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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Murali
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    On this issue, the so-called liberal wing of the democrats do suck.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Murali
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      I’d want to know a hell of a lot more about the details of the TPP before I decide which side sucks more.

      But I do love this argument for fast-tracking it:

      “It’s just impossible to negotiate a complex trade deal with 535 members of congress,” said Cornyn, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s chief deputy.

      This makes it different from a complex nuclear arms and power deal, which should totally be micromanaged by every legislator who can stir up his base by demonizing Iran.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Mike Schilling
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        @mike-schilling

        It’s a valid point, but I agree its a very strange party to be arguing for it.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James K
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          It just goes to show how flexible principles can be.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to Mike Schilling
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            Well, at least this time he’s not trying to obstruct Obama. That’s progress right?Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Schilling
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            Honestly, what’s remarkable to me about this whole issue is that principles do seem to be applying. The pro-trade party is willing to overcome their animosity to have Obama’s back to increase trade, the trade-skeptical party is being trade-skeptical party to the detriment of their party.

            Not having a strong opinion on the TPP itself, that’s the aspect of it that interests me.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman
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              They’re following their interests, of course. It’s the fact that the ancillary “principles” are so clearly ad hoc rationalizations that interests me. In addition to the one I mentioned above, it’s the party that complains that PPACA was rushed through without a through reading that wants to rush through the TPP.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Will Truman
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              “being trade-skeptical party to the detriment of their party.”

              Obama’s a lame duck and the Dems are out of power in both the House and Senate. The anti-TPP helps their party because they need a reverse Sistah Soljiah* against the White House for party building and electoral momentum – the same thing Occupy accomplished in 2011-12 (h/t James Henley)

              Note that Hillary Clinton is all of sudden more ‘free-trade’ skeptical than she has ever been.

              *by which I mean the reverse of what happened in the Sistah Soljiah incident, which was the ‘centrist establishment’ guy picking a fight with the wings.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kolohe
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                I think there is definitely some truth to that.

                I meant to affix the word “leader” to the end of that sentence. And it’s the case that Obama will not be the leader all that much longer, which is pretty relevant here. GWB lost control of his party at about the same time (a little before), which is attributed to his declining popularity at the time but I think it was actually along similar lines as this: There is less percentage in rallying behind the leader.

                Which is how lame duckage occurs, I guess.

                Another factor is the intramural battle for the Future of the Party. Now is the time for Warren to step up and do what she can to set the trajectory of the party in her preferred position.

                Even with all of this, I am surprised that they lined up so uniformly.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Will Truman
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                People rallied around Reagan just fine. Bush senior’s path to White House involved convincing people in the party he was rightful heir to Reagan’s legacy and convincing people in general that things are pretty good, so you all should want more of the same.

                There is an echo of the end of the Bill Clinton administration, the difference being that people in the party are happy with Obama’s personal legacy, but disappointed a bit in the bottom line performance. Clinton’s was reversed – more than happy with the bottom line performance, but disappointed in his personal legacy. Gore couldn’t resolve that tension, and lost. Hillary Clinton (ironically enough) probably will be able to resolve that tension, because regrets about the state of America in year 8 of an administration are easier to assuage than regrets about the state of a Presidency in year 8 of an administration.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kolohe
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                Reagan seems to be kind of the exception, but is only one of four. It seems to me that some stars had to align to make that happen, which will probably make it the exception and situations like this as more common.

                Clinton is kind of a mixed case. He got a lot of support on the impeachment front, but Gore did more than just condemn his private behavior (his “People vs the Powerful” pivot) and of course eight years of Clinton gave rise to Nader. No Nader threat seems likely this time around, but I think Warren is operating from a similar place (though not a same one, Nader was aiming at progressivism while Warren at the party).

                To be fair, we’re dealing with a pretty limited data set (five applicable cases in the 60+ years since the 22nd was passed, one of which more than fifty years ago).Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Will Truman
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                Yes, it’s pretty rare for a 2nd term President to go out on an unambiguous (political) high note. Reagan, Coolidge, Teddy Roosevelt, and Jackson may be the list.

                Another compare/contrast that just came to mind: around this point in the Bush jr presidency, the Surge was the hotly debated topic of the day. (it was a bit earlier, debated right after Congress came back in session in January/February).

                Senator Obama (and for that matter Senator Clinton) were pretty vocal in their opposition to the Surge, and got a lot of press time due to their impending status as Presidential candidates. Obama was right in there as the public face of the leadership opposing the surge, with Hagel and Levin (and Biden).

                Secretary Clinton’s opposition to TPP is much more muted. (and potentially could be explained in a few years as not opposition at all). Granted, she’s no longer on the ‘inside’ officially, as she’s no longer a Senator nor a Cabinet Secretary. But she certainly has access to the bully pulpit, were she to take a sharper stand that differentiates her view on the deal with Obama’s (and her past) .

                Which leads me to the conclusion that the winning play for the Dems is to be against TPP, but not to see any downside politically if it winds up passing eventually in the next year and a half.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Mike Schilling
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        While Warren is trying to sink the entire thing Harry Reid is (I suspect) just trying to get some Democratic party preferences included in the authorization (and maybe giving Mitch a bit of payback for all the filibusters). I’m not unsympathetic to that goal. Politics ain’t beanbag.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Mike Schilling
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        I’m siding with the people whose view is “I’d absolutely like to know what the final deal looks like, and have time to register my approval/disapproval with Congress and the President prior to it being signed — in the fond hopes my approval/disapproval will be mirrored by enough Americans to get it signed/not-signed”.

        The whole TPP thing seems a bit…secretive…for a trade deal. I get that negotiations are, in general, done confidentially so that negotiators can bluff, counter-bluff, threaten, cajole, bribe, etc….but the end product here is in no way confidential (there’s no secret info in it, at least) and should be presented to America with enough time for our representatives to get a feel for what their constituents think prior to, you know, enacting or turning down the deal.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to morat20
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          @morat20
          I’m siding with the people whose view is “I’d absolutely like to know what the final deal looks like, and have time to register my approval/disapproval with Congress and the President prior to it being signed — in the fond hopes my approval/disapproval will be mirrored by enough Americans to get it signed/not-signed”.

          Which is what I’ve been thinking this ‘fast track’ is about this entire time. It’s very little to do with worries that *Congress* might do something…I mean, they’ve supposedly had access to this thing the entire time, and worrying about amendments in a trade deal is silly. Congress, despite appearances, is not made entirely of idiots, and they understand this was *negotiated* and you can’t change it willy-nilly without it having to go back through the *other people*. If there are enough votes for it to pass, there are enough votes to keep it from being amended.

          No, the reason for the fast-track is to get it through Congress as fast as humanly possible so we, the citizens, can’t be informed of the noxious parts of it in time to organize any sort of resistance.Report

  2. Avatar Damon
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    Bipartisan = voter will end up being screwed.

    Non bipartisan = someone’s getting screwed. Factor in laws of unintended consequences and it might be you.Report

  3. Avatar Gabriel Conroy
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    This reminds me, at least a little bit, of the Gingrich Congress trying to empower President Clinton with a line item veto.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    I have to sign on with @morat20 here.

    I think you are putting on your partisan hat a bit too much with the post for the sake of being cheeky. There has been a long-standing hot and cold war between neo-liberals and more traditional liberals in the United States since at least the 1980s with the first wave of technocratic Democratic politicians like Gary Hart from Colorado. Dukakis was probably the first DLC-centerist to get the nomination. Mondale was the last New Dealer/Great Society liberal to win.

    Count me in as one of the TPP skeptics. I like LWA’s point about how different these deals would be if Labour got a seat at the table as well. Why should people just a deal just done by admin officials and corporations. Even Matt Y noted that the deal might be efficient in that it can help corporations and land owners but screw over ordinary citizens.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Saul Degraw
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      Meh, I have no strong opinion on TPP myself. I mostly find it amusing (and kinda interesting), but man y’all can be really humorless.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Saul Degraw
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      Count me in as one of the TPP skeptics. I like LWA’s point about how different these deals would be if Labour got a seat at the table as well.

      What makes you think that labor doesn’t have a seat at the table?Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to j r
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        When has labor ever gotten a seat at the table? 🙂 Labor’s a cost, and costs need to be eliminated.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r
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        Can you tell me who was negotiating for the working people when TPP was being written down?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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          I am beginning to suspect that Barack Obama’s Peace Prize was given to him prematurely.Report

        • Avatar James K in reply to LeeEsq
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          @leeesq

          The relevant separation of interest for trade agreements in consumers vs. producers, not workers vs. shareholders.Report

          • Avatar LWA in reply to James K
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            @james-k “The relevant separation of interest for trade agreements in consumers vs. producers, not workers vs. shareholders”

            Are you asserting that labor concerns or environmental concerns aren’t a relevant issue for negotiation in trade agreements?Report

            • Avatar James K in reply to LWA
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              @lwa

              My point is that “labour concerns” is an incoherent category when we’re talking about trade. See my reply to Saul below for more detail, but when it comes to trade barriers the relevant distinction is who produces the product vs. who consumes it, not whether a person derives their income from capital or labour.

              Environmental concerns are a different matter entirely, but I wasn’t replying to questions about the environment.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James K
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            @james-k

            I dissent. The big problem here is that you can’t really separate people as consumers and workers. People are both.

            The other issue is that you can do all sorts of slicing and dicing and say “This might screw over working-class workers and consumers but it will benefit educated middle-class and above consumers and shareholders and this is okay.”

            This is too complicated to be simply a producer v. consumer or a worker v. employer time frame. Even the ur-Free Trader Matt Y can admit so.

            “One huge flaw is that while classical economics has a fair amount to tell us about the wealth of nations, it doesn’t say much at all about the wealth of the individual people inside the nations. A trade deal that enriches Americans who own lots of shares of stock and Central Americans who own lots of plantation land could easily pass the (low) economic bar of efficiency while still making most people worse off.”

            http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/matt-yglesias-trade-barriers-trans-pacific-partnershipReport

            • Avatar James K in reply to Saul Degraw
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              @saul-degraw

              Oh it’s definitely more complicated than Consumers vs. Producers – the correct frame is consumers vs. producers for each good. And Matt Y is right that Smith and Ricardo didn’t have good models for the welfare economics of trade. Fortunately trade economists haven’t been resting on their laurels for the past 200 years so I have access to modern trade models that actually do go into this stuff.

              There are two or three major factors that will determine how you will likely be affected by liberalising trade in a specific good (I assuming tariff or quota removal here, export or production subsidies are a little different):
              1) How much of your income do you obtain by producing the good? The more of your income you earn from producing a good, the more you stand to lose by trade in it being liberalised. It doesn’t really matter whether this is returns to labour or returns to capital, the logic is basically the same.

              2) If you do earn income producing the good, how easily can you apply your skills / capital to another good? This is called specificity. If your capital or labour are highly specific you stand to lose out more than people who can easily find new uses for the work or their assets.

              3) How much do you spend consuming the good? Liberalised trade means lower prices, so the consumers of the good (be they individual people, or corporate entities) benefit from the liberalisation of trade in that good.

              So the real interest group breakdown is the producers in an industry vs. everyone else. Whether someone is a worker or a shareholder is not terribly important

              Incidentally, Matt Y is also wrong about early economists not being aware of things like national security justifications. Smith talks about Great Britain’s Navigation Act, which bore a resemblance to the domestic shipping restrictions Matt Y discusses. It’s not that there are no legitimate arguments to be made for restricting trade, but you won’t get very far by separating workers and shareholders into two opposing interest groups.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to James K
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                @james-k

                OK, then your points 1 and 2 point to the idea that labor is harmed by liberalizing trade, in that it is derived entirely from producing the good and is very specific, as opposed to capital which isn’t.

                But you are looking at things from the economic standpoint- for instance according to your model, since my labor is not being offshored, I should be overjoyed at sweatshop conditions in Bangladesh- after all, I still enjoy 1st World wages and pay 3rd World prices. Whats not to like, right?

                Except I don’t- I don’t like this outcome, where not only do workers in America lose their livelihoods, but workers in Bangladesh are only slightly better off, and even then only measured against a miserable standard.

                I would prefer that minimum wages and work conditions be included as items in treaties and negotiated along with tariffs and patent protections.

                I even take issue with the term “liberalized” or the concept that trade laws are being relaxed and regulations reduced.

                They aren’t at all. The laws and regulations are simply begin re-written and new ones added, with the intent of strengthening some interests against others.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to LWA
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                but workers in Bangladesh are only slightly better off

                Do you know anything at all about the economic trajectory of Bangladesh? I didn’t, either, so I looked it up. Since 2000, the poverty rate has fallen by nearly half, per-capita income has nearly doubled, and the HDI has risen by a full tenth of a point.

                And, assuming that you’re not for some reason literally talking about Bangladesh specifically, foreign direct investment has a long history of raising living standards in poor countries.

                Of course, if you look at one factory on the margin, it’s only going to hire workers for slightly more than they’d be able to get elsewhere. But the aggregate effect of many such factories moving in is a dramatic increase in standards of living.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to LWA
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                The point is not that labour as a class is harmed. The point is that when you liberalise trade in any one sector, only a fraction of the workers in that sector (those whose skill sets lack flexibility) are harmed on net.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Murali
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                That said, it’s also the case that on net, globalization seems to have produced fairly slow wage growth for the average first-world worker. Now, as an actual liberal, I think that slow growth in the wages of the median white American male, who by global standards was and remains pretty well-off, is an acceptable price to pay for raising hundreds of millions of people out of real poverty, but I can see why some people might disagree. I’m glad they’re not calling the shots.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Brandon Berg
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                @brandon-berg
                Is it possible to raise the standard of living for Bangladeshi workers, and American workers as well? What Roger would call a win-win scenario?

                Or is global trade a zero-sum game?

                It isn’t the improved outcomes for 3rd World workers that is being contested- what we are witnessing with globalization is not JUST improved outcomes for some in the 3rd World, but also a system of regulations wildly distorted to favor some interests over others.

                When it comes to enforcing the property rights of industry, such as trade names, patents and so forth, no law is too draconian or intrusive, yet when it comes to protecting the dignity of workers, suddenly we hear cries of limited government.

                If global regulations WERE being relaxed, intellectual property rights would be weaker, not stronger. International contracts would be harder to enforce, not easier.

                Then again, if global laws were designed to make borders weaker and make markets seamless, it would be easier for injured workers in Bangladesh to sue the corporate headquarters in New York City. But the laws are specifically designed to erect artificial firewalls between the global entities- at least when it comes to responsibility.

                Thats why I contest this framing of “free trade” versus “Unfree Trade”- it assumes that laws which bind and coerce across borders are “:freedom”.

                But like most arguments about freedom, one person’s freedom comes at another person’s expense.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LWA
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                @lwa
                When it comes to enforcing the property rights of industry, such as trade names, patents and so forth, no law is too draconian or intrusive, yet when it comes to protecting the dignity of workers, suddenly we hear cries of limited government.

                And, of course, multinationals are allowed to lobby Congress all they want, but foreign workers can’t vote, can’t lobby, and don’t even have any access to the American media.

                Corporatism has, as one of its ideal societal goal, a bunch of employees that can’t vote. That’s what it wants. Employees without control of the government it operates under.

                It’s why we get the GOP against voting rights, it’s why we get all this pushback against making people who have lived here for decades US citizens, it’s why it’s so vitally important to have people doing work in other countries, it’s why the US government, working at their behest, feels free to destabilize any foreign government. It’s all one thing.

                And it’s why we get trade agreements like this, where the entire point is to remove any sort of trade control from *the people* (Especially in the age of the internet, where people can organize without the media), in case the voters *here* do want to help force some sort of worker rights for people elsewhere.

                Why? Because at this point Americans, and often at a much earlier point other countries, are getting a little sick and tired of how we get treated, and if we were actually free to make laws, we’d probably take all their stuff.

                Then again, if global laws were designed to make borders weaker and make markets seamless, it would be easier for injured workers in Bangladesh to sue the corporate headquarters in New York City. But the laws are specifically designed to erect artificial firewalls between the global entities- at least when it comes to responsibility.

                And they’re designed to make it impossible *to* create any sort of responsibility later.

                Governments, *right now*, are being threatened with giant lawsuits over attempting to limit tobacco use. Right now.

                Someone explain how that wouldn’t be worse under the TPP. Or, wait, you can’t, because we’re not allowed to know what’s in it.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Murali
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                @murali

                And those are the people that need the most protection. I also think we are starting to see an increased amount of skilled labor get off-shored to foreign countries as well with radiology findings being looked at in India and scanned back to the U.S.Report

    • Avatar Mo in reply to Saul Degraw
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      Fast track authority just means trade deals get up-down votes, no amendments. If Congress amends the deals, then the president has to go back to the country with whom he negotiated with with the changed terms, where a whole new set of terms get hammered out, wash-rinse-repeat. In practice, lack of fast track means no trade deals happen as opposed to ones where the president can get Congress to sign off on them.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mo
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        Right. In a deal with many signatory nations, letting every legislator from every country have input is a non-starter. Everyone’s going to want a place at the trough, and no one is going to want to give other countries’ legislators one. This kind of crap is bad enough at the national level, but with a multi-nation treaty it’s pretty much guaranteed to turn into a trans-Pacific clusterfish.

        When the negotiations are complete, Congress can have a public debate and decide whether to ratify it. What they can’t do is use it to bring home the bacon, which is a feature, not a bug.Report

  5. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    I’m most concerned about whether the TPP makes it easier to get drug patents, which are too easy already, IMHO. But I am happy to wait to see the agreement. I’m not all that excited about fast tracking it, for that reason.

    Your third linked piece has lots of assertions that Obama has insulted people, but no quotes of him insulting people. I find that interesting.Report

  6. Avatar Dand
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    Apparently siding with Elizabeth Warren makes you a racist while siding with Obama makes you a Sexist.Report

  7. Avatar Dand
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    Democrats are more likely to support free trade than Republicans; I’m going to see if I can use the GSS to see how correlated support for free trade and immigration are.Report

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