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What Americans want from the G20

By Greg Wood
North America business correspondent, BBC News

As President Obama departs for the G20 summit of world leaders in London, the BBC's Greg Wood reports from Pennsylvania on what ordinary Americans want him to achieve.

One of the stated aims of the G20 summit is that world leaders should agree "to take whatever action is necessary... to enable families and businesses to get through the recession".

Tyetta Lewis discusses her mortgage situation with counsellor Claire Nicholson
Tyetta Lewis discusses her mortgage situation with a counsellor

For President Obama that means two things above anything else - keeping Americans in their homes and stopping the rising tide of job losses.

"They told me they were going to foreclose on this house on 7 April," says Tyetta Lewis, a mother of three children who lives in a working class neighbourhood of Philadelphia.

Her mortgage lender posted a sale notice on her front door.

"They said we had to be out of here in 30 days or the Sheriff was going to put us out."

Pioneering scheme

Tyetta and her husband Randolph fell behind with their mortgage payments after he lost his job at a nursing agency.

G20 LONDON SUMMIT
World leaders will meet this week in London to discuss measures to tackle the downturn. See our in-depth guide to the G20 summit.
The G20 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the US and the EU.

At various times over the past few months, their power, water and telephone have all been disconnected as they struggle to pay their bills.

She thinks President Obama's government could do more to help people like her.

"They should have the lenders make some kind of exception and give people time to make an agreement with them before just trying to put them out of their homes... All they're doing is creating another problem. Once people are homeless, where are they going to go?"

Luckily for Tyetta, she can turn to the city authorities in Philadelphia, who have launched a pioneering scheme to prevent foreclosures.

Once a week, hundreds of people who are in danger of losing their homes come to a courtroom at City Hall where they are given counselling and free legal advice.

They also meet representatives of their lenders to try and agree a cut in mortgage payments to a level they can afford.

Judge Annette Rizzo
I do believe it is part of the President's view that we are looking in extraordinary times for extraordinary measures
Judge Annette Rizzo

It is more like a market than a regular court room, packed and noisy with huddles of people trying to agree deals.

The conciliation scheme is the brainchild of Judge Annette Rizzo.

"It's all about communication, being responsible and willing to do a deal," she says.

The scheme has already saved nearly 1,000 homeowners from foreclosure.

Collision course

Other cities in the US have followed Philadelphia's lead. She thinks it's a model that could be used in countries around the world.

"I do believe it is part of the President's view that we are looking in extraordinary times for extraordinary measures and this would be an example," she says.

"I hope he does carry that message to other leaders."

Jack Kleyling
If they keep the jobs here then the economy is going to straighten itself out
Jack Kleyling

But when it comes to saving American jobs, President Obama could find himself on a collision course with other leaders at the G20 summit.

Some of them, especially from the European Union, have attacked his plan for massive new government spending to revive the US economy.

They fear an upsurge of American protectionism. With reason, because that is precisely what many newly jobless US workers want.

Two weeks ago, Jack Kleyling lost his job at a plant making steel pipes in the town of Easton, Pennsylvania, where he has worked for 23 years. He claims the company, Victaulic, is moving work overseas where labour is cheaper.

"It disgusts me. I think it should be the President's number one priority. If they keep the jobs here then the economy is going to straighten itself out. And he should penalise the companies that do leave."

So for President Obama, the G20 Summit will present a delicate balancing act between meeting the demands of his own people and heeding the calls of other world leaders for greater co-operation on economic policy.



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