Paul Cienfuegos’ May 19th, 2015 Commentary on KBOO Evening News
(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org/podcast, or subscribe via ITunes.)
Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.
I make the point on a regular basis in this weekly commentary that our system of government here in the US is such a disgrace in meeting the needs of the 99% not because our government has been seized by corporate leaders and the elite, but because our government was designed to serve the 1% way back in the late 1700’s. That the system is working perfectly, to serve those it was designed to serve. James Madison, the primary drafter of our second and current Constitution said it best, when he wrote in the Federalist Papers that the primary purpose of government “is to protect the opulent minority from the majority”.
The front pages of our newspapers are filled each week with stories that prove my point, as our so-called leaders make one decision after another in opposition to what their constituents want. Perhaps the best current example is the negotiations that have been going on for the past few years in the writing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (or TPP). Although it’s generally referred to as a trade treaty by the corporate media, it’s really not. Only a small number of its chapters are about trade at all. The TPP is primarily a treaty written to further embed and consolidate corporate “rights” into all aspects of our lives. If passed, it will be virtually impossible for communities or states to pass any protective laws that corporate leaders oppose, unless those communities or states are prepared to pay the corporation for loss of future profits. You can’t make this stuff up!
Who is at the table in these drafting conversations? Not the senators and congress people we elected to serve us. In fact, they don’t even have their own draft copies to review! They’re only allowed to look at the draft documents in sealed rooms where they may not even bring paper or pen or their laptop to take detailed notes. Nor are they allowed to report any details of what they’ve read – to us, their constituents. Thank goodness that WikiLeaks has leaked many portions of the TPP over this past year, or no one would even know what’s in it.
Corporate dailies and their carefully chosen columnists across the US sing the praises of the TPP, which is truly Orwellian, given that they too have not seen the actual draft document that they are so excited about.
And here in Oregon, our own Senator Ron Wyden is pushing hard to get fast-track authority approved by the Senate, so that the Senate itself will be forbidden from offering any amendments to the document before they pass it. All they will be allowing themselves to do, if Wyden gets his way, is to vote yay or nay on the whole package. And this is supposedly our representative to the US Senate, who We the People of Oregon elected to represent us!
Senator Wyden has been deluged with opposition to his stance on this ghastly global corporatization treaty. Massive rallies have been held. Enormous numbers of his constituents have written him letters and signed online petitions. There have even been sit-ins in his various offices. To no avail. You see, this is how the system works. We the People of Oregon are not his primary constituents, and we never have been. His primary constituents are corporate leaders and the 1%. He needs their support to get re-elected. They want this global treaty signed and delivered, and their man to do it, on the Democrat side of the Senate, is our own Ron Wyden. He knows there’s almost no labor movement left that can cause him any grief, even though the entire labor movement is adamantly opposed to this corporate treaty. He knows that the amount of harm that can be exacted upon him by the environmental movement is quite minimal. Who else are they going to vote for in the next election? A Republican? Not likely. So he carries on, day in and day out, doing the bidding of the corporate leaders and the 1%. This is how the system operates. It was designed to operate in this way. The system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.
Within the conventional framework of activism, there’s very little we can do about this. We can keep on marching and rallying and signing online petitions, but none of these tactics build authentic political power for the 99%. To build real political power, you have to start local. And I continue to believe that the most effective strategy out there is for the people to directly pass laws that protect our health and welfare, because our so-called leaders aren’t leading us in the direction the majority of us desires, on issue after issue, so it’s time for us to become the leaders we’ve been waiting for.
Some of the latest local Community Rights ordinances that have been written across the US have included language that strips corporations and the state from having any legal authority to impose these global corporate treaties on our communities. In other words, these Community Rights ordinances nullify the implementation of these treaties within the boundaries of our local communities. Is this legal? No, it’s not. But we’re doing it anyway, because when citizens can’t get their rights protected within the existing framework of the law, we have to step outside of that existing framework in order to protect and defend our rights, by passing laws that are themselves acts of civil disobedience.
I frankly don’t see any other option for stopping the TPP other than at the local level. I hope I’m wrong. I hope there are enough Republicans and Democrats in Congress to vote it down in a few weeks time. But I’m skeptical, as one global corporate trade treaty after another has ultimately received the votes it needed from both of our mainstream corporate-funded parties, every single time over the past few decades.
In Washington, Senator Elizabeth Warren is leading the fight against the TPP. Just this week, her office published an extraordinary report titled “Broken Promises”, that accuses President Obama of lying when he claims that labor and environmental standards will be protected by this new treaty.
If you haven’t already contacted your two state senators and your congressperson, urging them to oppose fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, please do so this week! But also, keep in mind that the system of law that We the People continue to allow to exist in our names is one that was designed, right from the start, to exclude us from any meaningful political participation. The only real solution is for the public to take back our authority to govern ourselves.
You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.
You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at CommunityRightsPDX.org. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. You can sign up for my newsletter at PaulCienfuegos.com. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for!