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August 11, 2009

New Report: Pittsburgh —The Rest of the Story

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Campaign for America’s Future has released a report, Pittsburgh —The Rest of the Story (pdf file, 12 pages). This report tells the story of "Pittsburgh's transition from the old to the new."

A lot is happening in Pittsburgh this summer and fall. Netroots Nation is taking place in Pittsburgh this week, then next month the AFL-CIO annual conference and the G-20 Summit. (See also.)

But a lot more has been happening in Pittsburgh so there’s a good story to tell.

Pittsburgh, known as "Steel City," was a center of the “rust belt” – so-called because so much of our manufacturing, once America’s economic powerhouse, has been “outsourced.” This is the process where the contents of the factories are packed up and sent to another country to make the same things that were made here, using the same raw materials, and shipping the same items back here to sell. For propaganda reasons that is called “trade,” even though it isn’t trade it’s really just paying off politicians to let them externalize costs onto the local communities and pocket the profits. (Our laws even let the companies pay lower taxes at the very time they are transferring so many costs onto the rest of us.)

At the same time, competitors arrive from countries that understand that manufacturing is the key to economic power. They have national policies to build their own manufacturing base. So the might subsidize their industries, or hold the value of their currencies low, or exploit their workers or the environment, giving their companies a pricing advantage. Or, they might just "dump" products into our market

The result is closed factories, eyesores rusting in the sun and rain, taking up local space. Hence the name, “rust belt.”

Pittsburgh has been working to do something about the rust-best phenomenon. From the report,

In the 1990s, the city reinvented itself. The story often told is one of transition from heavy industry to a new post-industrial age, with a high-end service economy built around health care and higher education. Grant-funded research led to entrepreneurial opportunity in software and biotechnology. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center replaced U.S. Steel as the region’s largest employer. Pittsburgh built the world’s first Gold LEED-certified convention center. Once a giant consumer of dirty energy, Pittsburgh positioned itself for leadership in the new energy economy.

The good news is true enough, although many problems are far from solved. But it is only half of the story. Behind the good news are two unseen parts of the story.

I'm not going to tell the story here. Instead you have to read it for yourself. It's a good read.


Posted by Dave Johnson at August 11, 2009 11:10 AM


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