Rep. Rangel, protect your legacy—and us!

WILLIAM SMITH and STEPHANIE LOW | 11/17/2016, 10:11 a.m.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a controversial trade agreement strongly opposed across the political spectrum.
Congressman Charlie Rangel

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a controversial trade agreement strongly opposed across the political spectrum. But despite rumors of the TPP’s imminent demise, the Obama administration is planning a vote on the deal in Congress after the November elections.

The TPP’s passage would be disastrous for New York State and New York City jobs; for our water, air, land and personal health; and even for the sovereignty of our entire nation. Because of the danger posed by the TPP, a diverse coalition of environmental, labor, health and community organizations is working hard to obtain a public pledge from every New York member of Congress that he or she will vote against it.

Congressman Rangel, you have stood with us against the TPP before, when you voted against the Fast Track bill. More than that, you have built a legacy of support over the years for us, the people of your district.

You came into office as a military hero after the Korean conflict, in which, risking your life and though severely wounded, you led 40 of your fellow combatants out of surrounding enemy fire to safety. Your allegiance to our country and national security cannot be questioned.

Yet our national security would be threatened by passage of the TPP. Brigadier General John Adams notes, “As a result of losing more than 5 million American manufacturing jobs in the last 20 years [because of] our failed trade policies … our military is increasingly dependent on foreign production, [making us] seriously vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.”

As a veteran highly decorated for your outstanding bravery and leadership, Congressman, you know that this situation is simply unacceptable.

Adams also states that “other major studies show the [TPP] would lower wages for 90 percent of Americans.” The same conclusion was reached by the International Trade Commission in their 2016 study of the TPP’s economic effects—that it would mean “almost no gains for U.S. economic growth by 2032 … reducing employment in manufacturing.”

The ITC, normally so enthusiastic about any trade deal, revealed that 16 of New York’s 17 manufacturing sectors would be at risk from the TPP, among them chemistry and textiles, leather and paper products, toys, medical devices and autos. The only sector to profit from the deal would be petroleum and coal.

The economic, public health and environmental impacts have not escaped the attention of half a dozen local New York legislatures. Last year, the New York City Council passed Resolution #576, voicing “concerns that the passage of the TPP would ban ‘Buy American’ and ‘Buy Local’ efforts by U.S. industries, which could put goods and services created and based in New York City at a competitive disadvantage.”

In 2012, Rep. Rangel, you voted to modernize the Hunts Point market, supporting “Buy Local” for 200 large farms located in New York State. But the TPP would threaten “Buy Local” programs. Another facet of your legacy would be destroyed.

Under Chapter 10 of the TPP, foreign companies will be coming to the U.S. to compete with our companies, but even worse, they don’t have to hire U.S. workers even if people here are qualified to do the job. Infrastructure and tech jobs could be filled by foreign employees getting salaries at the same outrageously low rate they get in their own countries, lowering American salaries overall.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. In New York State they provide 43 percent of private sector jobs. But small-business associations across the country recently asked Congress to defer a lame-duck vote on the TPP, saying, “It’s a bad deal for most U.S. businesses.” You know this city, Congressman. You see the empty storefronts and you know that we’re struggling.

This vote on the TPP presents a truly defining moment for your life of service. We want and need you to speak out now, before the vote and stand firmly, not with the corporations, but with us, the people.

Don’t abandon us, Congressman, or your outstanding legacy.