That’s how I feel about Fast Track. It’s a totally undemocratic scheme that allows the Executive Branch to negotiate—in near total secrecy—a “trade” deal that will forever change the rules of our economy, and then send that deal to Congress. Congress, contrary to its normal process, in which it can decide which bills to debate and when, is required to vote on the “trade” deal, but it can only vote yes or no. Congress cannot amend the deal, kill it in committee or even send it back to the president with a list of instructions about how to improve it before sending it back to Congress again. That sounds horrible right? It does to me.
And yet, every president wants Fast Track, promising it will help create jobs and grow the economy. President Bill Clinton had it at the beginning of his term, and used it to advance the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization. But these two deals, combined with several others negotiated by President George W. Bush under Fast Track authority, have contributed to wage stagnation for average workers, to the closure of more than 60,000 of America’s factories (and a corresponding loss of manufacturing jobs) and to the gigantic, enormous American trade deficit, which is a drag on jobs and economic growth. The United States is experiencing levels of income inequality not seen since just before the Great Depression. The Great Depression is no model of economic success. So if that’s where Fast Track is taking us, it seems to be a bit of a failure as a strategy to create jobs and shared prosperity, right?
And yet, our current president is seeking Fast Track once again so he can advance trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, often called the TPP. And congressional Republicans like Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Dave Reichert (Wash.) want to help him. What’s wrong with this picture?
Fast Track: I don’t think it means what the president thinks it means.