By Joe Guzzardi
August 17, 2016
Capitol Hill insiders confirm that an informal, but smoke-filled room-type understanding has been entered into between Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
Under the silent agreement, Clinton will not interfere with Obama’s last ditch, lame-duck effort to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation, four continent global regulatory pact unpopular with the electorate. In exchange, the White House will dodge Department of Justice efforts to investigate Clinton’s emails, the Clinton Foundation, and her alleged misdeeds while Secretary of State. A Clinton campaign staffer called the quid pro quo deal “a mutual non-aggression pact.”
Obama has ramped up his urgings to get Congress to pass TPP which he hopes will be part of his legacy. But Obama has put candidate Clinton in a tough spot. Originally, Clinton called TPP the “gold standard” of trade deals. More recently, however, she’s reversed course, and in election-mode, told a Detroit audience: “I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president.” Skeptics put little stock in Clinton’s assurances since she’s named former Colorado U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, a vigorous TPP supporter, as head of her transition team.
While Obama is reluctant to subvert Clinton’s election chances during the weeks leading up to November by insisting she jump on his bandwagon, the president is nevertheless making his wishes clear. This week the White House submitted a Statement of Administrative Action advising Congress that the administration plans to seek its approval of TPP. Under the trade promotion authority legislation passed last year, the White House must advise Congress a minimum of 30 days before submitting the final TPP legislation. Obama promised that he would meet with Congress after the election is over and when, in his words, TPP “won’t just be a political symbol or a political football.” But the end of the election signals the beginning of the lame-duck session, a brief window of time when unpopular legislation can be rammed through.
Clinton is in a bad place. If she argues against TPP, she risks losing Obama’s presence on the stump, and his endorsement which she needs. If, on the other hand, Clinton advocates for TPP, she’ll lose votes, possibly even among Democratic nay-sayers. According to a representative from Campaign for America’s Future, which describes itself as a progressive strategy group, it’s not enough for Clinton to say she is against TPP. CAF representative Dave Johnson said that Clinton needs to put herself “on the front line, calling Democrats and twisting arms and making deals to persuade members of Congress to vote against it,” a scenario that’s impossible to envision given Obama’s pro-TPP position.
Understanding the voter resistance to and disgust with TPP isn’t hard. The notoriously bad 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement promised to deliver 200,000 new U.S. jobs. Instead, the U.S. lost nearly 700,000 jobs. An analysis by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute found that U.S. trade deficits with the 11 other TPP members eliminated 2 million U.S. jobs in 2015, and reduced U.S. GDP by nearly $300 billion. EPI predicts that, if enacted, TPP would lead to growing imports of labor-intensive products over the next decade, eliminate more than 400,000 U.S. jobs, further reduce U.S. GDP, and create more income inequality.
Voters recognize TPP as a bad deal, but Obama wants it anyway. And, so far during his administration, what Obama wants, Obama usually gets.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact Joe at [email protected] and find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19