…In which Bernie and I give the WH an earful on TPP.

I received an email yesterday from Megan Smith and Doug Rand of the White House Office of Science and Technology (one of those mass-mailings), regarding “White House Demo Day.”  

They’re inviting a bunch of

“entrepreneurs from all across the country — including those underrepresented in entrepreneurship like women and people of color — to come here and talk about their big ideas and share the stories of their individual innovation journeys to date. These are the folks whose stories show exactly why we need to grow the pie to make sure there’s opportunity for everyone in our innovation economy.”

The WHOST letter asked for nominations of people to participate.  The opportunity was ripe for response.

Coincidentally, I also received a presser from Bernie Sanders’ office containing his letter to the President objecting to efforts to ‘fast track’  the Trans-Pacific Partnership without sufficient opportunity for review and response by those most affected,  a.k.a: working Americans.

In that letter, the Senator raises some excellent questions that beg answers before the public.

They speak to issues of minimum wage,  product safety, legal protections, and corporate manipulation of the pharmaceutical  development and distribution process which could cause widespread threats to public health.  

I suggest you take the time to read those questions in detail, because we are once again being led down that same garden path that delivered us to NAFTA hell.

Which brings me to my response to the White House Mailing (a copy of which I also sent to Senator Sanders).

In it, I told the story of my family’s modest foray into bootstrap business development;  how the banking system failed us; and how, just when we had finally gotten things going strong with no help from anyone, NAFTA and corporate heavy hitters came along to steal our market and knock us on our entrepreneurial asses.

They asked, and I answered.  You can read the whole thing in ‘comments’, should you be out of cornflakes boxes and have an afternoon to kill.

Stay tuned to learn whether or not I ever get any feedback.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

One thought on “…In which Bernie and I give the WH an earful on TPP.

  1. (Please forgive the html anomalies that I don’t have time now to address)

    “Right now, across America, people are working on big ideas…But they might not ever get a chance to make that idea into a reality.”

    Sister, you just said a mouthful.

    Let me tell you a little story:

    The year was 1994, my life-molding sculptor husband and I had finally managed to find away to provide a steady stream of income to support ourselves, our small son and a couple of part-time employees.

    After years of sporadic workshop invitations from colleges and conferences all over the U.S. and Canada, we had responded to mounting requests for a ‘how-to’ book on life-molding and casting with the first in a series of four technical videos that we would produce ourselves over the next decade.

    To compliment the first video release, we had collaborated with a U.S. manufacturer of dental alginate and dental silicone to produce a unique set of products specific to the needs of body molding.

    Both the videos and the products were initially met with huge success, essentially carving out an industry where there had previously been none beyond the superficial needs of Special Effects.

    Then NAFTA came along, and, while we initially could only see good in expansion of what was then still a relatively strong American middle class to include people in the most disadvantaged countries of the world, we could not see what would come to pass as NAFTA only served to further consolidate wealth in America among a small elite.  Overseas, in third world nations, American manufacturers were able to exploit a virtual slave-labor force while skilled manufacturing jobs here at home dwindled and wages stagnated.  I don’t need to go on with this analysis as it has been detailed to death as the situation deteriorated.

    Enter our fledgling enterprise, at the worst possible moment.

    Remember, we had begun this business because even with all of our specialized skills and a degree of critical success, we had been unable to make a living in the arts.  We therefore were unable to obtain 

    a business loan, or even to finance the development of a business plan necessary to apply for such a loan.  No one would take a chance on us.

    Being young, hardworking and optimistic, we believed we could succeed and financed the first video and proprietary stock inventory by further burdening our mortgage equity.  

    Our products and technical videos were so superior that they took off as quickly as possible with virtually the only advertising available to us being word-of-mouth.  At the same time, we began accepting custom work in our studio, teaching individual workshops, and took on a tiny staff.  We had distributors for our products including Pearl Paints in New York City, where Mark did complimentary workshops to promote our products.

    Things were looking good as we rolled out our second technical video while the first one was still selling like hotcakes.

    But behind the scenes and unnoticed by us, the market was changing.  Much bigger molding and casting corporations had noticed the market we had created and moved in to take over.  With their financial scale, they were able to advertise extensively.  Not concerned with sourcing in the U.S.A., they had product manufactured offshore at a fraction of the cost and in huge volume, so they could afford to sell it for less than ours.

    It didn’t matter that ours was still superior in quality.  First time users inevitably found their products first and went with the cheapest choice.

    It’s a testament to the quality of our products and our technical expertise that we are still in business at all; but now, our business is mostly in custom work and long-time repeat customers who can’t be seduced into choosing the cheapest product over the best.   We have shrunk so far in size that we are unable to employ anyone outside of our family.

    Our son, who is now 28 has inherited his father’s gift for life-molding and casting.  He loves working in the studio and helps out whenever he can, but he has to take other jobs since the work is so sporadic; and he is preparing to return to school for a MBA, because he has seen how limited are our prospects as artists.  His passion is script writing, and his undergrad degree is in that realm, but he had to go to school in Montreal at the University where his Dad works part-time to even get that far.

    NAFTA essentially killed our American Dream.

    So I beg the President to think very carefully about how another trade agreement might affect the vanishing American middle class.  NAFTA certainly didn’t get it right and the latest extension of that initiative is unlikely to do anything to improve the situation for working Americans.  

    That Depression era song about how the “rich get richer and the poor get children” was never truer in the first place; even though, in the second place, the working poor can’t really afford children, as Republicans increasingly succeed in unravelling public education and the fragile remains of FDR’s social safety net. 

    It wasn’t true that everyone’s “boat would rise” in the wake of NAFTA.  Ours most certainly did not.

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