Monthly Archives: May 2018

Book Review: Barlett, Donald L, and Steele, James B. “The Betrayal of the American Dream.” Public Affairs, NY, 2012 Dallas library 330.973 B289B 2012


If recent economic developments have not already terrified you, this might be a good book to absorb. It is very much like “Runaway Inequality,” the book promoted by the Communications Workers of America that I reviewed earlier.  It has some of the same dire warnings and suggested solutions as the classes that the AFL-CIO conducted under the name “Common Sense Economics.”

The authors really hate “free trade,” tax giveaways to the rich, deregulation, or capitalist-directed globalization.

Here is the message in a nutshell: “Something terrible happened in America in the 1970s. Since then, virtually all new economic developments have been bad for the working people and crazy good for the very rich. Inequality is rampant. We need to bring back some of the more reasonable practices that were in place before the disaster struck.”

In my review of “Runaway Inequality,” I pointed out that our recent period isn’t the odd one. The odd one was the third quarter of the 20th century. The reasonably good times when some of the productivity gains streamed into workers’ paychecks were not normal. They were just weird.

Today, when the capitalists grab everything in a runaway train ride to oblivion, that’s what’s normal. Trying to go back to the practices of the 1950s is a lot harder than it looks, because the ruling rich are dead-set against it.

Why weren’t the rich dead set against equitable economic practices in 1950? I can think of at least three good explanations. 1) They ruled the world. They had almost no international competition because they had destroyed every other country during the war. 2) American labor was very strong after a tremendous upsurge 1935-1947. 3) The Soviet Union was still seen as a viable alternative to capitalism, and it was important to buy and/or destroy any pro-Soviet sentiment. None of those things were true in America by the time Ronald Reagan was elected.

Even though this book has great reporting on economic events, and even though it has very intelligent prescriptions for making economic things the way they used to be, I don’t think their hopes for the future are likely to happen. The book is great at explaining, but not so useful as a guide to action.

Actually, I began to be skeptical in the introductory pages when they said, “…we define the ‘middle class’ strictly by income….” They could have just said “middle income” instead of “middle class.” The problem with trying to rally middle-income people is that they aren’t really a class. A class is defined by political interests, and middle-income people are all over the map in their interests. Some of them are workers, some of them are lawyers, some of them are trust fund babies, some of them are shopkeepers. 

If someone is serious about making change, they need to start thinking about the working class.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on radio KNON FM89.3 in Dallas at 9 AM central time every Saturday. Podcasts can be found from the “events’ tab on the web site. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

About 25 people from all over Texas and three guys from Australia protested Exxon/Mobil’s shareholder meeting in Dallas on May 30.


The sometime biggest, and sometime second biggest, corporation in the world has its headquarters right outside Dallas. They hold their annual shareholders’ meetings in the luxurious Meyerson Symphony Hall downtown. Across the street, labor and environmental activists revealed corporate crimes to newspersons and the world at large.

The surprise group came from Victoria’s Gippsland Basin, Australia, where Exxon has 23 offshore installations. Their spokesperson, Troy Carter, spoke on Facebook Live for seven minutes. He said that 230 members of the Australian Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union were terminated 343 days earlier. The next day, they were offered their jobs with a 40% pay cut! They have been protesting every day since.

The Australian’s printed materials were meant to explain to Exxon stockholders that the corporation was spending a lot more on union busting than it would have cost them to keep their well-trained workforce. But the corporation would not let them into the symphony hall; consequently they had to disseminate their message broadly.

In the United States, the Australian’s tour is being helped by the United Steelworkers of America. The Australians plan to meet with Dallas AFL-CIO leader Mark York before heading to Austin to talk with Texas AFL-CIO leaders. Their Texas tour will end in Houston, where there are many petrochemical workers.

Speakers talked about the danger to our planet from fossil fuels. A woman from Corpus Christi, on the Texas coast, said that her organization was trying to stop Exxon from building the biggest plastics factory in the world. “Do you want more plastic in your oceans?” “Do you want more plastic in your air?” “Do you want more plastic in your bodies?” she asked.

A man from Waco, in Central Texas, talked about special environmental problems caused by Exxon in his hometown.

Herb Keener of Communications Workers 6215 and Gene Lantz of United Auto Workers Local 848 spoke for the “blue” section of the “blue/green” (labor/environmental) alliance. Keener’s talk was captured on Facebook Live. He mentioned that he expected Exxon to follow other major corporations in spending their windfall from last December’s giant tax giveaway by purchasing their own stock. These financial maneuvers enrich stockholders without any benefit to employees nor to the general economy.

The protest had a long list of sponsors: 350 Dallas, Society of Native Nations, Dallas Peace and Justice Center, CodePink Dallas, Communications Workers of America/CWA Local 6215, Dallas Sierra Club, Downwinders At Risk, Dallas Palestine Coalition, Pax Christi Dallas, Our Revolution North Texas, Texas Drought Project, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), Solidarity Texas – Dallas Chapter, System Change Not Climate Change, Veterans For Peace North Texas, Waco Friends of Peace and Climate, Texas Coalition for Environmental Awareness, and more.

-Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. Podcasts are available from the “events” tab on the site. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

The main players in today’s economy aren’t “rational men” as assumed in classical economics. They are “sociopathic men.” It’s the first and most important lesson.


What crippled economics as a science was its separation, in the late 19th century, from other disciplines, especially politics. At the same time, it was decided that economies work because “rational men” (sorry ladies) cause the supply and demand for commodities to balance out at a fair market price.

It’s like the Holy Bible of economics: nobody actually believes it but everybody quotes it.

If we still studied politics and economics together, as we did before economist Alfred Marshall, we would see that it isn’t rationality that makes the world go around, it’s antagonism. Our economy is vastly different from their economy.

Bad Is Good

All these “rational men” do not have identical interests. In fact, our interests are extremely disparate. While ordinary working people like you and me want high employment, good wages, and low prices; our employers usually want the opposite. What is good for us, especially high wages, is bad for them.

Back in Alfred Marshall’s time, this opposition may not have seemed so important to people studying single economic data in a single market. But two great changes have occurred since then that make oppositional understanding vital: world war and governmental economic policy.

National “Good” is International “Bad”

Nations exploit one another. The First World War was fought to determine which industrialized nations were going to do the exploiting. That wasn’t a decision made by rational men within a single economy. “War is politics by other means,” as we say. Politicians made the decisions to carry out world wars, and the winners reaped the benefit. War determined international economics, but it certainly wasn’t because of rational men.

“Whose Economy” Depends on “Whose Government”

Capitalism has a built-in propensity for crisis. Early in the 20th century, and especially during the Great Depression, governments began to take affirmative action to save capitalism from itself. They recognized that monetary policy and fiscal policy could be used to heat up or cool down an economy to some extent.

The biggest problem was oppositional interests. Governments generally interceded in the economy on behalf of the richest capitalists and not for the majority.

But another big problem was created by all this government intervention. Instruments of debt and other purely financial instruments were floating around everywhere, and they became an obsession. A major part of economics was no longer concerned with commodities at all.

Government tried to regulate financial institutions, but they gave that up in 1999 when Texas Senator Phil Gramm got the “Financial Services Modernization Act” passed.

Without regulation, banks and other financial institutions began to use the tremendous resources that they could mobilize in high-stakes gambling. They particularly liked bundles of low-quality mortgage debt and its various crazy derivatives. The bust that followed was called the “Great Recession.” After that, the government re-regulated to some extent, but they are presently disassembling regulations again for the same reason — amazing profits for the very rich.

It’s not in the interest of the people, and it’s not rational. That’s the first lesson.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. Podcasts can be found from the “events” tab on their website. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.



The Supreme Court pro-corporation, anti-worker, decision on May 21, 2018, was a giant step toward fascism. The nastiest five judges ruled that employers may force all employees (that’s almost all of us) to abide by their orders without recourse to the courts or to class action lawsuits.

The bosses call it “mandatory arbitration,” but Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking for the dissenting four judges, called it “egregiously wrong.”  In almost all aspects of American life, a citizen has the right to sue to enforce laws, but not any more.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The days of big class-action lawsuits to enforce civil rights or civil liberties laws in the workplace are gone. Every individual with a grievance will now be forced to face the corporate lawyers alone and in a corporate-dominated arbitration procedure! Shortchanged by your boss? Ripped off by your boss? Sexually harassed by your boss? Racially persecuted by your boss? Tough luck!

Individual workers’ grievances rarely amount to enough money to make it worth a lawyer’s time; consequently, few workers will even be able to find a lawyer. Something similar happened in Texas when workers’ comp cases in Texas were put under mandatory arbitration  — injured workers couldn’t get legal representation!

What Will Happen?

A lot of big employers have already persecuted their employees with these arrangements. Now, nearly all of them will. Workers will have a choice: sign your rights away or forget about this job!

If working conditions are poor in America today, expect them to get worse. If bosses flout the law today, expect them to flout it more.

If right is right, a lot more working people are going to investigate unionizing. Union workers usually solve their grievances under arbitration, too, but the system is set up under rigorous labor laws, and the union can still appeal to the courts.

Whether or not a big increase in union organizing really happens depends partly on whether or not workers realize the full extent of their most recent screwing. That means that we are going to have to make a robust organizing effort, and that will be difficult after the pounding our unions have taken since 1980.

The Supreme Court’s next big labor decision, in the hands of the same guys, may be a major attack on union finances. That would make a major national organizing effort even more difficult.

But organizing is exactly what has to be done. Everyone who can feel the hot breath of fascism drawing near needs to rally around the working class. Those who can form unions must form them. Those who cannot form unions must join constituency or auxiliary groups associated with labor. If that happens, and it is what must happen, then we cannot be defeated.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio 89.3FM in North Texas every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. Podcasts can be found under the “events” tab on the web site. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.

What I do might be called whining or griping, but I call it asking. I go around telling people that we are in the middle of the biggest worker upsurge in American history, but that our effectiveness is limited by our chronic failure to come together. I ask people what we should do about it.


Nobody seems to know the whole answer but, during the past weekend, I received some good tips. The College of Complexes, a weekly “free speech” forum, let me speak on the history of labor upsurges compared to the present day. I said that American labor was stronger today than ever in history. I also said that significant improvement in our society would result if we manage to pull together. Eventually, they will post the whole evening on their Youtube channel: They already have me several times from earlier appearances.

In the discussion, some of the best ideas came from the anti-worker section. One of them denounced socialism in general and me in particular, but he said that what we really need is total organization at the grass roots level, then a takeover of the corrupt American government. I applauded that as absolutely brilliant.

Another speaker was not pleased with anything I said, but he believed that American involvement in the Middle East was a “big crime.” He said that strong anti-trust legislation is needed. He said that the problem is that we are being ruled by an unscrupulous elite that dominates both major political parties. He added that energy companies could not be trusted and that the corporate news media has betrayed us. I couldn’t have said it better!

A couple of the speakers lauded President Trump and said that I should be supporting him. I agreed that I would be prone to vote for him if the delivered on his promise of $1 trillion on infrastructure improvements. I also said I’d promote him for the Nobel Peace Prize, as several right-wing Republicans are doing, if he brought all American troops back home.

On social media, I’ve been complaining that there were two separate MayDay picnics with, as far as I could tell, no effort to pull together. I also lamented that there were seven different public actions against the NRA convention in Dallas May 4-6. A rational voice responded that I’m probably over-reacting and that, sometimes, there are good reasons to avoid working with some groups and individuals.

I fall back on the best answer I’ve had since I started asking these questions on January 21, 2016. “Leadership will come out of the movement.” That was from my friend and radio guest, Kenneth Williams.


My own advice is this: “Keep Asking!”

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM every Saturday. Podcasts are available from the “events” tab. If you want to know what I really think, see my personal web site