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Monthly Archives: February 2018

Republicans are driving the national debt to unprecedented heights. Are they really “deficit hawks” as they always claim?

mitbuyinggovt72The whole idea that politicians have some kind of guiding principles or ideology is nonsense. What they actually have is material incentives to do what they do, vote the way they vote.

If the very wealthy people who direct most politicians want more spending on the military, or on tax cuts for themselves, that’s what they get. There isn’t some principle or ideology involved.

One thing that really upset Republicans during the Obama Administration was what they called “sequestration.” Under it, they had limits on what they could spend. Republicans wanted it, but only as long as it applied to spending to benefit the people. What galled them was that it also applied to the military. They’ve now broken that restriction and they are once again free to spend the money they want to spend to dominate the world.

When it comes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, health care — anything that benefits working people and has to be partially paid for by taxation from the wealthy — they will still claim to be deficit hawks. It would be a funny joke if it weren’t so horrible.

How Long Can They Borrow?

The American government can go on borrowing — selling bonds — as long as they can find someone to buy them.  They sold a lot of them since the 2008 crisis, and there was nothing to back them. We didn’t have any more gold, or any more treasure of any kind. America just sold bonds, and people, especially people in other nations, bought them.

Theoretically, that could go on forever. When another nation, say China, invests in United States Treasury Bills, as they often do, they are committing to a continuation of world economic stability based on the U.S. Dollar and United States economic domination. Otherwise, they wouldn’t get their bond money back.

It would be interesting to examine the cost of debt servicing now that the American debt is shooting up over $20 trillion dollars. I found a number: $174,800,239,416.18 that is supposed to represent the service cost for the last year. That’s $175 billion.  https://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/ir/ir_expense.htm

The amount goes up or down depending on the interest rates. But if people, especially people in other nations, become more reluctant to buy bonds, and if America keeps selling them, as they must, then the interest rates will necessarily go up. The cost of servicing the debt will go up, too.

This brings me back to the question of military spending. If the United States can still destroy any other nation, then it isn’t likely that any of them will stop cooperating with the worldwide economic system as it is. So, how long can America borrow? As long as it can find lenders.

–Gene Lantz

I”m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious as to what I really think, check out my personal web site

 

Movie Review: The Insult, Directed by Ziad Doueiri. 112 minutes

The_Insult_(film)

It’s not just about two strangers quarreling over home repairs. OK, that’s how it starts. But this is one of those movies where a little personal incident illustrates universal pain.

We’ve been reading about the turmoil in the Middle East for a long, long time, but what’s it like for the people living in it? That would probably be very hard to explain.

You Gotta Love Movies

The wonderful thing about The Insult is that it doesn’t exactly explain it. It just takes you through that other world and lets you feel it.

If you have already chosen sides, or if you think you have chosen sides, you may have to re-evaluate. You may find out there are more than just a few sides. I kind of like to think that the protagonists in this movie, even though they are at war with each other, both represent a side of their own — decency.

Neither of them really wants to become symbols of deep seated anguish and national hostility. The characters really grow on the viewer, no matter what kind of baggage we brought into the theater.

Unless you really can’t stand movies in multiple foreign languages, or if you hate courtroom drams, I think you’d like this one.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

 

I received a mailing to help me promote “School Choice Week” on the air.

At KNON radio studios, I receive  a lot of right-wing mail. I think it’s because my program is called “Workers Beat” and conservatives can’t conceive of a radio show that is actually for workers. When one says “workers” they assume you mean management, I guess, because all the other radio programs are either written by the bosses or approved by them. I throw away a lot of free books about how to get more work out of workers.

The School Choice mailing came from a post office box in some town in California. It says that there are 32,240 American events to promote “school choice” during January 21-27.  It says that 6.7 million students and supporters will be participating. It says there are 54 events in my town. It says I should promote them on KNON radio and it offers me materials to broadcast.

I assume they sent this to every radio station in America at considerable cost. It’s part of a national effort to destroy the public schools. If you aren’t worried, you should be.

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A Little History on Schooling

America, more than most countries, advanced free public education. It’s one of the reasons that America shot ahead of the rest of the world in the 20th century. But there was always resistance. It took a Civil War to offer free public education to African American children, for example, and even then their public schooling was inferior to that offered to the Master Race of American Anglos. It still is.

The Brown Vs Topeka Supreme Court case in 1954 signaled a renewed fight for fair education. Whites were encouraged to fight against fairness in a number of interesting ways. One way was to move to white suburbs. One way was to create “magnet schools.” These “magnets” drew off the most outspoken activist parents and gave them what they wanted — decent education for their own kids — while leaving the rest of the kids, largely those with parents who had to work, behind.

They loosened the restraints on home schooling for the parents who didn’t have to work. Another way was to push for school vouchers so that tax money could be used for private schools. Yet another way was to push for “charter schools” to use tax money in ways that were out of the control of the people.

It’s the same fight that we were having during the Civil War and Reconstruction, but in different forms.

Who Wants to Destroy Public Education?

The people with the most money want to stop paying taxes. A lot of federal money, and the largest part of any state budget, goes to education. That’s tax money that rich people would rather not pay. After all, their kids don’t even need the public schools. They have always had better schools, before the Civil War and after.

In this regard, wealthy people’s desire to stop paying taxes, the effort to undermine public schooling fits into the larger explanation of what’s wrong in American politics today. In order to maintain their profits and beat their international competitors, wealthy Americans are trying to contain their costs. We are their costs. Public school children are their costs, in their view.

Public schools retain all their traditional enemies, too. Religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular head the list. They think they can get public money to promote their superstitions. In the short run, they can, because the very wealthy welcome any help they can get to destroy public education. Look at poor Louisiana!

In the long run, the very wealthy don’t want to pay for Catholic schools, either, so their little cabal won’t endure very far beyond the collapse of public education. The Catholics will be left at the altar once their usefulness is over.

Just to be Clear

State legislatures have been cutting public education funding for some time. It is especially true in states where right-wing Republicans have seized control. First they drain away all the resources, then they impose crazy unreasonable rules, then they piously claim that the schools are “failing.” Then they cut some more and pass some more rules.

One doesn’t have to be smart to figure out that they intend to rob American children of their right to a decent education.

Public education

Fight Back

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the main unions, are forming coalitions with community groups to clarify the issues and direct the fightback. I’m proud that the main labor federation, AFL-CIO, backs them.

As usual, our enemies have many ways to divide us. They say that they are magnanimously seeking ways to overcome school “failures.” They say they are promoting “innovation,” and “school choice.” They are spending a lot of money to buy politicians and do direct advertising.

That’s why I got the stupid mailing about “school choice week.”

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9AM central time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

 

 

World stock markets nosedived for a fourth day running on Tuesday, having seen $4 trillion wiped off from what just eight days ago had been record high values.

–NBC News

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Just the week before, Oxfam America announced their analysis of all the world’s wealth created in 2017. Eighty-seven percent of it went to the upper 1%!

I’m wondering if that same wealthy 1% took 87% of the $4 trillion loss? 

Probably not. The investors that took a bath this week aren’t the pros. They aren’t the ones with computers and experts doing their trading for them. They wouldn’t even know how to “sell short” like the big-time investors who are making fortunes from the downturn.

Once, before the implosion, I visited Moscow. They had a lot of fine museums made from the palatial buildings created in tsarist days. One of them had been the stock market. The Soviets, I was told, were running their economy without a stock market.

The Chinese, I understand, do have a stock market. It’s careening downward as this is written, just as other markets are around the world. The purpose of a stock market is to facilitate the flow of capital. Unfortunately, it also provides a giant gambling den where professional sharks swallow their competitors.

I’ve listened to several experts talk about the present downturn, and they are unanimous in saying that it’s just a correction and does not really reflect the basic world economy, which is sound. It seems to me that they nearly always say that during sharp downturns, because they don’t want investor panic to add to the problem, and they are nearly always right. But not always.

The experts go on to say that the selloff began when statistics were revealed showing that workers were beginning to get paid a tiny bit more. Wages, they said, were rising at the 3% rate. That’s a little bit more than inflation so, though tiny, it’s on the positive side for workers.

Why is good news for workers such bad news for capitalists?

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

I talk to the young folks, they don’t understand,

‘A thing this old man has to say…”

–from the song “I Wish I Was 18 Again” as sung by Jerry Lee Lewis

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I would tell young people that they are going to have to win their rights all over again. I would also tell them not to settle for what their parents had. I would tell them to figure out what needs to be done to get things right, even if it takes some time and experimentation, and then to do it!

False Roads Are Almost the Only Roads

I suppose that everyone is entitled to their own mistakes. In my 50 years of activism, Almost everything I ever did turned out to be mistaken, so I certainly have no right to expect young people to do any better than my own sorry example. Nevertheless, I have to try to warn you.

You Will End Up Working for the Man

Almost all of us want to choose a career that will actually make things better than they are. That’s why there are so many college students in the arts and in social studies. They want to do something meaningful while earning their living. It sounds reasonable but it’s nonsense.

In this system, we work for the people who have money and power. We perform the duties laid out by the people who sign our paychecks. The people with money and power are not the people who want change, no matter how they may sugar-coat it. If we want to make a living, we have to please them. So don’t waste your time trying to find a job as a progressive change agent, you will, sooner or later, be disappointed. A better career choice is one where you can make as much money as possible with as little of your time as possible. Look for a job with a union or one that can be organized into a union.

When In Doubt, Choose Democracy

When you are confronted with a decision about how to best employ your resources in the struggle for a better world, democracy makes a good guideline. In general, the political system democracy is in opposition to the economic system capitalism. Democracy pushes for equality. Capitalism has to have inequality.

Study Our History

Their history tells us that George Washington overcame British autocracy, that Lincoln freed the slaves, and that Martin Luther King Jr ended discrimination. Without taking anything away from these outstanding people, we need to acknowledge the masses of people who did the work before them.

Take, for example, the civil rights movement. It didn’t start in Montgomery in 1954. It was well underway before slaveholder George Washington’s time. There were great people who made great sacrifices to win the degree of racial equality that we have presently attained. Some of them were preachers, teachers and wonderful orators, but, in the final analysis, Black people in America freed themselves!

The union movement is responsible for bringing economic and social advancement for workers. There were some wonderful leaders that we know of. But the union movement, by its very nature, consists of and relies on the rank and file members. Workers in America, to the extent that we are free, freed ourselves!

The War Continues

We sometimes win a battle against our bosses; we sometimes lose one. But the war will continue as long as they are in charge. Every advance that we make will have to be won again, sooner or later.

So, my young friends, you will have to win everything that was won before. I’m hoping you’ll go further.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

 

I just looked it up: “torpor. : a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility : extreme sluggishness or stagnation of function.”

torpor

It’s my diagnosis for America. Every election here in Texas, people say, “We’re not a red state, we’re a non-voting state,” “Turnout is everything, ” and “If people would only vote…”  It’s not just voting, either.

Every public action lives or dies by its numbers, and those numbers are often in the twenties. True, the protests associated with Trump’s 2017 inauguration brought more people into America’s streets than ever before in America’s history. The 2018 turnout wasn’t bad, either.

Activists are holding their breaths to see what kind of turnout they will get when/if Trump fires Mueller or Rosenstein. I’m holding my breath over it for a slightly different reason: the call is for a major public action either at five PM on the day of the firing or at noon the next day.  I want to see what would happen if the protest occurred at noon on a workday.

Virtually all major calls for public protests occur on Saturday, Sunday, or a Holiday. That’s because turnout is paramount. It’s also because Americans are not familiar with the idea of a general strike. Sometimes called a political strike, it means that people take off work over something bigger than a shop-floor issue. It’s a weapon we desperately need in our American arsenal, but we haven’t done much about it so far.

What’s the Cure?

If non-participation is the symptom and torpor is the diagnosis, what do we do about it?The first step toward a remedy is to understand the problem. Our American torpor is partially a product of our ignorance, partly our arrogance, but mostly comes from our fear. Americans are afraid to stand up together.

The remedy, my friend, is you. You have to be the one to vote, to speak out, and to protest. When other people see you showing courage, they will have a little more courage of their own. This, of course, is not a simple remedy. It will take time and a lot of work.

Gene Lantz

I get to speak out on KNON radio every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out http://lilleskole.us

 

 

 

The Republican position on undocumented workers is basically to deport them all. Round them up like cattle in concentration camps, and ship them to the other side of a humongous 2,000 mile wall. Twelve million human beings. Is that really likely?

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Let’s say you are a refugee from, for example, Guatemala. Or anywhere. You reluctantly left your home because you were facing hunger, assassination, torture, or some other kind of repression there. After a rough trip to the United States, you found conditions that were pretty terrible compared to the local citizenry, but better than conditions back where you came from.

Your life has an “underground” quality. You enroll your kids in school but, just to be careful, you don’t tell them exactly where you live. You stay out of public life in all aspects, because you worry about being uprooted or causing someone you care about to be uprooted. All this was true when you came to the U.S., it’s true now, and it will still be true after all the Republican fulminations against you.

If the repression in the United States gets worse, you aren’t likely to leave. You’ll just sink further into the underground, won’t you? Maybe you’ll take certain measures: take your kids out of school? Move more often? Change jobs more often? Change names more often? But you won’t leave voluntarily, and you won’t make it easy for ICE to find you.

There’s Always Crime

If things get so bad that you can’t feed your family legitimately , there’s always crime. You can buy a gun for mugging people. A handy crowbar for burglaries is even cheaper. You didn’t want to be part of a growing criminal underground, but it’s better than watching your children go hungry, isn’t it? You do what you have to do. You didn’t make this world, but you still have to live in it.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on http://knon.org/workers-beat/ at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are interested in what I actually think, check out http://lilleskole.us