President Obama is currently on his second trip of the year to China. On one hand, the president has spoken about the importance of net neutrality and creating jobs, but on the other hand, is also attempting to push through a global free trade agreement that would drastically alter internet use around the world, and possibly hamper job creation in the United States.
Before Barack Obama became President Obama, he rode a wave of progressive populism that hadn’t been seen since the days of John F. Kennedy. Shades of this energy were seen from time to time, Jack’s brother Bobby had it, Ronald Reagan had it, and even Bill Clinton to a certain degree. With the election of President Obama, and his re-election in 2012, millions of Americans were hoping for the “hope and change” that was promised on the campaign trail. Fast forward six years, and the results are mixed.
The economy has improved since the financial meltdown of 2008, but a stubborn Congress and questionable policies have restricted full recovery. Big strides in LGBT rights have been made, with more than half the states in the country now recognizing same-sex marriage. Though some issues are divided along the party line, other issues have divided the liberal base that was once so united behind the president.
In a statement on November 10 in China, President Obama spoke loudly in support for net neutrality, the idea of a free and open internet that can’t be dictated by private companies. The president asked the Federal Communications Commission to “create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality,” noting that cable and phone companies shouldn’t be able “to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online.” Opponents of net neutrality fear a possible government intervention, that could lead to, what Sen. Ted Cruz calls, “Obamacare for the internet.”
While many on the political left cheered President Obama, many were left scratching their heads when the president continued to push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Often described as “NAFTA on steroids,” and a “corporate coup d’etat,” the TPP is a massive global free trade agreement that includes the United States and 11 other countries representing 40 percent of the world’s economy.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, said of Obama’s support of the TPP, “his push for the TPP is at cross-purposes with his stated goal of lifting the middle class and providing opportunity for those striving to reach the middle class.” DeLauro also said that Obama would need to “choose between that and trade policies that would only further exacerbate the economic problems in this country.” Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison, Democrat from Minnesota, is also against the TPP, saying that, “it’s hard to be for reducing inequality and the TPP…It’s like trying to sit down and stand up at the same time.”
In addition to the worry of job creation in the United States being restricted, the TPP would implement internet restrictions that Obama had previously spoken against. Information obtained following a release from WikiLeaks focuses on intellectual property rights. “The TPP’s intellectual property regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons,” said Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. Assange also notes that “If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”
The campaign group known as “Fight for the Future” has been active in pushing back against the TPP and has amassed over 130,000 signatures in a petition to stop the trade agreement. Campaign manager for Fight for the Future, Evan Greer has warned that, while speaking out in favor of net neutrality, President Obama and his administration are “quietly pushing for extreme, SOPA-like copyright policies that benefit Hollywood and giant pharmaceutical companies at the expense of our most basic rights to freedom of expression online.”
There is no doubt that being the President of the United States is a difficult job, one that often forces you to veer from previous commitments. On issues of taxes, health care, gun control, the minimum wage, education spending and others, blame can appropriately be placed at the doorstep of Republicans in Congress. However, there needs to be accountability for the actions that a president makes when there is no one else to blame but him, or her. Along with the expansion of the NSA, increased drone use, his aggressive stance against whistleblowers and journalists, Guantanamo Bay prison remaining open without much push to close it, as well as other legit criticisms, the political left, once a solid base behind President Obama, is starting to fracture. Many on the left balk at any criticism levied at Obama, but unless pressure is continued to be put on from his own supporters, the president will have no reason not to continue to move away from the polices that got him elected in the first place.