Michael Maiello's picture

    That Trans Pacific Partnership Needs Nation Building at Home

    Roger Cohen's a confirmed internationalist -- a believer in global trade and in America being engaged militarily and politically, with the rest of the world.  So his chagrin over the sudden opposition to the Obama Administration's signature trade deal is not surprising, but it's good to know what the other side thinks.

    Cohen doesn't make any shocking arguments in favor but he hopes the TPP will be approved by Congress before the next election so that:

    • Cements America's status as an economic and diplomatic power in the Pacific
    • Draws trade partners like Vietnam away from China and towards the U.S.
    • Will reduce poverty throughout the Asian countries who are party to the deal
    • Will be a net wash for the U.S. in terms of jobs with some manufacturing and "low skill" job loss offset by jobs higher up the food chain.

    So, we find ourselves having an old discussion. If you were to grant all Cohen's points, I think you can still rationally oppose the deal.  That includes point four, which cites (of all things) the The Peterson Institute for International Economics (that group funded by a hedge fund billionaire that wants to get rid of Social Security) as evidence that there be ne job "churn" rather than losses, as a result of the deal. Churn implies winners and losers.  People are not going to have their "low skill" (I hate that term) jobs replaced by better paying jobs in the export industry.  They will lose their jobs and other people will get higher paying jobs in the export industry.

    That said, all the other points in favor of the agreement are important.  We should have economic and diplomatic power in the Pacific.  We should forge closer relationships, based on law, with countries like Vietnam, we should hope that the trade we engage in raises living standards worldwide, even though we should be most concerned by rising living standards within the U.S.

    An obvious, but impolitic solution for this would be a living wage, across the board, guaranteed to all Americans whether they're working or not.  An also impolitic solution, but on a smaller scale, would be to guaranty such income to anybody who loses their job in an affected industry within a decade of the trade agreement being signed.

    The point here being that manufacturing workers cannot feed their children from the wages of jobs who have gone to somebody else.  It's not enough that a trade agreement has a net neutral effect on jobs.  The trade agreement should have a revenue neutral effect, at least on the earnings of individuals who are affected.

    Of course opponents on the right will say this is the government "picking winners and losers" but trade agreements do that anyway.  For committed internationalists like Cohen, this arrangement would be a neat way for them to accomplish their goals. Maybe their wouldn't be populist objections to such agreements if the government were to insure vulnerable individuals that they might lose their jobs but never their income.



    With the rapid increase in automation there will likely come a time when we must have a guaranteed living wage but that time is not now and the country is not ready to support it. I'm against it now even if the people supported it mostly because there is too much work that needs to be done. There is a few trillion dollars of long over due infrastructure repair that we need. It will have to be done sometime. That time should be now. We should also be installing billions of solar panels, wind generators, etc. Hillary's plan to install 500 million is just a good beginning. To handle the massive amount of renewable energy that will hopefully come on line in the next decade the electric grid needs to be upgraded. And high capacity super fast internet access should be installed across the whole US. If we actually began to confront the problems of our failing infrastructure and began the much needed upgrades we would find we have a shortage of labor.

    Not sure how I feel about the argument "I'm against a living wage because we need to build infrastructure," unless you're darned sure that everybody who is unemployed or who would be made unemployed by our trade agreements has a role to play in infrastructure renewal.

    If a bridge needs putting up, I'm pretty useless unless somebody wants to pay me to snark about its design.

    But, if there is a place in a giant infrastructure rejuvenation plan for anyone displaced by TPP, then by all means attach that plan to passage of the TPP agreement and guaranty that anyone who loses a job but wants another can have one.

    Michael, this is an extremely important topic. Hope to engage this more later. Too much good/bad without a lot of analysis of how this might fit into our economy.

    Not a supporter.

    I don´t get beyond Keynes position that free trade combined with the international movement of capital is more  apt to provoke war than keep peace etc.It seems likely you've read Skidelsky ¨so I ĺl desist.

    Purely viewed as a domestic conundrum , it 's highly likely  you´re right that extensive trade is the most sensible form of economic assistance.

    But only among nations which take care of their poor. Sorry, wrong number!

    For us the index of international  trade enhancement is the number of homeless.

    You give me too much credit, I have not read Skidelsky on Keynes.  Do I have to plow through three volumes?

    It would be a shame to miss reading about his kindergarten teacher who said Keynes needed to apply himself more.

    But otherwise you could skip forward to 1919 when he was part of the ill fated(for the world) peace conference. The allied representatives were forbidden to have any social contact with the German team but they could form a fairly good estimate of their quality from the discussions.

    When they were at  a delicate point the Admiralty interjected the demand that the  German merchant fleet be put under British control , sort of. Germany was starving. As discussed in Keneally´s  brilliant ¨Gossip from the Forest.¨ The embargo had to end.

    But for that same reason it was a deal point for the Germans to agree  with the demand. Keynes understood that  it was a pro forma request. After the Brits took control for  5 minutes it would be turned back .But it wasn' t to be explained that way. Don´t ask!

    At the elevator bank Keynes found himself as the only passenger besides a German negotiator who had particularly impressed him . As they exited ,without talking of course, Keynes nodded his head with the  universal gesture meaning - follow me. The German did.When he described this later in a paper  he said he was terrified. 

    In his room Keynes explained the coming demand- which shocked the German. But also explained that if it was accepted  the German fleet would be able to sail immediately.  The German picked up the phone, called the Social Democrat who was then in shaky  charge of the German Government got agreement and the embargo ended.

    The German was a jew.  As Keynes related in the paper he wrote years later he had the casual anti semitism  of his class although also like others in that class he had close personal Jewish friends like Leonard Wolff.

    He and his fellow negotiator  remained close thereafter and through  the 20s served as a back channel through which their two governments could negotiate. In his paper- which he read to some sort of Bloomsbury discussion group Keynes reflected on the irony that his casual social anti semitism had ended that way.

    And on and on. Anyway, itś a good read.

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