent, intensifying financial crises sign letters expressing total support for TPP as drafted they literally do not know what they are talking about. N. Gregory Mankiw (the subject of the second installment in this series of articles about TPP) wrote in the New York Times that economists agreed on the desirability of TPP, citing a March 5, 2015 “Open Letter” to Congress that he had signed with other former Chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers. The list contains the names of the leading architects of the financial crisis and the Great Recession such as Mankiw, Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke, so it automatically fills one with shock and awe. The willingness of Mankiw’s Maulers to give unqualified support for a deal drafted primarily by CEOs’ lobbyists – without ever reviewing the deal – demonstrates that they no longer make even a pretense to intellectual honesty.

The reader may be wondering at this point why I think it is appropriate for me to criticize a deal I cannot read, but inappropriate for Mankiw’s Maulers to be cheerleaders for a deal they cannot read. The answer is that the positions are not parallel for six reasons. First, I am criticizing the deal for being drafted in secret and hidden from independent experts and the public. Second, there have been several leaks of portions of the TPP drafts and they establish that TPP is loaded with rotten Easter Eggs drafted by the CEOs’ lobbyists. Third, economic theory unambiguously predicts that if you let the CEOs’ lobbyists do the drafting the inevitable result is a Faux Trade agreement rather than a “free trade” agreement. Mankiw’s Maulers premised their support for TPP on the blind assumption, which we know to be untrue through economic theory, experience, and prior leaks of the TPP drafts, that TPP would create free trade. Fourth, we have centuries of experience that uniformly confirms that if the CEOs’ lobbyists draft the trade deal the result is a Faux Trade deal. Fifth, even the proponents of the TPP deal admit that it has the kangaroo court provisions that allow the massive fines that are designed by the lobbyists to destroy effective regulation. (Mankiw’s Maulers studiously refrain from noting this assault on U.S. sovereignty and our ability to adopt vital rules to prevent corporate crimes.) Sixth, Mankiw’s Maulers cannot take the position that once they learn about the rotten Easter Eggs secreted in the draft by the CEOs’ lobbyists they will support the removal of those acts of plunder. Their open letter explicitly (if euphemistically through a reference to “trade promotion authority”) supports “fast tracking” TPP in order to strip Congress of its normal constitutional powers to make amendments to eliminate these acts of plunder by CEOs.

19 responses to “Obama & TPP: Every One That Doeth Evil Hateth the Light

  1. I don’t know why the Chinese are building an aircraft carrier when they can wait a while and just charter one of ours.

  2. Thomas Palley

    Bill, this is brilliant. Thanks.

  3. Howard Switzer

    We can complain or we can revolt. All of this comes back to the FACT that the Money Power is in private hands instead of sovereign governments. Any government that does not issue the money becomes a tool of control for those who do. No government today issues money, they borrow it all from the private banks at interest. That is why we are in this mess. If anything is to change for the better the Money Power needs to be removed from private hands and returned to governments so they can begin to take care of business. We have much to do. Only the Green Party has the needed reforms in their platform, none of the others get it. Shun the D&R drama funded by capital to make us believe we live in a sovereign nation, its a lie. Focus on taking the money power away from the financiers and restore all nation’s sovereignty….unless you want to be a slave on a destroyed planet.

  4. Stephen R. & Jacqueline M. Wallace

    We checked your biography on the web and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s
    news release on this for February 15, 2015 and these were similar in content so the veracity and importance are without doubt and very alarming for the average American. Thank you for your contributions to shinning light on this.

  5. Thanks for this — and all your valuable insights. Whatever the subject, you nail it.

    I’m kind of hoping for one word more. Ever since the first leak told us what we’re up against, I’ve been asking, “Seriously, how is this not treason?” Haven’t traitors been charged for less than ceding their countries’ sovereignty to corporate kangaroo courts and making taxpayers pay tribute to foreign nations or change the laws to suit them?

  6. Terrific piece, thank you.

    Need right and left to unite to defeat this.

  7. Chatham H. Forbes Sr.

    This all looks like a hit piece to discredit President Obama, a very common phenomenon in the media, as we have all observed. The President has assured the American public that he would never place them in an adverse judicial or economic position. But I believe the country has a right to a thorough airing of the TPPA and attendant procedural proposals, bills, etc. The entire nation is very uneasy, in fact suspicious of this pig in a poke concoction of a bunch of entrepreneurs representing twelve associated nations. To tell the truth, thus far, it smells bad. Obama, now a lame duck, not running for any office, could be positioning himself for the future. Ugly thought that I reject because it is so out of character. Nevertheless Obama has placed himself in an exceedingly vulnerable position. He absolutely has to come out in the open and remove our fears, which are many and complex. Now, will he do so? His legacy as a statesman president hinges on this.

  8. Reply to Erin Harris
    I too have been thinking about this being treason.

  9. Obama showed his colors back in 2008 during his presidential run. Goldman Sachs gave Obama more money, than any other source. The Obama regime lies in the political spectrum where “moderate” Republicans used to exist. I used to be disappointed in Obama. Now, I just think that he’s a scumbag.

  10. Betty Stewart

    I voted for Obama twice and thought he was one of the good guys , albeit maybe a little too corporate, until this deal hit the fan. It’s got me wondering again about how he got nominated for president in the first place. He was relatively unknown until he made a speech to a group of Democrats that the media raved over. The media then wrote about him all the time and pushed him to the forefront of the candidates. The wealthy own the media, so why pick him? Well, look at all the Monsanto people he’s put in positions of power in the government. This TPP has been planned for some time. Maybe he was recruited to see that it got passed. His reaction to the American citizens trying to stop it seems all out of proportion to what someone who believed in democracy would have. Did he really read the agreement or is he taking the word of someone else that it’s a good deal? I’m having a hard time believing that the man I thought he was could be for something so evil.

  11. Betty Stewart

    I never saw the movie “The Manchurian Candidate” but from what little I know about it maybe that’s what we have here.

  12. Potomac Oracle

    CEO’s, lobbyists and administration officials drafting the TPP will open the door to future charges of treason. They are handing to the globalists America’s sovereignty which is a security issues of the highest priority.

    • Potomac Oracle: President Obama has been consistently supportive of the interests of the people of this country throughout his career as a politician. But he has also, quite correctly, recognized that Wall Street and big business, with all their endemic chicanery, are indispensable to the words’s richest economy. The business establishment dominates the private sector, and is essential to the economic wellbeing of this society. This fact connects directly to our business relationships with foreign countries. We have many trade treaties and arrangements with those countries. Those arrangements are vital to our economy. Unfortunately, some have proved detrimental to our domestic workforce. Now, with this TPP proposal coming up for a vote, enormous disapproval from many sectors of the population has developed. In truth the TP has some extremely adverse job and judicial provisions that should be corrected before the final treaty is approved by the Congress. President Obama does not appear to recognize how damaging and dangerous the TPP really is. Lame duck status aside, he owes it to all of us to open the proposal up for serious, unlimited debate. Certainly PresidentObama does not want this major treaty, gravely flawed against American interests, to be railroaded through Congress as a secret “pig in a poke ” deal on an up or down vote without negotiation or amendment. He does not want such a piece of sleaze prominent in his legacy as a President of this constitutional democratic republic.

      • Chatham wrote:
        “President Obama has been consistently supportive of the interests of the people of this country throughout his career as a politician. ”
        Please provide links to support your claim.
        I voted for Obama twice because he’s been good on voting rights and better than the wingnuts on Supreme Court and federal judge nominations. Otherwise, he’s been very faithful to the elites and multi-national oligopolies which dominate the westerns economies. Eliminating the holiday on both sides of the payroll tax (FICA) buried the U.S. consumer and made income inequality worse. It also re-inforced the fiscal illiteracy that we need a “balanced” federal budget to avoid borrowing dollars from China and our grandchildren. IMHO Jeb Bush and Sec. Clinton will be just as willing to carry on in that tradition. Despite all their complaints about the liberal
        Chatham wrote: “But he has also, quite correctly, recognized that Wall Street and big business, with all their endemic chicanery, are indispensable to the words’s richest economy. ”
        Thanks in large part to the elites and Wall Street CEO’s, the U.S. no longer has a “work ethic,” we have a money-making ethic. Economic growth is ultimately the result of productivity improvements. Am I wrong that Wall Street CEO’s increasingly make their money from derivative bets (where all the risk is “socialized” onto the taxpayers, and all the profits are privatized) on currency swaps and interest rate swaps? How does that casino capitalism benefit main street?
        Do you understood anything about the U.S. Patent Office, what used to be a key defender of innovators?
        Chatham wrote: “The business establishment dominates the private sector, and is essential to the economic wellbeing of this society.”
        The real “job creators,” are consumers with money to spend.
        Without spending–there are no sales;
        Without sales–there are no profits;
        Without profits–there is no demand for workers;
        Without demand for workers–there is no job creation;
        and without job creation–there is no recovery!
        Chatham wrote: “This fact connects directly to our business relationships with foreign countries. We have many trade treaties and arrangements with those countries. Those arrangements are vital to our economy. Unfortunately, some have proved detrimental to our domestic workforce. Now, with this TPP proposal coming up for a vote, enormous disapproval from many sectors of the population has developed. In truth the TP has some extremely adverse job and judicial provisions that should be corrected before the final treaty is approved by the Congress. President Obama does not appear to recognize how damaging and dangerous the TPP really is. Lame duck status aside, he owes it to all of us to open the proposal up for serious, unlimited debate.”
        I agree.
        Chatham wrote: “Certainly PresidentObama does not want this major treaty, gravely flawed against American interests, to be railroaded through Congress as a secret “pig in a poke ” deal on an up or down vote without negotiation or amendment. He does not want such a piece of sleaze prominent in his legacy as a President of this constitutional democratic republic.”
        With all due respect, I’m afraid President Obama wants to ingratiate himself to the elites and he will continue to “carry water” for them on T-PP.

  13. The very fact that Obama is lying and deceitful to the very country he has vowed to protect should tell you something. Is our President guilty of treason on this matter? Well the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors certainly fits here. Abuse of authority and conduct unbecoming both have been shown. Hillary’s lack of stance on this matter also shows a lack of character. Selling out America and signing away our sovereignty is pretty low. Warren and Brown are totally on about this. We all need to read “The Creature from Jekyll Island”, very eye opening book.

  14. Howard Switzer

    I was going to say its his Waterloo, but then remembered Napoleon doing good things like outlawing debt and usury. But I think selling the TPP is probably what Obama was put in office to do, primarily, and it may be his undoing, NAFTA fresh in everyone’s mind and world courts have never been much of a favorite either. Can the American people raise enough of a fuss to stop it or will it take replacing the policy makers with people who can’t hear a thing lobbyists have to say, can we get a death penalty for corporations who fail to serve the public interest, we should have about 500 on death row right now. Corporations may be persons but they have no heart, they do have a “soul” however, the people who work there, who would be freed to work at something more meaningful for the public good. By reclaiming our economic sovereignty, the power for the government to just create and issue money instead of borrowing it at interest from a private bank who simply creates it from nothing, we can pay to redesign the nations infrastructure and systems, pay for healthcare and education, money does not have to be a debt, it can actually be equity, which we desperately need.

  15. Please keep writing more about this and do it SOON. Not only the TPP but that other monstrosity, the TTiP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), also corporate written and secret: https://stop-ttip.org/what-is-the-problem-ttip-ceta/

    I’d also like to ask you about this, from Salon:

    The ISDS process – a private arbitration system that replaces public courtrooms as the venue for conflict resolution — is common in trade deals. It began as an effort to protect Western corporations from capricious (and/or populist) governments in developing countries. Warren argued that the ISDS provisions in the TPP “would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws.” The Obama administration countered by saying that “ISDS does not and cannot require countries to change any law or regulation,” and that the U.S. has never lost an ISDS case anyway.

    That’s true, too – if misleading. An adverse ISDS decision doesn’t “require” nations to change laws or regulations; they can pay a steep fine instead. It’s also true the U.S. hasn’t ever lost such a case, but this is the largest trade agreement in history, covering a third of the world’s commerce. That could change.


    I think that’s wrong. I distinctly recall the US being sued over our Marine Mammal Protection Act and the prohibition on tuna imports caught in nets that kill dolphins. I believe it was a south American country that sued (under one of these GATT agreements, maybe NAFTA) and they won.