Republicans Have an Ambitious Agenda for the Supreme Court

Why the G.O.P. doesn’t need to try to pass mostly unpopular policies through the elected branches.

Not so long ago, Republicans had one of the most ambitious legislative agendas of any political party in modern American history.

Devised by the former House speaker, Paul Ryan, the so-called Ryan budget sought to reduce much of the nation’s social safety net to ashes. Congressional Republicans planned to slash Medicaid spending and food stamps. In the most aggressive version of Mr. Ryan’s proposal, Republicans would have replaced Medicare with “premium support” vouchers that could be used to buy private insurance, and then reduced the value of this subsidy every year — effectively eliminating traditional Medicare over time.

But all of that has changed. The Ryan budget is a relic. At their 2020 national convention, Republicans didn’t even bother to come up with a new platform.

Yet while the party appears to have no legislative agenda, it’s a mistake to conclude that it has no policy agenda. Because Republicans do: They have an extraordinarily ambitious agenda to roll back voting rights, to strip the government of much of its power to regulate, to give broad legal immunity to religious conservatives and to immunize many businesses from a wide range of laws.

It’s just that the Republican Party doesn’t plan to pass its agenda through either one of the elected branches. Its agenda lives in the judiciary — and especially in the Supreme Court.

From 2011, when Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and denied President Barack Obama a governing majority, until the pandemic forced legislators’ hands in 2020, Congress enacted hardly any major legislation outside of the 2017 tax law.

In the same period, the Supreme Court

  • dismantled much of America’s campaign finance law;
  • severely weakened the Voting Rights Act;
  • permitted states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion;
  • expanded new “religious liberty” rights permitting some businesses that object to a law on religious grounds to diminish the rights of third parties; 
  • weakened laws shielding workers from sexual and racial harassment; 
  • expanded the right of employers to shunt workers with legal grievances into a privatized arbitration system;
  • undercut public sector unions’ ability to raise funds; and
  •  halted Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Now, a 6-to-3 conservative-majority Supreme Court is likely to reshape the country in the coming decade, exempting favored groups from their legal obligations, stripping the Biden administration of much of its lawful authority, and even placing a thumb on the scales of democracy itself.

Many of these changes would build on decisions handed down long before President Donald Trump reshaped the Supreme Court. The court, for example, first allowed employers to force workers to sign away their right to sue the company — locking those workers into a private-arbitration system that favors corporate parties — in a 2001 case, Circuit City v. Adams. But the court’s current majority is likely to make it much harder for workers and consumers to overcome these tactics. In Epic Systems v. Lewis (2018), Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court’s majority opinion favoring an employer that forced its employees to give up their right to sue.

Similarly, in the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court held that businesses seeking a religious exemption from a law may have it — holding, for the first time, that such exemptions may be allowed even when they diminish the rights of others. That case permitted employers with religious objections to birth control to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees, even though a federal regulation required employer-provided health plans to cover contraception.

Before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the Supreme Court, however, a majority of the justices were very reluctant to grant religious exemptions to state regulations seeking to limit the spread of Covid-19. Yet after she became a justice, the court’s new majority started granting such exemptions to churches that wanted to defy public health orders.

It’s plausible that the Republican Party did not campaign on its old legislative agenda in 2020 because it was busy rebranding itself. Under Mr. Trump, Republicans attracted more working-class voters, while Democrats made gains in relatively affluent suburbs. So Mr. Ryan’s plans to ransack programs like Medicaid aren’t likely to inspire the party’s emerging base.

And yet the court’s conservative majority is still pushing an agenda that benefits corporations and the wealthy at the expense of workers and consumers.

It’s easy to see why government-by-judiciary appeals to Republican politicians. There’s no constituency for forced arbitration outside of corporate boardrooms. But when the court hands down decisions like Circuit City or Epic Systems, those decisions often go unnoticed. Employers score a major policy victory over their workers, and voters don’t blame the Republican politicians who placed conservative justices on the court.

Judges can also hide many of their most consequential decisions behind legal language and doctrines. One of the most important legal developments in the last few years, for example, is that a majority of the court called for strict new limits on federal agencies’ power to regulate the workplace, shield consumers and protect the environment.

In Little Sisters v. Pennsylvania (2020), the court signaled that it’s likely to strike down the Department of Health and Human Services’s rules requiring insurers to cover many forms of medical care — including birth control, immunizations and preventive care for children. And in West Virginia v. E.P.A. (2016), the court shut down much of the E.P.A.’s efforts to fight climate change.

Yet to understand decisions like Little Sisters and West Virginia, a reader needs to master arcane concepts like the “nondelegation doctrine” or “Chevron deference” that baffle even many lawyers. The result is that the Republican Party’s traditional constituency — business conservatives — walk away with big wins, while voters have less access to health care and breathe dirtier air.

By legislating from the bench, Republicans dodge accountability for unpopular policies. Meanwhile, the real power is held by Republican judges who serve for life — and therefore do not need to worry about whether their decisions enjoy public support.

It’s a terrible recipe for democracy. Voters shouldn’t need to hire a lawyer to understand what their government is doing.

Global Coup d’État: Mapping the Corporate Takeover of Global Governance

00:03
[Music]
00:07
hello and welcome i’m lynn fries
00:08
producer of global political economy
00:10
or gbe news docs today i’m joined by
00:13
nick
00:14
buxton he’s going to be giving us some
00:16
big picture context on the great
00:18
reset a world economic forum initiative
00:20
to reset the world
00:22
system of global governance a worldwide
00:25
movement crossing not only borders but
00:28
all walks of life
00:30
from peasant farmers to techies is
00:33
fighting against this initiative on the
00:35
grounds that it represents a major
00:37
threat
00:38
to democracy key voices from the health
00:41
food education indigenous people and
00:44
high
00:45
tech movements explained why in the
00:48
great
00:48
takeover how we fight the davos capture
00:52
of global governance a recent webinar
00:54
hosted by the transnational
00:56
institute today’s guest nick buxton
00:59
is a publications editor and future labs
01:02
coordinator
01:03
at the transnational institute he’s the
01:06
founder
01:06
and chief editor of tni’s flagship
01:09
state of power report welcome nick
01:13
thank you very much liam nick the
01:16
transnational
01:17
institute was was co-organizer of the
01:20
great takeover webinar so what is it
01:24
that you’re
01:25
mobilizing against uh in opposing this
01:28
great
01:28
reset initiative what we’re really
01:31
concerned about is
01:32
this initiative by the world economic
01:34
forum
01:35
actually looks to entrench the power of
01:37
those most responsible for the crises
01:39
we’re facing
01:40
um and in in many ways it’s a trick it’s
01:43
a sleight of hand
01:45
uh to make sure that things continue as
01:48
they are
01:49
to continue the same and that will
01:51
create more of these crises more of
01:53
these pandemics will
01:54
deepen the climate crisis which will
01:56
deepen inequality
01:58
and it’s not a great reset at all it’s a
02:00
great corporate takeover
02:01
and that’s what we were trying to draw
02:02
attention to what we’ve been finding
02:05
in in recent years is that um really
02:07
there is
02:08
something i would call it a kind of a
02:10
global
02:11
silent coup d’etat going on in terms of
02:14
global governance
02:15
most people don’t see it and people are
02:17
familiar have become familiar with the
02:19
way that corporations
02:21
have far more influence and are being
02:24
integrated into policy-making and
02:26
national level
02:27
they see that more more in front of them
02:30
people see their services being
02:32
privatized
02:33
and they see the influence of the oil
02:36
companies or the banking sector that has
02:38
stopped
02:39
actions such as regulations of banks or
02:42
are dealing with the climate crisis what
02:43
people don’t realize is at a global
02:45
level
02:46
there has been something much more
02:48
silent going on which is that their
02:50
governance which used to be by nations
02:53
is now increasingly be done by
02:55
unaccountable bodies
02:57
dominated by corporations and part of
03:00
the problem is that that has been
03:02
happening in lots of different
03:03
sectors but people haven’t been
03:05
connecting the dots
03:07
so what we’ve been trying to do in the
03:08
last year is to talk with
03:11
people in the health movement for
03:12
example people involved in
03:14
public education people involved
03:17
in food sector to say what what is
03:20
happening in your sector and what we
03:22
found is that in each of these sectors
03:24
global decisions were used to be
03:25
discussed by bodies such as the wh
03:28
o or such as the food and agriculture
03:30
organization
03:32
were increasingly done by these these
03:34
unaccountable bodies
03:36
and just to give an example uh we have
03:39
now the global pandemic and one of the
03:41
key bodies that is now making the
03:43
decision
03:43
is is a facility called kovacs you’d
03:46
have thought
03:47
global health should be run by the world
03:49
health organization it’s accountable to
03:51
the united nations
03:53
it has a system of accountability well
03:55
what’s actually happening is that world
03:57
health organization
03:58
is just one of a few partners that
04:01
really
04:02
has been controlled by corporations and
04:04
corporate interests
04:05
in this case is gavi and sepi and they
04:08
are both bodies which which don’t have a
04:11
system of accountability
04:13
where it’s not clear who chose them who
04:15
they’re accountable to
04:17
or how they can be held to account and
04:20
what we do see is that there’s a lot of
04:22
corporate influence in each of these
04:23
bodies
04:24
what this webinar was about was bringing
04:26
all these sectors together
04:28
who are seeing this silent coup d’etat
04:30
going on
04:31
in their own sector to map it out and so
04:34
one of the things that you’ll
04:35
have seen in the in the webinar is is
04:37
this mapping of the different sectors
04:40
who are um who are seeing this going on
04:43
and the
04:43
idea is just to give a global picture
04:45
that this is something happening we’ve
04:47
had
04:48
we’ve had more than a hundred of these
04:50
um of these mult they’re called
04:52
multi-stakeholder bodies
04:54
uh coming to coming to the fore in the
04:57
last 20 years
04:58
um and and there’s been very little kind
05:00
of taking note of that and taking stock
05:02
of what’s emerging
05:04
and what’s emerging is this silent
05:06
global coup d’etat
05:08
so what you find then in the big picture
05:11
that you’re getting
05:12
is that a global coup d’etat has been
05:15
silently emerging and at the heart of it
05:18
is a move
05:19
towards multi-stakeholder model of
05:21
global governance and
05:23
that this is the model that’s the path
05:25
and mechanism
05:27
of a corporate hijack of global and
05:29
national governance
05:30
structures and the world economic forum
05:32
agenda fits into all this is the wef of
05:35
course is
05:36
one of the world’s most powerful
05:38
multi-stakeholder institutions
05:40
so nick in explaining what all this
05:42
means let’s start with some of your
05:44
thoughts
05:45
on the history of how we got here
05:49
i think what we had was in the 90s was
05:52
the kind of height of neoliberalism we
05:53
had
05:54
we had um the increasing role of
05:56
corporations as
05:58
and the deregulation of the state and it
06:01
really started to come through in 2000
06:02
with the global compact
06:04
and where the un invited in uh you know
06:07
corporations and the idea was that we’re
06:09
going to need to involve corporations
06:11
one because
06:12
we will need private finance became the
06:15
kind of motto
06:16
the mantra so we need to involve
06:18
corporations they can be part of the
06:20
solution so it was
06:21
partly financed it was partly the
06:22
withdrawal of state
06:24
from kind of global cooperation um
06:27
and and that started to invite
06:30
corporations into the global government
06:32
where corporations were increasingly um
06:34
being invited into these kind of bodies
06:37
that dovetailed with this whole movement
06:39
um called
06:40
the corporate social responsibility that
06:42
sid corporations
06:44
weren’t just profit-making vehicles they
06:46
could be socially responsible
06:48
actors um and and so increasingly
06:51
corporations were pitching themselves as
06:53
as not just um corporate entities but as
06:57
global citizens
06:59
um and and one of the key vehicles for
07:02
that of course is the world economic
07:04
forum which has
07:05
really been articulating
07:08
through klaus schwab and through their
07:10
whole and through their whole
07:11
work uh this idea that’s that
07:14
corporations
07:16
should firstly be social responsible and
07:18
secondly as part of that they should be
07:20
treated
07:21
as social entities and should be
07:24
integrated into governance and decision
07:26
making
07:27
that we needed to move from what was
07:29
considered an
07:30
antiquated state-led
07:33
multilateral approach to a much more
07:36
agile governance system
07:38
and this is again the kind of mantra of
07:39
coming in of the private sector being
07:42
efficient
07:43
that the private sector if you involve
07:44
them in decision making
07:46
you would get more faster decisions you
07:48
get agile decisions you’d get better
07:50
decisions
07:51
and so this all really came together um
07:53
and and
07:54
in in some ways it’s even being
07:56
consolidated even further
07:58
the irony is that as as you’ve had
08:00
nationalist governments come to power
08:03
that the kind of trump america firsts of
08:06
the world or modi
08:07
india first they articulate a
08:10
nationalist agenda but they haven’t
08:12
actually questioned the role of
08:14
corporations in any way whatsoever
08:16
and as as they’ve retreated from
08:18
multilateral forums like the united
08:20
nations
08:21
they’ve left a vacuum that corporations
08:23
have been able to fill
08:24
corporations now say we can be the
08:27
global actors we can be the responsible
08:29
actors
08:30
we’re the ones who consort to tackle the
08:32
big crisis we face such as inequality
08:35
such as climate change
08:37
um such as the pandemic and so so really
08:40
this
08:40
this we’ve had this convergence of
08:42
forces coming together
08:44
where as states have retreated um
08:47
corporations have filled the vacuum
08:49
you mentioned earlier that the world
08:50
economic forum was one of the key
08:52
vehicles for these
08:53
ideas and the wef also went big in
08:57
filling that vacuum that you’re talking
09:00
about
09:00
tni reported the wef global redesign
09:04
initiative
09:05
stretching back to 2009 created
09:08
something like
09:09
40 global agenda councils and industry
09:12
sector bodies so in the sphere of global
09:15
governance the wef
09:17
created space for corporate actors
09:19
across the whole spectrum
09:21
of governance issues from cyber security
09:23
to climate change you name it
09:25
so yeah the global redesign initiative
09:27
was one of the first initiatives that
09:29
the world economic forum launched
09:31
in the wake of the financial crisis um
09:35
and their idea was that we needed to
09:37
replace what was
09:39
uh an inefficient um multilateral system
09:42
that was not able to solve problems
09:45
with a new form of things so they were
09:46
saying instead of a multilateral where
09:48
nations make decisions in global
09:50
cooperation
09:51
we needed a multi-stakeholder approach
09:54
which would bring together
09:55
all the interested parties in small
09:58
groups
09:59
to make decisions and the global
10:01
redesign initiative was really a model
10:03
of that they were trying
10:04
to say okay how do we resolve um
10:07
issues such as the governance of the
10:09
digital economy
10:11
and their answer to it is we bring the
10:13
big tech companies together we bring the
10:15
governments together and we bring a few
10:17
civil society players
10:19
and we’ll work out a system that makes
10:21
that makes sense
10:23
um and and so you had a similar thing
10:26
going on in all these other redesigned
10:28
councils really their models
10:29
for how they think governments should be
10:31
done and some of them have not just
10:33
become models they’ve actually become
10:34
the real thing
10:36
so many of the multi-stakeholder
10:37
initiatives we’ve seen emerge today
10:40
have emerged out of some of these
10:42
councils
10:43
um the coalition for epidemic
10:45
preparedness one of the key ones leading
10:48
kovacs right now the response to the
10:49
pandemic was launched at the world
10:51
economic forum so the world economic
10:53
forum is now becoming a launch pad for
10:55
many of these
10:56
multi-stakeholder bodies we should also
10:59
note the world economic forum is a
11:01
very well funded launch pad as
11:04
a powerpoint from the great takeover
11:06
webinar put it
11:08
corporations do not pay tax but donate
11:11
to multi-stakeholder institutions and
11:13
the wef of course
11:15
is funded by powerful corporations and
11:18
business leaders
11:19
the powerpoint also noted the bill and
11:21
melinda gates foundation is one of the
11:23
main funders of multi-stakeholder
11:26
institutions
11:27
in contrast multilateral institutions
11:30
are being
11:31
defunded on the back of falling
11:33
corporate tax revenues
11:35
for nation states given it depends on
11:39
government donors the
11:41
u.n regular budget that’s the backbone
11:43
of funding for the one country one vote
11:45
multilateral
11:46
processes of intergovernmental
11:49
cooperation and decision making
11:51
has taken a big hit perhaps you could
11:54
comment on some big picture implications
11:57
on this kind of
11:58
changing dynamic that’s going on between
12:01
corporate actors and nation states
12:03
yeah yeah i think i think what we’re
12:06
seeing is that the
12:07
um as gradually the corporations have
12:09
become more powerful
12:11
they they have weakened the capacity of
12:14
the state
12:15
so they have reduced the tax basis you
12:18
know most corporations have seen
12:20
corporate tax rates drop
12:21
forward dramatically and even more
12:23
trillions are now siphoned away in tax
12:26
havens
12:26
so the the entire corporate tax base
12:28
which used to play a much bigger role in
12:30
state funding has reduced um at the same
12:34
time
12:35
they they their influence over policies
12:38
which benefit corporations
12:40
has increased so they’re reducing the
12:42
regulations that were on them they’re
12:43
reducing all the costs that used to be
12:45
opposed
12:46
on the things so you’ve had a weakening
12:48
of the state and the strengthening of
12:49
corporations
12:51
and what’s happened at a global
12:52
governance level is that they have also
12:54
moved
12:55
not just from influencing dramatically
12:58
through their power
12:59
their economic power political decision
13:01
making
13:02
but in an easy global governance thing
13:04
it’s the next step forward because
13:05
they’re not just saying
13:06
that we want to be considered and we
13:09
will lobby to have our position heard
13:11
they’re saying
13:11
we want to actually be part of the
13:13
decision-making bodies themselves
13:16
um and the classic again is if we look
13:18
at the pandemic with kovacs
13:21
is that um what i looked actually at
13:24
just at the board of
13:25
gavi the the global alliance of vaccines
13:28
um if you look at the body it’s the
13:31
board is dominated firstly
13:33
by big pharmaceutical companies um
13:36
secondly you have some nations and some
13:39
and
13:40
civil society representatives but you
13:42
have far more
13:43
interest in the almost half a large
13:45
number of the board
13:46
are financiers they come from the
13:48
finance sector they come from big banks
13:51
um so they’re they’re i don’t know what
13:53
they have to do with public health
13:55
um and wh show is just one of the
13:58
players so it’s it’s suddenly over
14:00
crowded by others who have no um
14:03
public health representation they’ve
14:06
been dominated by finance and
14:08
pharmaceutical companies
14:09
starting to really shape and guide um
14:12
decision-making
14:13
and and on the finance side of course
14:15
bill gates foundation
14:17
has is now the big player in many of
14:19
these things and it’s
14:21
it’s it’s not just donating it’s also
14:23
involved now in shaping policy
14:25
so those who give money um in a
14:28
philanthropic way
14:30
no matter how they earn that money or no
14:32
matter what their
14:33
remit is and who they’re accountable to
14:35
they’re only accountable to the
14:37
to to bill and melinda gates um
14:40
ultimately are now part of the decision
14:42
making process as well
14:44
and this has become so normalized that
14:46
there seems to be very little
14:47
questioning of it
14:48
and we will bring together these players
14:50
now who chose them
14:53
who who chose this body to come together
14:55
who’s it accountable to
14:56
there was a british parliamentarian
14:58
called tony ben he says if you want to
understand democracy you need to ask
five questions
  1. what what power do you have
  2. who did you get it from
  3. whose interest do you serve
  4. to whom are you accountable and
  5. how can we get rid of you
15:14
if you look at a body that such as
15:16
kovacs um
15:17
who who where did they get the power
15:19
from they just self-convened
15:21
they just brought together a group of
15:23
powerful actors
15:24
they will make a token effort to involve
15:27
one or two civil society representatives
15:29
but the power very much lies with with
15:32
the corporations
15:33
and and with the financiers those who
15:36
are financing it
15:38
and it’s not accountable they chose
15:40
their body
15:41
uh if the interests are very clear who
15:43
it serves it clear
15:44
it serves the pharmaceutical companies
15:46
they will of course do certain things
15:49
um within the remit um but ultimately
15:52
they will not undermine their best
15:53
business
15:54
model even if that business model is
15:55
getting in the way of an effective
15:57
response to the
15:58
pandemic we can’t get rid of them
16:01
because we never chose them in the first
16:02
place
16:03
so it fails really the very fundamental
16:05
principles of democracy
16:07
and yet it’s now been normalized that
16:09
this is the way that global governance
16:11
should happen
16:12
nick comment briefly on an agreement
16:14
that was quite a milestone
16:16
in this process of normalization of
16:19
multi-stakeholderism
16:20
as the way global governance should
16:22
happen i’m thinking
16:23
of the uh strategic partnership
16:26
agreement signed
16:27
by the office of the un secretary
16:29
general with the world economic forum in
16:32
2019.
16:33
so what’s some background in your
16:35
response to that
16:37
uh un-w-e-f agreement
16:41
well the world economic forum has been
16:43
um advocating this mod
16:45
model of multi-stakeholder capitalism to
16:47
replace multilateralism for a long time
16:50
and and they have been um gradually
16:54
i would say kind of setting up parallel
16:56
bodies these multi-stakeholder bodies to
16:58
make decisions
17:00
um on major issues of global governance
17:02
whether it’s the digital economy or
17:04
whether it’s
17:04
how to respond to a a pandemic
17:08
um and and so they’ve they’ve been
17:10
advancing this model
17:11
um alongside the un for some time but
17:14
what what was really concerning to us is
17:16
that they’re starting
17:18
to increasingly um
17:22
engage with the un and start to impose
17:25
this and start to push this model within
17:27
the united nations
17:29
and the classic example was this
17:31
strategic partnership which was signed
17:33
in
17:33
i believe june of 2019
17:37
i don’t think it went even in front of
17:38
the general assembly so it wasn’t
17:40
discussed amongst the members it was a
17:42
decision
17:43
by the secretariat of the un without any
17:46
at least any
17:46
formal systems of accountability to sign
17:49
a deal with the world economic forum
17:51
that would essentially in start to
17:53
involve you
17:55
world economic forum staff within the
17:58
departments of the un
17:59
they would become so-called kind of
18:01
whisper advisors that
18:02
the world economic forum would start to
18:05
have its staff mingling with un staff
18:07
and starting to make decisions
18:09
um and there was no system of
18:10
accountability there was no system of
18:12
of um of consulting more widely
18:16
and and we know the world economic forum
18:19
is is this business forum if you look at
18:21
its board it’s completely controlled
18:23
uh by by some of the most wealthy and
18:26
powerful corporations and many of those
18:27
corporations
18:29
are responsible for many of the crises
18:31
we face and yet here they were being
18:32
open
18:33
open armed and welcomed into the united
18:37
nations to play a very significant role
18:38
and
18:39
and we we protested that we said that
18:42
this is not
18:43
this is not a way to solve global
18:45
problems to involve those who have
18:47
actually responsible for the crisis to
18:48
resolve it
18:50
will only lead to solutions that are
18:51
either ineffective or actually deepen
18:53
the crises we face
18:55
um we understand why the u.n is doing it
18:57
it’s because of this
18:58
lack of national support is because of
19:00
the defunding
19:02
they’re looking to kind of survive as an
19:03
organization and they’re going to the
19:05
most powerful players in the world which
19:07
are the corporations
19:08
but what they’re going to end up doing
19:09
is as ultimately undermined in the
19:12
united nations it will actually
19:14
damage the united nations because it
19:15
will remove all the democratic
19:17
legitimacy that it currently has
19:20
we desperately need global collaboration
19:23
and cooperation
19:24
but it must be based on public and
19:26
democratic systems of governance
19:29
not um unaccountable secretive forms of
19:32
governance dominated by corporations
19:35
so that’s pretty clear you oppose
19:38
multi-stakeholderism because it’s an
19:40
unaccountable
19:41
secretive form of governance dominated
19:44
by corporations
19:45
so as well as being unaccountable the
19:49
multi-stakeholder model is a voluntary
19:52
and a market-based approach to problem
19:55
solving
19:56
comment on how that also uh fits into
19:59
why you oppose the multi-stakeholderism
20:03
yeah the the solutions they’re looking
20:05
for are volunteeristic
20:07
where you can come in or out and they’re
20:09
market-based
20:10
so they will never actually challenge
20:12
the business model as it is ultimately
20:14
what happens is that they make decisions
20:16
which are not binding and actually force
20:19
actors like corporations to do certain
20:21
things
20:22
they’re based entirely on this voluntary
20:23
meth model um but it’s a kind of to take
20:26
it or leave it governance where you can
20:28
do things that you
20:29
that look good for your for your annual
20:31
report
20:32
but don’t actually change the way you
20:36
actually operate
20:37
um and so ultimately they won’t resolve
20:39
the crisis that we’re facing
20:41
so it’s not just that they’re
20:42
unaccountable but they’re actually
20:44
ultimately very ineffective so if we
20:45
look at the climate crisis for example
20:47
we’ll say
20:48
the only way that we can deal with the
20:50
climate crisis is market solutions
20:52
even if we know that really the scale of
20:55
the climate crisis the urgency
20:57
and the timing requires us to take much
20:59
more drastic solutions which will be
21:01
state-led which will require
21:02
corporations to reduce emissions
21:04
and that will start to transform
21:06
economies um
21:08
that will have to be taken these kind of
21:10
public decisions
21:12
we’re ignoring that entirely for a model
21:14
which is based on of market
21:15
incentives which really do nothing to
21:18
change the business model that has
21:19
created the climate crisis
21:21
okay so that goes a long way in
21:22
explaining why you say the world
21:24
economic forum great
21:25
reset initiative is no reset at all
21:29
nick briefly touch on some of your
21:31
further observations
21:33
like why is the multi-stakeholder model
21:36
is based on
21:37
market solutions when push comes to
21:41
shove
21:42
the profit motive will always win out
21:45
under this
21:45
approach to global governance yeah no
21:48
absolutely i mean corporations will
21:50
accept market solutions which give them
21:52
the power
21:53
to uh to really control the pace of
21:56
change
21:56
and so you’ll see it they’re very happy
21:58
to to produce these corporate social
22:00
responsibility reports but
22:02
they will fight tooth and nail for any
22:04
regulation which actually enforces
22:06
social environmental goals and so and
22:09
they will
22:10
fight on an international level to have
22:13
trade rules to actually
22:14
prevent states imposing social
22:17
environmental goals
22:19
so so there’s very much an approach
22:21
where they’re willing to have
22:22
been washed they’re willing to have the
22:24
propaganda around social environmental
22:26
goals but they will absolutely oppose
22:29
and in any rules would actually
22:32
control their their environmental and
22:34
social impacts
22:36
they do not want anything which actually
22:38
requires regulation
22:40
and and impacts which will actually
22:42
force them to do certain changes they
22:44
want their changes to be very much ones
22:46
that they
22:47
control and which they shape and
22:48
ultimately that they can ditch
22:51
at the moment it starts to challenge the
22:53
profits that they want to make
22:55
let’s turn now to the coalition in
22:58
in fighting for a democratic reset
23:01
on uh global governance so a future
23:04
where decision making over the
23:06
governance of global commons like
23:08
for example food water health and the
23:11
internet
23:12
is is done in the public interest and i
23:15
see this
23:16
coalition put together resources and
23:18
it’s posted on your website
23:19
you’re in the nexus of all this so this
23:21
time around in the wake
23:23
of the covet pandemic what’s your read
23:27
on the situation
23:28
of peoples versus corporate power
23:31
this global coup d’etat that’s been
23:34
going on silently in so many different
23:36
sectors has been advancing because there
23:39
hasn’t been enough information and
23:41
knowledge about it
23:42
and also people haven’t been connecting
23:44
the dots to see this is happening in
23:45
every sector
23:47
so what’s really important this year in
23:49
as
23:50
as and i think it’s particularly
23:52
important in the wake of the pandemic is
23:54
that
23:54
so many movements are coming together um
23:57
people’s health movement
23:59
has come together a lot of groups
24:01
involved in food sovereignty uh the
24:04
trade union sector
24:05
coming together they’re all saying uh we
24:08
do this
24:08
this is not in our name um and of course
24:11
these are all groups that you’ll never
24:12
see
24:13
in a in a multi-stakeholder initiative
24:16
whenever they do have civil society
24:18
partners they don’t involve people on
24:19
the front lines you won’t find one
24:23
health union worker in in the kovacs
24:27
initiative you won’t have public health
24:29
people really represented
24:31
represented so these are movements now
24:33
starting to come together to say that we
24:35
don’t want this and
24:36
one of the things we did was launch this
24:38
letter it’s an open letter and it’s
24:40
really saying that
24:41
it’s really alerting people to what’s
24:43
going on it’s saying that we’re facing
24:46
this
24:46
in so many different sectors uh the un
24:49
is is opening the door the un secretary
24:52
i should say is opening the door wide
24:54
open
24:55
uh to the world economic forum which is
24:57
the key body advancing
24:58
multi-stakeholders
25:01
and and it’s changing governance as we
25:03
know it it’s
25:04
and it has no systems of accountability
25:06
or justice embedded in it
25:08
and these movements are now coming
25:09
together to say we we’re
25:11
we’re opposing this we’re uniting our
25:13
forces
25:14
and we’re going to fight back against
25:16
this we know
25:18
more than ever before with the pandemic
25:20
that nationalist
25:21
solutions to the global crisis will not
25:25
work we need global cooperation we need
25:27
global collaboration
25:29
but if we hand over all that decision
25:31
making to the pharmaceutical companies
25:34
for example we won’t be dealing with the
25:36
real issues
25:38
such as as trade protection and trips
25:42
and i um patents and everything that
25:45
that really benefit pharmaceutical
25:47
companies and don’t advance public
25:48
health because they
25:49
are in control of the process they won’t
25:51
allow things that affect their profits
25:54
so we need global solutions but they
25:55
cannot be led by the corporations
25:58
which are actually worsening deepening
25:59
the crisis we face
26:02
so as we close i just wanted to play a
26:04
clip of a comment
26:06
you made back in 2015 about a book you
26:09
had co-edited
26:11
titled the secure and was dispossessed i
26:14
found a review of the book
26:15
so relevant to our chat today i just
26:17
want to cite a few lines
26:19
it said among the books that attempt to
26:21
model
26:22
the coming century this one stands out
26:25
for its sense of plausibility
26:27
and danger it examines several current
26:30
trends in our responses
26:32
to climate change which if combined
26:34
would result in a kind of oligarchic
26:37
police state dedicated to extending
26:40
capitalist hegemony this will not work
26:43
and yet powerful forces are advocating
26:46
for it rather than imagining and working
26:48
for
26:49
a more just resilient and democratic way
26:52
forward
26:53
all the processes analyzed here are
26:55
already
26:56
happening now making this book
26:59
a crucial contribution to our cognitive
27:02
mapping
27:03
in our ability to form a better plan
27:06
so nick in wrapping up briefly comment
27:10
on that book
27:11
and then uh play the clip yeah back in
27:14
2011 we noticed a trend going on in
27:17
terms of climate change where there was
27:19
was
27:20
was a lack of willingness to really
27:22
tackle the climate crisis on the scale
27:24
it needs and with the
27:25
with the with the tools and instruments
27:28
that it needs
27:29
but there was increasingly uh plans by
27:32
both
27:33
the military and corporations for
27:35
dealing with the impacts of climate
27:37
change
27:38
um and they very much looked at it in
27:41
terms of how do we
27:43
secure the wealth of those and secure
27:45
those who already have power and wealth
27:48
um and and and what that would mean so
27:51
in the face of climate crisis
27:53
the solution was very much a security
27:55
solution we’ve already seen
27:57
really an increasing role of military
28:00
and policing
28:01
and security and the real process
28:04
of militarization of responses to
28:06
climate change the most obviously in the
28:08
area of the borders
28:09
we see we see border walls going up
28:12
everywhere
28:13
the response to a crisis has been has
28:16
been to kind of retreat between behind
28:18
fortified fortifications no matter the
28:20
consequences
28:22
um and so that that was really that’s
28:25
that’s really a trend that we
28:26
that we see increasingly is that climate
28:29
our response to climate adaptation by
28:30
the richest
28:31
countries is really to military to
28:33
militarize our response to it
28:36
and that’s that’s a and that’s a real as
28:38
as that quote you just read
28:40
that’s a real concern because um it’s
28:43
the kind of politics of the armed
28:45
lifeboat
28:46
um where basically you rescue a few and
28:48
then you
28:50
and then you have a gun trained on the
28:52
rest
28:53
and it’s it’s both totally immoral and
28:55
it’s also ultimately
28:57
one that will sacrifice all of our
28:59
humanity because
29:01
we need to collaborate to respond to the
29:03
climate crisis we need to find solutions
29:05
that protect the vulnerable
29:07
we cannot just keep building higher and
29:09
higher walls
29:10
against the consequences of our
29:11
decisions and we need to actually start
29:13
to tackle the root causes of those
29:16
crises and that that was very much
29:19
a picture we started to paint back in
29:21
2015 with the launch of the book the
29:23
secure and the dispossessed
29:25
but if anything it’s more pertinent and
29:27
more pressing than ever before
29:30
nick paxton thank you thanks
29:36
keeping the profits the huge profits
29:38
rolling um even though it’s wrecking the
29:41
planet so they have no intention long
29:42
term
29:43
of changing their business model their
29:45
business model is wrecking the planet
29:47
and their determination is how to keep
29:49
that going and what we see in all of
29:51
this is that
29:52
corporations in the military are very
29:53
much responding
29:55
in a in a paradigm of control it’s it’s
29:58
security
29:59
and this word security suddenly infected
30:01
every part of
30:02
daily debate we see it food security
30:05
we’ve seen it really recently now with
30:07
everyone saying we need
30:08
security of our borders to protect
30:09
against refugees we need water security
30:12
and in all of these cases what you see
30:15
is those who are being secured
30:17
are the corporations and those who have
30:20
wealth
30:21
and those who are losing out are those
30:22
who are actually suffering the most from
30:24
climate change
30:25
so the peasant who has their land
30:27
grabbed in the name of food security
30:30
the community that no longer has control
30:32
of their river
30:33
because a corporation has has taken it
30:36
in the name of
30:36
water security all the protesters
30:39
against coal power station are actually
30:40
trying to stop the climate crisis
30:42
being repressed and having the civil
30:45
liberties taken away in the name of
30:47
energy security
30:49
in each of these cases the security is
30:51
quite clearly
30:52
for a small proportion of people and
30:55
insecurity
30:56
for the vast majority i think this is
30:58
one of the most important issues of our
31:00
age is
31:01
is do we want to leave our future in the
31:04
hands of corporations in the military

US states often more attractive tax havens than Panama

Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian company at the heart of the leaked documents scandal, has set up over 1,000 businesses inside the US since 2001, highlighting the emergence of the United States as an international tax haven. Mark Hays of Global Witness, a transparency nonprofit, tells RT America’s Simone Del Rosario which states are so attractive for hiding money.

Frustration, Miscalculation: Inside the U.S.-China Trade Impasse

The latest breakdown shows the two countries still haven’t found a way to negotiate effectively. ‘Sometimes you need to say “stop screwing me.”’

The U.S. and Chinese governments both sent signals ahead of their trade talks in Washington last week that a pact was so near they would discuss the logistics of a signing ceremony.

In a matter of days, the dynamic shifted so markedly that the Chinese deliberated whether to even show up after President Trump ordered a last-minute increase in tariffs on Chinese imports because the U.S. viewed China as reneging on previous commitments.

Inside the cloistered Zhongnanhai government compound in Beijing, President Xi Jinping and his close advisers discussed how to respond to the tariff increase, given the talks were just days away, according to Chinese officials with knowledge of the decision-making process.

After huddling Tuesday to analyze a press conference given by the U.S.’s two top negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Chinese officials concluded that they should travel to at least avoid a rift that could be difficult to repair.

The recommendation went to China’s chief negotiator, Liu He, and ultimately to Mr. Xi. He decided to send the team even though Beijing was fully aware that the trip held little prospect of progress, given how quickly problems had arisen. “The goal was simply to keep the talks going,” said one of the Chinese officials with knowledge of the matter.

By the end of the week, that was as much as both sides could cite for their efforts: the avoidance of a serious rupture that would doom any prospect of a future deal and a commitment to stay near the negotiating table.

So far, the trade talks have provided little evidence that the two nations have found a formula for how to negotiate successfully since Messrs. Trump and Xi met in Buenos Aires Dec. 1, which paved the way to Washington last week.

China didn’t immediately impose new strictures on U.S. businesses, as it has done when things weren’t going well in the past. Mr. Liu is expected to brief Mr. Xi on the discussions he had in Washington before Beijing decides on the next course of action, according to the officials familiar with the process.

.. Bridging the trade rift may ultimately depend on the personal chemistry between President Trump and President Xi and their willingness to push matters forward after months of negotiations that have been full of positive intentions but thwarted by miscalculations, accusations of backtracking and unfulfilled expectations.

.. “They were playing games with us,” said one senior U.S. trade official of the talks in Washington three months ago. Mr. Kudlow told reporters at the time that Mr. Lighthizer “read them the riot act.

“The more heated moments have been in situations where we thought we had something and suddenly there was some backsliding,” said one person involved in the discussions on the U.S. side.

“We’ve expressed some pretty serious frustration at times,” this person said. “It’s been a necessary ingredient to success. You can be nice to someone, but sometimes you need to say ‘stop screwing me.’ ”

.. “We were in the process of planning for a signing summit with President Trump and President Xi upon the completion of this agreement,” Mr. Mnuchin later told reporters. One of the issues was where to hold the celebratory moment: Washington or Mr. Trump’s golf estates in Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, or Bedminster, N.J., say Trump aides.

 .. Chinese negotiators let their U.S. counterparts know that they had serious reservations with the text. The Chinese were no longer willing to commit to changing laws covering intellectual property, forced technology transfer, subsidies and other issues at the heart of the dispute. They also objected to publication of all the details of the text, preferring a summary.

To the Chinese, this was a matter of honor: The U.S. should trust Beijing to make the changes they said they would make, even if that meant changing regulations rather than laws. Besides, the U.S. was being unfair in refusing, upon the signing of a deal, to remove tariffs that had been assessed in the yearlong fight, the Chinese believed.

“There is a real desire on our end to keep the tariffs on,” one White House official said. “That is a sticking point.”

Another major area of conflict has been how to deal with what the U.S. sees as Chinese recalcitrance on clamping down on the theft of U.S. intellectual property, said people briefed on the talks. The U.S. initially had sought to appeal to Mr. Xi’s nationalistic tendencies, arguing that if China was as great as Mr. Xi portrayed it, why would it need to steal U.S. technology?

The Trump administration believed it had an agreement that included a satisfactory level of enforcement should the Chinese record not improve. “Not tiger teeth, but real enough to make a deal,” one of the people tracking the talks said.

Then Chinese officials said enforcement procedures would need to go through Chinese law-enforcement channels and couldn’t be guaranteed at the negotiating table, this person said, which U.S. officials didn’t view as a credible option.

In Beijing, as the talks approached, Chinese officials believed they had some leverage, The Wall Street Journal has previously reported, because they saw Mr. Trump’s public criticism of the Federal Reserve and his desire for lower interest rates as a sign that he was worried about the future course of the U.S. economy and therefore may be more eager to do a deal. It was a miscalculation on their part; Mr. Trump has long called for low borrowing costs and also has repeatedly cited the enduring strength of the U.S. economy.

President Xi also was encouraged by a pickup in Chinese growth—the result of Beijing’s aggressive stimulus policies—and by a perception that the American economy is about to enter a down cycle.Time is on our side,” said a senior official in Beijing. On the home front, Mr. Xi is wary of a potential political backlash as a result of any perception that he is conceding too much to Washington.

Chinese officials were therefore caught off guard, three days before the Washington talks were scheduled, when Mr. Trump said on Twitter he would increase tariffs, to 25% from 10%, on the $200 billion in Chinese goods because he saw the Chinese backtracking—the original threat he had set for a March 1 deadline.

Shortly after Mr. Trump’s announcement of the tariff increase, Beijing’s trade negotiators, who had booked Air China tickets to Washington, received an urgent order: Stay put until further notice. “Looks like we’re not going,” one of them said early Monday morning.

Up until that moment, China’s leadership had expected the trip to bring months of negotiations to a close, according to Chinese officials close to the negotiation process, given that Chinese diplomats were already in discussion with their American counterparts about a possible summit between Messrs. Xi and Trump to finalize a trade agreement.

Now, the pressing question for Beijing became: Should it pull out of the planned talks to adhere to its longstanding public position that China doesn’t negotiate under threat? Or should China bite the bullet and still send the delegation to avoid a complete collapse of negotiations?

The Chinese side wanted more information from Washington before making the decision. But senior officials knew news of Mr. Trump’s tweets would inevitably cause market anxiety. The first order of business Monday morning: China’s central bank sped up a plan to release more funds for banks, a stimulus measure aimed at calming jittery investors and businesses.

State-backed funds were also instructed to buy what was necessary to prevent a free fall of shares. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman released a statement at Monday’s regular press briefing that said only that the Chinese delegation was “preparing to travel to the U.S.” The spokesman didn’t say when the team would depart or give additional details.

On Tuesday morning, a group of officials at the vice minister level, including Liao Min, a trusted aide to Mr. Liu and a vice Finance Minister, and Wang Shouwen, a vice Commerce Minister, reached the conclusion the talks should proceed, a position endorsed by Mr. Xi though expectations of a positive result had fallen sharply.

The U.S. side made some calls that turned off the Chinese, too. By insisting that it wouldn’t remove any tariffs upon closing a deal, the U.S. gave Beijing little incentive to accept tough conditions. The U.S. position remained firm: no tariff removal until Beijing showed it would carry through on the commitments it made under the deal. On top of that, the U.S. wanted China to pledge not to retaliate if the U.S. were to reimpose tariffs if it found China in violation of some provisions.

Mr. Trump on Thursday let it be known he didn’t want the U.S. to appear soft on China, according to one person briefed on the matter.

The two days of negotiations went amicably nonetheless, according to people tracking the talks. Messrs Lighthizer and Mnuchin, who both were in the discussions, took Mr. Liu to a working dinner at the Metropolitan Club, a ritzy private club near the U.S. Trade Representative’s headquarters that is a Lighthizer favorite. Mr. Liu continued the talks on Friday despite the U.S. implementing the higher tariffs very early Friday morning.

Later that morning, Mr. Lighthizer greeted the Chinese envoy at the door of the USTR office—a gesture he rarely makes, but one which he could be sure would be captured by photographers and camera crews waiting outside.

By then, though, the U.S. team went into the talks not expecting to do a deal, figuring they would have a “non-meeting,” according to one person briefed on the discussions. U.S. officials at least wanted to make sure they didn’t leave with a complete break. The goal of the meeting was to be able to say the U.S. negotiators were still trying, this person said.

In an interview with Chinese media Friday, Mr. Liu disputed U.S. accounts that China reneged on commitments it had already made as part of the trade talks. “We are very clear that we cannot make concessions on matters of principle,” Mr. Liu said. “We hope our U.S. colleagues understand this.”

E.P.A. Aide Questioned Deleting Sensitive Meeting Details. Then She Was Fired.

Last summer one of his senior schedulers, Madeline G. Morris, was fired by Mr. Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff, Kevin Chmielewski, who said he let her go because she was questioning the practice of retroactively deleting meetings from the calendar. Mr. Chmielewski has emerged as a harsh critic of Mr. Pruitt after a bitter falling out that led to his departure from the agency as well.

.. Madeline G. Morris, was fired by Mr. Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff, Kevin Chmielewski, who said he let her go because she was questioning the practice of retroactively deleting meetings from the calendar.

..  One case involved the deletion of several of Mr. Pruitt’s meetings during a spring 2017 trip to Rome, including one with a controversial cardinal then under investigation for sexual assault.

.. The E.P.A. acknowledged in a series of legal memos last year that it did in fact direct an agency scheduler — although it did not name the person — to revise Mr. Pruitt’s daily calendar retroactively. The agency said it was doing so to remove errors that had been left in the electronic record after various events were canceled or happened differently than expected.

.. Ryan Jackson, Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff, dismissed Mr. Chmielewski’s criticism as a fabrication by a disgruntled former employee. “Whatever he’s telling you about altering calendars is not correct,”

.. Ms. Morris was called last July by two agency lawyers, who told her that the changes she was making to Mr. Pruitt’s schedule might be illegal, according to a person familiar with the conversation. The following month, Ms. Morris noticed that a number of changes had been made to the record of a trip Mr. Pruitt had taken to Italy. Ms. Morris questioned the legality of the changes to Mr. Chmielewski and Mr. Jackson, and a few days later was fired, he said.

.. In another potential violation of federal law, the E.P.A. continued to pay Ms. Morris for six weeks after she was fired from the agency.

.. In July 2017, according to Mr. Chmielewski, Ms. Morris was instructed by him and Mr. Jackson to retroactively delete some meetings Mr. Pruitt held with lobbyists and replace them with staff meetings in the calendar, which was maintained in Microsoft Outlook. He and other people familiar with the calendar also said Ms. Morris was asked not to enter some of Mr. Pruitt’s meetings on the official calendar.

.. Mr. Chmielewski cited an August 2017 meeting with billionaire Denver-based businessman Philip Anschutz, a prominent donor to Republican Senate candidates and owner of an energy company regulated by the agency. Mr. Pruitt’s calendar for that day, which was publicly released, does not include the meeting.

.. including a special tour of the necropolis below St. Peter’s Basilica — as well as one meeting with Cardinal George Pell, a prominent Vatican leader who was then being investigated on allegations of sexual abuse.