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The Obama Administration

A Test for Hillary Clinton: Obama's Trade Deals

(White House photo/ Public Domain via Flickr)
(Official White House Photo via Flickr) President Barack Obama delivers remarks with then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (left) at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue reception at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 3, 2010. O pposition to the Obama administration's proposed major trade deals is getting firmer among Democrats in Congress. Both chambers must approve trade promotion authority, better known as fast-track, in order for the deals to move forward. One Democrat who has avoided taking a position is Hillary Clinton. In the past, she has supported deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but lately she has tried to give herself some wiggle room without opposing fast-track, saying last Tuesday that any agreement has to create jobs, as well as increase prosperity, and improve security. That's pretty amorphous. Clinton, of course, does not get to vote on the measure because she is no longer a senator. But pressure is increasing from...

Obama's Trade Agreements Are a Gift to Corporations

Trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are about dismantling critical regulations on health, safety, labor, and the environment. 

(Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)
(Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images) Protesters gathered outside the Smith Center to speak out against the fast-track of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Portland, Oregon, on January 31, 2014. This article originally appeared at The Boston Globe . L ate last week, legislation moved forward that would give President Obama authority to negotiate two contentious trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). But for the most part, these aren’t trade agreements at all. They’re a gift to corporations, here and in partner countries that view purely domestic regulations as restraints of trade. If these deals pass, the pharmaceutical industry could get new leverage to undermine regulations requiring the use of generic drugs. The tobacco industry has used similar “trade” provisions to challenge package label warnings. A provision in both deals, known as Investor State Dispute Settlement, would allow...

The Sensible, Risky Option

The Iran deal is a gamble, but the best one available. 

(AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)
(AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader) In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of religious performers in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, April 9, 2015. "There are only bad options. It's about finding the best one." "You don't have a better bad idea than this?" "This is the best bad idea we have, sir." T hat snippet of dialogue is from the film Argo , set just after the Iranian revolution in 1979. It's the scene in which CIA Director Stansfield Turner is listening to the out-of-any-box scheme of two CIA men for smuggling six American diplomats out of Teh e ran. Turner is sensible. Since this is the best bad plan available, he approves it. Risky as it is, it even turns out to be a good plan. Thirty-six years later, the same script would be appropriate for calmly discussing the framework agreement with Iran on limiting its nuclear program. Calm, though, has been in...

How Schumer's Iran Gamble Threatens Democrats' Chances in 2016

If enough senators in the minority party follow the lead of their next likely leader, the minority may be where they stay.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images) Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, left, has pledged support to Republican Senator Bob Corker, right, for a bill designed to scuttle the Obama administration's agreement with Iran over the development of nuclear technology. Here, the two are pictured in the House chamber before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to a joint meeting of Congress, March 3, 2015. A week and a half ago, Chuck Schumer, currently third in the leadership of the minority party in the U.S. Senate, moved quickly to solidify his position as the next leader of Democrats, securing the support of his caucus. This week he endorsed Republican Senator Bob Corker’s bill, which, on paper, gives Congress the right to approve the nuclear agreement hammered out with Iran by the U.S. and its allies (collectively known as the P5+1). In reality, this bill is yet another carefully crafted attempt to thwart a negotiated end to this nuclear...

Raising Wages From the Bottom Up

(Photo courtesy of USW Local 675)
(Screenshot of video from International Brotherhood of Teamsters) A picket line of truckers in Long Beach, California, in 2014. This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . I n 1999, while he was working at a local immigrant service center in Los Angeles, Victor Narro began encountering a particularly aggrieved group of workers. They were the men who worked at carwashes, and their complaint was that they were paid solely in tips—the carwashes themselves paid them nothing at all. At first, the workers came by in a trickle, but soon enough, in a flood. Narro, whose soft voice and shy manner belie a keen strategic sensibility, consulted with legal services attorneys and discovered that while every now and then a carwash was penalized for cheating its workers, such instances were few and far between. “There were no regulations overseeing the industry,” Narro says. The state’s labor department conducted no sweeps of the carwashes to...

This Is No Time for Liberals to Give Up on Israel

Because of Netanyahu's bellicosity—and Republican support for it—it's now possible in Washington to argue about Israel. With so much at stake, liberals must.

(Photo: EdoM via Wikimedia Commons)
T onight most American Jews will sit down with family and friends for the Passover Seder. Whether they tell the story of redemption from slavery according to the Hebrew traditional text, a radical rewriting, or not at all, they'll eventually get to a sumptuous holiday meal and to conversation, often including politics. Judging from the reaction of some of my close friends and respected colleagues to the Israeli election, one subject that liberal Jews—that is, most American Jews—won't want on the menu is Israel. The re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu has spoiled the taste beyond redemption. The manner of his victory—a lurch rightward, an unholy alliance with the GOP, a last-minute scare video about "droves" of Arab voters "advancing" on the polling places—has made talk of Israel even more bitter to the tongue. The tension in American Jewry between being liberal and being Zionist has been growing for years. But the election on March 17, 2015, may have been a breaking point. Believe me, I...

Trey Gowdy's Bad Benghazi Hand

He can’t bring himself to fold and toss his cards into the muck.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Why won't the chairman of the Benghazi Select Committee show his cards? E very poker player has experienced this moment. The hand is over. You show a winning hand and your opponent sits still. They grimace, while looking down at their cards hoping somehow they will change. Maybe they let out an annoyed sigh. All this whiny display accomplishes is wasting the time of every other player at the table. The dealer is frozen, unable deliver the pot to the winner until your opponent shows his cards or folds. As chairman of the Benghazi Select Committee, Trey Gowdy has become that poker player. Earlier this week the Democratic staff of the committee put out a press release comparing the time spent by the Gowdy committee— 10 months and 15 days— to that taken by other historic high-profile Congressional committees and commissions to complete their investigations: Hurricane Katrina Entity: Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response...

3 Trends Driving Liberal American Jews Away From Israel

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen) Stage hands prepare the stage for the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Monday, March 2, 2015. I n the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election victory last week—and the sordid campaigning that made it possible—liberal American Jews may be feeling, more than they ever have before, pained by, conflicted about, and even estranged from Israel. There are certainly consequences for policy, as U.S. policy toward Israel could become a much more partisan issue than it is now. But more than that, there's a crisis of the spirit emerging. It's fed by three trends, all of which serve to alienate liberal American Jews from Israel, all of which were highlighted by this election, and all of which look inexorable. The first, of course, is the hopelessness of the Palestinian situation. When, just before the election, Netanyahu abandoned his stated support for an ultimate two-state solution, it didn't surprise...

U.S. Pipeline Industry Quietly Building Network That 'Dwarfs Keystone'

One pipeline is nothing compare to what's in store.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik) Kelly Kelly of Omaha waves signs with others opposing the Keystone XL oil pipeline during a demonstration outside the office of Representative Brad Ashford, Democrat from Nebraska, in Omaha, Tuesday, January 13, 2015. Democrats plan to use Senate consideration of the Keystone XL oil pipeline to get Republicans on the record about climate change and to resurrect parts of a bipartisan energy efficiency bill doomed by pipeline politics last year. This article originally appeared at Common Dreams . D espite public opposition that has so far blocked the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, the fossil fuels industry has successfully—and quietly—expanded the nation's domestic oil network by installing thousands of miles of pipeline across the country, according to new reporting by the Associated Press. "Overall, the network has increased by almost a quarter in the last decade," the AP reports. "And the work dwarfs Keystone. About 3.3 million barrels per day of...

Fear Wins: Israeli Elections, the Morning After

Netanyahu sacrificed Israel’s democratic principles and its relations with the U.S. to win another term as prime minister.

(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) An Orthodox Jewish man walks past a billboard of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, March 16, 2015, a day ahead of legislative elections. Netanyahu won his fourth term as prime minister on March 17. I f there is any credibility left in Israeli polls—a highly questionable proposition—Benjamin Netanyahu won a come-from-behind victory in yesterday’s election. The final opinion surveys of the campaign, published Friday, showed the prime minister’s Likud Party trailing challenger Isaac Herzog’s left-of-center Zionist Union by as many as four seats in parliament, which has 120 members. Exit polls shocked the country by showing a virtual tie. This morning, those of us in Israel who dared to hope for a change in direction awoke with a pounding political hangover. The nearly complete vote count showed the Likud winning 30 seats in Israel’s parliament to the Zionist Union’s 24. The right-wing bloc of parties as a whole...

At National Gathering, Firefighters Not Impressed By Potential GOP Candidates

Ted Cruz elicited more grumbles than laughs with jokes about Hillary Clinton and the IRS. The rest of the Republican presidential field didn't fare much better.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. I t only took one observation for former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, appearing before 700 members of the International Association of Fire Fighters union on Tuesday to eclipse the five Republicans who spoke before him. “There are two very important things that you did not hear from any of today’s Republican speakers,” O’Malley said to the firefighters who were in attendance for the IAFF’s Presidential Forum. “One is a commitment to collective bargaining, and the second is a commitment to increasing funding for public safety.” His comments prompted whistles and a standing ovation, an enthusiastic response from an audience that had remained largely unmoved by the conservative speakers. The GOP’s half-hearted attempt to embrace labor but avoid divisive economic issues at the...

Looking Forward to the Sequel

If we don’t alter the power distribution that led to the financial collapse, it will happen again.

(Illustration: Wesley Bedrosian)
(Illustration: Wesley Bedrosian) This book review appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned—and Have Still to Learn—From the Financial Crisis By Martin Wolf 466 pp. Penguin Press $35 M artin Wolf is one of the few people on the planet who can mingle with financial elites without being co-opted by them. Fans of his regular column in the Financial Times —and I am one—are familiar with the power of his writing, the clarity of his logic, and the independence and delightful unpredictability of his views. But Wolf fans beware: While his columns can be devoured as easily as a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, his new book, The Shifts and the Shocks , tastes more like the side of brussels sprouts that Aunt Millie brought to the holiday dinner—obligatory to consume and good for you, but requiring a lot of chewing. This is dense and at times highly technical reading, laden with jargon only an Oxford economist could...

Selma March Commemorated By Politicians Who Support Gutting of Voting Rights

The 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday—the catalyst for passage of the Voting Rights Act—is being remembered at a moment when voting rights in the South are at their most precarious in half a century.

(AP Photo/file)
(AP Photo/File) In this March 7, 1965, file photo, state troopers use clubs against participants of a civil rights voting march in Selma, Alabama. At foreground right, John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, is beaten by a state trooper. The day, which became known as "Bloody Sunday," is widely credited for galvanizing the nation's leaders and ultimately yielded passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This article was originally published by Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies. T his weekend, tens of thousands of people—including nearly one-fifth of the U.S. Congress and President Obama — are descending on Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famous Selma to Montgomery march. The irony is rich: The 1965 Selma march — and the violent "Bloody Sunday" caused by the reaction of Alabama troopers, which horrified the nation — is credited with speeding passage of the Voting Rights Act , one of the crowning...

Republicans Hankering for Ground War Against ISIS. What Could Go Wrong?

We're going to hear more and more Republican politicians coming out for a re-invasion of Iraq. And how 'bout a strike on Iran while we're at it?

(Sipa via AP Images)
View image | gettyimages.com I t's been an entire 12 years since we started a war, and apparently the American people are getting a little antsy. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that 62 percent of Americans, including 72 percent of Republicans, favors the use of ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We should be careful about over-interpreting that, because the question was preceded by another question talking about limited, but not long-term operations for ground troops. But there's no doubt that the public's interest in getting some boots back on the ground is gaining momentum; in Pew polls , support for ground troops went up from 39 percent in October to 47 percent in February; in the same poll, 67 percent of Republicans said they supported ground troops. The reason I focus on the number of Republicans is that I suspect with this increase in support from their constituents, we're going to hear more and more Republican politicians coming out for what we might call a re-invasion...

Can Liberal Democracy Survive?

Architect of the Capitol
Architect of the Capitol This article appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . I n 1932, on the eve of FDR’s presidency, Benito Mussolini proclaimed, “The liberal state is destined to perish.” He added, all too accurately, “All the political experiments of our day are anti-liberal.” The democracies were doomed, Il Duce declared, because they could not solve crucial problems. Unlike the dictatorships, which were willing to forcefully use a strong state, the democracies could not fix their broken economies. Parliamentary systems were hamstrung politically. The democracies were also war-weary, conflict-averse, and ill-prepared to fight. The fascists, unlike the democracies, had solved the problem of who was part of the community. Mussolini’s ally, Adolf Hitler, was further contemptuous of “mongrelization” in American democracy. Who was an American? How did immigrants fit in? What about Negroes? The fascist states, by contrast, rallied their...

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