When the Senate approved giving Trade Promotion Authority (TPA,) otherwise known as Fast Track, to President Obama last month, they approved it as part of a package. So the House needed to vote for the entire package to advance the bill. On Friday, the US House of Representatives managed to defeat the package by defeating one of its components, the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill.
We must call out Karen Bass for supporting the President's corporate deal at the expense of the best interests of her constituents. And we must ask her to do the right thing when the bill is re-introduced in the next few days.
Knowing they didn't have the votes to defeat the TPA bill, the vast majority of Democrats took Nancy Pelosi's lead and voted against the TAA bill, something they would normally vote for, even though the small amount of money is no substitute for a good paying job lost to outsourcing. All of the Los Angeles area Democratic Congress members voted no on the TAA—except for Karen Bass.
Despite the fact that many grassroots activists and organizations representing labor, the environment, small business, human rights and consumers have met with Rep. Bass's staff multiple times, the Congresswoman refused to take a meeting personally with any of us. And she refused right up through the day of the vote to tell us her position on giving Obama fast track authority, not only for the TPP but also for the other trade deals, the TTIP and the TISA, that are coming down the pike.
She ended up voting no on the TPA bill itself, probably because she knew she could satisfy constituent calls and still see the bill pass. However, she did not join her colleagues' strategy of voting no on the TAA. This is telling.
It has been reported that Nancy Pelosi is working out an agreement with Republicans to get transportation infrastructure funding which has been stalled by the GOP in exchange for supporting the fast track package. We must contact our Congressional representatives to make sure they do not enable so many bad things in exchange for some roads and bridges. But we must call out Karen Bass for supporting the President's corporate deal at the expense of the best interests of her constituents. And we must ask her to do the right thing when the bill is re-introduced in the next few days.
Here is a transcript of a speech I gave on the steps of City Hall on Friday at a press conference convened by Council member Paul Koretz, who has been a hero in opposing the TPP since he found out about it. Read on to see why I singled out Karen Bass and how I attempted to appeal to her.
Good morning, everyone. As many here know, I have been fighting the TPP for three years. Today that fight comes to a conclusion. If the TPA passes, we can kiss democracy good-bye. As Senator Bernie Sanders keeps saying, the corporations and the billionaire class already own our economy. Now they want to own our government. And we the people have got to stop them.
Because the fast track bill could be decided on one vote, I am directing my remarks at one Los Angeles Congress member, Karen Bass. I am choosing Ms. Bass because I am a member of Black Lives Matter LA, and if the TPA passes, three trade agreements will most assuredly pass, agreements that will have a disproportionately negative effect on black and brown people.
Ms. Bass, you came into the public sphere during the civil unrest after the Rodney King verdict because you cared about black people in your community. Maybe you read the New York Times editorial about the disappearing black male in our society. One of the reasons is the massive deindustrialization that occurred in our country which lessened the amount of good paying manufacturing jobs that people without a college education could get.
Well that deindustrialization was put on steroids after NAFTA. 57,000 plants in the US were closed. 5 million people lost their jobs. Of those people, one-third got jobs at the same pay rate; one-third had to take minimum wages jobs, and one-third will never work again. If the TPP passes, millions more will lose their jobs and wages will go down for 90% of Americans.
You also know that the housing collapse disproportionately affected black and brown people. 47% of blacks and 53% of Latinos have zero net worth in this country, because all of their assets were in their homes, which they lost. Well, this situation will only get worse if the TPP and the other two agreements get passed, because they specifically prevent regulations on derivatives, the esoteric financial instrument that inflated the housing bubble which burst and blew up the economy.
Furthermore, the TISA, the newest agreement that will most assuredly be passed if the president gets fast track, will be the death knell to public services. You see the goal of the billionaire class, as Bernie Sanders calls them, is to privatize everything for their own personal profit. Public education is at risk, municipally owned broadband, which this City Council just approved, will be at risk, our municipally owned water and power system, and the US Postal Service, an agency that is known to have provided hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs to black Americans, will both be at risk.
Ms. Bass, I know from reading your Facebook posts that you couldn't have been prouder when our country elected its first black president. I saw your photo of you and Barack Obama when he visited South LA. But please do not listen to him on this issue. We know that he has been lobbying you and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. It was even reported that he played the race card by saying "You know they gave fast track to white presidents." This is atrocious.
You should listen to Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Donna Edwards and almost every other member of the CBC who has publicly spoken out against fast track and the TPP and vote no today, because among many other reasons, Black Lives Matter.
If Karen Bass is your Congress member, please call her at 202.225.7084 and tell her to vote No on TAA. If she is not, call your Congress member, Democrat or Republican, and tell them to vote no. You can find their number here.