US President Barack Obama leaves after speaking about trade policy at Nike Headquarters on May 8, 2015 in Beaverton, Oregon. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

^ President Obama seeks the economically bold, finds his party prefers the old.

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On Friday the House voted to kill a key provision of the Presient’s Trans pacific trade pact, and thus the pact itself.

House Democrats, bullied by labor unions, killed a provision — “TAA ” for short — that provides for worker protections in the context of trade pacts. TAA is much disliked by Republicans, and thus when the House Democrats also voted to kill it — a bill that they previously had passed unanimously ! — the TAA died, and with it, the entire trade pact : because the Pact version passed by the Senate includes the TAA provisions, makinng recociliation unlikely.

That’s the procedural story, all of it. It sounds rather dry, but it is not dry at all. It was an act of shocking selfishness on the part of organized Labor. Our nation badly needs to partner with the thirteen other Pacific rim nations participating in the Pact, in ordetr to dramatically expand our exports and thus compete with China, the world’s largest economy, fastest growing, and one of the most innovative. Now we will not have that chance.

We need tariff relief, we need cross-border corporate governance; we need international education; and we need cross-order standards for contracts, intellectual property protection, and innovation procedures.The Trans Pacific pact seeks a foothold of acceptance for all of these. ow that task becomes infinitely more distant.

Instead of working to improve America’s economy for tomorrow, as we transition to a fully world-wide economy in which the entire world of work transforms, labor has seen to it that we will safeguard, for a few more years, jobs of the old economy, jobs that are going away whether the Trans Pacific Pact is signed or isn’t.

Labor did this, let us note, to a Democratic President. We often think of organized Labor as the core of the Democratic party, but its work on Friday shows that that isn’t true at all. The AFL-CIO is as selfish — irresponsibly selfish — an organization as any in American politics, as willing to demean and degrade as the vilest Right Wing vigilante and every bit as defensive of the indefensible.

I will, never forget hearing a local AFL-CIO leader talk — at a funeral no less ! — about how the deceased, were he still alive, would find a way”to take down Charlie Baker.”

If this is how an AFL-CIO leader speaaks at a funeral, imagine what he thinks of the world of politics. The NRA at its most disgusting, anti-gay bigots at their vilest, offer nothing more destructive.

That is the mindset that, on Friday, saw to it that the President’s work to gain American goods and services a powerful international partnership for tomorrow would be killed so that yesterday might gasp for one more day on life support.

This is not to say that the AFL-CIO can’t be a powerful ally when it sides with maor policy initiatives. Boston’s Olympics Bid enjoys the support of the AFL-CIO just as it does of all labor unions that I am aware of. Labor’s support here is bold and economically smart, because the Olympics plan will transform the City as it must be transformed for the new economy.

So why this time clinging to the old, the dying, the obsolete ? I am at a loss to explain it.

America’s old-economy industrial jobs are not coming back. Why should they ? That’s not where the economy of tomorrow will be. Tomorrow’s economy will be run by innovators and small technology shops, platforms like Uber, Lyft, alibaba, and ebay; by biotechnology researchers; by educational experiment; and by the vast numbers of service workers who will supply the needs and desires of the innovator entrepreneurs. Work in 2020 and 2030, much less 2050, will look nothing like the work, that the AFL-CIO protects. What blindness !

If the AFL-CIO wants to do something useful for tomorrow’s workplace, it can advocate for a
$ 15,00 an hour minimum wage, maybe even a $ 21.00 an hour wage, so that the legions of new-economy service workers will have sufficient money to buy the same stuff that the innovators will be shopping for. After all, these service workers are going to need unions — smart, forward-thinking unions like Local 26 Hotel and Hospitality Workers — to fight or them, just as their industrial predecesoors needed craft unions back in the 1930s-1960s.

But no, that’s not how the tape-rewinded AFL-CIO thinks. Just as the religious fanatics who have spoiled the Republican party impose outdated “family values,” so, evidently, does the AFL-CIO seek to impose outdated economic values. When will American political interests stop rewinding a silent movie and start shape-shifting the digital future that is coming whether or not Americans like it ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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