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_____________________________
THE PROGRESSIVE POPULIST:
A MONTHLY JOURNAL FROM THE HEARTLAND
January 1998 -- Volume 4, Number 1
___________________________________________________________

The good news is that the move to stop "Fast Track" for international
freebooters in the House of Representatives has gotten the attention of the
Washington elites. The bad news is that the corporate lobby not only will
make another run at the House to pass Fast Track this spring, but it will
seek to belittle us, divert our attention and neutralize our leaders before
the next big battle, over the Multilateral Agreement on Investments.
        Already we are being dismissed by the State Department as "the flat
earth and black helicopter crowd." The government has deposed Teamsters
President Ron Carey and is gunning for AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and
Secretary Richard Trumka, who helped mobilize the anti-Fast Track
insurgency; and Congress is aiming to defund unions and other progressive
groups that might organize a populist movement.
        What is at stake with MAI? Ronnie Dugger, co-chair of the Alliance
for Democracy, which has made fighting the treaty its top priority, raised
the alarm at a public forum in Austin on December 3: "This secretly
concocted MAI treaty is all-out war by the transnational corporations on
democracy itself. It is the second Cold War."
        The treaty would protect the rights of international investors, but
it also would make it easier to shift production to low-wage countries,
without setting standards for fair treatment of employees, environmental
protection or anti-competitive practices. It would accelerate the "race to
the bottom," as nations would be pressured to lower living standards and
weaken environmental safeguards in order to attract capital.
        Most importantly, the treaty would allow corporations to sue
governments if they believe a national, state or local law violates the MAI
or poses a barrier to investment. And the corporations could bypass regular
U.S. courts and take their complaints to international tribunals or
arbitration according to rules set by the International Chamber of Commerce.
        "We should never give up our right to pass national laws, state
laws or local laws in our own interest, but if and when this treaty is
adopted, that is exactly what we shall be doing," Dugger said. "GATT,
NAFTA, the World Trade Organization [are] steps along the road. MAI is the
shoe dropping."
        Over the past two years the treaty has been drawn up secretly in
the basement of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
a group that represents 27 of the richest nations and two Third World
nations - South Korea and Mexico. Yet it was only in January 1997, when a
preliminary draft of the document was leaked to the Third World Network,
that MAI became semi-public.
        I say semi-public because although it got some notice in
publications such as The Nation, in these pages and on the Internet, it had
received scant mention in the corporate-controlled big-city dailies through
November. It was ignored during the debate on what sort of trade agreements
might get "Fast Track" treatment by Congress.
        After the Fast Track retreat from the House, Peter Beinart analyzed
MAI in the December 15 New Republic as "The Next NAFTA" and R.C. Longworth
wrote of MAI in the Chicago Tribune of December 4.
        Beinart noted that the story has gone "wholly unnoticed in the
elite press." Longworth also noted the lack of attention it has received,
and observed, "This obscurity seems deliberate." He noted that the Clinton
Administration has done nothing to promote public interest.
        Apparently, if they didn't issue a press release, neither the New
York Times, the Washington Post nor the Los Angeles Times, much less the
network news, were interested. We really hate to sound like conspiracy
theorists, but there is very little in the conduct and reporting of these
treaty negotiations to inspire confidence that U.S. trade officials or
media moguls are acting in the best interests of the American people.
        For more information on MAI, as well as a draft of the treaty, see
the Public Citizen web site at [www.citizen.org] or contact the Preamble
Center for Public Policy, 1737 21st St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009; phone
202-265-3263. For the text of Dugger's remarks, see the Progressive
Populist web site at [www.eden.com/~reporter]
 
As for the backlash to the wreck of Fast Track, we don't think it is too
much to say the government is retaliating against unions for the more
aggressive advocacy of working people's issues. Republicans are sponsoring
legislation in Congress and in the states to require unions to get written
approval from individual members every year before that member's dues could
be used for political purposes.
        The disqualification of Ron Carey as Teamsters president for
alleged fundraising improprieties would be easier to take if the government
 had pursued his rival, James Hoffa Jr., with equal vigor. But after a probe
of Hoffa's fundraising was ordered, investigators claimed they were running
out of money and would have to shut down the office. Hoffa, who is closely
aligned with the union's corrupt old guard, has shown no signs that he
would buck the corporate bosses the way Carey has.
 
The Senate voted 69-31 on November 4 to cut off debate on S. 1269, the Fast
Track legislation. That was the record vote that showed a solid two-thirds
support for the corporate lobby. After the President was unable to round up
enough Democratic votes to pass the bill in the House, the corporate lobby
at least was consoled that it could submit trade agreements to the Senate
as treaties and bypass the House.
        Voters need to keep up the pressure on their House members, since
the corporate lobby is pushing for another vote on Fast Track this spring.
But also put the pressure on senators. First thank the 31 senators who
voted against Fast Track; make sure they keep standing up for fair labor
and health standards; and make darn sure they oppose MAI.
        Then let those 69 who went along with Fast Track know that we are
 watching them. Urge them to rethink their position. Those marked with a
"98" are up for re-election next year; put their feet to the fire; this is
the best time to do it. If we turn three senators who voted for Fast Track
the first time (21 are up for election) and hold the 31 senators, then
there is hope for killing MAI and other ill-conceived trade giveaways.
        Voting in favor of Fast Track were:
        Abraham, R-Mich; Akaka, D-Hawaii; Allard, R-Colo.; Ashcroft, R-Mo.;
Baucus, D-Mont.; Bennett, R-Utah 98; Biden, D-Del.; Bingaman, D-N.M.; Bond,
R-Mo. 98; Breaux, D-La. 98; Brownback, R-Kan.; Bryan, D-Nev.; Bumpers,
D-Ark. 98; Chafee, R-R.I.; Cleland, D-Ga.; Coats, R-Ind. 98; Cochran,
R-Miss.; Collins, R-Maine; Coverdell, R-Ga. 98; Craig, R-Idaho; D'Amato,
R-N.Y. 98; Daschle, D-S.D. 98; DeWine, R-Ohio; Dodd, D-Conn. 98; Domenici,
R-N.M.; Frist, R-Tenn.; Glenn, D-Ohio 98; Gorton, R-Wash.; Graham, D-Fla.
98; Gramm, R-Texas; Grams, R-Minn.; Grassley, R-Iowa 98; Gregg, R-N.H. 98;
Hagel, R-Neb.; Hatch, R-Utah; Helms, R-N.C.; Hutchinson, R-Ark.; Hutchison,
R-Texas; Inouye, D-Hawaii 98; Jeffords, R-Vt.; Johnson, D-S.D.; Kempthorne,
R-Idaho 98; Kerrey, D-Neb.; Kerry, D-Mass.; Kohl, D-Wisc.; Kyl, R-Ariz.;
Landrieu, D-La.; Lautenberg, D-N.J.; Leahy, D-Vt. 98; Lieberman, D-Conn.;
Lott, R-Miss.; Lugar, R-Ind.; Mack, R-Fla.; McCain, R-Ariz. 98; McConnell,
R-Ky.; Moynihan, D-N.Y.; Murkowski, R-Alaska 98; Murray, D-Wash. 98;
Nickles, R-Okla. 98; Robb, D-Va.; Roberts, R-Kan.; Rockefeller, D-W.V.;
Roth, R-Del.; Sessions, R-Ala.; Smith, R-Ore.; Thomas, R-Wyo.; Thompson,
R-Tenn.; Warner, R-Va.; Wyden, D-Ore. 98
        Voting against Fast Track were:
        Boxer, D-Calif 98; Burns, R-Mont.; Byrd, D-W.V.; Campbell, R-Colo
98; Conrad, D-N.D.; Dorgan, D-N.D. 98; Durbin, D-Ill.; Enzi, R-Wyo.;
Faircloth, R-N.C. 98; Feingold, D-Wisc. 98; Feinstein, D-Calif.; Ford, D-Ky
98; Harkin, D-Ia.; Hollings, D-S.C. 98; Inhofe, R-Okla.; Kennedy, D-Mass.;
Levin, D-Mich.; Mikulski, D-Md. 98; Moseley-Braun, D-Ill. 98; Reed, D-R.I.;
Reid, D-Nev. 98; Santorum, R-Pa.; Sarbanes, D-Md.; Shelby, R-Ala. 98;
Smith, R-NH; Snowe, R-Maine; Specter, R-Pa. 98; Stevens, R-Alaska;
Thurmond, R-S.C.; Torricelli, D-N.J.; Wellstone, D-Minn.
        Call your senator toll-free 1-800-522-6721 or write c/o The Senate,
Washington, D.C. 20515.
        - Jim Cullen
 
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Entire contents are copyrighted 1998 by the PROGRESSIVE POPULIST, but you
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