The Undemocratic Horrors of the Trans Pacific Partnership

If you’ve seen the front page of Salt Lake Tribune lately, you may have noticed people protesting the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Secret meetings were being centered at the Grand America Hotel this past week, and the lack of transparency is appalling. The TPP, less than democratically, has been kept entirely secret from the public, even after five years of negotiations.. Only some 600 corporations, or
“trade advisiors” have access to its details. It is a large international “free trade” agreement that will pervade our lives on many fronts, being negociated by officials from the United States and 11 other countries. Countries include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. I’ve written briefly on NAFTA before, which caused the elimination of hundreds of thousands of US jobs, and millions of Mexican farmers who were no longer able to compete with heavily subsidized U.S. crops were displaced off their land, setting off a desperate wave of migration north. The TPP will be far worse.

Despite its charming title of “free trade agreement”, out of its 29 chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues, the rest provide new corporate rights. Only through Wikileaks was the public ever able to get an idea about what a small portion of the TPP looks like. The results were disturbing.

It contains roll backs of food safety. Monsanto is one of the “trade advisors” with access to the document. Not very comforting. The TPP will undermine food safety protections by making it harder for countries to adopt regulations such as labeling laws or laws banning GMOs. This is wrong. If it is the peoples will to ban GMOs, then the government should see it done. Monsanto has no “right” to be protected from the will of the people.

The TPP would dismantle the “Buy Local” movement by overturning government laws designed to keep taxpayer dollars in the local economy.

It would curtail internet freedom. Remember how upset CISPA made people? This will only get worse. Anything published online will become copyrighted and unowned by you.).

It will cause roll backs of financial regulation- spurring further deregulation (like that which literally caused the economic catastrophe of 2008).

There will be more job off-shoring and costlier medicines. It would inhibit access to lifesaving medicine by extending monopolistic drug patents. The expansion of such patents will prevent third world countries from gaining access to generic medicines, which as you can imagine, is extremely harmful for all but the wealthy pharmaceutical companies.

All of our domestic policies and laws would be required to comply with TPP rules. So our state and federal government will lose power- the US Supreme court will be unable to challenge these corporation-favoring policies. Information was gained from

So this new international trade pact is essentially being crafted by multinational corporations. So much for government of the people, for the people. Not about trade at all, the TPP is a corporate power grab that undermines national sovereignty. If ratified, it would create a system of international tribunals that would allow corporations to challenge laws, regulations, and even court decisions of any member nation, if they are deemed to negatively impact the corporation’s expected future profits. So, imagine this, a state decides to pass an anti-fracking law, banning all fracking of natural gas in favor of greener energy solutions. In fact, let’s bring this home. Everyone knows how disgusting our air quality becomes here in Salt Lake City during the winters. We become one of the most, if not the most, polluted cities in the nation. Apart from how ugly it is, it is quite detrimental to the health of our residents. Last winter, when the inversion was worse that what we have seen in recent years, our charming Representatives turned their backs on the smoke stacks of the Chevron oil refinery. They turned their backs from the Kennecott coppermine, a cause of 1/3 of the valleys polution, and offered us other solutions to the very clear and serious problem. They offered us tax credits on using public transportation, and proposed free public transportation in January and July when the inversion is at its worst. They offered us very Kumbayah solutions of working together, one small step at a time, with reminders that idling our car is bad. If perhaps one day, they decide to wake up and stop conning our residents and give us real talk– if one day they decide to pass a law banning large scale toxin vomiting production that we see by the fossil fuel industry and the mining industry, in exchange for something cleaner, then enters the TPP. The companies can challenge that and say, “Look, who needs blue skies? Who needs to acknowledge the direct correlation between cancer and the polluted environment? We can’t imagine the miasma leaving Salt Lake City, making it more appealing to tourists (as well as full time new residents) and making us less of a laughing stock for the rest of the world. We can’t imagine it because it is our right to not have our corporate profits impeded on.” And, unfortunately, Utah, and the residents within, would lose. The corporations would make their paychecks. The irresponsibility and failing health would continue. In fact, the TPP would allow corporations to hold preemptive lawsuits against proposed government actions before they even take place.  Judges of the TPP tribunals would consist of corporate lawyers on temporary leave from their normal jobs with multinational corporations, and their decisions would supersede that of domestic courts and even possibly the US Supreme County.

That was a lot of information. But in short, the TPP will allow multinational corporations’ will to supersede the will of the people of this and 11 other sovereign nations. They will have more authority than we do– than our governments do. They will stand above the law. If that’s not a frightening thought, you’re not reading this correctly.

The TPP is being negotiated under extreme secrecy because previous attempts at such “free trade” pacts were met by widespread public opposition. So the Obama Administration plans to bypass congressional review and public debate entirely. This is called a “fast track” vote.

Everyone must know about this and everyone must fight it.

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The Wage Gap: Beyond the Numbers

I’ve recently had a conversation with someone about the wage gap. Everyone is up in arms about women making but a percentage of what men make. The idea of women making 78 cents out of every dollar that men makes is upsetting, naturally. But what my interlocutor argued to me was that women tend to work part-time more and work lower skilled jobs. So considering the wage gap doesn’t account for either of those factors, it is rendered invalid. He argued that it was up to women to decide to take on more professional roles in the workplace, demand raises, etc.

While it’s true that the wage gap statistic doesn’t acknowledge those factors, it definitely does not render it invalid. Professionalism in the workplace revolves around the perspective of a man. A class I’m taking defines this as androcentrism. This means that because men got there first, the industry naturally caters to them. While it is believed that the wage gap goes away with increased education, stats show that while the gap narrows, it is still present. We also need to be able to acknowledge institutions that socialize women into certain positions. Women may chose to work lower skilled jobs than men, but that is because they have been raised with the idea of men holding professional positions. We all know that the way male babies and children are treated is different than the way female babies and children are.

While I was at the rock climbing gym the other day, little kids ran around chasing after each other. This one little girl, looking down at her feet as she ran, stopped in her tracks in front of my friend and jumped– flinching at his presence. We giggled as she quickly ran around him to follow the pack. I couldn’t help but think that I have never seen a little boy react in such a manner. Granted, my view is subjective and nonscientific, but when a little boy stops in the midst of his running, he does not flinch at the presence of an adult. He stops, looks up, and continues on. So even in young children, I’ve seen how gender norms have been engrained in little boys to be gutsy and adventurous, and little girls to be more delicate and fearful. Sure, it’s cute that she flinched now, but it’s not so cute when she feels the need to carry around pepper spray a young adult for fear that she might need to defend herself from threatening people in the world. Women are raised with a different perspective of walking around at night, with a different perspective of what their physical and psychological abilities are. While little girls aren’t taught that they cannot be president explicitly, socially they are. There are statistics that show that when children are about five years old, an equal number of both boys and girls wish to be president. At age fifteen, a large gap develops, with more boys wishing to be president than girls.

So if anyone tries to argue with you the way I was argued with, fighting the validity of the wage gap numbers, start to talk beyond the numbers, and the root causes of them. The fact that the stat doesn’t cover it all, does NOT mean that there isn’t a very real problem with the way men and women work and earn money in this society.