Can Obama Help Forge A Global Consensus for Deep Economic Change?

Welcome World to Pittsburgh: Time For More Than Yak at the G20?

Dear International Leaders
and Guests,

From The President's Welcome:

Michelle and I look
forward to welcoming world leaders to the wonderful city of Pittsburgh
on September 24th and 25th and we thank the people of Pittsburgh and
Pennsylvania for opening their city as a showcase to the world.

Pittsburgh Summit is an important opportunity to continue the hard work
that we have done in confronting the global economic crisis, and renewing
prosperity for our people. Together, we will review the progress we
have made, assess what more needs to be done, and discuss what we can
do together to lay the groundwork for balanced and sustainable economic
growth. Pittsburgh stands as a bold example of how to create new jobs
and industries while transitioning to a 21st century economy.

From The Dissector's Response:

Being a welcoming host may
not be enough. The summit will be judged by what it does. So far, as
the NY Times noted, Obama's style and desire to change the world's
attitudes towards the US has not been matched by new policies.

Nevertheless, Pittsburgh was
carefully chosen as a perfect backdrop for the 'Every World Leader
in Action' photo op. Did you know: It has 8 Fortune 500 Companies,
and less unemployment than many others. Pittsburgh is also the 10th cleanest city according to Forbes. It is also supposedly the most livable,
labeled "America's Most Livable City" by Places Rated Almanac
and then in 2009, Pittsburgh named most livable city in the United States
and 29th-most-livable city worldwide by The

Yet the G20 has not assembled
to live there-but to talk, and hopefully reach agreements. We can
only hope this conclave will be remembered for more than parties at
the Andy Warhol museum.

Once America's steel Mecca
known for its 446 bridges, it was an epicenter of industrial strife
in the bad old days. Its lead companies, US Steel and Westinghouse are
long gone. I remember documenting a factory closing in the once vital
Mon Valley with all its manufacturing plants. How depressing!

(Aside: Speaking of PA. I was
just honored to write an intro to a new edition of muckraker Ida M.
Tarbell's classic and long out of print two volume History of the
Standard Oil Company
(Cosimo), one of journalism's greatest works,
an expose of corporate exploitation of, in Billy Joel's words from
his song Allentown, "the Pennsylvania I never found.")

One writer called the place
then "hell with the lid off." The lid is back on even as the
population shrunk down to 312,000. Clearly not everyone is enjoying
its livability. It is now only the 61st most dangerous city
in America with the Pittsburgh murder rate at 2.61 times the national

The town has its own dialect,
"Pittsburghese;" locals who speak it are known as "Yinzers." The cool subculture revolves
around an annual Zombie Fest.

Which is just perfect given
all the Zombie banks that are still like dead men walking, with their
trillions in toxic loans that seem to be impeding a full recovery. This
is one of the reasons 20 nations - and many onlookers - are coming to town to
pretend that a global consensus can be found to the world's economic

Two issues on the world's
agenda that go beyond what we have been pussyfooting around about: reining
in the power of banks (including fraud, excessive compensation and bonuses), and rising protectionism that undermines international cooperation.
President Obama's contribution to this problem was his slapping tariffs
on Chinese made tire imports which has already led to retaliatory measures
and threats of law suits. Not a great symbolic step for the host country!

(Of this decision, a betrayal
of Washington's earlier promises to the G20, The Economist writes,
"A protectionist move that is bad politics, bad economics, bad diplomacy
and hurts America. Did we miss anything?")

The Campaign for America's
Future asks us to look beneath the surface of Pitsburgh's economic "recovery":

Many high-paying jobs in
manufacturing were replaced with low-paying jobs as waiters or hotel
clerks. Many were never replaced at all.

-- America 's once-robust
system of economic production -- the invention, design and manufacture
of products -- has steadily eroded. In its place, an economy based on
asset bubbles and foreign borrowing has developed. That strategy was
never sustainable and is no longer available.

--Services alone are no path
to prosperity. For the past 30 years, the U.S. has been replacing goods-producing
jobs (down 54 percent) with service-providing jobs (up 34 percent).
But service jobs don't pay as well. Even in the broad category of
"services" -- which includes doctors, lawyers, and investment brokers
-- service jobs pay 75 cents for every dollar paid a production job.
Retail jobs pay 50 cents.

So it is to Pittsburgh that
activists will also come, as they have and do to all these G20 Yak fests
which make officials feel important and usually accomplish nothing much
of significance.

After the G8 met in London
where one protester was killed by police defending The City against The Rabble, a journalist noted:

G8 leaders were unable to
come to any firm agreement on how to combat the financial crisis. Acknowledging
the dangers posed by the crisis, the summit issued a statement that
declared, 'The situation remains uncertain and significant risks remain
to economic and financial stability...'

Good work guys (and gals.)
How decisive! It was the US in the personage of Tim Geithner who actually
blocked a more fundamental reform agenda proposed by the Germans and

Years earlier, I covered marches
in Denver and then later with a diverse and righteous MAKE POVERTY
HISTORY crowd in Glasgow at another one of these Gee Whiz affairs where
much was postured to, and little was accomplished. You will note that
protesters had to go to Court in Pittsburgh, in this era of Obama and
in this land of the free, to even obtain permits to rally and protest. Many groups returned empty-handed.

But "they" will be out
there with their signs, raucus music and bandanas, even if they get
no coverage unless violence erupts-Remember Seattle-as they fight
for a fairer world and efforts to stop climate change.

I am also sure no rightwing
Teabaggers and 9-12ers will be out supporting this anti-government
fight for economic justice which includes more money for AIDS, anti-poverty
programs, financial reform, and jobs, jobs, jobs.

Officially, the G20 conclave
is being positioned as another upbeat media event and exercise in perception

At the same time, we need to
be reminded that while the G20 Meets in the City of the Three Rivers,
it is a global moment, not just an American issue.

I was recently on the receiving
end of an intemperate blast from a reader who did make a valid point
that in all of this economic discourse, including some of my own work,
we have to focus more attention on the people most in need worldwide
who are hurt every day by Western economic policies.

How can we help the vast majority
of humankind get visibility for their campaigns to be free from
exploitative practices, curable diseases, and economic oppression?

How can we educate people in
our own countries about the need to take part in this broader global
effort and encourage our media to cover it more than they do?

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