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This morning on KNON.org and 89.3FM, a caller called me a policeman. He really started warming up then and called me a Republican.

The problem began with the previous caller. My guest, Kenneth Williams, was saying that the Democrats should impeach President Trump. The caller said that it didn’t matter because we would still have capitalism and we need socialism. He basically said that nothing matters in American politics and that there is nothing we can do.

I didn’t disagree with him, but I asked him what we should be doing. I think that President Roosevelt’s great quote, “Do something,” is an admirable guide. He kept talking anti-capitalism and pro-socialism and I kept asking him what kind of action he would recommend. Gridlock.

Then the phone rang again. This one was the name-caller. He, too, said that capitalism is bad and that we have to have socialism. So I asked him what we should do. He said I was trying to change the subject. I said I wasn’t changing the subject but, if we need something different, how do we get it? It seemed to make him even more angry, so that’s when he called me a Republican.

Actually, he had a point

I’m not good at hiding my opinions, and I think the second caller figured out that, truly, I do not like armchair socialists. An armchair socialist is a pseudo-intellectual who rejects everybody else’s proposals but has none of his/her own. At least, they have no proposals that they are willing to act on. Noam Chomsky strikes me as such an armchair socialist. Even though I often agree with his criticisms, I’m not fond of him overall.

Almost the opposite of an armchair socialist is a knee-jerk activist. This is somebody who takes “do something” to heart so much that they get involved in every issue without thinking. They don’t even know which side they are on.

Politics may seem like a game to some people, but not to me. It’s a matter of life or death for everybody on this planet, and it merits some serious thinking and committed action.

But, of the two, I prefer the activists. They are at least right part of the time. The armchair socialists are a drag all the time!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. KNON.org has the podcasts. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Every year around Labor Day, Tom Berry asks me to speak at his weekly free speech forum, “College of Complexes.” This year, I said I would explain the world crisis and put forward the remedy. After I told him that, I had about two weeks to ask people what I should say.

From everybody I asked, and with a few factoids from the Dallas newspaper, this is what I told them on the evening of August 24:

A global crisis exists. It is economic, democratic, environmental, and a threat to world peace. The entire long video is at https://youtu.be/LSyxzN5-OW8, but I cut it into smaller pieces.

Economic Crisis

A short video of this part is at https://youtu.be/YNA90eP1eIc

The national Debt tops $22T for first time in history. This year’s projected budget deficit approaches $1T and will exceed $1T in 2020. “Some analysts note that between the deficit soaring and interest rates low, neither Congress nor the Fed would be able to do that much in a recession. ‘Both sides are out of bullets,’ said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank.”

Growth rates are falling internationally. Some countries, including Germany, already near recession.

Inequality is rampant. CEOs rake in 940% more than 40 years ago, while average workers earn 12% more. A September 2017 study by the Federal Reserve reported that the top 1% owned 38.5% of the country’ s wealth in 2016. “At the global level, wealth is highly concentrated: the top 10% owns more than 70% of the total wealth in China, Europe, and the United States combined; the bottom 50% owns less than 2%; and the middle 40% owns less than 30%,” Alice Walton has $46B. The CEO of American Airlines makes $6000/hour.

Outlook for workers worsens as the gig economy grows. The gulf between CEO pay and median worker pay has widened. Publicly traded companies are increasingly plowing cash into stock buybacks and shareholder dividends. … U.S. corporations in the S&P 500 spent a record $806 billion on stock buybacks in 2018.

A recession is pending. One of the most significant developments in this week’s turmoil was the emergence of an inverted yield curve in bond markets. This refers to a situation in which the return on long term government debt falls below that on shorter term bonds. This phenomenon is regarded as one of the most accurate indicators of recession as investors seek a “safe haven” in longer term bonds, pushing up their price and lowering their yield. The price of gold is rising as investors seek safe havens.

Peace & Justice

A short video is at https://youtu.be/xGcaPOknI5A

Discord is rising in the G-7 meeting. Trump has been at odds with traditional allies on climate, Iran, and trade. Volatility is occurring as Trump largely dismisses international alliances and cooperation in favor of his America First policies, creating a vacuum in global leadership. https://youtu.be/xGcaPOknI5A A short video is at Discord is rising in the G-7 meeting. Trump has been at odds with traditional allies on climate, Iran, and trade. Volatility is occurring as Trump largely dismisses international alliances and cooperation in favor of his America First policies, creating a vacuum in global leadership.

“The whole idea of world order is something that these other countries think a lot about, are quite preoccupied with. And they’re worried about how to sustain it without American leadership for world order,” said Jon Alterman, a global security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington-based think tank.

“In principle, especially with the Chinese getting more powerful and the Russians in decline, the G-7 should be the guys that really get [along], and they just don’t,” said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a global risk-assessment firm in New York. “It’s a very dysfunctional group. They can’t agree on climate, trade, technology — these advanced economies should have common cause, and it’s not just because of Trump that they don’t. A lot of these countries are increasingly divided.”

Other “me first” governments include Brazil, Italy, Great Britain, and Austria.

Saudia Arabia is destroying Yemen. The U.S. is still occupying Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, Pakistan and India are at each other’s throats. There are very real threats of war over who will dominate the newly-unfrozen territories inside the Arctic Circle. That is the reason Trump wants to buy Greenland. It’s not a joke.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said that the world is at a “turning point in history” and governments must choose policies of peace and human rights over war and human suffering.

Democratic

Short video at https://youtu.be/YNA90eP1eIc

Big money is unleashed on our elections. Gerrymandering now has the legal seal of approval. Almost constant schemes to remove voting rights. Almost constant schemes for voter suppression.

Noam Chomsky has argued the Republican Party is the most “dangerous organisation in human history” and the world has never seen an organisation more profoundly committed to destroying planet earth.

Union busting is a common activity for this government.

Environmental

Short video at https://youtu.be/xWp9FTgLX30

Michael Moore says Donald Trump just began the ‘extinction of human life   on Earth’   

Brazilian rainforest, “lungs of the Earth” is burning.

The Dallas paper on 8/23 ran a letter from Ed Soph of Denton:

Ice melt portends disaster

….Economically, 3.7 degree Fahrenheit warming will produce $551 trillion in damages. (Total worldwide wealth today is $280 trillion.) If we continue our current ice-melting mining, transport and combustion of fossil fuels the planet will warm over 4 degrees. Flood damage will increase 160% to 240% with 2.7 degrees of warming; 3.6 degrees will guarantee that flooding deaths will be 50% higher than today.

…This will be the end of the planet, of a secure and safe and civilized life for our children, grandchildren and beyond. The future death, destruction, suffering and unthinkable global chaos ensured by our current suicidal fossil fuel economy massively outweigh the temporary inconveniences of a timely transition to a life-affirming, renewable energy future.”

In Western history, there were three periods of relative quiet:

Pax Romana  27 BC – 180 AD

Pax Brittania 1815 – 1914

Pax Americana 1945 – present?

The final one had the distinction of holding off the end of the world. But that period is ending.

Who’s to blame?

Sunspots?

Moral decay?

Low Church attendance?

Mr Donald Trump?

A few bad apples?

A long time ago, it was theorized that crisis is the result of sunspots. You often hear that our downfall is the result of moral decay or low church attendance. Mostly, lately, one hears that it’s all Mr Trump’s fault. But the source of our crisis is none of those things or people.

The crisis is the direct consequence of the greed of the people who have the most. They have done this since civilization began and they would do it to the end of civilization because they cannot act otherwise.

The peace crisis comes because the wealthy control incredible military powers, but only in their own nation. To gain advantage, they ultimately have to use that military power against weaker powers. They always have and they always would because they cannot act otherwise.

The environmental crisis is the direct result of wealthy people, acting within their own military units, to accrue more riches at the expense of life on the planet.

THE REMEDY

A short video is at https://youtu.be/9MgLUjFA1XE

The remedy is democracy. Instead of being ruled by a wealthy few, we must make it possible to rule ourselves. The wealthy few are not going to allow that willingly. They have to be overcome. The people being oppressed by this system must organize and rise up against the ones doing the oppressing.

This is not a call to arms. You couldn’t possibly overcome the military might of this nation’s wealthy. There are only two ways that ordinary people can overcome their rulers and only one of them has the potential to work.

It is also not a call to somehow vanquish the opposition. Some think that Trump supporters are not capable of learning and should somehow be written off. But you cannot afford to write anybody off. What are you going to do? Kill them?

Push the envelope on voting as far as it will go, however, “Never be fooled,” said Lucy Parsons, “Into believing that the wealthy are going to allow you to vote them out of power.” Elections are tremendously important, but not for the fundamental kind of change we need.

A general strike, on the other hand, can work. In fact, it just worked in Puerto Rico last month. To a lesser extent, it worked in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona for teachers last year. The only real strength that working people have is to collectively stop working.

It’s a wonderful word, “Organize.” Also “Solidarity.”

But those are abstractions. I told you I would tell you what you could do, in material, not abstract terms. Here it is:

In your interactions with people and organizations, try to move them leftward toward greater understanding and upward toward more activity.

Right now in America, the AFL-CIO is as progressive, as single of purpose, and as powerful as any organization in the nation. Join us.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program at 9AM central Time every Saturday. If you are curious as to what I really think, check out my personal web site

The Texas AFL-CIO convention was depressing, even though it showed continuous improvement in labor’s aggressiveness and strategic action.

If you aren’t subscribing to Ed Sills’ regular labor e-blasts (write ed@texasaflcio.org), then you aren’t staying up with Texas working people. Ed sent out a good comprehensive report and it was upbeat. I assume that eventually it will be on http://texasaflcio.org. Every participant I talked to was upbeat. “Pumped” was the word they used.

Some of the best parts of the convention were the resolutions passed and the opening speech by President Rick Levy. Levy said we are at a crossroads and it is time for Texas labor to “Go big or go home.” In other words, we are in an extraordinary situation with unusual problems and challenges that have to be met aggressively and with our best thinking. I really liked that.

The other thing I really liked was the resolutions. Ed Sills summarized all of them, but I’ll mention just one: “Support for the concept of Medicare for All.” That resolution put Texas out front.

Off the Record

I had two personal conversations that were real zingers. One of them evaluated how to measure success for a Central Labor Council and the other evaluated today’s possibilities for working people.

All of the Central Labor Council leaders, of course, were at the convention. One of them told me that the true measure of local work is whether or not they can shut down the economy. If a Central Labor Council can’t shut down its local economy, then it hasn’t reached its potential, he said. He agreed with me that none of them in Texas has, but that’s where the bar must be set.

There are a lot of professional organizers at these things, and nearly all of the speakers said that the labor movement must, in so many words, “organize or die.” No argument anywhere, BUT: When I talk to union leaders individually and off the record, they tell me that they really don’t have time to organize. The American labor movement is tied up with servicing their members, settling grievances, and negotiating with bosses. Organizing is almost an afterthought and is usually shunted off to one or two individuals, almost as a sideline. The best thing said at the convention about organizing was that we have to make every member an organizer. It’s true but it’s going to be really hard to do.

But one organizer had an entirely different story. A short informal conversation with him made the entire 3-day convention worthwhile for me. This guy talked about turning labor actions over to the members, about looking high and low for allies, and about all things being possible when the members come together and run their own show. The most prominent example of that recently has been the teachers of West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona. I talked about that in another blog. I was absolutely delighted to see another union applying those lessons so well!

I put all kinds of photos and videos on my Facebook page “Gene Lantz.”

So why was I depressed?

On the way to San Antonio for the convention, I was agonizing over the advances that fascism is making in America. We are heading for an awful crossroads and we will either emerge with fascism or a new, extended democracy. The other thing I thought about on the way to San Antonio was the youth of Puerto Rico, who were overthrowing their government with a general strike.

I expected the speakers to deal directly with the danger of fascism and the solution, nationwide labor actions. No matter how good the Texas AFL-CIO convention was, and it was certainly good by any usual measure, if it didn’t deal with those two phenomena, it worried me. These are not normal times.

–Gene Lantz

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

Book Review

Sanders, Bernie, “Where We Go from Here. Two Years in the Resistance.” Thomas ‘Dunne Books, St Martin’s Press, New York, 2018

Bernie’s second blockbuster book takes up where the last one left off, right after Hillary Clinton was declared the winner of the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2016. Bernie catches us up on what he’s done since then, which is an amazing list of progressive activities. The best value of the book, like the first book, is the way he explains what’s wrong in America and what has to happen for any kind of good outcome.

It begins, “…I stated over and over again that the future of our country was dependent upon our willingness to make a political revolution. I stressed that real change never occurs from the top down. It always happens from the bottom up.” In other words, even though the book is ostensibly about Sanders’ campaigns for the presidency, it’s really about something much greater.

Sanders’ election campaigns are only a component of a larger plan to develop a mass movement capable of making real change. That’s why his supporters are moving America forward. A few may have thought that their contributions in 2016 went for nought, but they are mistaken. Even when Bernie loses, he wins. The movement gets stronger, and the movement is everything. The election is, well, not so much!

My Favorite Parts

Everything about this book is encouraging. I picked out some of my favorite parts. On page 45 Sanders explains that Medicare should be able to negotiate drug prices as the Veterans’ Administration does: “In fact, the VA pays about 24 percent less for drugs than most government agencies and about 40 percent less than Medicare Part D.”

Here’s a lesson for activists on page 75: “…we have since made social media central to the efforts of our office.”

If one word explains what is wrong in the world, the word is inequality. Sanders (page 78) says that 52% of all new income goes to the top 1% of Americans. He also says that 3 American billionaires now have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the population!

Sanders knows a lot more about foreign policy than he is given credit for. I was surprised, and pleased, to read on page 90 that he is not a pacifist. So his opposition to the Iraq invasion was a practical matter, not an abstract or religious commitment. On page 183 he points out that “…the Department of Defense remains the only  major government agency not to have undertaken a comprehensive audit?”

As a radio talk show host, I was particularly pleased to see that Sanders views the corporate media clearly. On page 124 he says, “Corporate media is not ‘objective’; they are not the ‘referees’ trying to provide ‘all sides of the story.’ Corporate media are profit-making entities owned and controlled by the ruling class and some of the wealthiest people in the country. And, like all private corporations, they have an agenda.”

I also greatly appreciate his insights into our criminal “injustice” system. On page 125 and elsewhere, Sanders bemoans the fact that the United States has “more people in jail than any other nation.” Sanders has never received due credit for his commitment to equal rights for all. On page 191 he agrees with Dr King that “the inseparable twin of racial injustice is economic injustice.”

Don’t Look In the Wrong Place

A lot of American voters are trying to sort through the 20-odd Democratic Party presidential candidates. They are misled. They are looking at the wrong thing. None of those candidates, not even Bernie Sanders, even elected to the presidency, can make the fundamental change that is necessary today. It’s going to take a giant mass movement.

As Sanders says on page 179: “My view is, and has always been, that campaigns are not just about the candidate.”

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Congress is raising a hullabaloo about what they are now calling “Big Tech” – by which they mean Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google. They are threatening to break out the old anti-trust laws and scatter each company into smaller ones. Their argument is that it would be more democratic to have smaller, less powerful, tech companies.

Here are my arguments against it.

Us old people saw this before when they broke up Bell Telephone. Does anybody remember their phone bills going down and their phone service improving? Nope. Nobody remembers it because it never happened. If anything, phone service costs went up and landline phone service became, well, what it is today.

Consider China

While American legislators are trying to tear successful enterprises apart, the Chinese are trying to build theirs up. One ought to think about the reasons for this difference, especially because the Chinese have clearly been operating the most successful economy in the world. Do you remember the phrase, “A Chinaman’s chance?” It used to mean no chance at all. In my lifetime, they’ve come from the least respected to the most feared economic machine.

I think that the Chinese want the obvious efficiency of giant enterprises, as almost anybody would. Apparently, the government over there thinks they can control them. Our government over here likes to pretend that they don’t interfere much in the economy. They say “let the market take care of itself,” unless, of course, their wealthy backers want another handout such as the giant tax break they just ripped off.

The pretense that the American economy can get back to some kind of individualistic entrepreneurial spirit is just that, a pretense. A capitalist economy develops the way it does because of its fundamental nature. The big ones eat the small ones. There’s no going back, and there’s actually no reason to go back anyway.

The Chinese government and the American government, both of them, can regulate big business. In fact, they can regulate big business better than they can regulate multiple smaller businesses for the simple reason that there are fewer people to watch and fewer books to audit.

Innovation?

Who can do research and development better than the government? Look at the pharmaceutical industry, for example. The problem with big pharma is not that they don’t take advantage of government research. The problem is that government doesn’t regulate them. Their cadres of lobbyists practically run the government instead of the other way around!

Consider the Postal Service

I’m afraid that the same people who want to break up Google are the same ones who want to break up the Post Office. We used to have the best postal service in the world, and it provided some of the best jobs we could get. Now, the good jobs are mostly gone and “privatization” is in every other paragraph. The same thing is true of what used to be the best school system in the world.

What Kind of Future?

We may daydream about a future that looks like our past. Young entrepreneurs wearing buckskins building up cattle empires on Native-Americans lands? Is that the model? Not likely. In my own sci-fi speculations about the future, revolutionaries try to build on the great accomplishments of capitalism, not tear them down. That’s for hippies.

The American government could regulate giant corporations on behalf of the people. They just don’t.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON”s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. 89.3FM in Dallas and podcast on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

None of the candidates in the 2020 presidential race are going to put things right. Not even Bernie.

My idea is not original. I got it from Bernie Sanders. In every speech and message, Sanders tells us that fundamental change will only come from a great united movement. Not from any candidate.

A good example was Mr Obama. He was elected on a slogan of “change,” and I think he sincerely meant it. As president, I think he did about as well as could be done. Working people certainly benefited.

But my old friend George Meyers was completely correct when he taught me that every victory for working people has to be won over and over as long as the employers are in charge. No matter what we win, they can, and will, always take it away.

So none of the candidates, not even Bernie, can fix what’s wrong.

Learn from history

I think that voters knew that in 2016. I think that some of Bernie’s voters crossed over to Trump in their desperation for anything other than business as usual. If the Democrats nominate another humdrum establishment politician, Trump is likely to win again.

A vote for Trump in 2020 is a vote for fascism, but don’t forget that Hitler was also elected by a population that was desperate for something different.

What needs fixing?

There are two major problems underlying our crisis: 1) America’s waning economic power and 2) Unrestricted capitalism which, by necessity, piles up the wealth for a diminishing few while exploiting the many. In order to continue unrestricted capitalism under these circumstances, the employers find it necessary to erode and, eventually, destroy democracy.

Mr Trump is certainly not going to fix either one of these problems. In fact, by exploiting them for personal power, he’s making them much worse. It may be true that “anybody but Trump” is the right election choice for 2020, but elections are only one part of power politics.

How do we fix them?

Major social changes are not and never have been made by well intentioned individuals or small groups. It takes a united mass movement. That’s what Mr Bernie Sanders is working toward. His presidential campaigns are only a part of building that movement. Even if he loses again in 2020, support for him and his movement is still the right course. In fact, it’s the only positive course.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Book Review: Woodward, Bob, “Fear. Trump in the White House.” Simon & Schuster, New York, 2018

Most of the people who can read already have a low opinion of Donald J Trump. What they find in Woodward’s careful documentation of White House conversations is not likely to change many opinions. It will confirm, and strongly confirm, those with the opinion that the President of the United States is a lazy, prevaricating, egomaniacal, loose pistol with one finger on his Twitter feed and the other on nuclear war.

The book extensively explains that Trump believes that power is fear. But I don’t think that’s the reason for the book’s title. I think Woodward is talking about the world’s fear for its own safety.

If one wanted to take Trump’s view of things, or if one yearned for the vacuous “neutrality” nonsense to which most journalists pretend, then one could credit Trump with being loyal to his original plan. In other words, he really is against free trade, globalization, immigrants, and foreign entanglements. If those ideas are twisted and spun well, a lot of Americans would agree with him on those fundamentals. In fact, a lot of Americans voted for him and will vote for him again.

The popular idea that any Democrat could beat Trump in 2020 is just as unreliable a belief as the 2016 national conviction, supported by scientific polling, that he didn’t stand a chance against Hillary Clinton. Nobody believed that Trump would take power, even though they had the clear precedent from Nazi Germany.

Understanding Is Needed

It is not enough to dislike Donald J Trump as we prepare for 2020. It is not enough to quote Bob Woodward from this book to convince people to look elsewhere for a president in 2020. If we are to make progress in the 2020 elections, we need to carefully explain what is happening and what must be done.

Certain truths need to be faced and understood. Begin with the clear fact that we are reaching the end of America’s economic dominance. The reasons for that dominance grew out of World War I and World War II. Those reasons are long gone. American continues to dominate the world militarily, but not economically. Donald Trump did not make that happen. He exploits it, but he didn’t make it happen.

Springing directly from America’s waning economic domination and continuing military domination is the growth of immigration numbers. After all, if the United States hadn’t created the Syrian military crisis, millions of people would have stayed home. In other countries, it may take two sentences instead of one to explain why families leave home, but the military and economic factors, both springing largely from the United States, are the root cause. Donald Trump exploits that situation, but he didn’t create it.

Hitler exploited the 25% unemployment rate in Germany and the failure of the social democrats to reform society. He didn’t create the misery, but he exploited it.

Speaking of Hitler and Trump, it is especially important to note that they had a lot more power afterward than they did when they were first elected. Hitler was eventually able to do away with the German legislature entirely. Trump hasn’t gone that far, but Trump and the Trump supporters have eroded the power of the legislative branch. Their control over the judiciary is even more obvious and more scary.

The Solution Goes Far Beyond Personalities

As 2020 draws near, progressive voters are asking, “Which Democrat has the best chance of beating Trump?” That question barely scratches the surface of what is needed. No one person, even a president, will change the underlying problems we face. The president that we elect, and all the down-ballot politicians that we elect, are going to have to contribute to actual solutions: organizing for fundamental change.

Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site