Economist and Republican Congressman Dave Brat is urging Republican leaders not “to take up the highly controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership in the December lame-duck” session of Congress.
Brat instead called on his Congressional colleagues to listen and fight on behalf of their constituents, who are “fed up” by the so-called “free trade” deals championed by “political elites” that depress wages for American workers and “threaten their very livelihood.”
“On both the right and the left, Americans are ticked off that Washington has been captured by an elitist establishment that appears unconcerned by the struggles of the disappearing middle class,” Brat writes in the Washington Examiner. “Take this week’s news that Obamacare premiums are set to go up over 20 percent across the country. Yet leadership in Washington is determined to take up the highly controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership in the December lame-duck.”
Earlier this week, Obama’s U.S. trade representative Michael Froman predicted that Congress likely has the votes to pass the TPP if Congressional leaders were to bring it up for a vote. Additionally, a Clinton campaign email– made public by WikiLeaks– revealed that a Clinton campaign surrogate privately indicated to supporters that Clinton plans to betray labor and union members, and support the TPP if she’s elected President.
A recent POLITICO Pro-Harvard poll found that among voters who have heard of the multinational trade pact, 63% oppose it and 68% “think it should not be voted on until the new Congress comes into office after the lame-duck session.” An astounding 85% of Republicans believe that so-called “free trade” has lost more U.S. jobs than it has created. Only a vanishing 8% of Republicans think free trade has led to higher wages for American workers.
“Why are we pushing this trade agenda over and above the top concerns of the American people during an unaccountable lame-duck session?” Brat asks. “If this deal truly benefits the American people, why not pursue it in the broad daylight of regular order?”
“Despite its potentially massive impact, the American people aren’t being asked for their input on this deal,” Brat explains. “We aren’t getting an opportunity to examine it under the cold light of day.”
“American workers have been dealt a body blow by political elites who agree to deals that keep their wages low, and threaten their very livelihoods. And then the elites, who benefit at the expense of hard-working Americans, have the audacity to call this lopsided setup ‘free trade,'” Brat writes:
I have a PhD in economics and I support the theoretical merits of free trade. Free and fair trade occurs when both trading partners gain from trade due to specialization and a broadened, deeper market. Historically, when we had freer markets, trade enriched the world. However, today, truly free markets are hard to find — in any sector… TPP proponents argue that consumers benefit from trade deals, due to lower prices for goods. That’s all very well — but goods are hard to buy if you do not have a job or if you now have a low-paying, part-time service job. And recent labor force data show very weak labor markets and a marked shift to lower skill, lower paying jobs.
Brat said that the American people rightly feel that Republican leadership has not done much to “fight on their behalf”.
I came into office after President Obama‘s unconstitutional amnesty helped undercut the wages of American workers, and I vividly remember leadership in Washington saying they would fight tooth and nail to overturn this policy.
The American people were furious — and remain so, because they cannot point to much of any fight on their behalf. That is the issue.
I hear from small business folks, the people behind 70 percent of our jobs, every day. Their number one concern is not a massive trade deal — it’s Obamacare, which is literally putting them out of business. This huge market distortion takes up 1/6 of our economy and America wants to know: What is Washington going to do to fight for them?
Government interference in healthcare has been a disaster, and businesses are suffering under a constant alphabet soup of regulations, from EPA and FDA rules and the overtime rule and the fiduciary rule and the franchisee rule. All of this constricts our economy and hurts hard-working Americans, who are being sold a false bill of goods under the title “free market.” They’re fed up; and they are right to be furious with the priorities of Washington’s elites.
Brat said that while he’s asked Washington leaders “whether TPP will help struggling Americans,” he has yet to receive an answer. He noted that is also “concerned by chapters that constrict industries, and sections with potential to alter federal law that raise major sovereignty issues.”
Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders used their platforms to spread the message that current U.S. policy does not benefit all Americans. Competitive large firms, wealthy cronies with lawyers and lobbyists with seats at the table during negotiations in Washington, D.C., will undoubtedly benefit from a deal like TPP. They all get their special line somewhere in the 5,500 pages of the deal. To get my vote, though, I need to see evidence that these massive trade deals benefit middle class Americans — those men and women in my district who work hard all day, every day, holding up their part of the bargain. I have asked the highest leaders in government for an answer to the question of whether TPP will help struggling Americans; and so far all I hear is crickets…
Disclosure: Julia Hahn used to work as a press staffer in Rep. Dave Brat’s office.