Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The three ultra-rich families battling for control of the Republican party

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Heather Timmons has an interesting article at Quartz:

This week, the House and Senate will work to reconcile their different versions of the tax bill into something that president Donald Trump can sign into law. As they do, dozens of protests and rallies against the bill are being planned from California to Chicago to Staten Island, New York. Citizens are frantically organizing to try to shut down the only major legislative success of a president who ran on a platform of populism, and Democrats are growing optimistic about flipping one or both houses of Congress. How did the country get here just a year after Donald Trump’s historic win?

To understand that, you need to look back to the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision in 2010, which opened the floodgates for wealthy donors in political races. Since then, corporations and the rich have plowed money into both parties. Three extremely wealthy families, the Mercers, the Kochs, and the Adelsons, all prominent donors to the Republican party, now seem locked in a struggle over the future of the GOP.

As campaigning for the midterm elections in November 2018 gets under way, the three families are facing off against each other in battleground states. They’re lighting a fire under Republican politicians who are now determined to get something, anything, passed in Washington—even if it’s a last-minute tax bill that most voters don’t agree with and legislators barely had time to read.

But Republicans who fail to pass tax reform risk losing donor support, and getting wiped out by a rival Republican candidate. As Lindsay Graham, the veteran Republican senator from South Carolina, told an NBC news reporter early last month, a failed tax reform will look a lot like a failed party.

The donors’ battle inside the GOP

Early in 2014, over a dozen big-name Republican donors attended a meeting in New York City organized by a wealthy hedge fund executive. They had one goal—come up with a strategy to win back the US senate from the Democrats in November.

A veteran Republican strategist laid out an optimistic battle plan capped with the GOP taking the House and Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, then minority leader, leading the Senate. At the mention of McConnell’s name, an audible groan came from one corner of the room—Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of hedge fund tycoon Robert Mercer, was making her displeasure known. “I can’t think of anything worse,” Mercer said, according to one attendee.

She would rather Democrats controlled the Senate “than have McConnell as the majority leader,” the attendee said, still sounding mystified years later. The Mercer’s “mindset is totally different from a traditional Republican donor mindset,” he said.

In recent decades, the US’s two-party system had been pretty tribal. Whether a Democrat or Republican, you mostly counted yourself a winner when you got more of your team into power than the other guys. That tribal glue started to give way when the insurgent Tea Party movement appeared in 2009, fielding ultra-conservative candidates against establishment Republicans in many congressional districts and splitting the party into two camps. It nonetheless remained largely united against the common enemy of president Barack Obama.

But since Trump, with no ties to either camp or its ideology, defeated a raft of other candidates for the presidential nomination last year, the Republicans have been cast into a growing civil war between mainstream conservatives, Tea Party-inspired libertarians, and the xenophobic and misogynistic groundswell that Trump has proven expert at tapping into. These schisms reflect genuine divisions in the Republicans’ voter base—and the Mercers, the Kochs, and the Adelsons are adept at exploiting them.

Shaking up the GOP after Obama

“If money could buy elections, Mitt Romney would have won,” was a familiar refrain among campaign finance experts and political strategists alike, after the wealthy former Massachusetts governor failed to unseat Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race, despite outspending him by $110 million.

The Mercers, for years content to quietly donate to the Kochs’ political network, started to act alone after the Republicans’ failure to unseat president Barack Obama reportedly led Rebekah to decide(paywall) the Koch network was full of “fools.” The Koch brothers, stung by the 2012 election loss, doubled down on state races, while the Adelsons poured their money into a political action committee run by former George W. Bush chief of staff Karl Rove.

Romney’s loss had shaken the Republican party so deeply that then-party chief Reince Priebus spent months putting together a soul-searching policy paper (pdf) about the direction it should go, based on thousands of interviews. Most people think Republicans don’t care about Americans, it found, and the party needs to reach out to women, and minorities. It included advice that now seems unfathomably quaint, like (pg. 6):

The Republican Party must be the champion of those who seek to climb the economic ladder of life. Low-income Americans are hardworking people who want to become hard-working middle-income Americans. Middle-income Americans want to become upper-middle-income, and so on. We need to help everyone make it in America.We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.

But America’s GOP oligarchs did not appear to have read the report. The congressional candidates that the three families have backed (sometimes together) bore little resemblance to that GOP prescriptive.

Instead, they helped launch a new era of even less compassionate Republicans that included a woman who thinks the UN is a conspiracy and wants to eliminate the minimum wage, and a former doctor who crafted a health-care bill that allow insurance companies to charge people with pre-existing conditions more.

Unlike Romney, these radical new candidates won. But Republican experts warn that the families’ picks may eventually hollow out the Republican party by pushing policies that American voters reject, or set the stage for a full-fledged revolt.

The latest example is the openly racist Roy Moore, the candidate in Alabama’s December 2017 special election for the Senate, who has been accused of sexually assaulting several teens when he was in his 30s. Moore, who is championed by former (paywall) White House advisor and Mercer family affiliate Stephen Bannon, secured the backing of Trump, and the Republican National Committee this week.

“The RNC is the president’s political arm, and we support him and his agenda,” a RNC official told Quartz today (Dec. 5). But Republican strategists say it’s a huge gamble.

“If the party nominates the slate of candidates that the Mercers are backing, [Democratic Senator Chuck] Schumer will be the Senate majority leader, and [Democratic representative] Nancy Pelosi will be the speaker of the House” in 2018, said one long-time Republican strategist and donor who is aligned with the Adelsons, before the Republican Party threw its support behind Moore on Dec. 4.

“If people question why Trump is unable to get anything accomplished, it will be the fault of the Mercers and Steve Bannon.”

Three Republican families, three visions

The influence of these three families offers a stark illustration of how extreme wealth can distort a democracy.

Each family is closely tied to the Republican leader of one branch of government: Robert, Diana, and Rebekah Mercer helped propel Trump’s bombastic rise to the White House. Industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch funded the Tea Party and its protege, House speaker Paul Ryan. And while casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam Ochshorn are on the party’s more moderate wing, they have long stood behind the calculating, conservative Senate leader, McConnell, who even before the Tea Party’s rise was known as an extreme obstructionist (paywall), dedicated to stomping out the bipartisan compromises that historically made the US government work.

The Adelsons favor pro-Israel policies. Despite their anti-regulation stance, they are keen to squelch the growth of online gambling, and want to support moderate Republicans with a chance of picking up swing voters.

The Koch brothers have funded and organized a vast network of libertarian think tanks and grassroots movements aimed at sowing distrust of “big government” and climate science, the better to benefit their massive fossil fuel-heavy Koch Industries. There are other Republican donors who have spent more money, but the Koch’s network gives them great influence.

The Mercers seem to hold the most extreme social views: Robert Mercer complained that the US started going in the wrong direction “after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s,” according to a lawsuit filed by a former employee. He reportedly invested $10 million in 2011 into Breitbart, the news site run by one-time Trump adviser Steve Bannon, which regularly airs white-supremacist views. Early last month, Robert Mercer quit the hedge fund he worked at for years, and said he’d sold his stake in Breitbart News to his daughter, but he’s reportedly getting even deeper into politics.

Emboldened by Trump’s presidential victory, the Mercer family has been siding with extremist candidates for 2018 congressional races, hoping to wipe out incumbent Republicans and yank Senate leader McConnell from his seat.

In Nevada, another Mercer-backed Republican,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including profiles of the three billionaire families who aspire to control the United States.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2019 at 8:12 am

“The Mueller Report Was My Tipping Point”

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J. W. Verret, Professor of law at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School, writes in the Atlantic:

Let’s start at the end of this story. This weekend, I read Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report twice, and realized that enough was enough—I needed to do something. I’ve worked on every Republican presidential transition team for the past 10 years and recently served as counsel to the Republican-led House Financial Services Committee. My permanent job is as a law professor at the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School, which is not political, but where my colleagues have held many prime spots in Republican administrations.

If you think calling for the impeachment of a sitting Republican president would constitute career suicide for someone like me, you may end up being right. But I did exactly that this weekend, tweeting that it’s time to begin impeachment proceedings.

Let’s go back to the beginning. In August 2016, I interviewed to join the pre-transition team of Donald Trump. Since 2012, every presidential election stands up a pre-transition team for both candidates, so that the real transition will have had a six-month head start when the election is decided. I participated in a similar effort for Mitt Romney, and despite our defeat, it was a thrilling and rewarding experience. I walked into a conference room at Jones Day that Don McGahn had graciously arranged to lend to the folks interviewing for the transition team.

The question I feared inevitably opened the interview: “How do you feel about Donald Trump?” I could not honestly say I admired him. While working on Senator Marco Rubio’s primary campaign, I had watched Trump throw schoolyard nicknames at him. I gave the only honest answer I could: “I admire the advisers he’s chosen, like Larry Kudlow and David Malpass, and I admire his choice of VP.” That did the trick. I got the impression they’d heard that one before. I was one of the first 16 members of Trump’s transition team, as deputy director of economic policy.

In time, my work for the transition became awkward. I disagreed with Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and trade. I also had strong concerns about his policies in my area of financial regulation. The hostility to Russian sanctions from the policy team, particularly from those members picked by Paul Manafort, was even more unsettling.

I wasn’t very good at hiding my distaste. We parted ways in October amicably; I wasn’t the right fit. I wished many of my friends who worked on the transition well, and I respected their decision to stay on after Trump won. A few of them even arranged offers for policy jobs in the White House, which I nearly accepted but ultimately turned down, as I knew I’d be no better fit there than I had been on the transition.

I never considered joining the Never Trump Republican efforts. Their criticisms of President Trump’s lack of character and unfitness for office were spot-on, of course, but they didn’t seem very pragmatic. There was no avoiding the fact that he’d won, and like many others, I felt the focus should be on guiding his policy decisions in a constructive direction. The man whom I most admire in that regard is McGahn, Trump’s first White House counsel, who guided the president toward some amazing nominees for regulatory agencies and the judiciary.

I wanted to share my experience transitioning from Trump team member to pragmatist about Trump to advocate for his impeachment, because I think many other Republicans are starting a similar transition. Politics is a team sport, and if you actively work within a political party, there is some expectation that you will follow orders and rally behind the leader, even when you disagree. There is a point, though, at which that expectation turns from a mix of loyalty and pragmatism into something more sinister, a blind devotion that serves to enable criminal conduct.

The Mueller report was that tipping point for me, and it should be for Republican and independent voters, and for Republicans in Congress. In the face of a Department of Justice policy that prohibited him from indicting a sitting president, Mueller drafted what any reasonable reader would see as a referral to Congress to commence impeachment hearings.

Depending on how you count, roughly a dozen separate instances of obstruction of justice are contained in the Mueller report. The president dangled pardons in front of witnesses to encourage them to lie to the special counsel, and directly ordered people to lie to throw the special counsel off the scent.

This elaborate pattern of obstruction may have successfully impeded the Mueller investigation from uncovering a conspiracy to commit more serious crimes. At a minimum, there’s enough here to get the impeachment process started. In impeachment proceedings, the House serves as a sort of grand jury and the Senate conducts the trial. There is enough in the Mueller report to commence the Constitution’s version of a grand-jury investigation in the form of impeachment proceedings. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2019 at 8:05 am

Longest-serving Iowa lawmaker is leaving the Republican Party because of Donald Trump

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Robin Opsahl and Barbara Rodriguez report in the Des Moines Register:

Rep. Andy McKean, who represents Anamosa in the state House of Representatives, announced Tuesday that he plans to register as a Democrat and vote with the minority caucus.

“With the 2020 presidential election looming on the horizon, I feel, as a Republican, that I need to be able to support the standard bearer of our party,” McKean said during a news conference at the Capitol. “Unfortunately, that’s something I’m unable to do.”

McKean said Trump is just one part of a bigger national trend of partisanship that made him feel out of place in the Republican caucus. McKean said when he joined the Iowa Statehouse 40 years ago, there were many moderates in the Republican Party. But now, he said, the ranks have thinned.

“I think the party has veered very sharply to the right,” McKean said. “That concerns me.”

House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, the top Democrat in the chamber, confirmed McKean’s plans earlier Tuesday and joined him at the news conference.

“The Democratic party is a big tent, it’s got a wide range of views and ideas,” the Charles City lawmaker said. “We’re pleased to have Andy’s experience and ideas as part of our discussion when we go to caucus.”

McKean had a “no party” affiliation on the Iowa Legislature website briefly Tuesday before updating it to reflect that he now identifies as a Democrat. According to the site, McKean has left his Republican committee assignments. . .

Continue reading.

This is of particular interest to me since I lived in Iowa City for a couple of decades—indeed, all of my children were born in Iowa City.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2019 at 7:10 am

Posted in Politics

My Giillette 1940s Aristocrat and a burst of blue

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My vintage (pre-Vulfix) Simpson Emperor is a wonderful brush, and it created a fine lather from my vintage (pre-reformulation) Floris No. 89 shaving soap. Continuing the vintage them, my 1940s Gillette Aristocrat did a superb job: very comfortable, very efficient. A splash of Floris No. 89 aftershave and the day is launched.

A burst of blue from my visit to Finnerty Gardens:

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2019 at 6:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Navy SEALs Were Warned Against Reporting Their Chief for War Crimes

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Dave Philipps reports in the NY Times:

Stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death. Picking off a school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost. Indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.

Navy SEAL commandos from Team 7’s Alpha Platoon said they had seen their highly decorated platoon chief commit shocking acts in Iraq. And they had spoken up, repeatedly. But their frustration grew as months passed and they saw no sign of official action.

Tired of being brushed off, seven members of the platoon called a private meeting with their troop commander in March 2018 at Naval Base Coronado near San Diego. According to a confidential Navy criminal investigation report obtained by The New York Times, they gave him the bloody details and asked for a formal investigation.

But instead of launching an investigation that day, the troop commander and his senior enlisted aide — both longtime comrades of the accused platoon leader, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher — warned the seven platoon members that speaking out could cost them and others their careers, according to the report.

The clear message, one of the seven told investigators, was “Stop talking about it.”

The platoon members eventually forced the referral of their concerns to authorities outside the SEALs, and Chief Gallagher now faces a court-martial, with his trial set to begin May 28.

But the account of the March 2018 meeting and myriad other details in the 439-page report paint a disturbing picture of a subculture within the SEALs that prized aggression, even when it crossed the line, and that protected wrongdoers.

According to the investigation report, the troop commander, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, said in the meeting that while the SEALs were free to report the killings, the Navy might not look kindly on rank-and-file team members making allegations against a chief. Their careers could be sidetracked, he said, and their elite status revoked; referring to the eagle-and-trident badges worn by SEALs, he said the Navy “will pull your birds.”

The enlisted aide, Master Chief Petty Officer Brian Alazzawi, warned them that the “frag radius” — the area damaged by an explosion — from a war-crime investigation of Chief Gallagher could be wide enough to take down a lot of other SEALs as well, the report said.

[For more stories about the changing nature of warfare, sign up for the weekly At War newsletter.]

Navy SEALs are regarded as the most elite commando force in the American military. But that reputation has been blotted repeatedly in recent years by investigations of illegal beatings, killings and theft, and reports of drug use in the ranks. In January, the top commander of the SEALs, Rear Adm. Collin Green, ordered a 90-day review of the force’s culture and training; the results have not yet been made public.

As Chief Gallagher’s men were sounding an alarm about killings in Iraq, his superiors were lavishing praise on him. An evaluation quoted in the investigation report called Chief Gallagher the best chief of the 12 in the team, and said, “This is the man I want leading SEALs in combat.”

A few days after the March 2018 meeting, the chief was awarded a Bronze Star for valor under fire in Iraq.

A month later, the seven platoon members finally succeeded in spurring their commanders to formally report the killings of the three Iraqis to the Navy Criminal Investigation Service, by threatening to go directly to top Navy brass and to the news media.

Chief Gallagher was arrested in September on more than a dozen charges, including premeditated murder and attempted murder. If convicted, he could face life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and denies all the charges.

The chief’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said the Navy investigation report, which was first reported by Navy Times, does not offer an accurate account of what happened in Iraq. He said that hundreds of additional pages of evidence, sealed by the court, included interviews with platoon members who said the chief never murdered anyone.

At the same time, some conservatives have rallied to Chief Gallagher’s defense, raising money and pressing publicly for his release.

Chief Gallagher, through Mr. Parlatore, declined to be interviewed for this article.

The Navy has charged Chief Gallagher’s immediate superior, Lt. Jacob Portier, with failing to report the chief’s possibly criminal actions and with destroying evidence. Lieutenant Portier has pleaded not guilty. Through his lawyer, he, too, declined to be interviewed.

The investigation report indicates that a number of other high-ranking SEALs also knew of the allegations against the chief, and did not report them. But no one else has been charged in the case.

Chief Gallagher learned of the March 2018 meeting soon after it happened, the report indicates, and he began working to turn other SEALs against the accusers.

“I just got word these guys went crying to the wrong person,” Chief Gallagher wrote to a fellow chief in one of hundreds of text messages included in the report. To another, he wrote: “The only thing we can do as good team guys is pass the word on those traitors. They are not brothers at all.”

Citing his texts, the Navy kept the chief in the brig to await trial, saying it believed he had been trying to intimidate witnesses and undermine the investigation. He denies that accusation as well. . .

Chief Gallagher, who is 39 and goes by the nickname Blade, is known as a standout even among the elite SEALs. Over the course of five deployments with the SEALs, he was repeatedly recognized for valor and coolheaded leadership under fire. He is qualified as a medic, a sniper and an explosives expert, and has been an instructor at BUDS, the force’s grueling training program. To hundreds of sailors he trained, he was a battle-tested veteran who fed them war stories while pushing them through punishing workouts in the surf.

Investigators’ interviews with more than a dozen members of Alpha Platoon, included in the Navy’s criminal investigation report, as well as other interviews with SEALs, offer a more troubling portrait of the chief.

When Chief Gallagher took over leadership of the platoon in 2015, SEALs said, he already had a reputation as a “pirate” — an operator more interested in fighting terrorists than in adhering to the rules and making rank.

A number of platoon members told investigators that at first they were excited to be led by a battle-hardened “legend,” but their opinion quickly shifted after they were deployed to Iraq in February 2017 to help retake Mosul from Islamic State fighters. . .

A spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare, Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence, said that while they are commandos, SEALs are still expected to follow the same laws as all other troops, adding, “It’s called special operations, not different operations.”

The investigation report said several members of the platoon told investigators that Chief Gallagher showed little regard for the safety of team members or the lives of civilians. Their mission was to advise Iraqi forces and provide assistance with snipers and drones, but they said the chief wanted instead to clear houses and start firefights.

He would order them to take what seemed to be needless risks, and to fire rockets at houses for no apparent reason, they said. He routinely parked an armored truck on a Tigris River bridge and emptied the truck’s heavy machine gun into neighborhoods on the other side with no discernible targets, according to one senior SEAL.

Chief Gallagher’s job was to plan and oversee missions for the platoon, but platoon members said he spent much of his time in a hidden perch with a sniper rifle, firing three or four times as often as other platoon snipers. They said he boasted about the number of people he had killed, including women.

Photos from the deployment that were stored on a hard drive seized by the Navy show the chief aiming sniper rifles and rocket launchers from rooftops in the city.

Two SEAL snipers told investigators that one day, from his sniper nest, Chief Gallagher shot a girl in a flower-print hijab who was walking with other girls on the riverbank. One of those snipers said he watched through his scope as she dropped, clutching her stomach, and the other girls dragged her away.

Another day, two other snipers said, the chief shot an unarmed man in a white robe with a wispy white beard. They said the man fell, a red blotch spreading on his back.

Before the 2017 deployment, Chief Gallagher ordered a hatchet and a hunting knife, both handmade by a SEAL veteran named Andrew Arrabito with whom he had served, text messages show. Hatchets have become an unofficial SEAL symbol, and some operators carry and use them on deployments. Chief Gallagher told Mr. Arrabito in a text message shortly after arriving in Iraq, “I’ll try and dig that knife or hatchet on someone’s skull!”

On the morning of May 4, 2017, Iraqi troops brought in an Islamic State fighter who had been wounded in the leg in battle, SEALs told investigators, and Chief Gallagher responded over the radio with words to the effect of “he’s mine.” The SEALs estimated that the captive was about 15 years old. A video clip shows the youth struggling to speak, but SEAL medics told investigators that his wounds had not appeared life-threatening.

A medic was treating the youth on the ground when Chief Gallagher walked up without a word and stabbed the wounded teenager several times in the neck and once in the chest with his hunting knife, killing him, two SEAL witnesses said. . .

A week later, records show, Chief Gallagher texted a picture of the dead captive to a fellow SEAL in California, saying, “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”

But his platoon did not see it as a good story, according to the investigation report: The SEALs called a platoon meeting and discussed how to keep the chief away from anyone he could harm.

When senior platoon members confronted Chief Gallagher about the captive’s death, they said, he told them, “Stop worrying about it, they do a lot worse to us.”

The SEALs told investigators they reported the killing to Lieutenant Portier that night and at other times during the deployment, but the lieutenant took no action. They said the lieutenant had trained under Chief Gallagher at BUDS and “idolized” him.

Members of the platoon hoped the chief would be reprimanded when they returned home from Iraq in August 2017, according to the report. It didn’t happen. The report said they spoke repeatedly to the lieutenant’s superior, Commander Breisch, and to Chief Alazzawi and another Team 7 master chief, but were told to “decompress” and “let it go.” . . .

Read the whole thing.

The US seems to be in a very ugly phase.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2019 at 12:40 pm

Republicans for the Rule of Law are running some good ads—here’s one

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2019 at 8:27 am

Trump does foreign policy like a bored fifth-grader—and now we pay the price

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Catherine Rampell writes in the Washington Post:

What a jerk you were to let me dump you.

That’s the message the Trump administration is sending to some of our closest allies and most important economic partners. The most recent target is Japan, whom our U.S. ambassador berated last week for not giving us a favorable deal that Japan actually did give us — before we abruptly ripped it up.

The United States spent eight years negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This 12-country Pacific Rim trade pact was partly designed to build an economic and diplomatic alliance that would keep China, which had been excluded from the deal, in check.

But the United States’ objective was also to open up new markets for U.S.-made products, especially U.S. agricultural goods. A 2016 analysis from the International Trade Commission found that agriculture and food would be the U.S. sector that saw the greatest percentage gain in output growth as a result of the TPP.

Greater access to the Japanese market was particularly enticing to U.S. farmers and ranchers. Japan is a wealthy, mature economy — where high-income consumers can afford high-end U.S. beef and high-quality U.S. grains — but it’s also an economy that has had high barriers to agricultural trade.

And so, as part of the TPP talks, the U.S. trade team spent about a year negotiating one-on-one with Japan about agriculture, with the understanding that whatever concessions the United States won would be granted to the other TPP member countries as well.

This allowed us to “design the shape of a package that catered to U.S. priorities,” explains Darci Vetter, then the chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Of course, some of these priorities overlapped with those of other TPP countries. Both the United States and New Zealand were eager to sell more dairy and wine to Japan, for instance. Both the United States and Canada wanted Japan to lower tariffs on wheat. Which is why other countries were more than happy to let us push for as many concessions as we could.

Japan determined that the overall pact would be so valuable that it made the politically contentious choice of agreeing to our requests. Incidentally, the agricultural terms we’d negotiated in the TPP also became the template for a trade deal that Japan would separately negotiate with the European Union.

President Barack Obama signed the TPP in 2016. But Congress dragged its feet in ratifying it. Among President Trump’s first actions after his inauguration was to pull us out of the deal, with generally incoherent reasons for doing so.

Disappointed that we’d reneged, the remaining 11 TPP countries nonetheless decided to continue without us. Their new deal, sometimes called TPP 2.0, formally went into effect on Dec. 30, 2018. Just over a month later, Japan’s new trade deal with the European Union became effective.

This means that dozens of other countries now benefit from changes we persuaded Japan to make. And our farmers are about to lose out, big time.

Japan’s beef imports were already up 25 percent in the first two months of 2019 compared with a year earlier, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported. The biggest beneficiaries were Canada and New Zealand. This makes sense: As members of TPP 2.0, they have a huge price advantage. U.S. beef is tariffed at 38.5 percent, and TPP 2.0 countries’ beef is now at 26.6 percent, with further reductions slated for coming years.

Even before then, these other countries’ advantages will widen. If frozen beef imports surpass a certain threshold, as is expected soon, a “safeguard” tariff will automatically kick in and raise tariffs on our products — but not TPP 2.0’s members’ — to 50 percent.

With U.S. farmers quietly freaking out, pressure is mounting to seal a new bilateral trade deal with Japan. But rather than coming to Japan hat in hand, we’re scolding it for keeping its word when we could not be bothered to do the same.

“By implementing these agreements before addressing our bilateral trade relationship, Japan is effectively redistributing market share away from its strongest ally, the United States,” the U.S. ambassador to Japan, William Hagerty, told Nikkei.

Hagerty is also not the only one — Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) made a similar comment about Vietnam — urging TPP countries to extend the benefits of a deal we negotiated and then rejected.

I asked Vetter what she made of Hagerty’s remarks. She noted that the whole point of the TPP was to deepen member countries’ economic and diplomatic ties. From that perspective, then, the Trump administration is just angry that it’s working. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2019 at 7:50 am

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