Political Fix (2 July, 2015)

Eat your vegetables

If you always skip over the articles about the newest, hottest trade agreement here is your opportunity for a painless recap.  Consider it eating your political vegetables.

Just in case you thought you were always forgetting the acronym for the trade pact, you weren’t. There are three of them, TPP, TPA and TAA.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the actual trade pact consisting of 12 countries that line the Pacific Rim. They are the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is referred to as “Fast Track.” This means that President Obama would have the ability to negotiate the TPP without other countries worrying that our congress will pick it apart. Congress would only get a yes or no vote on the pact. They could not make changes.

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is a federal program that gives aid to US workers who lose their jobs as a result of trade pacts such as TPP.

Out of the three, TPA, or Fast Track is what Congress has been fighting over. Rank and file Republicans have been vigorously backing President Obama’s ability to negotiate and approve the trade deal. Most of the important details have already been hammered out by the 12 nations. Liberal Democrats are against Fast Track and the trade deal because it smells like the North Atlantic Trade Agreement (NAFTA,) a trade pact where many of United States’ manufacturing jobs moved to other countries.

But the fact that Democrats don’t support TPP shouldn’t make any difference because there are 246 Republican members in Congress and they only need 218 votes to pass the Fast Track bill.

Easy peasy, right? Not so, because up to 144 members of the Republican congress are affiliated with the Tea Party, and depending on how many of them have taken their meds that day, they are an unpredictable voting group. And, the Tea Party is known for its distrust of foreign trade agreements.

According to CalChamber, “Every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been granted the authority to negotiate market-opening trade agreements in consultation with Congress.”

And thus last week President Obama and the Republicans stood triumphant as Fast Track passed without a vote to spare, 219 in favor and 211 against.

Conservative Democrats along with conservative Republicans voted together to pass the TPP. They need each other and President Obama needed them. Isn’t that romantic?

So, it wasn’t passing the trade agreement that made history, it was the bipartisan vote that made political history. This is the first time Republicans have supported their president since Obama was elected. Married to the idea to make him a one-term president, and then married to the vow of not supporting anything endorsed by President Obama, Republican obstructionism has been the lynch pin of this do-nothing congress.

Republican obstructionism came to an end last week.

Here in the Valley we were part of this historic vote. All of the Valley congressmen voted for the trade pact on June 18. They were Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove), Jim Costa (D-Fresno), Jeff Denham (R-Atwater), Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), Tom McClintock (R-Roseville), Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), and David Valadao (R-Hanford).

NAFTA had major problems and the United States lost a lot of jobs. So why should Republicans and Democrats get behind their president for another trade deal? Simply put, globalization is the future. This Pacific Rim Trade pact represents 40% of the global economy.

In an editorial by President Obama he states, “In our new global economy, 95% of the world’s consumers are outside our borders, and the world’s fastest-growing markets are in Asia. We don’t need an unfair advantage in these markets, but we do need the chance to compete. Because when the playing field is level, American workers win.”

This is not the time to be acting like a World War I isolationist. Any country that does not embrace the future will have a failed economy in the future.

Gun Control is an Oxymoron

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. So when I straighten my index finger and make a cocked hammer with my thumb I can shoot my husband when he annoys me? You know, because people kill people.

I never seriously considered shooting my husband, but there were some sleepless nights, while pregnant, and working fulltime that I am very grateful I was not around a gun.

So if people kill people then why don’t all developed countries have as many gun-related deaths as the United States? Those countries are full of people. Of course we are lacking in the academic science of studying gun violence because in the 1990’s the National Riffle Institute (NRA) pushed congress to ban the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from funding firearm violence research. According to the NRA, such science isn’t legitimate.

Gunpolicy.org has nevertheless done the research itself and has provided handy dandy graphs to show Americans what a safe society we live in – because everyone has the right to have a drunken uncle own one, or many, assault rifles.

According to Gunpolicy.org, in Norway there are approximately 88 gun-related deaths a year. But that’s not fair to compare a big, diverse, freedom loving country like ourselves to such a wimpy country that doesn’t even know how to shoot a gun. We should be comparing the United States to our cousin, England. In England there are about 146 gun-related deaths a year.

How many gun-related deaths are there every year in the United States? 33,600. That’s a lot of people.

The race to the bottom

Last week the most unpopular Governor in the United States announced he was running for president. With only 27% approval rating in his state of Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced on Wednesday, June 24 that he was running for the Republican nomination. His shtick? He is running as the hero of the Christian Right. I guess he has forgotten about Gov. Mike Huckabee who won eight states in the 2008 primary, and would have won more, except that he ran out of money. Gov. Jindal must have also forgotten about Sen. Rick Santorum who came in second in the 2012 Republican primary. Gov. Huckabee is a former Southern Baptist Minister and Sen. Santorum actually wears knitted vests in public. You can’t get any more Christian Right than that.

Not to be outdone, the second most unpopular governor, Chris Christie, announced June 30 that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination. Gov. Christie only has a 30% approval rating in his state of New Jersey.

Gov. Jindal wins the most unpopularity contest, but Gov. Christie stands alone on the podium of most untrustworthy candidate.

“Don’t believe a word the man says,” said Tom Moran, the editor from Christie’s biggest home-state newspaper, the New Jersey Star Ledger. Moran added, “that, after 14 years of watching Christi, is a warning, he lies.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, when Gov. Christie announced his candidacy, he “vowed to be an unvarnished truth-teller, promising a campaign without spin or without pandering or focus group-tested answers.”

But Moran countered, “And that’s my warning to America. When Christie picks up the microphone, he speaks so clearly and forcefully that you assume genuine conviction is behind it. Be careful, though. It’s a kind of spell. He is a remarkable talent with a silver tongue. But if you look closely, you can see that it is forked like a serpent’s.”

Then there is the continuing reverberations from Donald Trump’s presidential announcement on June 16. During his announcement he declared that Mexico is sending the United States all of its criminals, rapists and drug dealers. He added that he assumed some of the Mexican immigrants were good people.

So how is that working for the “most successful man ever, by far, to run for president?” Well, it looks like the Republican “big tent” just got a little bit emptier. Univision, the largest US Spanish language broadcaster just told Mr. Trump, “You’re Fired!” They have pulled out of televising any project in which Mr. Trump is involved, the biggest of which is the Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageants.

Following Univision’s lead, NBC a few days later cut ties with Mr. Trump. According to the Washington Post, “NBC NBCUniversal announced Monday that it would no longer be working with Donald Trump, including on the hit reality show “The Apprentice.” NBC cited Trump’s ‘recent derogatory statements’ about Mexican immigrants. NBC, like Univision, said it will no longer air the Trump-partnered pageants Miss USA and Miss Universe.”

Mr. Trump has responded by saying that NBC is “weak” and that he is considering suing the broadcaster.

And Finally…

Here’s the newest joke. So, how many South Carolina legislators does it take to take down a flag? Is it the number of Republicans running for president? No.  Is it the number of attendees at a Bernie Sanders rally? No. Is it the number of people killed by guns in the United States? No. The answer is 0, because no one seems to be able to take the flag down.

On June 22, the Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, announced with great fanfare that the Confederate flag waving over the state capitol was coming down. Then smiling and acknowledging all of the applause, she hugged her African American friends for the day and went back to business as usual, interspersed with a few funerals that week.

Gov. Haley’s proclamation did nothing in removing the Confederate flag, but she did promise “serious debate” this summer on the issue. Meanwhile the Confederate flag waved proudly above the capitol state building while the body of Sen. Clementa Pinckney was in the building laying in state. Sen. Pickney joined the legislature in 1997 and was pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian church in Charleston where he was gunned down. Eight other parishioners were killed by a gunman who worshipped the Confederate flag.

Gov. Haley did have her reasons for not just sending the grounds keepers to take down the flag. There are procedures. It’s complicated. It was a Monday.

On the other hand, the next day on June 23, Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama ordered the Confederate flag taken down at Alabama’s state capitol building. It was gone by the next morning.

According to al.com news, “Two workers came out of the Capitol building about 8:20 a.m. and with no fanfare quickly and quietly took the flag down. They declined to answer questions.”

The governor was quoted as saying, “This is the right thing to do. We are facing some major issues in this state regarding the budget and other matters that we need to deal with. This had the potential to become a major distraction as we go forward. I have taxes to raise, we have work to do. And it was my decision that the flag needed to come down.”

Three weeks later in South Carolina? The state legislature is still debating.

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