TIME justice

Trust-Busting Isn’t Back. Comcast Was Just Unlucky.

The Comcast Corp. logo is seen as Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast Corp. (R) speaks during a news conference in Washington on June 11, 2013.
Bloomberg/Getty Images The Comcast Corp. logo is seen as Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast Corp. (R) speaks during a news conference in Washington on June 11, 2013.

Comcast walked away from its $45.2 billion proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, according to a statement released Friday.

The unexpected change of heart—attributed to unnamed sources by Bloomberg News, CNBC and the New York Times (Comcast declined to comment to TIME)—comes just a day after government officials at the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department expressed doubt this week that a marriage between the nation’s two largest cable companies would serve the public interest.

But advocates for robust antitrust action shouldn’t celebrate too much. The collapse of the merger had more to do with the specifics of this particular deal than a return to the 1970s, when the federal government last engaged in energetic trust busting.

For starters, the two companies involved in this particular marriage are uniquely unpopular. In poll after poll, Americans ranked both Comcast and Time Warner Cable as among the most-hated companies in the country. The prospect of two nationally despised companies merging into one bigger despised company did not earn much public support. Though 97 members of Congress signed a letter in 2011 in support of the unprecedented merger between Comcast and the much less-hated NBC Universal, this time around, there was hardly a peep.

Weak public support for the deal was also exacerbated by bad timing. The announcement of the proposed merger in February 2014 just happened to coincide with what became, over the course of the last year, a frothy, nationwide debate over net neutrality, the idea that all web traffic should be treated equally. While Comcast did its very best to separate its proposed merger from the hubbub over a free and open Internet, it was a tough sell. Comcast, which charged Netflix for faster delivery of its content—a violation of many people’s idea of net neutrality—found itself constantly in the news.

But even if the environment had been pristine for a merger of two giant companies, the fact that Comcast and Time Warner Cable are regulated by the FCC meant that, unlike with most mergers, this one always had to clear two separate hoops: one with the FCC and one with the Department of Justice.

The FCC was charged with determining whether the transaction would serve “the public interest, convenience, and necessity”—a nebulous standard that only exacerbated the companies’ problems. Meanwhile, the Justice Department had to decide whether the larger, combined Comcast would constitute a monopoly—another vaguely worded mandate that left room for interpretation.

The FCC, while technically an independent agency, doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Just weeks after President Obama expressed support for the strongest-possible net neutrality rules last November, the FCC proposed them. So it’s perhaps not insignificant to mention that Obama, a second-term Democrat who’s currently going to battle with liberals by supporting the biggest free-trade deal of all time, would throw the left a bone by quietly encouraging both agencies to slow-roll a merger that most Americans hated anyway.

If Comcast walks away from the Time Warner Cable merger as reported, anti-trust groups who vehemently opposed the deal will celebrate.

But there’s no reason to believe that the $49 billion merger between AT&T and DirecTV—or any of the other huge marriages coming down the pike—won’t go through without a hitch. Anti-trust organizations may have won a battle, but they’re still losing the war.

TIME Switzerland

This Country Has the World’s Happiest People

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Dale Reubin—Getty Images/Cultura RF View of mountains and lakeside village, Switzerland

Life expectancy, social connections, personal freedom and the economy all play a role in happiness

The happiest people in the world live in Switzerland, a new study found.

The third World Happiness Report, released by the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network on Thursday, ranked 158 countries based on Gallup surveys from 2012-15 and analyzed the key factors contributing to happiness levels.

Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada were the top five happiest countries, while the West African nation of Togo was the least happy.

The report aims to provide policymakers around the world with new metrics that place a higher emphasis on subjective well-being. While income appeared to play a significant role in boosting happiness—the GDP per capita is 25 times higher in the 10 happiest countries than in the 10 least happy—it was far from the only factor. Life expectancy, social connections, personal freedom, generosity and corruption levels also helped explain the happiness scores, according to the report.

The U.S., for example, ranked 15th in the world, one below Mexico and three below Costa Rica, where per capita GDP is roughly a fifth of that in the U.S.

“This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being,” Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, said in a statement. “It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health.”

But sharp economic changes in a country can play a role in people’s happiness, the report found. Greece, where the global recession triggered prolonged economic turmoil, saw its happiness levels fall the most since 2005-07, compared to 125 other countries where data was available.

Still, the report warned policymakers against overemphasizing income levels.

“When countries pursue GDP in a lopsided manner, forgetting about social and environmental objectives, the results can be adverse for human well-being,” the report said. “Many countries in recent years have achieved economic growth at the cost of the sharply rising inequalities of income and grave damage to the natural environment.”

TIME Crime

Trader Charged for Alleged Key Role in ‘Flash Crash’

Navinder Singh Sarao allegedly used lightning-fast software to manipulate the market for E-Mini S&P 500 futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange

(CHICAGO) — A multimillionaire futures trader accused of being a key figure in bringing on the 2010 “flash crash” — when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 600 points in five minutes — was arrested in Great Britain Tuesday based on charges filed in Chicago.

Navinder Singh Sarao, 37, allegedly employed lightning-fast software to manipulate the market for E-Mini S&P 500 futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, according to a U.S. criminal complaint filed in February and unsealed Tuesday.

The May 6, 2010, “flash crash” rattled investors and left many wondering if the stock market was rigged. What caused it was unclear at the time, but regulators eventually traced one catalyst to trading algorithms gone awry.

High frequency traders such as Sarao use computer programs to buy and sell in milliseconds, scooping up tiny profits that quickly accumulate. They were the focus of the best seller “Flash Boys,” by Michael Lewis. The ultra-fast trading is not in itself illegal, but employing the technique to artificially drive prices up or down is.

The complaint portrays Sarao as occasionally brash. It says that weeks after the “flash crash,” he bragged in an email to a broker about how he had just told a Chicago exchange official who questioned some of his trades “to kiss my” behind.

Sarao, who typically worked from his home in the west London suburb of Hounslow, earned millions through illegal trading, the complaint says. Between 2010 and 2014, Sarao earned $40 million on E-Mini trading alone, though the complaint doesn’t say how much of that was through allegedly illegal trades.

The Feb. 11, 2015, complaint charges Sarao with one count of wire fraud, 10 of commodities fraud, 10 of commodities manipulation and one of “spoofing.” Spoofing involves bidding with the intent of quickly canceling the bid.

The United States is seeking Sarao’s extradition, the Justice Department statement says. The name of an attorney for Sarao who could comment on the allegations wasn’t available in the U.S. court papers.

Sarao defends himself in some emails included in the complaint.

In March 2010, as exchange officials questioned some trades, he said in an email that he executed some merely to show a friend “what occurs on the bid side of the market … by the high-frequency geeks.”

In another, he denied placing orders with the intention of instantly canceling them — emphasizing the claim in capital letters.

“I DO NOT use ANY computer program that minimizes or reduces the (chances) of my trades being filled,” he wrote.

The complaint says Sarao engaged in illegal trading from 2009 to 2014, and did so on the day of the “flash crash.” That crash slashed share values and led to panicky trading; the Dow eventually closed 348 points lower.

The complaint goes through Sarao’s trades on May 6, 2010, in the minutes before and during the five minutes the Dow plummeted. It describes his trades down to fractions of a second to illustrate his impact.

TIME Cuba

These 5 Facts Explain the Economic Upsides of an Opened Cuba

The Caribbean country could be the next frontier of global business

Taking Cuba off the list of nations that sponsor terrorism is the latest development that will attract foreign companies to the island. So who wants in? These five stats explain which industries present the most opportunities as Cuba opens for business.

1. Money flowing home

One of the immediate benefits of renewed relations with Cuba is the increase in permitted remittance flows. The most recent figures put annual cash remittances to Cuba at approximately $5.1 billion, a level greater than the four fastest growing sectors of the Cuban economy combined. Now, permitted remittance levels from the U.S. will be raised fourfold, from $2,000 to $8,000 per year. This will help drive an increase in spending power in Cuba, which is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 4.6% through this decade. For global companies seeking a foothold anywhere they can, more money in the pockets of Cubans means more fuel for expansion. Take Coca-Cola. With an open Cuba, Coke could be legally be sold in every country in the world save one: North Korea.

(Fortune, The White House, Euromonitor, Wall Street Journal)

2. A lot more visitors

Just 110 miles off the coast of Florida, Cuba should be a natural magnet for American travelers. Despite needing to meet special criteria to receive a visa from the State Department—allowable categories include educational and journalistic activities—170,000 Americans visited the country last year. As the restrictions slacken, the sky is literally the limit. JetBlue already charters flights to Cuba from the U.S., but the budget airline wants to start running regular commercial flights. American Airlines Group now flies to Cuba 20 times per week, a 33% increase in flights compared to just a year ago. More flights—and more competition—will make airfare more affordable, driving additional tourist traffic.

(Travel Pulse, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal)

3. Communication breakthroughs

Only one in ten Cubans regularly use mobile phones and only one in twenty have uncensored access to the Internet. Even state-restricted Internet penetration currently stands at just 23.2%. The telecom infrastructure is so underdeveloped that an hour of regulated Internet connectivity can cost up to 20% of the average Cuban’s monthly salary. There’s serious demand for the major infrastructure investments needed to improve these numbers. Some start-ups are making waves in spite of shoddy internet. Airbnb, a website that lets people rent out lodging, announced that it has started booking rooms in Cuba with over 1,000 hosts. It gets around the lack of Internet by teaming with middlemen who have long worked to link tourists with bed and breakfasts.

(Wharton, Freedom House, Fast Company)

4. A cure for Cuba

Cuba has the third highest number of physicians per capita, behind only Monaco and Qatar. They’re even used as an export: Venezuela pays $5.5 billion a year for the almost 40,000 Cuban medical professionals who now make up half of its health-care personnel. Cuban doctors lack access to most American pharmaceutical products and, importantly, to third-generation antibiotics. For its part, Cuba’s surprisingly robust biotech industry makes a number of vaccines not currently available in the U.S. With the normalization of relations, Cuba can look to fully capitalize on its medical strengths.

(Bloomberg, World Health Organization, Modern Healthcare, Brookings)

5. Foreign investment

Cuba currently attracts around $500 million in foreign direct investment (FDI)—good for just 1% of GDP. Given its tumultuous political history and underdeveloped economy, it is difficult to accurately predict how quickly investors will flock once the embargo has been lifted. But a good comparison might be the Dominican Republic, another Caribbean nation with roughly the same size population as Cuba. The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that Cuba could potentially attract as much foreign capital as the Dominican Republic, which currently receives $17 billion in FDI ($2 billion from the U.S). But this won’t happen overnight—in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, Cuba ranks 177th out of 178, ahead only of North Korea.

(Wharton, ASCE, Peterson Institute, Heritage Foundation)

TIME world affairs

GDP Is a Bad Measure of Our Economy—Here’s a Better One

one-dollar-bill-bundles
Getty Images

GDP growth is being challenged by a new holistic set of variables and shows the U.S. lags behind in crucial areas

Are we in the midst of a great paradigm shift?

That was the question raised this morning at the Skoll World Forum by Michael Green, the Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative and the force behind the Social Progress Index (SPI), a new trove of data which offer a holistic snapshot of the health of societies across the world. Using 52 social and environmental indicators across 160 countries, the SPI offers a rigorous, granular and more meaningful alternative to the gospel that is Gross Domestic Product (GDP); what has become the official, if flawed, measure of a nation’s standing in the global economy.

The United States, the world’s wealthiest country in GDP terms, ranks 16th in “social progress.” Compared to our economic peers, we underperform on a number of dimensions, particularly those related to health: life expectancy, premature deaths from diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular and respiratory failure, fatal car accidents, and even maternal and infant mortality rates.

The gap in these standings underscores the limitations of GDP. By focusing exclusively on economic growth, GDP misses – or worse still, externalizes – the costs and value of a number of critical elements of well-being: basic human needs like nutrition, medical care, and shelter; access to education and information; and environmental sustainability – not to mention things harder to measure like rights and freedoms, tolerance, and inclusion.

The SPI is hardly the first challenge to GDP. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first UN Human Development Report, created by Mahbub ul Haq and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and informed by Sen’s work on human capabilities and positive freedom. Accordingly, the UN Development Programme re-conceived of development as a function of human potential, rather than economic growth alone, and its Human Development Index (HDI) measures life expectancy and educational attainment alongside standard of living (GNP per capita). More recently, the UNDP has published HDIs adjusted for inequality and gender inequality along with a multidimensional poverty index. The HDI has also laid the groundwork for a number of different approaches to measuring quality of life, among them, the OECD Better Life Index, gauges of happiness, and important assessments sustainability, among them the Sustainable Society Index.

What distinguishes the SPI is that it is the only comprehensive measure that excludes economic variables.

Instead of replacing GDP, the SPI data complement it by allowing for an assessment of a country’s performance relative to GDP. On this scale, Norway is #1, followed, in a tight band, by Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, and New Zealand. Canada is the highest performing of the G7 countries and Brazil leads the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), followed by South Africa, Russia, China and India. Russia may have a much higher GDP per capita than Brazil or South Africa, but ranks much lower on social progress, coming in at 71.

GDP surely matters. Economic growth and development around the world have raised billions of people out of poverty. The SPI data bear this out; we have made great strides towards the Millennium Development Goals of providing nutrition, basic medical care and access to education for many who lacked such.

But it is important to note that “social progress” does not always correlate with higher GDP—sometimes even when we get richer, things can get worse. Striking examples and areas of concern include environmental sustainability (measured in the SPI by greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and biodiversity). Countries like the U.S., but also rapidly developing countries like China, India, or Brazil consume more as they grow.

The U.S. is also not alone among wealthier countries grappling with diabetes and other issues of morbidity. And of course human rights, and political rights and freedoms, do not always improve with economic growth. Countries like Costa Rica “overperform” on social progress relative to GDP, rich countries like Kuwait, fall significantly short on a number of “progress” measures.

The good news: “GDP isn’t destiny,” says Green. In other words, policy matters, too, and we can choose to invest our surplus GDP in human or environmental capital. Should we choose to. The SPI leaves political economy, and politics, for another day.

In some ways, measures like SPI tell us things we already know: countries that have made substantial and historical investments in their social safety nets score well. The same is true for nations that are relatively homogenous, and—in the case places like New Zealand—somewhat isolated and immune to immigration pressures. It turns out that inclusion counts for a lot. For example, even with impressively high access to advanced education, the U.S. scores much less well on equality in educational attainment. On “access to communications” we rank lower on Internet and mobile phone use than our wealthy peers – despite being home to Silicon Valley.

In other ways, the SPI also allows for counter-intuitive findings, particularly when it comes to inequality.

With detailed information about access to basic services and opportunities, from healthcare, education, and housing to decent policing, freedom of movement and religion, and freedom from discrimination, the SPI is a measure of inclusivity and distribution; as with other alternative indices, a country cannot improve its progress score by simply boosting GDP. However, there is little or no correlation between Social Progress Index scores and the standard measure of income inequality, the GINI Coefficient. One implication: pro-poor measures and investments may matter more than redistribution per se.

All this suggests that measures like SPI offer more than a snapshot; they can be harnessed as a policy tool. Interest in applying the Social Progress Index, an idea hatched at the World Economic Forum two years ago and put into motion as the Social Progress Imperative with support by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, has grown dramatically; initiatives using it are under way in 40 countries and the European Commission is creating a customized SPI for the EU. In the U.S., Michigan will announce that it is using an adaptation of the SPI to guide a development agenda for Detroit and other cities. Somerville, Massachusetts is also on board. Expect to see more.

The SPI is also part of a larger revolution – across business, civil society, and government – to measure what matters. Asking the right questions is a critical step towards getting us to better answers and social outcomes, which would be progress indeed.

More from New America:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Economy

Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and Looking for Answers on Income Inequality

Will the rhetoric turn into real policy?

Income inequality is clearly going to be the key economic rallying issue of the 2016 presidential campaign. If you have any doubt, consider that both Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio, who declared their candidacies over the last week, are already speaking out about their positions on the issue. Clinton billed herself as the candidate for the “everyday Americans,” criticizing CEOs’ swollen salaries. She also tweeted: “Every American deserves a fair shot at success. Fast food & child care workers shouldn’t have to march in the streets for living wages.” Meanwhile, Rubio told NPR he wants the Republican Party—which, he said, is portrayed unfairly as “a party that doesn’t care about people who are trying to make it”—to transform into “the champion of the working class.”

So will the rhetoric turn into real policy? Certainly, the pressure will be on Clinton to declare her position on minimum wage—she’s said she wants to have “a conversation” about the topic, but when so many states have already passed hikes, it will be hard for her to argue that there shouldn’t be a higher federal minimum wage. But as I’ve written before, that doesn’t solve the inequality problem. Clinton has said it’s unfair when “CEO are making 300 times the salary of their average workers,” but there’s an uncomfortable truth there, which is that many of the compensation and tax policies that allow those types of salaries were structured by economic advisers from her husband Bill Clinton’s administration—people like Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Is she taking her own economic marching directions from that camp? Or will she go more toward the left-leaning economic ideas that people like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren have been pushing for.

Hiring former CFTC chair Gary Gensler as financial head of her campaign is a smart move: He’s the only regulator who’s ever been seriously tough on Wall Street. But I’m betting Clinton will remain a centrist Democrat on the economy, and as Politico reported, her Wall Street backers aren’t too worried.

As for Rubio, whatever he might say about helping the working class, when it comes to real policy, he appears to be mouthing the same old Republican “tax cut, balanced budget” line. I really think the Right is going to have to come up with something beyond trickle-down economic logic, which most of the population now realizes is broken, in order to justify the fact that American wages have been stagnant since 2000, no matter which party was in charge, in the face of many a tax cut. How about some trickle-up ideas, guys?

For more on the economic positions of both candidates and how they might play out in 2016, listen to me discuss the topic with the FT’s Cardiff Garcia, and Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal on this week’s WNYC Money Talking.

TIME Economy

Love K-Cups? You’re Killing the Coffee Business

<> on March 5, 2015 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle—2015 Getty Images In this photo illustration, Keurig Green Mountain Inc. K-Cup coffee packs are seen on March 5, 2015 in Miami, Florida.

Less wasted coffee means fewer sales for roasters

Single-serve coffee can now legitimately be called “wildly popular,” with more than one in four Americans using the brewing machines initially popularized by Keurig Green Mountain’s K-Cups.

You might think that’s a boon to the coffee-roasting business, but it turns out to be just the opposite. Why? The machines are much more efficient. Just think about how often you make a pot of coffee in an automatic-drip maker, only to end up pouring some portion of it down the drain. The less coffee you waste, the less you buy.

On one hand, this is better for consumers who are saving money. Less waste is also better for the environment, especially in parched regions like California. But roasters are feeling the pinch. “The coffee market has lost its best consumer: the kitchen sink,” Hernando de la Roche, a senior vice president at financial services firm INTL FCStone Inc., told Bloomberg. “Roasters are telling us that single-cup coffee has been reducing demand.”

Reducing demand, reducing waste — the difference is academic when it comes to toting up revenues.

Meanwhile, coffee bean inventories are rising, putting pressure on commodity prices. That’s thanks in part to recent rains in Brazil — the world’s top coffee-producing country — that have reversed two sequential years of falling yields.

At the retail level, total coffee sales are falling lately, down about 1.5% over the past year. Single-serve pods represent the only category where sales have grown in supermarkets, drugstores, and other non-restaurant outlets. Whole-bean, ground, and jarred instant coffee sales are all flat or falling.

Americans still love their joe, of course: it’s the most popular beverage other than water. Still, consumption fell over the past year as measured by the number of Americans who drink coffee daily, down from 63% in 2013 to 59% in 2014, according to the National Coffee Association. Some of that drop is thanks to people — especially younger ones — switching to tea and other beverages perceived as being healthier.

TIME Hillary Clinton

How Barack Obama’s Trade Deal Puts Hillary Clinton in a Bind

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with local residents at the Jones St. Java House in LeClaire, Iowa on April 14, 2015.
Charlie Neibergall—AP Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with local residents at the Jones St. Java House in LeClaire, Iowa on April 14, 2015.

Sen. Marco Rubio is rarely on the same side as President Obama. But the Florida Republican, who is running for president in 2016, recently drafted a letter to the White House in support of Obama’s signature free-trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Congress is expected to vote on this term.

This odd-bedfellows moment backs Hillary Clinton, who announced this week that she is running for President, into a particularly uncomfortable corner — sandwiched between Republicans and centrist Democrats on one side, and the Democrats’ liberal, activist base on the other.

So far, Clinton has kept quiet about whether she supports the deal.

Most Republicans, the Obama administration and a powerful coalition of business interests, some of whom have donated to Clinton’s campaign, would like to see the former Secretary of State champion the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They argue that the sweeping, 12-nation free trade pact, the largest-ever for the United States, would been a boon for the U.S. economy.

“We stand ready to work with you to ensure quick consideration and approval of legislation to renew TPA,” Rubio wrote in the draft letter to Obama, which was obtained by TIME, in reference to the Trade Promotion Authority, the so-called fast track bill designed to facilitate the passage of the trade deal. “We must work together to ensure that goods and services created by U.S. workers are able to enter and effectively compete in overseas markets.” Rubio’s office declined to comment on the letter.

Meantime, an increasingly vociferous coalition of liberal lawmakers, labor leaders and grassroots populists, whose support Clinton will need during the primary campaign, have warned Clinton that they deeply oppose the pact, which they describe as a job-killing sweetheart deal for global corporations.

“People feel a lot of urgency and tension around this moment,” said George Goehl, the executive director the the National People’s Action, a network of progressive, grassroots organizations nationwide, in a press call Thursday morning.

“This is not a theoretical question for [Clinton] to answer,” he added. “It’s real-life right now and people want to know where she stands.”

On Wednesday night, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a potential Democratic presidential candidate who has been one of the loudest voices in Congress in opposition to the deal, rallied members of the progressive organization, Democracy For America, against the bill during a conference call. “The only way a member pays the price [for supporting TPP] is if the poeple are educated and organized,” he said, adding later that “What we have got to do is rally the American people and educate them and put pressure on vulnerable members.

“Keep the emails coming, put the pressure on,” he urged.

Clinton’s silence about the Trans-Pacific Partnership has sent both supporters and critics into spirals of speculation.

In her most recent memoir, Hard Choices, published last year, Clinton expressed limited support for the deal. “It’s safe to say that the TPP won’t be perfect,” she wrote. “No deal negotiated among a dozen countries ever will be — but its higher standards, if implemented and enforced, should benefit American businesses and workers.”

But during her 2007 run for the White House, she explicitly distanced herself from the last big free trade deal, the North American Free Trade Agreement which her husband signed in 1994, and said she would not pursue any new trade deals for a while.

After supporting NAFTA as first lady and in her 2003 memoir, Living History, Clinton said in an interview with CNN in 2007 that it “was a mistake to the extent that it did not deliver on what we had hoped it would, and that’s why I call for a trade timeout.”

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a liberal Democrat who has been outspoken about his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, refused to speculate on Clinton’s position on trade. “I’m not going to go there. Hillary’s got a history. I’m pretty sure she was against fast track, against CAFTA. [She] spoke out in ’08 that we should renegotiate NAFTA,” he said Thursday. “So you make an assumption that Hillary is bad on trade but you would be wrong, I’d think.”

The Senate Finance Committee proposed a fast-track bill on Thursday afternoon that would give Obama the power to submit the trade pact to Congress for a simple up-or-down vote with no amendments. Supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership say such legislation is crucial as it assures other countries that Congress won’t significantly change the deal during debate.

Opponents, including Sens. Brown and Elizabeth Warren, have called the fast track undemocratic, in part because it makes it easier for negotiators and lobbyists to insert provisions into the trade deal that Congress would not approve individually.

The populist base has also railed against the non-transparent, and sometimes downright secretive, process surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation process. As of last fall, a network of 566 stakeholders, 85% of whom represented industry and trade groups, were given limited access to the draft trade agreement, according to the Washington Post. Although more stakeholders have since been invited to access the document through a secure website, the details of the agreement, which will include twelve nations in the Asia-Pacific region, have not been made public or provided to the press. Even lawmakers have not been given copies of the draft plan.

In the coming weeks, Clinton will be asked, probably repeatedly, to take a strong position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If she opposes it, she risks alienating a slew of powerful, corporate interests. But if she doesn’t, she risks the rage of the populist left. And if she does nothing, she’ll lose points with both sides and be criticized by pundits for ducking a major issue.

“It’s a choice between a corporate vision of a world economy and a vision in which … workers’ rights and sustainable development is allowed by the legal system,” Roger Hickey, the co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, said on a press call Thursday morning. “It’s a big issue.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Go ahead and start a new career in your fifties. It’s easier than you think.

By Donna Rosato in Money

2. This is what sex-ed would look like if it took place entirely on social media.

By Kate Hakala in Mic

3. Here’s why the FDA doesn’t really know what’s in our food.

By Erin Quinn and Chris Young at the Center for Public Integrity

4. What critical resource helps the sharing economy make billions? People trusting people.

By the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor

5. Could a continent-wide CDC for Africa stop the next Ebola outbreak?

By Jim Burress at National Public Radio

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Economy

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi Glitter-Bombed by Protester

The protester rushed the stage at a European Central Bank press conference.

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