BOOTHBAY HARBOR — We can usually count on Congress to drag their feet when it comes to getting anything useful done, but watch out. Congress just voted to put us on a “fast track” to a bad trade deal.

After a series of bumps in the road, the Trade Promotion Authority bill now heads to President Obama’s desk, where he will almost certainly sign it.

The deal looked like it may derail earlier this month after the House voted down a key component called Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program designed to help workers displaced as a result of the trade agreement. An ironic inclusion in a trade deal being sold to the American public as good for U.S. workers.

After the House rejected that portion of the original bill the Senate reconvened and voted 60-38 in favor of Trade Promotion Authority without assistance for displaced workers.

The president now has the authority to negotiate the new so-called “free trade” deal with a number of Pacific Rim nations. Congress will set vague guidelines for negotiating the treaty, but then mostly take itself out of the process.

Once the president offers up the final deal, Congress will only have a straight up-or-down vote, which means we’ll have no ability to remove outrageous provisions, including allowing corporate-owned independent tribunals to override national and state laws and regulations.


In my view, this vote is an abdication of Congress’ duty to their constituents – all of us.

It would make much more sense for Congress to have a full debate on all the provisions of any proposed free trade agreement because of the wide-ranging impacts it will have on our economy.

After all, previous pacts like the North American and Central American free trade agreements failed to live up to their promise. Instead of more American jobs, we’ve seen jobs being outsourced overseas. Instead of wages going up, wages for working- and middle-class families have faced constant downward pressure.

At best, the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership would result in trade-offs that don’t leave us better off. Sure, we might be able to buy more cheap plastic junk at Wal-Mart and Target, but in cities and towns across America, our neighbors who work in manufacturing and retail will continue to see lower wages, reducing their buying power. That hurts all of us.

And at worst, the deal will accelerate the global race to the bottom. Fewer products will be made in America and workers will see less pay for an honest day’s work. This creates a ripple effect across the economy: fewer jobs, lower wages and less consumer spending.

We have a moral obligation to oppose these trade deals. We can’t allow multinational corporations to profit off lax environmental laws, pay workers pennies on the dollar and force work in cheap, inhumane conditions. Unregulated trade that allows and incentivizes these practices must be rejected.

Our country needs fair trade instead. As a small-business owner and an electrician, I work 50 to 60 hours a week to support my family. My employees and I pay our taxes and are proud to help build America. But when I see policies like this being fast-tracked through Congress, I know our political leaders don’t really value a hard day’s work.

Free trade undermines the work I and others do to build new infrastructure, develop new products and keep the lights on at home. If our economic policies centered on raising wages and creating more manufacturing jobs right here at home, my business and industry would thrive. Putting the Trans Pacific Partnership on a fast track will do the opposite, leading to less money in people’s pockets and hurting the American economy.

For Congress to wash its hands of any responsibility is ludicrous. Congress owed it to us to reject Trade Promotion Authority so we can at least debate the merits of free trade policy, just as we would any other economic policy. Anything less than that is wrong for our economy and country.

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