President Obama seems bent on undermining many of his progressive accomplishments, and even his legacy, by pushing hard for the corporate gift basket known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Robert Reich explains the personal and political connections behind the push for the TPP, and it's centered around former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and lesser known U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman ...
Why has President Obama been willing to spend so much political capital on the Trans Pacific Partnership? I have a guess. It begins with Michael Froman, the United States Trade Representative who’s been in charge of this debacle. Froman went to Harvard Law School with Obama, but that’s not the only important connection. In the Clinton Administration, Froman was chief of staff to Bob Rubin when Rubin was Secretary of the Treasury. Rubin, you may recall, had convinced Clinton to pass NAFTA, kill the Glass-Steagall Act, and not regulate financial derivatives. Immediately after the Clinton Administration, Froman accompanied Rubin to Citigroup, where Rubin ran the bank’s executive committee while Froman became President and Chief Executive Officer of CitiInsurance and head of Emerging Markets Strategy. Froman remained at Citigroup until Obama tapped him to be U.S. Trade Representative. (Froman did well at the bank, receiving more than $7.4 million from January 2008 to 2009 alone.) Not incidentally, Froman was the person who first introduced Obama to Rubin.
When it comes to understanding influence in Washington, following the people is almost as important as following the money. (Sometimes they're the same thing.)
Long story short? President Obama has been given a pass for standing by while Tim Geithner pushed for and then winked and nodded at the trillion dollar bailouts for our nation's largest financial institutions. Things will be much different if the Republican supported TPP gets pushed through Congress and gets to his desk for his signature.
And he'll have no one to blame for a tarnished legacy but himself, and the friends who helped him believe that secretive corporate trade agreements actually work for middle class Americans.