On April 4th, Americans for Democratic Action held a rally at Rep. John Carney’s Office in Georgetown, DE, to ask him to vote no on Fast Track and TPP. The rally was mentioned in the News Journal. A video tape of my talk is posted on the Claire for Delaware Facebook site. This is what I said:
Good afternoon! It’s great to see so many of you out on this beautiful Delaware day to ask our friend Rep. John Carney to stand opposed to Fast Track and TPP. It’s true that TPP will have a devastating impact on American jobs, just as NAFTA did before it, but what I want to do is give three reasons why Fast Track and TPP are also devastating to our democracy.
We live in an era when our democracy is at risk. We are losing control of the forces that govern our lives. Part of the problem is that We the people have not been vigilant enough; we have not been active enough; we have not been going to the polls or taking to the streets often enough. But that is going to change!!
We are gathered today to ask our friend Representative John Carney to vote against Fast Track and TPP because they are both undemocratic, in that they take power away from the people and the people’s representatives. And I will give three reasons for this claim.
First, Fast Track and TPP undermine the authority of Congress to make laws.
Before I moved to Delaware, I was a college professor who taught Democratic Theory. We have a great system of government in this country, and one of its pillars is the separation of powers. When my class read Federalist 51 – how many of you remember that? — it talked about the need for checks and balances. The founders worried about tyranny, about the inevitable problem of ambitious young men or wealthy elites seeking to gain power at the public’s expense, and so they constructed a system which uses human nature to control a problem inherent in human nature. Federalist 51 famously calls for pitting “ambition against ambition.”
The idea is that each branch of government would jealously guard its own prerogatives. So Congress would say “We are the ones empowered to make laws, not the President!” And the President would say “I have the power to veto your laws!” And the Courts would say, “We have the power to review those laws!” So the powerful men in each branch of government would act to protect their own power and in so doing a system of checks and balances would be created.
So today I am asking our friend Rep. John Carney to protect his own prerogative and be our check and balance. In our system, it is Congress that has the right to make laws presumably in accordance with the will of the people. TPP is being negotiated in secret, without congressional participation, and if Fast Track passes, Congress will only be allowed an up or down vote. It will not be able to amend the agreement in accordance with the will of the people. And that is undemocratic and unacceptable.
My second point is that in a democracy, the public’s business must be conducted in the light of day, not in secret meetings behind closed doors, which is why transparency is a democratic value. In order for the American people and their duly elected representatives to weigh in on policy decisions, we have to have access to the policies being proposed. Secret deals undermine democracy and that is unacceptable.
Pres. Obama tells us to trust him, that he is negotiating a really great deal. But as Elizabeth Warren says, if TPP is so great, why aren’t we allowed to see the bill? And even if it is so great, Fast Track itself is undemocratic because it shuts us out the process and that is unacceptable.
Third, despite what the President says, TPP can’t be a great deal because Free Trade agreements in general erode popular sovereignty, the right of We the People to make laws for ourselves.
Recently, I’ve had several friends tell me they don’t know what to think about TPP because the global economy is so complicated, and they don’t fully understand it. And of course that is what the powers to be want us to think!
But the issue at stake is not complicated. It’s actually very simple. We the people have the right to make laws to protect our workers, our wages, our environment, our food supply, and our local industries. That is our right as a self-governing republic.
Multinational corporations are in the business of making money. They will do anything to make money. That is to be expected. That is why it is our responsibility, as the democratic public, to decide what is and is not acceptable in the business world. It is our responsibility to stand up and say no to the outsourcing of jobs, the destruction of the environment, and the contamination of our food supply.
Free trade agreements prevent us from doing that. They prevent us from passing laws to protect ourselves, and while that might be good for multinational corporations that want to maximize profits, it is not good for people and communities that want control over the forces that govern their lives. TPP is undemocratic and unacceptable.
For all these reasons I am asking our friend Rep. John Carney today to stand with us and with most Democrats and say no to Fast Track and TPP. So when President Obama asks Rep. Carney to approve Fast Track and TPP, I hope his response will be, “with all due respect Mr. President, I have to say ‘denied!’”