At the G-20, Real Solutions Off the Table; Accidental American Shows the Way

By Debayani Kar Sep 24, 2009

Today and tomorrow, leaders of the Group of 20 Nations, or G-20, are meeting in Pittsburgh for the latest in a series of meetings intended to address the global economic crisis. The global recession has shifted the nature of these conversations; neoliberal policies, though not entirely discredited by global policymakers, are at least in retreat. On the agenda are items previously considered “anti-globalization”: supporting economic stimulus packages, repealing national subsidies on fossil fuels, restraining executive pay, increasing oversight on hedge funds, and boosting the voting power of key global South economies at the International Monetary Fund. But these global leaders still don’t get it. A few tweaks to their unjust global economic order may end the recession for some, but it will not bring about recovery for the rest of us. Numerous people-centered proposals do exist that would provide better economic opportunities both here in the United States and abroad. Some good ideas were detailed in The Accidental American, coauthored by ColorLines publisher Rinku Sen.

Much of what passes for globalization in today’s public discourse is actually neoliberalism, or corporate deregulation writ large. Agreements like NAFTA repeat patterns of corporate movement that created similar hardships for working people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, only this time across the entire world. Proponents of neoliberal economics have berated Americans and others for being small-minded when they resist such corporate freedom. … The holistic answer is to create a different kind of globalization. Here, too, there are many ideas and experiments from which we can learn. We can start by creating regional agreements, not just to benefit corporations and increase trade, but also to handle governance and public welfare. The key is to ease the movement of workers while equalizing social and political conditions.

We could start by creating a North American Union between Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and including the Caribbean countries as quickly as possible. Economist Jeff Faux, the founder of the Economic Policy Institute, has developed a substantial proposal for such a union. Like the EU, our regional union would allow social cohesion funds to flow from the wealthier countries to the poorest ones; we would have a transnational health and welfare system; we would adopt a regional Bill of Rights that protected people from economic, social, and political abuse; and, lastly, a system of transnational citizenship would allow people from any member country to hold both their own and the other governments accountable. … What is outdated is not migration, but rather the way in which we conceive of the nation-state. The idea that such states make decisions independently of all other countries, conferring the benefits of citizenship only as they please, has existed for only a few hundred years. As corporations bypass the nation-state, and as human beings respond by pressing for equal power to do the same, a new system must and will emerge. If these ideas are politically marginal today, it is up to us to bring them into the mainstream. A great number of people have been sitting silently in the middle of the debate, thinking that these issues don’t affect them. If the media and public officials offer us something other than false solutions, it will be because we demand better options, ones that really address the problems that confront us.

For more on these and other proposals to reform immigration and globalization to benefit us all, check out The Accidental American.