Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dear Mr. President, A Reply

As he does from time to time, president Obama has graced my inbox with an (entirely personal, I'm sure) email.  Often, these are asking for a show of support, standing up against the lunatic fringe known as more than half of the U.S. government.  This one required a little more thought.

Overall I think Obama has done a good job; I think history will be kinder to him than the present is.  But on this particular topic I'm not convinced I can stand with him.

"I want to set the record straight", he begins.  This is about the Trans-Pacific Partnership that's been drawing so much fire.  I figured I would put my reply here, since this blog is exactly as likely to make it across the commander-in-chief's desk as my email response.

Normally, when I have thoughts that thousands of people have, I don't bother posting them.  Why pollute the internet with opinions others have expressed at least as well?  But this time, the fact that my voice is not unique is, I think, part of the point.  So to begin with, here is the key paragraph from Obama's message:

But as long as 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we don't have the option to sit back and let others set the rules. We need to take this opportunity to level the playing field -- because when we're competing on equal ground, American workers win.

There was more, but this was as close as he came to addressing the secretive nature of the agreement, which is my primary concern about it.  (I have plenty of secondary concerns based on the leaked draft sections.)  So, here is my reply, to president Obama and to anyone who cares about my two cents:

I want to trust you're looking out for us.  But you also promised transparency, and you haven't made a convincing argument about why the details of this agreement must be kept secret.  The wikileaks draft has some very alarming provisions.  We the people don't know whether that stuff is being reigned in or made worse.

Keeping citizens out of a conversation between governments and multinational corporations on sweeping international trade deals does not feel very lowercase-d democratic (or party Democratic for that matter).  It sure doesn't sound like the level playing field you're talking about.

I'm sorry.  I stand behind many of your actions and attitudes, but secrecy and ramming legislation through raise red flags for me.  Public scrutiny is a necessary part of our republic, and I will require evidence and thorough logical arguments before I can stand with you on this big, hush-hush deal.

-Owen Swerkstrom

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