We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

U.S. “Stalling” Could Force Acceptance of Onerous TPP

Click here to access article by Carey L. Biron from Inter Press Service.
According to a new brief released by MSF, U.S. TPP negotiators are pushing for rules that would “enhance patent and data protections for pharmaceutical companies, dismantle public health safeguards enshrined in international law and obstruct price-lowering generic competition for medicines”.
The result could be restrictions on access to affordable generic medicines for “millions” of people.
Probably one of the most egregious attacks that private property advocates use against the general welfare is the securing of intellectual property rights or patent rights on medicine by giant pharmaceutical corporations. This is the issue on which this article focuses in relationship to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty negotiations currently being held in highly secretive sessions and stacked with representative from big corporations. The title references the "stalling" tactics that the author argues is being used to avoid discussion of the adverse humanitarian effects that the treaty would cause.

This article also provides an excellent opportunity for readers to inform themselves more on the political tool called "fast track" authority that has been used by the executive branch of the US government to do an end-run around the Constitution. I recommend reading more about this subject here and here. The latter, from Wikipedia, provides a good summary of its provisions as follows:
Although Congress [according to the Constitution] can't explicitly transfer its powers to the executive branch, the 1974 trade promotion authority had the effect of delegating power to the executive, minimizing consideration of the public interest, and limiting the legislature's influence over the bill to an up or down vote:
  •     It allowed the executive branch to select countries for, set the substance of, negotiate and then sign trade agreements without prior Congressional approval.
  •     It allowed the executive branch to negotiate trade agreements covering more than just tariffs and quotas.
  •     It established a committee system, comprising 700 industry representatives appointed by the president, to serve as advisors to the negotiations. Throughout trade talks, these individuals had access to confidential negotiating documents. Most members of Congress and the public had no such access, and there were no committees for consumer, health, environmental or other public interests.
  •     It empowered the executive branch to author an agreement's implementing legislation without Congressional input.
  •     It required the executive branch to notify Congress 90 days before signing and entering into an agreement, but allowed unlimited time for the implementing legislation to be submitted.
  •     It forced a floor vote on the agreement and its implementing legislation in both chambers of Congress; the matters could not "die in committee."
  •     It eliminated several floor procedures, including Senate unanimous consent, normal debate and cloture rules, and the ability to amend the legislation.
  •     It prevented filibuster by limiting debate to 20 hours in each chamber.
  •     It elevated the Special Trade Representative (STR) to the cabinet level, and required the Executive Office to house the agency.
Once again we see that if the Constitution, Congress, or the Supreme Court gets in the way of the capital accumulation addiction of our ruling class, that the latter will always find ways of working around these obstructions. Now with a Supreme Court stacked with neo-conservatives, they no longer are impeded by that body.