Progressive Caucus: Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnershipby Representative Barbara Lee
Posted on 2014-01-15
LEE of California. Let me thank the gentleman for yielding and
for his kind remarks.
Let me thank you for your tremendous leadership on so many issues which address and affect the American people across the board. I also thank you for being here every week during these Special Orders. It is really raising the level of awareness on the critical issues of our day. It takes a lot to do this, but thank you for giving us a voice and an opportunity to be with you.
I join you and our colleagues tonight in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, really, in strong opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We are talking about trying to ensure that people do not fall into the ranks of the poor but also that people have pathways out of poverty and into prosperity.
Now here we are, looking at another bill, H.R. 3080, which is called the Bipartisan Trade Priorities Act of 2014, which would provide the administration with Fast Track authority for the TPP. Once again, this is not a progressive trade policy. It will not allow for people to be employed and get good-paying jobs but, rather, just the opposite. So, unfortunately, looking at this really worries many of us that we will fall backwards in terms of more people becoming unemployed.
Let me just be clear up front, though, in that I do not oppose all trade agreements. I support fair and free trade. However, the notion that Congress should provide a rubber stamp for a complex free trade agreement is simply irresponsible and dangerous to our economy and to our constituents. They elected us to provide a voice in all of these policies, so to shut the Congress out of having that seat at the table, to me, is downright undemocratic.
The TPP will have a devastating effect on the working class families and communities of color that I represent and that many of us represent. It would sacrifice the well-being of working Americans for the wealth of multinational corporations, not to mention that, in its current form, the TPP would lock in higher prices for popular drugs, threatening access to life-saving medicines, including HIV/AIDS drugs, for millions of poor and low-income individuals and families around the world.
[[Page H462]] By exporting American jobs to countries where the minimum wage is just 28 cents an hour, CEOs will continue to get richer while working Americans will lose their only sources of income. We have seen this happen before. Past trade agreements have already cost us 3.4 million service sector jobs. Many of those jobs were in California. We simply cannot afford to lose more. NAFTA alone resulted in the net loss of 1 million U.S. jobs. It led to a trade deficit of $181 billion, and it devastated the manufacturing sector.
These agreements have allowed corporations to ship good American jobs overseas while wages, benefits and workplace protections and environmental protections are really declining and are denied. Rather than focusing on trade agreements that will hurt the middle class, we really should be focusing on job creation, eradicating poverty, income inequality, and improving economic mobility.
In 1980, CEOs were paid an average of 42 times the salary of a blue collar worker. In 2012, that number exploded to 354 times more than the average worker. This is unacceptable. It is really unconscionable that, rather than building pathways to prosperity, we are debating measures to make, yes, the 1 percent richer while holding working families down. So I stand in firm opposition to Fast Track authority and to any final deal that sacrifices American jobs and environmental protections in the name of international corporate profits. This must be defeated.
Finally, as many of us are talking about tonight, we have 1.4 million people who did not receive their unemployment compensation checks this week. The Republican Tea Party House has totally abandoned these people who are living on the edge. They want to work, so it is incumbent upon us to do the right thing on behalf of these people and immediately extend unemployment compensation.
First of all, it is the correct thing to do. It is the American thing to do. It is the moral thing to do, but it is also economically wise to do this. So we hope, during the district work period next week, that Republicans hear from their constituents because it is not only Democrats who have people who have lost their unemployment compensation but Republican constituents. All Americans who are seeking to work and who want to work and who need that bridge over troubled waters have lost their unemployment checks also.
I hope, for those who are people of faith, they really draw from their faith and understand that this is the moment, that now is the time to think about the least of these and to remember that we are our brothers' and that we are our sisters' keepers and that we need to pass unemployment compensation right away and then move forward and increase the minimum wage and, hopefully, one day, increase the minimum wage to really a living wage because that is what the American people deserve.
Thank you again for your leadership, and thank you for giving me the chance to be with you tonight.