Alan Grayson's Journal
Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 01:02 PM
Number of posts: 478
Number of posts: 478
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Under the First Amendment, you have the right to petition your government to redress your grievances.
Now would be a good time to do that. Today.
According to public reports, the 18 Democratic Members of Congress listed below are leaning in favor of voting for “Fast Track,” legislation that would prevent Congress from debating or amending whatever the Executive Branch calls a “trade bill.” As a public service, we provide you their office phone numbers.
Rep. Ami Bera (Calif.) – 202-225-5716
Rep. Jim Costa (Calif.) - (202) 225-3341
Rep. Jared Polis (Colo.) - (202) 225-2161
Rep. Mike Quigley (Ill.) - (202) 225-4061
Rep. John Delaney (Md.) – (202) 225-2721
Rep. Brad Ashford (Neb.) – (202) 225-4155
Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.) – (202) 225-3461
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) – (202) 225-4811
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.) – (202) 225-0855
Rep. Kurt Schrader (Ore.) – (202) 225-5711
Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.) – (202) 225-4311
Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas) – (202) 225-1640
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas) - (202) 225-8885
Rep. Don Beyer (Va.) – (202) 225-4376
Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.) – (202) 225-1492
Rep. Rick Larsen (Wash.) – (202) 225-2605
Rep. Derek Kilmer (Wash.) – (202) 225-5916
Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.) – (202) 225-5506
Call one; call them all. Call as many as you want. Exercise your constitutional right to redress your grievances. Make them listen.
(By the way, the system is rigged so that you can’t send them an e-mail unless you are a constituent. So you have to call.)
Here are some things that you might explain to them about this bad bill:
(1) Our trade debt stands at eleven trillion dollars ($11,000,000,000,000.00). That’s more than $35,000 for every human being in America – including you. “Fast Track” would pave the way for new trade bills that would increase that. How are we ever going to pay that money back?
(2) Fast Track applies to whatever the Executive Branch calls a trade agreement, even if it has nothing to do with trade.
(3) Fast Track unconstitutionally restricts Congress from holding hearings, conducting investigations, debating a bill and offering amendments – basically, its job. In fact, it could restrict each House Member to only 83 seconds of debate.
(4) No other bills get this special treatment – not bills on taxes, or Social Security, or defense, or transportation, or healthcare. Nothing.
(5) Fast Track applies to trade bills that the Executive Branch hasn’t even released to the public.
(6) None of the “standards” that Fast Track sets for trade agreements is enforceable – not one single standard.
Alternatively, you can just say that you’re tired of Middle Class America getting hosed. But whatever else you say, make sure you say this:
NO on Fast Track!
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Jun 1, 2015, 01:16 PM (2 replies)
Team Grayson here. Recently, our Congressman with Guts was on national TV, explaining in simple terms the awful ramifications of the “Fast Track” trade legislation that had just passed the Senate, and is heading to the House. Proponents of “Fast Track” are proffering smoke and mirrors, as they try to jam it through Congress. Congressman Grayson is just about the only one in Washington, DC, who can blow away that smoke, and shatter those mirrors. Listen:
Thom Hartmann: In the best of the rest of the news, it’s illegal to disclose the details of “ObamaTrade.” And the President is using that secrecy to confuse the American people. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama downplayed Senator Elizabeth Warren’s opposition to the TPP because, he said, “she’s a politician like everyone else.” This week, Warren’s office released a report titled “Broken Promises: Decades of Failure to Enforce Labor Standards in Free Trade Agreements.” Rather than criticizing the TPP outright, the report shows what happened over 20 years of so-called “free trade deals” promising to help American workers and consumers. Yesterday, Presidential consultant Michael Wessel published a story in Politico showing how the Obama Administration has made it impossible for elected officials, or advisors like himself, to criticize details of the deal. And unlike past trade deals, even the Administration’s cleared advisors, like Michael Wessel himself, can’t make specific public criticisms. They also aren’t being kept up-to-date on what revisions and proposals are being made by partner countries, which make consultations much more restrictive than past administration’s trade deals, according to Wessel.
Taking the Senate floor last week, Barbara Boxer shared her story about trying to read the TPP’s text. Take a look:
Sen. Barbara Boxer: And as soon as I get there, the guard says to me ‘hand over your electronics.’ OK. I gave over my electronics. Then the guard says ‘You can’t take notes.’ I said ‘I can’t take notes?!’ ‘Well, you can take notes, but you have to give them back to me and I’ll put them in a file.’ So I said ‘Wait a minute, I’m going to take notes, and then you’re going to take my notes away from me? And then you’re going to have them in a file and you can read my notes?’”
TH: So our elected officials can’t make notes, can’t make real public criticisms, and the President’s advisors are not even up to date on changes to the deal? And we’re supposed to believe that this deal is being negotiated in the best interests of the American people? Here now to discuss what’s going on with the TPP, and the TPA , US Representative for Florida’s 9th District, Congressman Alan Grayson. Congressman Grayson, welcome back!
Congressman Alan Grayson: Thank you.
TH: And thanks so much for being with us and for sharing with us that extraordinary video that you did that’s over at TradeTreachery.com. Do I have that right?
REP. GRAYSON: That’s right, and more than a million people have watched it on Facebook alone.
TH: Oh, that’s fabulous. Let’s start at the beginning here. Can you explain the difference between the TPP and the TPA, this new acronym that the Administration has rolled out? Go for it.
REP. GRAYSON: Yes, sure. The TPA is procedural, the TPP is substantive. The TPA is what people have been referring to when they speak of “fast track legislation,” when they refer to that. The TPP is the deal itself, which the fast track legislation would create a fast track for. Then there’s the TTIP, which is the Atlantic version of the TPP. That’s also a substantive arrangement – a treaty, if you will – that the fast track would enable.
TH: So, what is the argument against Fast Track, the TPA? Let’s start with that, because that’s what’s being debated right now.
REP. GRAYSON: Well, it’s a delegation of our legislative responsibilities to the executive branch and to unelected officials. What Fast Track does, very simply, is that it takes away our responsibility for hearings, for oversight, for subcommittee and committee and floor amendments, and in the Senate, even the filibuster. It sweeps all of that away to make a “fast track” for this so-called trade legislation that would increase the deficit, send jobs offshore, and eliminate our sovereignty. That’s what it does. In fact, one provision in the fast track legislation limits the debate for House members on this bill to 83 seconds each. That’s 83 seconds each!
TH: Wow. To your best understanding of what’s in the deal, and I realize if you’ve read any part of it you can’t tell us because you would go to jail … What will, in your opinion, what will the TPP do to the American worker and the American economy?
REP. GRAYSON: Drive us deeper and deeper into debt, and further destroy our jobs base. What the TPP does is that it continues a long line of trade giveaways that started with NAFTA. Since NAFTA went into effect, we’ve lost 5 million manufacturing jobs, and 15 million other jobs. Fast-Track greases the skids for deals like that to go even further. Right now we have free trade agreements, about a dozen of them, with 18 relatively small countries. Fast-Track, the TPP, the TTIP, all of those would extend that to 50 other countries, almost overnight. And the problem we have is very simple: We are buying the goods and services from other countries, we’re putting them to work, and in return they’re not buying an equal amount of our goods and services. Instead, they’re lending us the money to buy their goods and services, buying our assets, not creating any jobs in the United States by buying our assets, making inequality in this country higher and higher, and driving us deeper and deeper into debt. That’s how we end up with an $11 trillion cumulative trade debt. $11 trillion! Every man, woman, and child in this country already owes $35,000 apiece to foreigners, and these deals would make that worse.
TH: For decades, conservatives have been hysterical about the budget deficit. This is not the budget deficit you’re referring to, it’s the trade deficit. It’s the difference between what we bring in from selling things versus what we put out buying things. Can you talk a little bit about exactly why we should be concerned about the trade deficit, and why is it that most Americans don’t even know that there is a trade deficit, much less one that last month, for example, was $50 billion?
REP. GRAYSON: Well, the government deficit is money that we owe to ourselves. For the most part, the holders of government debt are Americans. So, if we needed to pay off the debt, we could do that. If we were willing to raise taxes, we could pay off the debt very quickly. We were heading in that direction under the Clinton Administration. We were only 8 years away under the Clinton Administration from paying off all the federal debt. The trade debt, the trade deficit, is entirely different. That’s not money we owe to ourselves. That is 100% money that we owe to people and businesses in other countries, even governments in other countries. And the result of that is that we can’t tax ourselves to pay that off. All we can do is hope that they don’t ask for their money back. And we’re talking about half a trillion dollars every year. In fact, the 14 largest trade deficits in the history of the human race are our 14 last trade deficits, going back during the last 14 years. It’s a half a trillion dollars a year, over a billion dollars a day, and cumulatively now over $11 trillion. And it all started with NAFTA. Before NAFTA went into effect, in 200 years of our history, we never had a trade deficit of $135 billion in any year. Every single year since NAFTA has gone into effect, for over 20 years, we’ve had a trade deficit of over $135 billion. And one causes the other. Because when you take that money out of our economy, when you take that money out of buying our goods and services, the government has to step in and make up the difference; otherwise, our economy collapses. The reason why we have a federal deficit is because we have a trade deficit.
TH: Wow. And it’s astonishing to me that this conversation never happens on the Sunday shows, it never happens in the mainstream media, and the vast majority of Americans don’t know what you’re talking about when you talk about the trade deficit, as opposed to the federal deficit. It’s astonishing. Mitch McConnell recently said that the reason why he’s pushing so hard for TPA, for Fast-Track, was not specifically for the TPP, for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or what I call “SHAFTA,” the Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement, but that it’s because it’s a six-year authorization, and he fully expects that the next President will be a Republican. And that Republican President, for the first four years of his presidency, assuming he or she is elected to more than one term, would be able to push through all kinds of “trade deals,” all over the place. Shouldn’t that really be front-and-center? Again, that seems like something that most Americans don’t know, that Mitch McConnell even said it, much less that that’s how the Republicans are thinking.
REP. GRAYSON: Well, that may be true, but look, there’s been a bi-partisan “shafting” of the American public. The initial trade deal, NAFTA, was something that was passed under a Democratic President. And we’ve had more of these passed under Democratic Presidents and Republican Presidents alike. In fact, there’s a unity among our elites in this country. They’ll do whatever they need to do to help multinational corporations increase their profits, even if it means giving away our sovereignty. That seems to be the one thing that Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on these days. “Let’s placate, let’s appease, let’s give more power to the multinational corporations through these trade deals, and to hell with America.”
TH: Yeah. Last week we had 13 Democrats go along with the Republicans for Fast-Track in the Senate.
REP. GRAYSON: And they switched to do that!
REP. GRAYSON: They switched!
TH: Right – right!
REP. GRAYSON: It’s the classic case of “I was against it before I was for it.” And it will dog them for the rest of their days.
TH: Right. And I think they switched the day after the big train crash, and so most people don’t even know about it. Again, it didn’t get covered by cable news. So, anyhow, that’s where it’s at in the Senate right now. Where’s Fast-Track in the House?
REP. GRAYSON: Fast-Track in the House is waiting for Fast-Track in the Senate. Everybody agreed the Senate would go first. In fact, when Fast-Track was originally introduced, which was in the last Congress, the 113th Congress, it the Senate, and was dormant for two years. Now it’s being pushed forward, because the TPP, the TTIP, these other deals behind it are almost ready. So now they need to push Fast-Track through. The original plan was to wait for the “lame duck” session , but they weren’t ready for that, so now they’re going to jam it through right now, as best as they can. And this means coming down hard, hard, on anybody who wants to maintain our labor base, our labor standards; protect our environmental laws, our safety laws; make sure, instead, that multinational corporations get every single thing they want.
TH: Right. And you can learn all about it at TradeTreachery.com. And there’s also an interesting website for conservatives, it’s called ObamaTrade.com, and it’s the Conservative argument against it. The hard-right argument, let’s say. Yesterday, the World Trade Organization ruled that our United States country of origin labels on meat violate global “free trade” standards. First, I’m curious if you’re familiar with the ruling.
REP. GRAYSON: Yes.
TH: And if you could comment on it. And secondly, is this the sort of thing that we can expect more of under TPP?
REP. GRAYSON: It’ll be that, and worse. Basically, what we’re doing is that we’re setting up – and this is according to published reports; I’m not giving out any secret or confidential information, this is on WikiLeaks – we’re setting up a secret tribunal before the World Bank, and another secret tribunal before the United Nations. Both of these tribunals will be able to issue enforceable awards, arbitration awards or judgements, against not just our federal government, but also our state governments, our county governments, and our municipal governments. And they can do so whenever a corporation believes that its right, it’s God-given right, to profit, has been impaired – by a safety regulation, a health regulation, an environmental regulation, or simply a labeling regulation, like the one that you described.
TH: Yeah, it’s absolutely astonishing. TradeTreachery.com, you’ve got to check it out. And watch the video that Congressman Grayson put together. It is brilliant. Congressman Alan Grayson, you are such a light in Congress. Thank you for being with us tonight.
REP. GRAYSON: Thank you, Thom.
Yes, if you haven’t seen our Trade Treachery video, then check it out, by clicking here. And whether or not you’ve seen it, help us get out the word on it, and fight back against trade treachery, by contributing to our “Truth in Trade” Fund today. Over 1,000,000 people have watched the Trade Treachery video on Facebook already; with a little bit of help from you, we can double that. Help us spread the word.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sun May 31, 2015, 06:16 PM (3 replies)
Q. Can a video capture a moment?
During its first week online, one million people watched our Trade Treachery video on Facebook.
Let me say that again: One million people watched our Trade Treachery video, in the first week alone.
Nine million people heard about it. Almost 100,000 people “liked” it. Over 50,000 people shared it with all their Facebook friends. It drew well over 25,000 comments. And around 75,000 people provided their e-mail addresses to us, so that we can keep them informed about what they can do to help.
That’s not just a video. That’s a movement.
Why has this video gone viral? Because it explains, in simple terms, exactly what’s wrong with the “Fast Track” bill and the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership. And more fundamentally, it explains exactly what’s been wrong with US economic policy for the past 20 years. In a nutshell, we’re buying their stuff, and they’re not buying ours. So we lose the jobs, and we go deeper and deeper into debt, to pay for their stuff.
Here’s what we need to do: Make sure that everyone sees this video. And with your help, we can do that. Contribute today to our “Truth in Trade” campaign, to help us spread the word. It may be hard to believe, but $50 from you today means that we can tell 7000 more people about this video, this organizing tool for the 21st century.
The House of Representatives may vote on the “Fast Track” bill as soon as next week. Listen up: we have to fight back against trade treachery, and we have to fight back now, before it’s too late. To see the video, or to support our “Truth in Trade” campaign, click here, and click now.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Fri May 29, 2015, 03:25 PM (3 replies)
A week ago last Tuesday, the Senate voted against taking up the “Fast Track” trade giveaway bill. Hooray! Every Republican expressed support, but every Democrat except Sen. Carper (D-DE) voted against it.
But just two days later, 13 Democrats switched sides. They were against it, before they were for it.
What happened during those forty-eight hours? Well, an awful lot of corporate lobbyists billed an awful lot of hours. But the official explanation was that Mitch McConnell had agreed to a separate vote on a currency manipulation bill. Which may never pass the Senate. And may never come to a vote in the House. And may never pass the House. And may never be signed by the President. And if all those things somehow do come to pass, it can join the utterly ineffective existing laws against currency manipulation.
But that was the cover story for those 13 switched votes.
And yesterday, on another Senate vote, 13 Democrats wandered off the reservation. As a public service, I am providing their phone numbers, e-mail addresses and office addresses below.
Q. If we don’t stick together, then how can we possibly win?
A. We can’t.
Tell them “NO” on Fast Track! Call or e-mail – right now. Below is a list of every Senate Democrat who voted to let Fast Track steamroll over us. Pick one, pick them all, and MAKE THEM LISTEN.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Bennet, Michael F. - (D - CO)
261 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Cantwell, Maria - (D - WA)
511 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Carper, Thomas R. - (D - DE)
513 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Coons, Christopher A. - (D - DE)
127A Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Feinstein, Dianne - (D - CA)
331 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Heitkamp, Heidi - (D - ND)
110 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Kaine, Tim - (D - VA)
388 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
McCaskill, Claire - (D - MO)
730 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Murray, Patty - (D - WA)
154 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Nelson, Bill - (D - FL)
716 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Shaheen, Jeanne - (D - NH)
506 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Warner, Mark R. - (D - VA)
475 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Wyden, Ron - (D - OR)
221 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Posted by Alan Grayson | Fri May 22, 2015, 04:14 PM (2 replies)
Yesterday, President Obama acted to restrict the Defense Department and other federal agencies from providing military equipment to local police departments. In essence, the President adopted, by Executive Order, the Grayson Amendment that I introduced last year in the House of Representatives. My amendment was defeated, but shortly thereafter, we all saw militarized police occupy the streets in Ferguson, Missouri. Live and learn. I thank the President for adopting my amendment. It will help us take a giant step back from the militarization of Main Street, and let us remain the Land of the Free, as well as the Home of the Brave.
Ferguson made the difference, changing attitudes and changing minds. Who can forget what it looked like to see an American community occupied by paramilitary police forces, in military vehicles, pointing military weapons at innocent Americans? It looked like a nightmare. And the fact that in Ferguson, it was a largely white police force deploying military weapons against a largely black community made it even worse.
Our Founding Fathers were concerned about militarized police. The Third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the quartering of troops in people’s homes. From the very beginning, we have established and maintained a clear line between police and military forces. In the 1870’s the Posse Comitatus Act confirmed the fundamental principle that our armed forces operate outside of our borders, and the police operate within.
The result has been peace and security, in the lives of ordinary Americans. Apart from the Japanese occupation of part of the remote Aleutian Islands in Alaska during World War II, no foreign forces have occupied this country since the War of 1812, when British soldiers burned my present workplace, the Capitol, to the ground. The two-century absence of military forces from our streets is an enormous accomplishment that few other countries have matched. It’s the foundation of American prosperity, and a fundamental tenet of our freedom. We live in peace, and therefore we can do great things. That’s America. Having a military or paramilitary presence in our streets is, in a fundamental sense, un-American.
The militarization of American police is recent. The Section 1033 Program authorizes the free transfer of military equipment, including tanks, missiles, machine guns and weaponized drones, both new and used, to local police forces. For many years, it was tiny. In 1990, the DoD gave only $1 million in military equipment to local police authorities. In 2013, the amount was almost $450 million.
The mission of our police is to serve and protect, not unnerve and disrespect. We have a delicate balance in the United States between public authority and individual rights. Every time that we occupy a neighborhood with military force, not only are we attacking those who threaten mischief, but also those who are innocent.
Whenever we militarize the police, we run the risk of igniting a spiral of violence between the police and the populace. In a sense, it has already started. Last year, police officers killed 623 Americans. Contrast that with the United Kingdom, where in the last 10 years, officers killed only 20 people – even in the aftermath of the civil war in Northern Ireland.
Demilitarization will make police officers safer as well. Police officers have told me that the friction between them and the general public makes their job very difficult. Some of them have stopped wearing clothes or insignia that identify them as officers when they are off-duty. By presenting a friendly face toward the innocent public, the police can turn to them for help, and at the same time, feel safer themselves.
The President has taken a solid first step toward unwinding the cycle of violence. But the underlying program that the President has throttled back still exists. The Department of Defense still has the legal authority to buy and deliver military equipment to police forces. What one President stops, another one can re-start.
I’ll be introducing my amendment again this year, and I’m hoping for wide, bipartisan support. If freedom means anything, it means that our streets are not war zones.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue May 19, 2015, 08:07 PM (14 replies)
On Tuesday, the Senate voted against taking up the "Fast Track" trade giveaway bill. Hooray! Every Republican expressed support, but every Democrat except Sen. Carper (D-Awful) voted against it. (Sens. Booker, Graham and Rubio missed the vote.) That left the Republicans eight votes short of the votes they needed to overcome a filibuster.
And yet today, only 48 hours later, they're at it again, bringing up "Fast Track" for another vote.
Maybe they think that they can wear us down. I don't think so.
Tell them "NO" on Fast Track! Call or e-mail - right now. Click here for a list of every Senator's telephone number and e-mail address. Find yours, and once again, MAKE THEM LISTEN.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu May 14, 2015, 12:26 PM (7 replies)
The Senate is voting on the "Fast Track" trade giveaway bill today. Tell them "NO" on Fast Track! Call or e-mail - right now. Click here for a list of every Senator's telephone number and e-mail address. Find yours, and MAKE THEM LISTEN.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue May 12, 2015, 10:28 AM (39 replies)
Recently, I was on national TV with host Thom Hartmann, trying to offer some kind of explanation why Congress would even consider committing Constitutional hari-kari under the proposed “Fast Track” legislation. Here’s how it went:
HARTMANN: While President Obama’s is out defending the Trans-Pacific Partnership, members of his own party are making their voices heard over the latest so-called “free trade” deal. A number of progressive lawmakers, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren, are asking for the full text of the TPP to be released, so that Americans can judge for themselves whether it’s a really good deal for America. So is it time to take the secrecy cloak off of the TPP, and make it public, so that “We, the People” can see all of its gory details? Let’s ask Congressman Alan Grayson representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District. Congressman Grayson, welcome back.
GRAYSON: Thank you, Thom.
HARTMANN: Great to have you with us. First let me play a clip of President Obama on the Chris Matthews show the other day. Check this out:
OBAMA: Everything I do has been focused on, “how do we make sure the middle class is getting a fair deal?” Now, I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class. And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.
HARTMANN: Your reactions and comments?
GRAYSON: The President is wrong. In fact, he is so far off-base that right now, if we had a vote on TPP or on “Fast Track,” his own party would be 10 to 1 against him. It’s a giveaway to corporate America. It’s a giveaway to multinational corporations, millionaires and billionaires. And specifically, it’s the death knell of the middle class in America. The President is so far off-base that it’s ridiculous. And he should have realized that, during his State of the Union Speech. During the State of the Union Speech, about 50 times, Democrats got up and applauded when he was talking about everything else. And then when he was talking about this issue, only Republicans stood up to applaud the President. That would have been some type of tip-off, back in January. And yet here it is , and the President is singing the same sad song. Let’s face the facts. Since NAFTA, the first of these major, mega-trade deals that went into effect, since NAFTA went into effect, we’ve lost five million manufacturing jobs, and roughly 15 million other jobs. The resulting trade deficit means that we’ve gone $11 trillion into debt. That’s $35,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. What are we going to do, when the Japanese and the Chinese and the other foreign countries say, ‘Okay, now we want our money back’? And we lose twice over. Because what’s been happening in these trade deals, over and over again, is not that they’re buying the same amount of goods from us that we’re buying from them. They’re not buying the same amount of services that we’re buying from them. What’s happening is very simple: We’re putting their people to work by buying their goods and services, and they’re buying our assets, not generating any new employment in this country at all. We lose twice. We lose the jobs, and we’re driven deeper and deeper into debt, to the point where already one-seventh of all the assets in America are foreign owned. And it’s getting worse. It’s getting worse to the tune of one billion dollars a day.
HARTMANN: Wow. Now legislatively what we’re looking at here are actually two different pieces of legislation, which do quite different things. The one most people are familiar with, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I call it the Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement, or SHAFTA. That’s one of the pieces. Okay, the TPP, SHAFTA, what’s in that? But then there’s this thing called “Fast Track,” where Congress votes to give up its own ability to debate and amend legislation. Can you explain the logic of that?
GRAYSON: It’s a constitutional form of hari-kari. What we’re seeing here is unconstitutional violations of the oath of office that we took at the beginning of this term. We have a constitutional duty to look over, to debate, to inquire, to do oversight, to amend. And all that is taken away from us . What the President’s asking us, both the Senate and House, to do, is to give up on hearings. No hearings on any of these trade deals. To give up on subcommittee and committee and floor amendments. And to give us each in the House, 88 seconds, – 88 seconds, Thom! – to debate these trade bills before we have to vote them up or down. It’s absurd. We don’t do it for defense matters. We don’t do it for tax matters. We don’t do it for healthcare. We don’t do for anything else except for this. And why is that? Because multinational corporations slip into these trade deals provisions for their own benefit, that would never under any circumstances pass the House or the Senate and be signed into law.
HARTMANN: Wow. Where did Fast Track come from? … I don’t understand the process.
GRAYSON: Well, both the trade deals themselves, and the fast-track procedure to deal with trade deals, are unconstitutional. The trade deals are unconstitutional because they are treaties. And the go way out of their way to avoid using the term “treaties.” But what is a treaty? It’s an agreement that you make with another country. By definition, these are treaties. And under the Constitution, they require a two-thirds vote in the Senate. They know they’d never get a two-thirds vote for any of this stuff. It’s hard enough to get 50 percent, plus one. So they call them a “trade agreement” instead of a “treaty,” to avoid the Constitutional provision that goes back 200 years, that requires a two-thirds Senate vote.
In addition to that, we get “Fast Track.” Fast Track is taking away our constitutional prerogatives, which under the Constitution, legislation cannot do. Under the Constitution, the House and Senate set their own rules, by their own discretion, unilaterally. So what this legislation purports to do is tie our hands as an institution, which under the Constitution, we can’t do.
HARTMANN: Now when you start speaking about the Constitution, Congressman Grayson, most of the people who wave that thing around a lot and treat it as holy writ are conservative Republicans. How are they reacting to Fast Track, to setting aside their own constitutional power? I mean they were hysterical about, you know, giving up any power or sovereignty when we joined the UN for example. Where are they on this?
GRAYSON: Well, the first cut for the Republicans is, “what does the Chamber of Commerce want?” And the Chamber of Commerce wants this so, so badly. This is their number-one legislative priority, and it’s been that way for several years. Because they realize this is the way to get what they want, without having to bother with debate, with oversight, with hearings, with mark-ups, with amendments and so on. Just get it all at once, in one nice neat package – everything they want. One of the other things they want is to set up courts outside the U.S. court system, which can result in judgments against not only the federal government, but also state governments, county governments, and municipal governments, which are enforceable judgments. And these judgments can be handed out for arbitration panels that are operated by the United Nations and the World Bank. So we are surrendering our sovereignty to the United Nations and the World Bank. You can bet that some of the Tea Party fanatics have picked up on this already, and some of the Republicans are starting to feel the heat. What I’m hearing from the other side – and I talk to them quite frequently – is that there’s already roughly 60 votes in the House against this, because they realize that we are giving away our hard-fought, hard-won sovereignty, in exchange for nothing.
HARTMANN: Wow. In the last half a minute or so here, Congressman, how do you see this playing out?
GRAYSON: I think that the Senate may or may not vote in favor of it. I’m pretty sure the leaders in House will never let it come to a vote, because Boehner has been telling Democrats that if there aren’t 50 Democrats in favor of it, then he’s not going to bring it to the Floor. Right now, they’d be hard-pressed to come up with 15 Democrats in favor of it, much less 50. So it may never come to a vote in the House, just like it didn’t last term. And if it does come to a vote, there’s a very good chance that it will be defeated, as it should be. This is nonsense. Let’s try to solve our trade deficit problem, and instead of figuring out creative ways to add to it, and dig a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves.
HARTMANN: Amen. Congressman Alan Grayson. Great to have you with us. Thank you for dropping by.
GRAYSON: Thank you, Thom.
If we want to defeat this “death knell for the middle class,” then we have to fight back, and fight back now, before it’s too late. To see the video, or to support our “Truth in Trade” campaign, click right here.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon May 11, 2015, 05:39 PM (1 replies)
Recently, I was on Democracy Now!, an hourly news report that runs on over 1250 TV and radio stations worldwide each day. The subject was trade:
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to the pending vote in Congress on the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade deal currently being negotiated between the United States and 11 Latin American and Asian countries. Senate Finance Committee leaders Republican Orrin Hatch and Democrat Ron Wyden are expected to introduce a “fast-track” trade promotion authority bill as early as this week that would give the president authority to negotiate the TPP trade deal and then present it to Congress for a yes-or-no vote, with no amendments allowed… . Congressman Alan Grayson, could you explain your opposition to fast-track authority, and what you’re calling on your colleagues in Congress to do?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Our “free trade,” our so-called free trade policies, have been a disaster for the United States since NAFTA was enacted. Before NAFTA was enacted and went into effect 20 years ago, we never had any year in our history when we had a trade deficit of $135 billion or more. Every single year since then, for 20 years in a row, our trade deficit has been over $135 billion. Our last 14 trade deficits have been the 14 largest trade deficits not only in our history, but in the history of the entire world. And the result of that is that we’ve gone from $2 trillion in surplus with our trade to $11 trillion in debt. And we’ve lost five million manufacturing jobs and roughly 15 million other jobs in the last 20 years. So we’ve lost twice: We’ve lost the jobs, and we’ve also gone deeper and deeper into debt.
What’s happening is not that we’re buying goods and services from foreigners and they’re buying an equal amount of goods and services from us—that’s the way free trade is supposed to work. What’s actually happening is that we’re buying our goods and services from foreigners, and they are taking the money that we give to them for that, and buying our assets.
That has all sorts of consequences for our economy. First we lose those jobs. Secondly, it makes American income and wealth more and more unequal. The reason why we have the fourth most unequal distribution of wealth in the world is because of fake trade. The reason why we have a bizarre, and at this point unprecedented, “quantitative easing” policy, where the government uses the cash in our pockets to buy up assets and drive those asset prices up further and further, is because of fake trade. The reason why we have a federal deficit is because we have a trade deficit. The TPP, “fast-track,” the Transatlantic version of TPP, these dramatically increase the amount of countries with whom we have this relationship—they quadruple them—and they put us on a fast track to Hell, where America is nothing but cheap labor and debt slavery… .
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to President Obama speaking in February after he began the major push for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is bipartisan legislation that would protect American workers and promote American businesses, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but are fair. It would level the playing field for American workers. It would hold all countries to the same high labor and environmental standards to which we hold ourselves. Now, I’m the first to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype. And that’s why we’ve successfully gone after countries that break the rules at our workers’ expense. But that doesn’t mean we should close ourselves off from new opportunities and sit on the sidelines while other countries write our future for us.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s President Obama speaking in February. President Obama is, obviously, President of the United States, leading Democrat. Congressman Grayson, he represents your party, as well. Why the difference? Who are the blocs now that are united? We’re not just talking it’s Democrats here and Republicans here. What set of Republicans and Democrats agree on this?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Well, it’s a mystery to me. You know, I was in the room when the President gave that statement, made that speech. He gave a 45-minute speech. On those three sentences, that was the only time during that entire speech when the Republicans rose up and applauded him, and the Democrats did not. I think that’s very revealing. There are very, very few Democratic votes in the House of Representatives, because we represent ordinary working people. The groups that are lobbying the hardest for this are the multinational corporations, and their K Street lobbyists. They’re the ones who desperately want to see this passed… . Ordinary Democrats represent constituencies who have been hurt hard, really hurt very hard, by the loss of those five million manufacturing jobs and 15 million other jobs. Go to any Democratic district in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. And the fact is that there is very little support, if any significant support, within the Democratic House Caucus for Fast-Track or for the TPP. We do have a few corporate Democrats. Frankly, we do have a couple of sell-out Democrats, who have sold out to the corporate lobbyists. But the bulk of the Democratic Party well understands, along with the labor movement and ordinary people, that these policies have been disastrous for us. And it is a lie to say that they will improve the economy. In fact, they will continue the downward trend of the economy, until foreigners own everything… .
AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Grayson, do you have to rely on WikiLeaks to get information about what’s actually in the TPP agreement?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Well, one of the sad and disturbing elements of this whole process has been the artificial secrecy that’s been imposed by the Administration and by the Trade Representative on these dealings. I can’t think of any other occasion, when I’ve served in Congress, when I’ve seen the element of deception loom so large here. The public is better informed of Iraqi attacks on ISIS, which you’d think would be classified, than it is informed on a trade deal that’s going to determine our economic future for the next 20 years. What’s happened is that, right at the beginning, the Trade Representative took the absurd position that everything that was being negotiated was classified, even though it was directly in the hands of the foreign governments with whom he was negotiating. Remember, normally, we have a classified system to keep information away from our enemies, or at least other governments. In this case, it was the other governments that had the information, and it was Congress and the American people who were being denied the information. And they took that position for five years, even though 100 members of Congress wrote a letter to the trade representative saying, “Cut this out.”
Now, I’m the first member of Congress to actually see any part of the TPP, even though 600 corporate lobbyists are, quote, “advisors” to the Trade Representative, and they get to see everything. And I insisted they take that information to my office, and in return they told me I couldn’t take it with me, I couldn’t take it home, I couldn’t make notes on it, I couldn’t have my staff present. And here’s the kicker: They didn’t want me to discuss it with the media, the public or even other Members of Congress. So it’s a farce. And it’s meant specifically to keep the information away from the American people, because if the American people knew what was going on, they’d recognize that it’s a punch to the face of the middle class in America… .
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for being with us, Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida’s 9th Congressional District.
If we want to avoid a future of “cheap labor and debt slavery,” then we have to fight back, and fight back now, before it’s too late. To see the video, or to support our “Truth in Trade” campaign, click right here.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sat May 9, 2015, 02:17 PM (37 replies)
A few years ago, I revealed the GOP’s healthcare plan: “Don’t Get Sick. And If You Do Get Sick, Die Quickly.” Recently the great satirist Andy Borowitz, the Jonathan Swift of our time, played a similar riff regarding the GOP’s immigration plan. I yield to the distinguished gentleman from New York:
G.O.P. Unveils Immigration Plan: “We Must Make America Somewhere No One Wants to Live”
By Andy Borowitz
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled his party’s long-awaited plan on immigration on Wednesday, telling reporters, “We must make America somewhere no one wants to live.”
Appearing with House Speaker John Boehner, McConnell said that, in contrast to President Obama’s “Band-Aid fixes,” the Republican plan would address “the root cause of immigration, which is that the United States is, for the most part, habitable.”
“For years, immigrants have looked to America as a place where their standard of living was bound to improve,” McConnell said. “We’re going to change that.” Boehner said that the Republicans’ plan would reduce or eliminate “immigration magnets,” such as the social safety net, public education, clean air, and drinkable water.
The Speaker added that the plan would also include the repeal of Obamacare, calling healthcare “catnip for immigrants.”
Attempting, perhaps, to tamp down excitement about the plan, McConnell warned that turning America into a dystopian hellhole that repels immigrants “won’t happen overnight.”
“Our crumbling infrastructure and soaring gun violence are a good start, but much work still needs to be done,” he said. “When Americans start leaving the country, we’ll know that we’re on the right track.”
In closing, the two congressional leaders expressed pride in the immigration plan, noting that Republicans had been working to make it possible for the past thirty years.
Oddly, the rules of the House of Representatives frown on our disseminating our “Die Quickly” floor speech, but if you’ve never seen the resulting CNN interview, then click here, and enjoy yourself.
Rep. Alan Grayson
“Ridicule is Man’s most powerful weapon.”
- Saul Alinsky, “Rules for Radicals” (1971).
Posted by Alan Grayson | Fri May 8, 2015, 04:06 PM (5 replies)