G-20 Protests are not about abstractions

Published on The Free Press, by Tom Over, September 29, 2009.

Download: FALLING SHORT: a progress report on the g-20’s commitments to the world’s poorest

On Sept 20, The Toledo Blade published an article in which President Obama is quoted as saying, in reference to the G-20, “protests about abstractions [such] as global capitalism or something, generally, are not really going to make much of a difference.” While I am not sure what the opposition to the G-20 accomplished last week in Pittsburgh, I found that many of the activists there were quite concrete about what they don’t like about the elite economic club …

… On Sept 22, Jubilee USA Network released a progress report on the G-20 which states: “Perhaps most troubling, nearly all the resources committed by the G-20 to low income countries are in the form of new loans, potentially pouring fuel onto already existing pressures towards re-indebtedness for the poorest countries due to declines in export income and remittance levels. 

New loans will only increase these countries’ indebtedness and lead to a resurgent debt crisis, where countries will have to prioritize debt repayment over essential services to their populations” (see above PDF Falling Short).  

Woods told the crowd at the church, “we need to have real debt cancellation, not the G-20 meeting a couple of months later to institute new debt.”

Carl Redwood Jr., an activist in Pittsburgh who works with the Hill District Consensus Group said “ the G-20 tries to get regulation out of the way. This results in lower paying jobs with less benefits, gentrification, and huge subsidies for business.”

Tammy Bang Luu, who works with the Labor Community Strategy Center and Bus Rider’s Union in Los Angeles and who is also co-host of Voices From The Frontlines Radio on KPFK, Los Angeles, said “US policy has got to change” whether the issue at hand is lowering the number of people imprisoned for “crimes of poverty” or addressing gentrification, or having a single- payer healthcare system.

Luu also said the federal government’s transportation funding should change so that 80 percent of it is spent on alternative transportation and only 20 percent on automobile-centric transportation, instead of the reverse which is what we have now.

Leo W. Gerard, president of United Steelworkers International, joked with the crowd, saying that he would tone down his speech out of respect for being in a church. He said “We bail out the bond holders, the richest citizens, then we’re told we don’t have money for healthcare, education, and public services. The money is there. It’s just going to the wrong people. What we see now is the failed philosophy of trickle down economics. My message is this: it didn’t work then and it won’t work at the G-20.”

Gerard called for creating ‘green jobs.’ “Instead of bailing out banks, we can retrofit every government building in America and we’d create jobs,” He said the US has hollowed out its industrial economy, and he asked, “where will our kids get their jobs?”

Gerard, whose union has been working with the Sierra Club in the Blue-Green Alliance, also said, “because of our global trading system, the largest producers of wind turbines and solar panels aren’t in America.” But he said “Chinese workers that aren’t allowed to join a union aren’t the enemy. I’m not against the people of India or China. The problem is the global system that pits worker against worker and nation against nation.” (full text).

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