Friday, July 29, 2016

The Astrology of Free Trade—NAFTA as a watershed moment, TPP on the horizon

So what kind of changes could we expect a new President Clinton to make in the controversial TPP? By birth, she’s deeply tuned into the Scorpio forces that pushed NAFTA into existence, so if anyone can apply the antidote to that “barrel of venomous snakes,” she could be the one. Only time will tell, but at least she acknowledges she doesn’t have all the answers!

I must begin this post by applauding the outstanding Convention the Dems put on this week. Besides making gender equality history with Hillary Clinton’s nomination, this Convention celebrated the ability of American politics to produce a sane, well-prepared presidential candidate. This may sound like low aspirations, but it was certainly not a foregone conclusion this election season. 

For delegates supporting primary candidate Bernie Sanders, however, it was a bittersweet week. Sanders proved himself to be a dignified statesman throughout, working with Clinton to craft the Democratic platform, and encouraging his supporters to make the leap in her direction. When it came time to vote, he gallantly rose to the floor and moved that the Convention nominate her by acclimation for the sake of party unity. Tears streamed down many faces, but the thunderous “ayes” took it.

Despite Sanders’ encouragement, however, many of his convened supporters simply refused to give up the ghost of his candidacy, staging protests throughout the Convention. The good news was, their voices were never squashed or rebuked, and many speakers applauded Bernie Sanders for his contributions to the campaign and the platform; the bad news was, their most stubborn grievances weren’t given much attention.

Among those was their vehement opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP), which Sanders demonized repeatedly throughout his campaign. His followers carried “NO TPP” signs throughout the Convention, yet there was no serious discussion of that specific deal and what Clinton plans to do with it. We know she’s not a fan of the TPP as it is written, even though she allies herself with TPP booster, Obama, but what changes would she make? Would the changes be enough to roll back the worst excesses of free trade, as far as the American middle class is concerned?

Clinton’s momentous speech last night acknowledged a number of ways that corporations need to start “giving back” to those who give them tax breaks, but how those ideas would impact trade bills, past and present, remains unclear. My guess is that a comprehensive discussion needs to happen before Sanders’ supporters (and others) will feel truly comfortable getting on board.

So, this post aims to look at the astrology of “free trade”—specifically regarding NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement passed in 1993, that kicked open the door to today’s globalized trade reality.

A barrel of venomous snakes
For starters, why do so many Americans react to the idea of free trade like it’s a barrel of venomous snakes? It’s not hard to fathom—even my outdated exposure to the corporate workplace suggests that a lot of people who have reached into that barrel have gotten bit. 

My last corporate job was, in fact, “downsized” and “consolidated” during the first couple years  of NAFTA—the much-maligned agreement signed into law by former President Bill Clinton (and possible “First Gentleman” in January) in December 1993. I was a public relations manager in charge of managing communications during this downsizing, which meant my job also went away, once the dust of two massive layoffs settled.

Long story short, NAFTA—and every free trade agreement the U.S. has signed since—has caused major dislocations in American workers’ lives. A predictable pattern has evolved: decently paid jobs are lost, then replaced by more stressful, lower-paying jobs with fewer and more expensive benefits. Reality TV paints a picture of a nation of entrepreneurs, roiling in a shark tank—how many of us does that feed?

The writing on the wall
Sadly, a lot of the vicious anti-Mexican rhetoric we’re hearing this year from Trump’s campaign only mirrors the antagonism caused by NAFTA when it was passed, over widespread objections. As feared, thousands of good American jobs did move to Mexico because of its cheaper labor force and lack of environmental regulations. These were still the early days in the erosion of American manufacturing, but the writing was clearly on the wall: until a level playing field is created for American workers, those jobs are not coming back. And the jobs that do come back will offer lower wages and shakier benefits.

Every presidential race since NAFTA’s passage has been at least partially consumed by this issue, but the rhetoric has been abnormally volatile this year, as people have become increasingly exasperated over grotesque levels of income inequality, stagnant wages and so on.

The amazing irony of the Bill Clinton years was, he presided over the “roaring 90s,” a time when the nation’s overall economy was booming. He never hesitates to brag about the budget surplus he left behind for G.W. Bush. Ironically, there were a lot of jobs created during that period too—IT, for example, was a relatively new, vibrant field that was gushing middle-class wage jobs for young adults straight out of tech school (I taught Communications at one, so I saw this happening), so not all American workers were imperiled, but the groundwork was laid for growing problems ahead as globalization really took hold.

I can only wonder whether my students still had those good-paying jobs once the 2007-8 recession hit.

It seems that, even though national economic priorities began their shift away from American worker-security to global investor profit well before Bill Clinton’s presidency, (even NAFTA had its origins with George H. W. Bush’s administration), the economic measures Clinton’s administration passed, such as repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, produced a finance industry-fueled prosperity that powerfully supported that shift.

Picking up on NAFTA in 1993 where Bush had left off, did Clinton purposely undermine American workers for the sake of channeling wealth to investors and big banks? I don’t really believe there was a negative intent, but according to John R. MacArthur’s study, The Selling of “Free Trade,” [i] the welfare of workers is rarely factored into trade negotiations. The fact is, Clinton’s administration insisted on two supplements to the original NAFTA agreement that addressed labor and environmental cooperation guidelines, which helped pass the agreement in Congress with bipartisan support.

I remember vividly how the 1990s press claimed that globalization was “inevitable,” so if we can understand the forces that colluded to make NAFTA so fated, perhaps we can influence how future trade agreements are crafted. These forces are visible in the astrology we’ll consider below.

A truly comprehensive study of all this is impossible here, but we can learn quite a bit from dipping even lightly into the charts for NAFTA’s evolution—from concept under George Bush (Biwheel 1) to an approved bill in Congress (Biwheel 2), to a signed agreement under Clinton (Biwheel 3). I’ve set these charts against the U.S. Sibly chart for national context. Let’s begin.

Biwheel 1: (inner wheel) Radix, U.S. Sibly, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m., LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Radix, NAFTA—George Bush signs, December 17, 1992, 12:00 p.m., Washington, D.C.

Interchart T-Square: Signing Sun conjoins the Galactic Center (both Sagittarius) and opposes Sibly Mars (Gemini); Signing Node (Sagittarius) widely conjoins Sun-GC and exactly opposes Sibly Mars; these oppositions square Sibly Neptune (Virgo). The Galactic Center seems to be involved in major developments that feel “inevitable,” like ideas “whose time has come.” George Bush coined the term “new world order” during this period to describe a seamless world of “industrial economies woven together into one,”[ii] and trade agreements were touted as the peaceful means to do this during his administration. We could talk at length about the dark side of multinational corporations taking over the world; suffice to say here, this Sun-GC-Node alignment opposite Mars reflects the enormity of this idea, and of the times.

The Soviet Union had recently dissolved and the European Economic Community was quickly morphing into the European Union (11/1/1993); all of this made the new trading order Bush envisioned feasible. The opposition to Mars here reflects the military might that the nation had at its disposal to enforce the ideas hatched at this time, which, in retrospect, have been far from peaceful. The square to Neptune reflects the distorted use of the “American Dream” (and sole superpower status) made to sell NAFTA—MacArthur called it “capitalist triumphalism… justifying everything that happened everywhere.”[iii]

Signing Sun-GC (Sagittarius) sextile Sibly Moon (Aquarius); Signing Mars (Rx, Cancer) conjoins Sibly Mercury (Cancer) and opposes Sibly Pluto (Capricorn). Clearly, there was an aggressive thrust of activity that “rammed” NAFTA—an important foot-in-the-door for multinationals into the world of globalization—into existence. The opportunity to leverage the energies of American workers (sextile from Signing Sun-Node) was open and this initial stage of the agreement walked right through.

Interchart Grand Air Trine: Signing Venus-Saturn (Aquarius) trined Sibly Saturn (Libra)-Signing Jupiter (Libra) and Sibly Uranus (Gemini); Signing Venus-Saturn inconjoin Sibly Sun (Cancer). This aspect perfectly represents the “fast track” authority Bush sought from Congress to expedite negotiations. As it happened, there were Congressmen and constituencies with deep reservations, so there were delays that prevented its passage before Bush’s term ended (inconjunct), which is why Clinton had to shepherd NAFTA into existence from there.

It’s significant that Signing Saturn and Jupiter were in their cycle’s waning trine here and that they tapped into Sibly “power centers”—this pushed the powers-that-be to complete business left unfinished from the December 31, 1980 inception of this cycle in Libra, which ushered in the Reagan administration. Reagan famously promoted the idea that “government is the problem,” meaning the less regulation on corporations, finances and the environment, the better. NAFTA certainly delivered on this idea—the relaxation of regulations that would protect workers and the environment from over-reaching corporations was at its core.

Interchart T-Square: Signing Uranus-Neptune (Capricorn) oppose Sibly Sun and this axis squares Sibly Saturn (Libra)-Signing Jupiter (Libra). A cardinal t-square is always a call to action, but the successful completion of that action may take longer than one would like. With Saturn and Jupiter at the apex (the planets that are being squared by the axis), there’s a rush to take advantage of an opportunity, but there’s no instant gratification—time is needed. This held true with Bush (impatient to fast track the agreement) and others had to see his project to completion. (Not related to NAFTA, necessarily, but Bush’s “unfinished business” with Saddam Hussein had to also be completed by another—his son, G.W. Bush).

Even more important than the frustrating delay Bush endured, however, was the significance of NAFTA being conceived while the powerful Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn (exact at 19°+Capricorn on February 2, 1993) was quickly perfecting. This duo’s long-term (roughly 172 years) cycle is about dissolving outmoded forms (especially relevant in Capricorn), promoting the “cult” of materialism, building ideal structures (i.e., the global Internet infrastructure that enables commerce, a massive fleet of container ships for transporting foreign made goods around the world, the European Union, Al-Qaeda and a “Caliphate” for ISIS, etc.), promoting nebulous fears and strengthening collective channels of authority.

So many of today’s challenges—including NAFTA (and all the other trade agreements that followed)—the increased power of multinational corporations and ideology-based terrorism—trace their inception back to this conjunction. 

Fast forward to July 2016, and Transiting Pluto (Capricorn) is now within orb of conjoining the 19°+Capricorn inception point of the 1993 Uranus-Neptune cycle, so it’s not surprising that the early fruits of that cycle are now coming under fire and causing major disruptions (migrant crisis, etc.). We shouldn’t forget that in Capricorn the seed impulse of this cycle is grabby, earthy, materialistic and resource-oriented. Ideological ambitions become a quest to take over territory and resources—and ideology is often used to justify raw material ambitions. There’s a very harsh edge to this cycle that applauds no-holds-barred ambition at the expense of others—perhaps this explains why Election 2016 has been so coarse and angry.

Signing Pluto (Scorpio) sextiles Sibly Pluto (Capricorn) and trines Signing Mars (Rx, Cancer). This sextile provided Bush with a window of opportunity to leverage (Scorpio) the American finance/investment system (Pluto) for the purposes of the aggressive (Mars) “new world order” he envisioned. I have seen no confirmation of this, but the idea to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act keeping banking, investing and insurance separate may have been Bush’s idea as well—breaking down those protective barriers was essential for NAFTA and later globalization efforts.

The NAFTA vote in Congress
If anyone thinks astrologers are no longer working to help government officials plan their important events, the following biwheel should convince you they are. The timing of this vote was documented, so we can consider house placements as well. We won’t go into a great deal of detail, but a quick look at a few key placements will add context for the eventual signing of the agreement and its life since then.

Biwheel 2: (inner wheel) Radix, U.S. Sibly, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m., LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Radix, Congress votes yes on NAFTA, November 17, 1993, 7:30 p.m. ST, Washington, D.C.

Vote Sun-Pluto (Scorpio) sextiles Sibly Pluto (Capricorn), squares Vote Saturn-Sibly Moon (Aquarius) and trines Sibly Mercury (Cancer). A very hard-nosed complex of aspects, this suggests that this vote probably involved a combination of arm-twisting (the squares), especially in regards to the public (Moon), and behind the scenes manipulation (12th house Scorpio). The vote seized upon a solid opportunity (sextile) for the finance industry (Pluto), enabled by the opening of trade (trine to Mercury).

This harsh Saturn-Pluto square, tying into the Sibly Moon (the People), reflects the hardship many could expect to experience with NAFTA-driven labor dynamics, and it reflects the hard-nosed attitude Congress took towards the public—especially unionized workers—in this vote. According to MacArthur, the Bushes were in “…the traditional mindset about trade, which is: trade is good on any terms; the world is the way it is; we can’t change anything, so let’s just get in there and get as much trade as we can…labor and workers and environmentalists are just not at the table.”[iv] The Bush mindset was typical for Republicans and in growing numbers at that time, Democrats.

Vote Uranus-Neptune-Moon conjoin in Capricorn, square Sibly Chiron (Aries) and trine Sibly Neptune (Virgo). This potent Capricorn gathering united Congress around an ideology (trine to Neptune) that said trade and capital should flow freely like water (Neptune); the pain inflicted on the nation (square to Chiron) was—like labor and environmentalists—not on the table.

Vote Jupiter-Mercury and (widely) Venus (all Scorpio) trine Sibly Venus-Jupiter (Cancer). These trine aspects focused Congress’s attention on the revenue potential promised by NAFTA, especially for the finance industry (Jupiter also forms a wide, out-of-sign square to Sibly Pluto). Seventh house Sibly Venus-Jupiter are always interested in the benefits our relationships hold for us (and how our national security is impacted), so trade is a natural focus that tends to bleed over into security and defense issues.

Stage three—Signing NAFTA into law
There were many who didn’t buy the promised economic benefits of NAFTA to the U.S.—and in retrospect, they may have been right—but passing it was driven by Clinton’s enthusiasm and political coalition-building skill. Clinton’s support for unregulated trade represented a move to the center for traditional Democratic values, but he radiated a fresh-faced, idealistic confidence that somehow open, unregulated (“free”) markets would help build democracy abroad, and many other prominent Dems agreed with him.

Free market theory was almost a delusional “Kool-aid” that Ivy League conservative economists were selling at the time, and even though American workers weren’t buying it, the delusion prevailed and the bill was signed into law on December 8, 1993. Again, the day was perfectly chosen—if the goal was to prevail philosophically over very legitimate reservations.

Biwheel 3: (inner wheel) Radix, U.S. Sibly, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m., LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Radix, NAFTA, is signed into law, December 8, 1993, 12:00 p.m. ST (no actual time known), Washington, D.C.

NAFTA Sun-Mars (Sagittarius) oppose Sibly Mars (Gemini); NAFTA Sun conjoins Sibly ASC (Sagittarius) and opposes Sibly DSC (Gemini). These aspects read like an angular assault (Mars) on the nation’s ability to balance Self interests with the interests of Others. Where do we focus our efforts? The amazingly tight Mars-Mars opposition is like an ideological (Sagittarius) “shot across the bow” to our trade partners (Sibly 7th house) that day. In fact, if these energies were viewed from a different context, they might reflect a violent exchange (an incoming or outgoing attack). Perhaps the damage done by NAFTA was shared by all partners to some extent?

NAFTA Saturn (Aquarius) conjoins Sibly Moon (Aquarius) and trines Sibly Mars (Gemini); Saturn disposes NAFTA Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn. With its trine here, transiting Saturn ties the “violence” of the Mars-Mars opposition into a far-reaching corporate juggernaut (Uranus-Neptune in Capricorn) with grave consequences (Saturn) for the People (Moon). We can’t argue that it was all bad—some sectors of the economy benefited, but NAFTA represented the first major wave of a damaging shift away from a manufacturing economy into something far less secure for American workers, even if they weren’t in manufacturing.

Uranus’s involvement, of course, reflects how important technological developments were to enabling this process. Neptune, for its part, was the standard bearer for the material dreams (Capricorn Neptune) of underdeveloped and developing countries that would soon be sewing our clothing and manufacturing our cell phones in modern day sweat shops.

The pressure to level wages out across the globe was also covered by this Neptune—water and capital flows always seek their own levels. 

NAFTA Pluto (Scorpio) sextiles Sibly Pluto (Capricorn), squares Sibly Moon (Aquarius) and trines Sibly Mercury (Cancer). This heavy placement for Pluto opened the door to the entanglement of global financial and geopolitical power dynamics that followed on NAFTA’s heels. Here we see Pluto’s transformative force applied on the People (Moon)—the Capricorn-driven evolution of the economy took time, but Pluto colluded with that effort from Scorpio and the force was inexorable.

Did Bill Clinton know what a Pandora’s Box he was opening as he signed this bill? Could anyone have foreseen all that has transpired since then? This Pluto continued transiting the Sibly 12th throughout the period during which globalization established itself as the “new world order.” Its placement points to the behind-the-scenes way in which global realities unfold. Perhaps we should have paid attention to coming dangers when the World Trade Center was first bombed in February, 1993 under this strident Capricorn-Scorpio nexus of energies. 

When corporations (enabled by global organizations like the IMF and World Bank) are given the authority to rule exchanges between nations and heavily influence local economies, there are winners and losers, and enemies are easily made. Unfortunately, innocent bystanders pay the price. Is that the new corporate risk/benefit calculus?

Clearly, Pluto played a critical role in NAFTA—and in the “new world order” that followed. In fact, if we trace the geopolitics of the period between 1993 (this chart), Pluto’s ingress into Sagittarius in 1995 (enhancing the ideological thrust of the power dynamics) and Pluto’s passage back and forth over the Sibly ASC between 2000 and 2001, we can see there are deep astrological links between growing tensions in the world—especially terrorism—and the rapid, disruptive way in which a new global financial order was imposed.

That was then…this is now
Again, we see how key the new Uranus-Neptune cycle in Capricorn was to jumpstarting the globalization trend. Anti-globalization economist David Korten sounded a warning about the “new world order” NAFTA represented in his 1995 book, When Corporations Rule the World, which certainly fits the global thrust of this powerful cardinal cycle. Reviewer Tom Nickles introduced this study by saying that Korten “awakened many Americans to the destructive systemic impacts of the global economic system and the depths of the structural problems.” A global economic system with structural problems reads like a keyword phrase for Uranus-Neptune in Saturn-ruled Capricorn.

So what kind of changes can we expect a new President Clinton to make in the controversial TPP? By birth, she’s deeply tuned into the Scorpio forces that pushed NAFTA into existence, so if anyone can apply the antidote to that “barrel of venomous snakes,” she could be the one. Only time will tell, but at least she acknowledges she doesn’t have all the answers!*349/AP_

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former university English instructor. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years. Raye can be contacted by comment here, or at: 

© Raye Robertson 2016. All rights reserved. 

[i]John R. MacArthur, The Selling of “Free Trade:” NAFTA, Washington and the subversion of American Democracy, Hill and Wang, NY, NY, 2000, p. 105.
[ii] Jerry Mander, The Case Against Free Trade, (a collection of essays by 16 authors), Earth Island Press, 1993, p. 17.
[iii] MacArthur, 8.
[iv] MacArthur, 105.