Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Fog is Getting Thicker, and the G-20's Getting Laaaaaarger... *

First of all, Pittsburgh City Council is hosting a public hearing on the G-20 Summit as it relates to public safety, civil liberties, gas masks, protective masks, disguises, guns, launching devices, locking devices, obstruction devices, disruption devices, use-of-force guidelines and other typical Pittsburgh things tomorrow at 1:30 PM at ye olde City County Building.

Got it? Good.

Number two: remember this dude?

• 5) At its last summit, the G-20 resolved to go after global tax cheats (among other things, of course). That's why some Swiss banks are now being pressured to disclose financial information about secretive American depositors. (P-G, Mike Dillon)

Well, all right Mr. Dillon, if you say they did that, then that's a data point: The Group of Like Twenty Nations resolved to pressure some Swiss banks. I hope that goes well for them. Lots of luck taking on the conscript army, with all those funky knives.

Next I found this:

"Banks need to responsible about pay and bonuses, and one of the things that is concerning me is that when you tackle banks about this they say that if you do something here, the Americans, the Swiss or the French ... will poach our people," Darling said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. (Guardian, Julia Kollewe)

Well, thank you very much Chancellor Alistair Darling. Try to create international standards and rules for executive compensation. I'm sure the United States will be scrambling to climb aboard that bandwagon.

You know what? These two together sound like a couple of press releases. Nothing but a lot of grandstanding and fluff against unpopular targets.

What's really at stake?

Yesterday I testified to the House Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade (part of the House Financial Services Committee). The hearing’s title was “Implications of the G-20 Leaders Summit for Low Income Countries and the Global Economy,” and the main topic was whether Congress should support an extra $100bn for the IMF that the Obama Administration agreed at the G20 summit in early April (witness list, webcast, and written testimony). (Baseline Scenario, Simon Johnson)

The International Monetary Fund! The IMF! Those old blaggards!

This is why Baseline Scenario has been on the blogroll. After much exposition, our Fivethirtyeight.com of the Economies recommends:

For that reason, it is most important that the IMF be authorized to restore its budget to its early 2008 level (i.e., before the 15-20% across the board cuts were implemented). Cutting the budget and letting go some of the most experienced IMF staff was the unfortunate result of gross macroeconomic negligence at the level of leading industrialized countries, including the US and its G7 partners. At the same time as the IMF was warning, clearly and firmly, that a global crisis was developing, major shareholders pushed through budget cuts that resulted in some of the IMF’s best people leaving the organization.

Undoing the budget cuts would be embarrassing to leading European countries, but it should fine support from the Obama Administration – after all, it was their idea to make increasing IMF resources a central issue at the recent G20 summit. (ibid)

I have come to regard the International Monetary Fund as that big global bank that all of the wealthy countries in the world donate into to help out the poorer countries -- so long as the poorer countries let us dig for diamonds, drill for oil, and consume the forests, and stop worrying obsessively about feeding people and sheltering them. And NO WAIT -- you don't get to dig and drill for goodies yourself and sell it on the open market, you don't have the "capacity". We have partners that have done this and can help you. Let us do all this, and then we'll give you some money to fix your country up real nice and we'll loan you a lot of the rest of the money -- and if your economy does as well as we're telling you it can, then you might easily pay us back and not be in massive debt, and wind up with less money than when you had none.

I can't exactly back up where I got that impression, precisely (*-UPDATE: Now I remember where it started!). But I can pile on with similar material, which abounds:

Third, the IMF and World Bank must end policies that hinder people's access to food, clean water, shelter, health care, education and the right to organize -- the ideologically driven economic austerity or "structural adjustment" programs that include charges known as user fees for basic health care, indiscriminate privatization and prioritizing exports over production for local needs. Even small charges deter people in poor countries from using critical services. For example, introduction of small fees for a sexually transmitted disease clinic in Nairobi led to a decline in attendance of 40 percent for men and nearly two-thirds for women. Another common mandate is the privatization of water and sanitation services -- which overwhelmingly remain in the public sector in the United States -- despite evidence that privatization leads to higher charges, decreased access for the poor to clean water and the spread of disease.

Finally, the World Bank must end all support for socially and environmentally destructive projects, such as oil, mining and gas activities, and large dams. From 1992 to the present... (Washington Post, Robert Weissman)

And "the present" at the time that was written was 2001. I feel like the IMF has been keeping a low profile since then; I'm not sure if it was reforming whatever might have been wrong with it, but it did suffer budget cuts and apparently The Obama really wants to rejuvenate it. The question is should we let him.

But I do know one thing.....


G-20 Film & Forum Series

All films will be shown (for free!) at 8:00 pm at Your Inner Vagabond (4130 Butler Street, Lawrenceville). Films will be followed by discussion on topics relevant to the upcoming G-20 Summit.

9/2 Life + Debt
This documentary addresses the impact of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and current globalization policies on developing countries such as Jamaica. (Thomas Merton Center)

Jamaica, mon! Good stuff, right? And its the evening of the big public hearing! I hope there is some updated information, either in the movie or during the discussion. If it turns out we need to correct or strengthen President Obama's course in regards to major global economic institutions -- one of which he is asking taxpayers to support to the tune of $100 billion -- that is something he would expect Pittsburghers to bring to his attention.


"I'm not interested in anything other than keeping everybody safe," Mr. Ravenstahl said. "I think the dollars the state and the feds have given us will allow us to do so." (P-G, Lord and Rujumba)

That's a brilliant chord, and the right one. I hope it turns out that if the County takes a bath on this, then the City might decide to pitch in a little help from its "rainy day fund". Those are due to be some rainy days , and we can't have our County services suffering. Hopefully someone will sponsor such legislation to City Council if there is an appropriate time for that.

Finally, from Bail Out the Taxpayers and their allies in PGH:

“We’re not interested in talk about permits and troublemakers,” said Holmes. “People are suffering, they need jobs.” (Courier, Christian Morrow)

So that'll be the way it's going to be, that's all. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more. There will be protests in Pittsburgh in mid September, just as there are protests in lots of places at lots of different times. It'll be rad.


  1. Speaking of protesters, I saw a couple of undergrad-aged people eating from the take-out containers left in the trash cans at Fifth and Craig. I wonder if they didn't come for the G-20 or something. They seemed much too clean (and carried expensive-looking hiking packs) to be eating from the trash for lack of ability to pay, so I took it for some kind of eco-thing.

  2. Have you heard about the red, white and blue security zones being set up around the Downtown area with different levels of security? Apparently, residents and employees in the inner circles are going to need to provide ID with an address indicating their destination. We actually have to reprint hundreds of ID for staff and consumers who live/work in the zone.

    Now if they had called it the black and gold zones, there might be more buy in ...

  3. There are really red, white and blue security zones? Not only is that just gratuitously Orwellian, but a wee bit parochial for a meeting of the global Group of 20 Nations.

    They should have named them like they do Disney World parking lots: the Barack Obama zone, the Nicholas Sarkozi zone, the Hu Jintao zone...

  4. There is no parking in the white zone.

  5. host country does not allow scoring by the visiting countries in the red zone?

    police audible to a zone dog defense when protesters enter the red zone?

    red zone sponsored by h.j. heinz co?

    P-G will cover the G-20 with Rawson/Lowry in the Blue Zone, Lord/Belko in the White Zone and Bouchette/Cook in the Red Zone.

  6. I'm just going with the Airplane references.