Absent an actual policy to discuss, we're all in the strange situation today of treating the major economic policy of our time as some phantom fog. The best we can do, perhaps, is to view it as no better or no worse than other trade agreements of its kind. That's fair enough, as long as we can't know what it is unless we have special clearance to descend into a Washingtonian basement without recording devices.
We're ordinary folk, after all.
A lot of the focus on the Trans-Pacific Partnership has to do with the alleged benefits it will offer the United States. Our GDP will rise (a paltry .13%), and won't that be a wondrous occasion?! Finally, our country will be fully ascendant again, economically, and surely that's a great thing!
But maybe not. At least not for most Americans. We have recently seen a pretty nice boost in employment. The stock market is hitting record highs. The dollar is strong. We're better off than we were 6 years ago, and the depression (not recession) we lived through seems to be lifting. It's nice, it's okay, it's not bad.
But it could be better. Especially in terms of American's ability to provide for themselves and their familes it could be better. And Americans are working too hard for it not to be better, for them. To everyone I talk to, right or left, it seems a little odd that our currency is so much stronger, our stock market is so much higher, our economy appears to be booming and yet...
It doesn't seem like we're flourishing as a nation, economically, does it?
Why is that?
Bernie Sanders noted in today's floor speech:
IN THE LAST TWO YEARS, MR. PRESIDENT, THE 14 WEALTHIEST PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY HAVE SEEN AN INCREASE IN THEIR WEALTH OF $157 BILLION. THAT $157 BILLION IS MORE WEALTH THAN IS OWNED BY THE BOTTOM 130 MILLION AMERICANS.
Hmmm...well, so we're improving as a nation, by GDP, but what does that mean?
The United States' GDP has less and less to do with how the average American lives and can continue to live. The more wealth is concentrated, the less GDP has to do with the majority of Americans' lives.
As noted socialist outlet Bloomberg.com notes:
As useful as GDP is, it has some crucial flaws. It can obscure growing inequality and encourage the depletion of resources. It can’t differentiate between spending on good things (education) and terrible things (cigarettes). It doesn’t measure the economic services that nature provides, such as the dwindling wetlands that once protected New Orleans from storms, or those that don’t come with a market price, such as raising children. It fails to account for the value of social cohesion, education, health, leisure, a clean environment -- in other words, as Robert Kennedy once put it, GDP measures everything “except that which makes life worthwhile.”
TPP as a national economic plan and policy is about boosting American GDP, according to its selling points. The country, as an aggregate whole, will benefit.
But we're individual workers. We're not shareholders in America, Incorporated.
Without concurrent laws and policies that impact income inequality, even the supposed BENEFITS of TPP have nothing to do with us, with the vast majority of Americans left or right. The country can benefit even as millions of Americans lose their jobs, or take jobs that pay less. And we should not support those "benefits". Because they'll be to our detriment.
TPP is being sold to us on grounds that we should reject. It's about an aggregate increase in wealth. But with increasing inequality, this increase in wealth merely means we'll have richer fellow Americans, and be poorer ourselves in every way that, to quote Bloomberg quoting RFK, "makes life worthwhile."