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The G-20 Summit: Lessons from Pittsburgh

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Eric Lotke       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink

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The G-20 Summit is in Pittsburgh later this week. Leaders from the 20 countries that collectively represent two-thirds of the world's population, 80 percent of world trade and 90 percent of global gross national product, will meet to discuss the global economy and terms of trade.

It is fitting that they meet in Pittsburgh. SteelCity is renowned for the slump in its dominant industry, followed by what President Obama called a "world-clas s" transition to a diversified economy, including higher education, bio-tech and clean energy. The good news is true enough -- credit where due -- but the praise misses half the story.

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Yes, some manufacturing jobs in Pittsburgh were replaced by high-end jobs in education or medicine. But many were replaced by jobs in hotels and food services -- jobs that never paid as well and proved even more vulnerable in the recent downturn. Some manufacturing jobs were never replaced at all. That helps explain why the city's population is declining, especially among youth, who seek opportunity elsewhere.

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Two lessons from Pittsburgh are important for the United States and the G-20 Summit. We discuss them in our new report, Pittsburgh, G-20, and the New Economy -- Lessons to Learn, Choices to Make.

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The first lesson is the importance of the real economy. America grew up as an industrial superpower, from mass-produced automobiles to the Arsenal of Democracy. But our once-robust system of economic production -- the invention, design and manufacture of products -- has been steadily eroded. In its place has come an economy based on asset bubbles and foreign borrowing. That economy was never sustainable and is no longer available.

We need to dispel the notion that America has moved beyond the production of goods. From cars to computers to refrigerators, a country needs things. If we don't make those things here, then someone else gets our money.

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Eric Lotke has cooked in five-star restaurants and flushed every toilet in the Washington D.C. jail. He has filed headline lawsuits and published headline research on crime, prisons, and sex offenses. His most recent book is Making Manna.

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