This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

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Saturday, March 5, 2016



Given the extraordinary importance of challenging the three major free “trade” agreements currently being considered, it is remarkable that Democrats have spent so little time discussing the differences between Clinton and Sanders on the issue. While it is perfectly understandable that the corporate media would continue to ignore the explosive consequences of TPP, TTIP and TISA, it is concerning that more attention has not been paid by voters who would be affected by the massive transfer of government power to transnational corporations.

For those who need reminding, the issues involve preserving national sovereignty, protecting internet freedom, allowing governments to control the devastating consequences of reckless financial chicanery by Wall Street, preventing the pharmaceutical industry from gaining even more power to rip off governments and consumers, promoting the interests of Monsanto and other powerful corporations, and much more.

The media blockade of information about the negative consequences of free trade has resulted in most Americans being ignorant of the consequences of the neoliberal philosophy of free trade. These policies have been championed by the Clintons and Obama and staunchly opposed by Sanders, highlighting the difference in their priorities. Establishment Democrats show allegiance to the transnational corporations that dump money into their campaign coffers, while progressives like Sanders are fighting to hold the line against increasing corporate power over governments and the people they are supposed to represent.

Clinton’s shifts of position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership are particularly revealing. After playing a pivotal role in negotiating the secret trade agreement, she began to express doubt about it around the time it became obvious she preparing to announce her run for the presidency. For months, she refused to take a firm position on the issue. Then, in an turnaround that surprised many (but shouldn’t have), she stated that she opposed the final product. Seemingly learning for the first time that it contained no real protections for American workers from the job losses that all free trade agreements produce, she disavowed her own work. Some think that it was no coincidence that she had this change of heart after Sanders had been quite vocal in his opposition to the increasingly unpopular agreement, as were unions.

For those whose memories are longer than the latest news cycle, this should have come as no shock. Although she claims she has always opposed NAFTA, her contention is demonstrably false. She very publicly promoted it when it was being sold to America in 1993, over the strenuous objections of labor and environmentalists. Her supporters also seem to have forgotten that she insisted during her 2008 presidential run that NAFTA had to be renegotiated. Although he proved to be a strong free trade advocate himself, Obama jumped on her inconsistency at the time. Her apologists say it is unfair to criticize her for what happened during her husband's administration. They fail to acknowledge that she launched her political career as “co-President." Thia was the main qualification she had to run as a carpet bagging Senator from New York. Whether she really privately expressed reservations about NAFTA prior to its passage is irrelevant. She clearly had her eyes set on a political career at the time, and was under no obligation to actively promote a policy she opposed. That is practically the dictionary definition of hypocrisy.

Clinton’s claim that she was suddenly persuaded to oppose TPP because of failures that were evident in the agreement as she was helping to negotiate may seem disingenuous, but it would seem to be buttressed by her vote against the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. I say it would “seem” so because recently released emails indicate that she was privately lobbying for the agreement even while publicly opposing it.

One of the main objections to CAFTA, in addition to its typical lack of protections against job losses and environmental degradation, was the fact that union organizers in Columbia were being systematically murdered by right wing paramilitaries who appear to have been funded by the virulently anti-union Coca-Cola corporation. No problem for Clinton. She just claimed that the problem was improving, even though the number of murders the year before its passage was near record highs. 

Her blatant disregard for the lives of Central American workers mirrors her lack of concern for the lives of Hondurans murdered by a coup government she supports or their children, who are sent north unaccompanied by desperate parents hoping to spare them the violence that now plagues the nation. Her position on what to do about the flood of refugees from the violence of right wing US-backed governments in Central America is clear:  Send them back.

The Battle in Seattle against the WTO in 1999 gave hope to millions of people who understood the significance of the increasing power of transnational corporations over government. It was considered to be the opening shot in a war to defeat the neoliberal movement that was gaining unprecedented power during the Clinton co-presidency. Unfortunately, corporate power brokers upon which the Democratic Party establishment have allowed themselves to become dependent are better funded and organized. They are winning the war to establish David Rockefeller’s dream of a one-world corporate government, where nations would become an anachronism. Using their power over the mainstream media, they have hidden this reality from most Americans, even as they do it in plain sight.

The time to redouble the fight against neoliberalism is now. With a vote on TPP looming and the potential for worse to come, we can use the fact that both candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination and the leading Republican contender are on record as opposing TPP to rally opposition. We have to keep in mind though that only one of them has actually been in the front lines of this fight before now.

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