Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pittsburgh = Lake Wobegon?

This morning on the radio I heard that the G20 leaders are meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, because President Obama wants to show off a Rust Belt city that has diversified its economy so well that it has an unemployment rate 2 percentage points below the national average. The implication was that if all cities diversified in such a way--what, they'd all have an employment rate 2 percentage points below the national average?

How stupid can you get?

If every city did what Pittsburgh has done, then some of those jobs wouldn't be in Pittsburgh, they'd be elsewhere--perhaps in Wichita, or Fresno, or Bismarck, or Detroit. If every city did what Pittsburgh has done, then the job distribution would spread and every city would have pretty much the same unemployment rate. Every city would be right at the national average.

It's a zero-sum game right now. More jobs in Pittsburgh means fewer jobs elsewhere, because the economy can't absorb or create any more jobs.

I don't fault the Pittsburghians for doing what they've done, certainly not. But to hold their policies as some exemplar--well, it couldn't be that way everywhere.

Except Lake Wobegon.

(P.S. How are we enjoying all those peaceful leftist G20 protesters? They're so much more law-abiding than the Tea Partiers, aren't they?)


Ellen K said...

Where all the children are above average. When the news media touted the low unemployment, I had to laugh. Pittsburg used to run on steel, American steel. Now we buy steel from China. We used to be the epitome of what should be made, now we are soft buyers feeling up the wares.

Meanwhile in real news, while our Apologist In Chief continues his America is Bad Tour, in Dallas a bomb plot by a Jordanian national here illegally was foiled by the FBI. Unfortunately, even if there are more people involved the current attitude in government will err on the side of protecting HIS rights over protecting American lives. This is what negotiation with Islamists will get you.

David said...

We actually make quite a bit of steel in the U.S. While some of the problems of the old "big steel" companies came from import competition, a lot of them came from the new American "mini-mill" companies like Nucor, which make steel from scrap rather than from iron ore.

Anonymous said...

Pittsburgh's G-20 story: Take an expressway from town and disappear into desolate 'hoods and encounter the civilization of menace. Pittsburgh, a dual city! The glass wonder of PPG Place and/or the G-20 Summit is a faded memory. Here in the 'hood lives lie abandoned as far as the eye can see.

That is: For the most part, African-American Pittsburgh seems to be invisible, not only to the public relations hucksters who tout Pittsburgh's successes, but we are equally invisible to the protesters.

Certainly, black Pittsburgh is as proud as anybody in that the black President we worked so hard to elect has selected Pittsburgh as the host of the G-20 Summit. We even enjoy the re-invention of Pittsburgh from a dirty, smoky steel-churning history to the bright, clean, green financial success that the business leaders and politicians boast about so loudly. Nobody is more proud of the Super Bowl winning African-American coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin. But none of that feel-good stuff erases the pain of the stubbornly high unemployment among African American young adults and the staggering dropout rate for young black males from the public school system.