Economist Jared Bernstein recently sat down with Capital & Main to offer his perspective on a wide range of political and income-inequality topics. Formerly a top advisor to Vice President Joe Biden and, currently, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Bernstein spoke to us again this week, following the U.S. Senate vote to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Capital & Main: What was your first, red carpet reaction to the Senate’s fast-tracking of TPP?
Jared Bernstein: I’m not that surprised but I’m not deeply disheartened or worried. What’s positive is that this time the text of the TPP will be in the public domain for two months before the ratification in Congress, and that will give lots of us a chance to take a closer look at it —
In what is being billed by unions, environmentalists and human rights groups as an endorsement of an unprecedented expansion of corporate power and privilege, the Senate today passed a cloture vote on a motion to concur with a trade promotion authority (TPA) bill passed by the House.
Cloture effectively clears the way for Wednesday’s expected vote on fast track itself, which will only require a majority for passage and is needed to speed through passage of President Obama’s secretive and controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement without filibuster or amendment.
TPP has been widely criticized for effectively granting extraordinary legal rights to corporations and investors that it does not extend to unions, public interest groups and individuals.
Today’s cloture vote was 60-37, the barest minimum needed for passage. Thirteen so-called Corporate Democrat senators voted yes — including California’s Diane Feinstein — one less than lined up behind May’s 62-37 senate approval of a bill that had combined TPA and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).
When Jared Bernstein recently sat down with Capital & Main, he had just been chosen as chair of the National Employment Law Project’s board of directors, while continuing his roles as a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and as a frequent commentator on MSNBC and CNBC. Picked in 2009 by Joe Biden to be the Vice President’s top economic advisor, Bernstein had already distinguished himself as a passionate critic of inequality during his long tenure at the Economic Policy Institute, one of the country’s leading think tanks. His views on economic issues were well to the left of Obama’s and the rest of the President’s team, ensuring that progressive ideas would get a hearing inside the White House as the administration wrestled with the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
While Obama and his advisors succeeded in reversing the Great Recession’s massive job losses and saving the bacon of the financial industry,
In what was widely seen as a stunning rebuke to President Obama’s efforts to speed through congressional approval of the administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, the House of Representatives last Friday rejected a key measure needed to “fast track” the controversial pact.
The defeat came in a vote on one of two related bills that both needed to pass for Fast Track to move forward — a reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) funds, a program that pays for job retraining for those thrown out of work because of free trade deals like TPP.
House Republicans have vowed to get another floor vote on TAA as soon as early this week to allow the White House a second chance at fast track.
The reauthorization failed by a lopsided 126-302 — a margin attributed to the efforts of a broad coalition of labor unions,
The Citizens Trade Campaign is coordinating efforts with labor, environmental organizations, health organizations and others to help persuade Congressional representatives of the need to opposed fast track authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which would cover 40 percent of the global economy between 12 nations, and is currently being negotiated in virtual secrecy.
Since negotiations began in 2008, none of the negotiating documents have been officially released for public review. However, approximately 600 corporate lobbyists have been named as official advisors which entitle them to access to both the negotiating texts and the negotiators.
And now the Administration wants to invoke a Nixon-era procedural tactic known as “Fast Track” that allows for only an up or down vote on the agreement. “Fast Track” allows the Trans Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements to be signed before the public sees any proposed texts and then rushed through Congress,