Saturday, May 16, 2015

Just How Low Will Some People Go to Scare Us About TPP? (Updated)

The opponents of so-called "fast-track" and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement have dreamed up a new way to scare us. Here's the leading bolded paragraph at a Democracy For America petition:
There's a big -- brand new -- attack on Medicare that's just been added in the Senate to the Fast Track bill for the TPP. The bill would cut a whopping $700 million from Medicare, hurting seniors who need access to health care.
This sure sounds bad, doesn't it? So I've spent some time trying to track down exactly what's going on. I'm going to try my best to relate what I've learned. But I'll warn you...it gets a bit wonkish. So bear with me.

Let me start by saying that its hard to count the ways that the paragraph I quoted above is wrong. Let's go through them in order:
  1. This is not "brand new." One article I found discussed a press conference at which Rep. Nancy Pelosi talked about it on May 1st. Another article I found about it was dated April 21st.
  2. The whopper comes next. Saying that this cut to Medicare was added to the Fast Track Bill is a lie. The issue having to do with Medicare is part of another bill reauthorizing Trade Adjustment Assistance. That is a program that provides financial assistance and training to workers who are displaced as a result of trade imports. TAA has been around since 1974 and the benefits are set to expire in September unless it is re-authorized. This is one of three bills that Democrats insisted be considered along with the fast-track bill (the others having to do with currency manipulation and trade with Africa). But it is not part of fast track and it is needed regardless of whether TPP passes or not.
  3. Republicans being, well...Republicans, have insisted on "offsets" for funding TAA. Here's where things get wonky. Perhaps you remember sequestration (automatic budget cuts that were triggered by the failure to reach a "grand bargain" in 2011). Certain programs were protected from these cuts - one of them being Medicare. But what sequestration did allow was cuts to Medicare providers, which were capped at 2%. It turns out that one of the budget gimmicks Congress pulled was to stack those cuts in 2024 in the first half of the year. The cap on cuts during the first 6 months was raised to 4% and then went down to 0% for the last six months. Part of the offset Republicans found for TAA was to allow cuts to Medicare providers the last 6 months of 2024 and cap them at 0.25%. There are a total of 5 budget gimmicks - this being one of them - that they came up with for TAA. If you are a true wonk addict, you can see all of them here.
If you've followed me so far, perhaps you are as angry as I am that organizations like Democracy for America are out there scaring seniors about Medicare cuts in order to stir them to action against fast track and TPP. I'll admit that what the Republicans are doing here with the offsets is shady and a really bad precedent.  But suggesting that it hurts "seniors who need access to health care" is nothing but craven fear-mongering. It is totally reminiscent of what the Republicans did during the 2012 election when they accused President Obama of cutting Medicare to pay for Obamacare. Beyond that, TAA has always been a progressive idea. As a matter of fact, its interesting to note that the original sponsor of its reauthorization this year was Sen. Sherrod Brown.

By the way, Democracy For America isn't the only one peddling this nonsense. Here's the petition page at CREDO Action on the same thing. At least they do a better job of explaining it all, but here's the sentence attached to their petition:
Don’t let Republicans use the debate over Fast Tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership to force cuts to Medicare.
Technically that's not a lie. But it is certainly designed to mis-inform.

The truth is that this is the kind of thing people do when they're desperate (and want folks to give them their email addresses so they can solicit them for donations). But it is beneath anyone who wants to claim even an ounce of integrity.

UPDATE: Upon doing some further research, I had to make some major updates to this post. Apparently reauthorization of TAA was initially a separate bill but it appears to have been folded into the TPA (so-called "fast track") bill via negotiations between Sen. Hatch, Sen. Wyden, and Rep. Ryan. I am truly sorry for that error. But what it means is that Democrats who vote against TPA are also voting against the reauthorization of TAA.

9 comments:

  1. Here's the thing. The people who buy into Credo are the same people who buy into Democracy for America. They aren't reaching new audiences here. They're only fund-raising from their usual clientele. All this is doing is parting these folks from their money. They aren't penetrating into mainstream America. Now if AARP runs with this, then you'll see some scared seniors. I doubt they will. As far as drumming up activists enough to 'fight' this, DFA has already reached all the people they're going to reach. All the calls to Congress were already made to try to block the TPA. That effort seems destined to fail. I sincerely doubt Credo or DFA really care if it fails. They're all about fleecing their donors. In that way they've succeeded. If they stop the TPP at this juncture, then they can't fund-raise from it anymore.

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  2. Can we stick to the point of whether Fast Track (which if passed will almost certainly guarantee the Trans Pacific and Trans Atlantis deals go through without debate or even publication of the texts thereof) is a good thing or not? I happen to think Not based on secrecy being in general not a good sign of a good deal. I am prepared to change my mind if they publish the text and it proves not to be so bad as the leaks so far have indicated. Until then: I will support whatever shenannigans may be needed to stop Fast Track. And no I have not sent a penny to Credo, DFA or anybody else on this matter.

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    1. The info is wrong about what happens after Fast Track. There IS open comment, discussion, debate. This will be all made very public as it was even before in the first, failed round in 2013. You can read the last bill - undoubtedly revised some now - that was S.1900 to be found at Thomas.loc.gov. This has had 1700 hearings already, with participation of hundreds of groups. There will be more to come - open and transparent. ALL trade negotiations have proceeded in this way before. It's only fearmongering that rests on our abject ignorance of the process that makes people think this is something new. You, Congress, everyone will be able to read and comment. So do it.

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  3. Typical Emoprog B.S. wonder why turnout is so low during off-year elections it's because of stunts like this. You Have to understand that we no longer have a monopoly on the trade front the world has caught up so of course corporations are going to look for cheaper markets to make and ship their goods to maximize their profits. What we have to do is to penalize those countries and corporations that violate workers ability to get ahead. They are some concerns about the trade deal that need to be addressed, but can we at least give president Obama the benefit of the doubt he's more honest than the republicans look how the Iran Deal turned out. These people should know better.

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    1. I don't agree that 'stunts like this' had an effect on low voter turnout in 2014. The people who subscribe to Credo and DFA's view of the world do vote regularly. Credo and DFA have a microscopic audience of good voters. The eligible voters who don't vote never read these or any of the other political message factories. There are a whole host of factors that went into low turnout that are being studied, I'm sure, by people who actually understand human nature. We may never know the full answer to last year's mess, but it was bigger than the hair-on-fire crowd, of that I am certain.

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    2. Being Republican-Lite is not a winner for Democrats. The sooner they face that obvious fact, the better for the Democrats and, more WAY more importunity, for the citizens of the country.

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  4. That's the problem the message is controlled by people who have no interest in progress what so ever. These were also the same folks telling people of good will to stay home in 2010 because they didn't get their pony.

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    1. "...because they didn't get their pony."

      Ha ha. I hear those silly whistle-blowers wanted their pony to sparkle, too.

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    2. Exactly Odie.

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