Back to Black – Racism and Police Homicides in America

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Mr. George Floyd of Minnesota

Once again, an egregious police homicide of a Black man caught on videotape shatters the calm and erupts into national protests and outrage. This time it is George Floyd of Minnesota. His life was slowly squeezed out of him as he lay bound and helpless while a seemingly depraved and indifferent cop pinned Mr. Floyd’s neck to the pavement with his knee.

Once again, the eyes of the nation turn towards the seemingly intractable problem of racism that, among its many forms, would cause African Americans to be nearly twice as likely to die at the hands of law enforcement than White Americans. Racism is our greatest barrier to becoming a more perfect union and at present, the racists seem to have ascended to power.

And once again, this despicable racial killing by a cop in broad daylight has ignited a blaze that masks an underlying outrage behind the numbers. About one-thousand American civilians are being killed every year by our civilian police force. From January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2019, there have been 1,179 police homicides of Black citizens, 2,242 homicides of White citizens, 843 police homicides of Hispanic civilians, and a total of at least 4,947 civilians killed by police.

Data is from the Washington Post database. Analysis by the author.

Civilian homicides by police always rise to public attention because they so disproportionally target African-Americans. Once the problem is framed as a systemic racial issue the proposed remedies never reach beyond the disproportionality question. The fact that our highly aggressive and militant police training is resulting in thousands of needless deaths never comes to light. Until that is addressed, the proposed solutions will never be to anyone’s satisfaction.

Data from the Washington Post database. Analysis by the Author

Civilian homicide rates by law enforcement in America are orders of magnitude higher than in Great Britain, France, or Germany. Yet, the actual number of civilian deaths could be considerably larger still. There is no mandatory federal tracking of homicides caused by police in the line of duty. Federal reporting is all voluntary and spotty at best. The countries best numbers come by combing through local newspaper accounts and gleaning what can be learned from the public account of police-involved civilian deaths. This civilian effort to track police homicides only started about five years ago. It is an imperfect system. Clearly, not all police shootings make it into the local newspapers. The information reported is rarely investigated by local reporters. They are the accounts given to the press by the local police officials. And there are undoubtedly police-related fatalities of civilians that are never reported in the local press.

No racial activist would be or should be satisfied if successful remedies to the racial problem merely end racial disparities. In practical terms that would mean about 103 fewer Black minority deaths each year while still tolerating 133 annual minority homicides. It would be equally crazy to accept 448 White civilian death by the police as long as this carnage is in proportional to the number of Blacks and Hispanics that are also killed each year.

Data is from the Washington Post database. The analysis is by the author.

The militarization of the American police force is its own grave problem that must be addressed. If German laws and police practices were adopted here, adjusted for our larger population, the United States might expect only about 40 police homicides per year, mostly justified uses of force, as opposed to nearly 1,000.

The arguments for this position on police homicides are in numbers found in the tables I created from the data contained in five year’s worth of information collected by the Washington Post. Seeing all the names as you scroll down that database of the dead is sobering.

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Memorial Day Lessons in this 2020 Pandemic

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW


Before we flood back out into the world over Memorial Day of 2020 to remember our fallen soldiers, let’s remember the fallen in this viral war we are fighting today. If you plan to head out to the beaches, locker rooms, barbeques, churches, or synagogues, first remember to honor the lessons taught to us by 100,000 Americans who have already died. They are telling us that we cannot wash away this modern plague. We can not pray it away or wish it away. Until we control the virus through testing, isolating, and contact tracing, or through vaccinations, we are on our own. We must protect ourselves and everyone around us from the air we all breathe.

 

First, we need to understand that a virus is not a bacteria. Bacteria are small cellular critters that live on surfaces and feed off of the residues of film and grime that cover every surface. Bacteria are alive in most meanings of that word, and if you pick up enough of them on your hands, and touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you can infect yourself with them.

 

Viruses like COVID-19 are 100 times smaller. They are mere strands of genetic material with no living activity when not in contact with host cells. They flit about in the air for a time, some of them floating around in moisture droplets released into the air that soon falls to the ground. Other virus strands end up in much smaller aerosol particles that stay suspended in the air for hours until they are sucked into your body when you take in a breath (think MASKS). If you touch a surface recently sprinkled with moisture droplets containing the virus, and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without first washing or sanitizing your hands, you may also infect yourself. This is a less common way to catch the virus because these viruses don’t stay intact long when the moisture dries up.

 

When COVID-19 viruses get sucked into your lungs from the air, they land on the surface of your lung cells (or other cells). They trick the cell walls into letting them come inside. This is when they become active. They take control of the cell and force the cells into replicating them wildly until the cell ruptures, releasing an army of clones into the surrounding tissue. Some of these clones attach to surrounding cells and slip inside to begin replicating again. Others are caught up in the air currents and get rushed outside the body in a breath, or a cough, or a sneeze (think MASKS).

 

The amount of virus in the air (called virus load) depends on several factors, including how sick a person is who is breathing out the virus, how close to a sick person’s breath-cloud you are (think SOCIAL DISTANCING), the volume of air per person in a given enclosed space, the air exchange rate in a building or enclosure and the length of time that a sick person is breathing virus into the air in a room, for example (think MASKS).

The manner of a sick person’s breath matters also. A cough releases a lot more virus than a breath and a sneeze releases a huge amount of airborne virus that travels at up to 200 miles per hour across a room (think MASKS). But as we learned the hard way, even one pre-symptom person singing in a choir can release copious amounts of virus in the air and infect nearly everyone else at a rehearsal.

 

Finally, our exposure to COVID-19 virus in the air is dependent on two factors, the virus load in the air we are breathing (again, think MASKS) and the length of time that we are breathing contaminated air. It’s a little like radiation exposure in this sense. No amount of exposure is entirely safe, but the amount of radiation and the length of time we are exposed increases our odds of getting sick.

 

So, as you venture out and about in the coming days, don’t poke your face into anyone’s breath cloud. Keep your social distance. Wear a mask when you are in close contact with others. Always wear a mask in stores, gyms, churches, homes, or any other enclosure where you are not alone. You don’t need a mask in the open air where no one is by you, but keep it handy. Your life could depend on it.

An Alternative to Total Lockdown is Urgently Needed

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Forget the Swedish or the German model for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States should develop its own alternative model to control the outbreak, one based on science and the particular demographic data that have emerged about this disease.

An alternative approach is urgently needed because, a) a general lockdown of the entire country and its economy cannot be sustained for long, and b) the more obstreperous elements of our population, and the billionaire elites who may be pulling their strings, are already forcing states into lifting restrictions on everyone. We are heading into what will likely be a disastrously premature reopening of the economy

America is trapped in a binary choice between letting COVID-19 run its natural course or locking down society to minimize the infections and deaths until a vaccine is available. The ultimate civilized goal in a pandemic is to achieve herd immunity through vaccinations, or by any other scientific means that results in the least possible loss of life. In the absence of any civil interventions, a novel virus simply runs rampant through the population at exponential speed, making almost everyone sick and killing millions if it is a lethal strain. In the absence of vaccinations, people who recover from the novel virus are likely to develop antibodies that will prevent reinfection for some period of time, although there are exceptions. When enough people in a population have immunity following their illness or through inoculations, the whole population develops herd immunity. This means that even those people who are susceptible to illness when exposed to the virus are rarely ever exposed to it. They are safely buffered by the many people around them who are immune.

There are two demographic characteristics of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates that appear significant and potentially useful in creating an alternative approach to controlling the pandemic. The first is the very differential mortality rates according to age, and the second is emerging evidence that up to 50% of individuals who contract the virus never display any symptoms of the illness. Look at the mortality differentials first.

HIGH-RISK GROUP


CDC data (see table below) shows that 97% of COVID-19 deaths are of people 45-years-old or older. This agrees with data collected in Sweden, China, and other countries.  Also, death rates are much higher in people with underlying health conditions. From these data, we know that there is a high-risk group that requires optimal protection from exposure to COVID-19.  It follows that any adults caring for people in this high-risk group also need to be optimally protected from exposure to the virus. High-risk individuals by age or underlying medical conditions and their caregivers should be allowed to remain in social lockdown in those states that are starting to life restrictions.

When the data in this CDC age/mortality rate table are pictured in a bar graph, the trendline reveals an exponentially rising mortality rate with age. It turns out that 97% of all COVID-19 deaths are of people over the age of forty-five.

A confirming set of data that looks at age and hospitalization rates produces a similar pattern (see below). This graph was produced by the CDC. And it does make sense that those who are more deathly ill would be more likely to require hospitalization. Taken together it makes sense that limiting exposure to this age-related high-risk group should lower both mortality rates and hospitalization rates, thus helping to prevent our health care system from becoming overwhelmed.

NON-PERSONAL-RISK GROUP


There is data that suggests as many as 50% of the population may carry the COVID-19 virus while remaining symptom-free. These people apparently test positive for the active virus but remain free of illness. During the period of their contagion, however, they remain a vector for exposing others to COVID-19. This makes them especially dangerous to others while they, and others like them,  are not at risk of illness or death themselves. Furthermore, if the bodies of symptom-free individuals ultimately eliminate the virus, these people may also develop antibodies to prevent another contraction of the virus. If their bodies have some other way of fighting COVID-19, that should be studied investigated as it might lead to effective new therapies.

A careful analysis of the characteristics of this non-personal risk group should be conducted at once to sees if researchers can reliably identify who is likely to be asymptomatic after exposure to COVID-19. If people in this category can be reliably identified, then at the least these would people for whom initial phases of vaccinations efforts would not be as critical. That would greatly focus resources while manufacturing of the eventual vaccine is scaling up.

MODERATE-RISK GROUP


If identifying individuals who are at not at personal risk of coronavirus illness can be accomplished without any special testing (say on a demographic basis) then identifying them would be advantageous for a number of other reasons. One advantage would be to create a middle group of people who fall outside of both the high-risk category and non-personal-risk group. This middle group of people would likely mildly to moderate symptoms when exposed to COVID-19.  This group of people would know that have to maintain appropriate safety precautions to prevent getting sick when they become exposed to the virus. The greater certainty of having this knowledge would help inform their decisions and behavior when reintegrating back into a less regulated environment as states begin opening up the economy.  These are also the people who would most benefit from testing, isolation, and contact tracing to control the spread of the virus. Being a smaller subset of the population, this would help target precious testing capacity and focus it where it would do the most good. When members of this group do recover from the illness, they will presumably have developed immunity that can allow them the non-personal-risk group.

 

This three-tiered method of controlling the virus would permit a safer means to gradually reopen the economy and relieve the economic burdens on us all. It would allow us to direct medical and economic resources to where they are most needed and most necessary. When a vaccine is finally developed, this approach would pre-identify those who need to be inoculated first, thus not wasting precious doses on those for whom it is not in immediate need.

 

Pie in the sky? Maybe, but it is worth consideration.

Daily US COVID-19 Response Global Comparison

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

April 30, 2020 12:18 pm


[Check back for daily updates below]

Much of the national and local coverage of this coronavirus outbreak in the United States fails to set the proper global context as to how we are doing at handling it relative to every other country on earth. This lack of perspective gives us a false sense of success at how well we are doing in reducing new infections and COVID-19 deaths. This false sense of being over the hump fuels the polarized political debates that further divide us on every issue. We should be united behind the science of infection controls during a global pandemic rather than driving wedges into the public debate to support or defend our political instincts. The virus certainly doesn’t play politics, and neither should we.

So, for a better perspective on how the United States is doing in our efforts to control this epidemic against the backdrop of the rest of the world, here are a few observation based on the number of new infections and deaths from yesterday, April 29th:

1. The United States had nearly as many new cases of COVID-19 yesterday than the next seven countries combined. The USA has 35% of the world’s new cases but only 4.2% of the global population. 

2. The united states had more COVID-19 deaths yesterday than the next six countries combined. We had 36% of all COVID-19 deaths in the world in the prior 24 hour period.




These comparisons clearly show that COVID-19 infection rates and deaths make the United States a huge outlier in the world.  We are not doing nearly as well as most other countries. And keep in mind that every nation still only has social distancing as the primary means to control the spread of infections. Testing, isolation, and contact tracing are part of the mix, but keeping infected people away from healthy people is all we’ve got at this point until we have a vaccine or effective treatments available. We are all in the same boat. 


These data, by the way, are continuously updated from the Worldometer.info website, a non-government, non-affiliated international effort to provide global statistics in an easy to access formate. 


So, the question has been asked, why are we doing so poorly compared with other countries? 

The answer is clear and inconvenient for many Americans. We have a lack of political leadership from the top. 


The wealthiest, most inventive, and industrious country in the history of the planet should, by now, have the capacity of testing 10 million citizens per day for the virus. Millions of people who are now unemployed should be hired, by now, to conduct testing, contract tracing, and welfare checks the millions who test positive for the disease and placed under quarantined. We should have in place a national stay at home order the same as every other country. We should have exceptions for stay at home order for essential workers, but we should have massive testing and mandatory guidelines, with aggressive enforcement, for those workers. We should not only have all the PPE we need by now, but we should also be exporting vast quantities of PPE to other nations that don’t have our manufacturing capacity. 


This is a picture of the nation we should be, the great country we once were. Nations of the world should be looking to us for guidance and help. Instead, we are inching our way back towards another round of disaster and death. 


______________________________________________________________________

MAY 1, 2020


The USA’s new infections are up and the death total is down today. Total COVID-19 tests are at 6,416,393 total tests or 19,311 per million population. We are ranked 44th in the number of tests/million. 



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MAY 2, 2020

The USA’s new infections are up to 36,007 new cases. That over 5,000 more cases in a day, more new cases than the next 9 countries combined. The death total (a lagging indicator) is down to 1,798 today. The total COVID-19 tests are at 6,600,878 total tests or 20,241 per million population. We are still ranked 43rd worldwide in the number of tests/million.




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MAY 3, 2020

The USA’s new infections are down from yesterday to 29,744 new cases in a day, more new cases than the next 6 countries combined. The death total (a lagging indicator) is also down from yesterday to 1,691 today. The total COVID-19 tests administered yesterday were 328,511 for a cumulative total of 6,931,132 total tests or 20,940 per million population. We are still ranked 42nd worldwide in the number of tests/million.

__________________________________________________________

MAY 4, 2020

The USA’s new infections are down 2 days in a row from to 27,348 new cases, more new cases than the next 5 countries combined. The death total is also down from the past 2 days to 1,154 today. The total COVID-19 tests administered yesterday were 265,608 for a cumulative total of7,196,740 total tests or 21,742 per million population. We are ranked 41st worldwide in the number of tests/million.

When I started tracking how well we are doing fighting the virus compared to other countries a few days back I made the error of not looking back on the data far enough to see the existing pattern. I will correct that here with two bar charts. The first shows the shape of the curve for new cases of COVID-19 in the US and the second shows the death rates over time. Both reveal the spikes and dips in numbers as outbreaks flair and social distancing takes its effect on transmission rates. The overall message is one of encouragement as COVID-19 deaths are trending down and to a lesser extent, so are infection rates. The cautionary message is that some of the flair-up have spiked to record levels of transmission and death. This suggests that we should maintain our social distancing behaviors while being more proactively to take steps to prevent COVID-19 hotspots from flaring up in places where hotspots are likely to occur.

                                      

And because this is a global comparison, here is a side by side comparison of the graphs supplied by Worldometer on global and US deaths.  While the global graph is weekly and the US graph is daily, the overall time period is similar, so the graphs were sized alike to try and get a fair comparison of the shape of the curves, and they appear to be similar in slop.

_____________________________________________________________________

MAY 5, 2020

The USA’s new infections are down 3 days in a row to 24,713 new cases, nearly as many new cases as the next 4 countries combined. The death total rose, however, from 1,154 to 1,324. The total COVID-19 tests administered yesterday were 265,691, up just 83 additional tests from yesterday, for a cumulative total of 7,462,431 total tests or 22,545 per million population. We are ranked 41st worldwide in the number of tests/million.

_____________________________________________________________________

MAY 6, 2020

The USA’s new infections are up slightly to 24,798 new cases, nearly as many new cases as the next 5 countries combined. The death total rose again from 1,324 new deaths to 2,350 in the last 24 hour period. The total COVID-19 tests administered yesterday were 265,507, down 184 fewer tests from yesterday, for a cumulative total of 7,727,938 total tests or 23,347 per million population. We are ranked 41st worldwide in the number of tests/million.

To give us some perspective on how the United States is doing in comparison to other countries that have had a massive COVID-19 outbreak like us, Here are side by side comparisons of the daily number of new deaths and new infection rates for Spain, Italy, and the United States. You can clearly see that the United States is still struggling while the other two countries are clearly getting the virus under control.

USA COVID-19 Response TODAY Against the Backdrop of the WORLD

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

April 30, 2020 12:18 pm

Much of the national and local coverage of this coronavirus outbreak in the United States fails to set the proper global context as to how we are doing at handling it relative to every other country on earth. This lack of perspective gives us a false sense of success at how well we are doing in reducing new infections and COVID-19 deaths. This false sense of being over the hump fuels the polarized political debates that further divide us on every issue. We should be united behind the science of infection controls during a global pandemic rather than driving wedges into the public debate to support or defend our political instincts. The virus certainly doesn’t play politics, and neither should we.

So, for a better perspective on how the United States is doing in our efforts to control this epidemic against the backdrop of the rest of the world, here are a few observation based on the number of new infections and deaths from yesterday, April 29th:

1. The United States had nearly as many new cases of COVID-19 yesterday than the next seven countries combined.

2. The united states had more COVID-19 deaths yesterday than the next six countries combined.


These comparisons clearly show that COVID-19 infection rates and deaths make the United States a huge outlier in the world.  We are not doing nearly as well as most other countries. And keep in mind that every nation still only has social distancing as the primary means to control the spread of infections. Testing, isolation, and contact tracing are part of the mix, but keeping infected people away from healthy people is all we’ve got at this point until we have a vaccine or effective treatments available. We are all in the same boat. 

These data, by the way, are continuously updated from the Worldometer.info website, a non-government, non-affiliated international effort to provide global statistics in an easy to access formate. 

So, the question has been asked, why are we doing so poorly compared with other countries? 

The answer is clear and inconvenient for many Americans. We have a lack of political leadership from the top. 

The wealthiest, most inventive, and industrious country in the history of the planet should, by now, have the capacity of testing 10 million citizens per day for the virus. Millions of people who are now unemployed should be hired, by now, to conduct testing, contract tracing, and welfare checks the millions who test positive for the disease and placed under quarantined. We should have in place a national stay at home order the same as every other country. We should have exceptions for stay at home order for essential workers, but we should have massive testing and mandatory guidelines, with aggressive enforcement, for those workers. We should not only have all the PPE we need by now, but we should also be exporting vast quantities of PPE to other nations that don’t have our manufacturing capacity. 

This is a picture of the nation we should be, the great country we once were. Nations of the world should be looking to us for guidance and help. Instead, we are inching our way back towards another round of disaster and death. 

The Most Rugged Individualist Still Has Only Two Hands

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Our survival and success as a species are the result of being social, and not by acting only to further our own self-interests. That lesson has gotten lost in recent times. The idea that we all act in our own self-interest will somehow serve our collective benefit is simply wrong. We should think for ourselves, yes, but act with consideration towards the common good.

We are nothing if not social beings. This may sound a bit more controversial than it is, but even our most intimate view of ourselves, of who we are as a person, is a composite of our interactions with others, beginning with our parents. We are literally nothing if we are not social, and we can only survive in community with others.

The high value we place on individualism today is a message of disunity that degrades our greatest survival strengths. The most rugged individualists still have only two hands. A better balance would be one hand for yourself and one for all others.Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 10.07.58 AM

Has Wealth Inequality Always Been Un-American? A Conversation

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Reaction to a previous blog post provoked a dialogue about wealth inequality which I am sharing here in the hope of generating a broader conversation. The post, which you can read in full here, lays out the premise in the initial paragraph:

In an Intelligencer article entitled, “AOC Thinks Concentrated Wealth Is Incompatible with Democracy. So Did Our Founders,” Eric Levitz writes, “ [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez’s second argument against the existence of billionaires — that concentrated wealth is incompatible with genuine democracy — was something close to conventional wisdom among the founders.”

ANON: Brian, this is debatable.

ME: So, what are your views?

As I see it, one of the main thrusts of the American Revolution as a rejection of the enormous inequality of wealth and power between the colonists and their land-owning aristocracy. The founders did not want there to ever be such a large inequality here so they created a democratic republic. Every initial sale of property in the settlements involved payment to the royal aristocracy who literally owned everything in the new world. And unlike the wealthy landowners within the English system, colonists who managed to purchase large land holdings here had no voice within their own Parliament in London.

Today we tend to forget that the wealthy landholders in the colonies were clearly not considered wealthy or powerful within their own country, England.

ANON: Brian, wealth inequality is not in and of itself immoral. What is immoral is when people gain wealth through a rip-off of other people.

ME: Your point about wealth inequality no being immoral is also debatable (see Mark 10:25 for an example), but that would be a complete change of topic that we need not go into here.

The question here is whether or not extremes of private wealth is incompatible with a democratic form of government, and the answer to that question is yes, they are incompatible.

As a way to think about this, imagine how radical it would be if corporate governance adopted a system of one vote per shareholder rather than one vote per share of stock to reflect an ownership stake in the company. This is sort of the situation we are faced with today in our republic. The vote per shareholder method of corporate governance is a democracy, and the basis of our republican form of government, the latter and usual method, one vote per share of stock, would result in a plutocracy if it was applied to nations. That is what we very much want to avoid, and have always wanted to avoid from our founding. The wealthiest individual in this country should have no more influence over government decisions, theoretically, than their one citizen vote. We are already very far from that democratic ideal.

ANON: Brian, why should wealth be taken from people who created it and redistributed to people who have done nothing to deserve any right to it?

ME: I have seen commentary similar to yours in response to a discussion of wealth inequality. It is a familiar conservative talking point, and not a very good one. It is more of a dodge using a dog-whistle reference to higher taxes on high-income earners while pitting them against the “undeserving” poor who don’t materially contribute to our GDP.

But we aren’t discussing the redistribution of income here, nor are we discussing the fair distribution of income wages generally. We are discussing wealth inequality and extreme accumulations of private wealth. We are also not talking about you or me or almost anyone else. The extremes of private wealth are concentrated in less than a thousand families, wealthiest elites who own nearly all of the equity in this country.

There are two primary methods to redistribute wealth and neither one benefits the poor. In fact, the poor, the working class and almost have of the middle-class have no wealth at all, so it isn’t being redistributed to them.

The first wealth redistribution scheme is property tax. Owners of personal property are taxed on the estimated sales value of their property. But even here homeowners are not taxed on their equity stake in their homes, but on the value of their houses as if they owned them free and clear. It is really a tax on their future equity if they can hold on to it for 30 years. This is a very regressive wealth tax and a steep price to pay for new membership into the property-ownership club.

The second method of wealth redistribution is estate taxes that are paid once in a lifetime after you die. The vast majority of citizens will never pay a penny in estate taxes after they die because, again, they have no wealth. Estates that have at least a few million dollars or more may pay some small percentage in estate taxes, but most of the wealth and assets of the very rich, when they die, end up in the hands of their children and named beneficiaries.

The vast majority of estates — 99.9% — do not pay federal estate taxes. While the top estate tax rate is 40%, the average tax rate paid is just 17%. The estate tax is only paid on assets greater than $5.3 million per individual ($10.6 million per couple). https://americansfortaxfairness.org/tax-fairness-briefing-booklet/fact-sheet-the-estate-inheritance-tax/

Most of the wealth passed along after death goes to children and beneficiaries who never earned any of it, and therefore are “underserved” in the exact same context as your meaning of that word in your comments above. Inheritance is the direct transfer of wealth and power by right of succession.

So, the short answer to your question is that there is no redistribution of wealth from those who (may have) earn it to the “undeserving” poor you referenced above.

[Please feel free to add your comments to this discussion]

Wealth, Carbon, and Human Culture

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

The rising accumulation of private wealth is to civilized governments as rising levels of CO2 are to Earth’s climate.

Screen Shot 2020-02-12 at 11.03.57 PMLet that sink in. Extremes accumulations of private wealth in human society and the extreme build-up of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere are both transformative, disruptive of a complex equilibrium and ultimately destructive for humanity.

Human culture is both a cause and a barrier to solving these two great threats to our collective welfare. In fact, these two looming catastrophes of extreme wealth inequality and extreme climate change are different aspects of a singular human flaw – personal greed. More specifically, both of these threats are outcomes of a powerful cultural priority that places profits over people. We don’t do what is our health best for human society because the cost would reduce personal profits for those who profit the most. The idea that we would not sacrifice personal wealth to save our immediate family from ruin is unthinkable, yet in the abstract of corporate enterprise, the concept of sacrificing business profits to benefit society as a whole is equally unthinkable.

We are at the second great inflection point as a species. We once again face social deterioration and possible extinction, despite being at the apex of our success as a species.

Humanity’s first inflection point was over 50,000 years ago when we almost became extinct. We were down to a very small number of survivors in Ethiopia. As a species, we were incapable of self-sacrifice to benefit the survival of the clan. This nearly caused our extinction. In this regard, we were much like many other species in this regard.

Consider the wolf. In the presence of a kill, the strongest wolf defends its right to eat its fill. It cannot eat less in order to save some meat for members of the pack who are starving. This is how evolution ensures the survival of the fittest among these top predators. But humans were never top predators. Our strength as a species is in our social bonds and the coordination of our collective actions. We, as a species, needed to suppress our self-preservation instincts to achieve our survival as a species.

We are told that this genetic alteration happened at this point around 50,000 years ago. It allowed individuals to sacrifice their personal welfare for the sake of the welfare of the group. This great self-sacrifice gene has carried us forward to the present. It has allowed us to create this massively interdependent human culture we enjoy today.

But now our more primitive personal greed tendencies are finding expression in an inability to sacrifice corporate profit (a hypothetical construct, and not an actual reality) to benefit the welfare of human society as a whole. Our inability to sacrifice corporate profits is once again threatening our existence as a species.

It is my curse to see this so clearly when so many seem incapable of seeing it at all.

Why Democrats Should Care About People Who Don’t Vote

by Brian T. Lynch

IMG_1423

Both political parties in America, along with virtually all television pundits and political opinion polling companies focus entirely on 60% of likely voters. We all ignore 40% of potential voters who don’t vote. Polling surveys commissioned by both the Democratic and Republican Parties are always predicated on some variation of likely voters. The results are then grise for the mill of television and newspaper commentators and political party prognosticators. And so it is settled wisdom that all of our elections boil down to 7% of likely voters who are also the swing voters among us. Rightly or not, these much fawned over swing voters are considered most independent voters with centrist political ideology. These swing voters have a disproportionate influence over electoral strategies and policy positioning. As a result, we never hear from those who are disillusioned with politics.

The conventional wisdom is that these non-voters don’t care about politics, but it is equally true that the body politic doesn’t care about these non-voters. We have come to the point where non-voters are the largest block of eligible voters in America. But are they really unreachable? Or are they justifiably disengaged because they are neglected by both the Democratic and Republican Parties? What is the potential for re-engaging this huge block of the electorate, and which political party has the most to gain? Which of our current Presidential candidates have the best shot at reaching out to these non-voters? And who are they anyway?

Why Democrats should care more about non-voters than swing voters

  • Among likely voters, there are about 10 million swing voters or 7% of all likely voters according to Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight
  • There were 91.7 million non-voters in the 2016 presidential election or 40% of all eligible voters. Non-voters are the largest group of eligible voters
  • 54% of non-voters (49.5 million votes) are Democrats or left-leaning non-voters
  • Another 10% of non-voters (14.7 million votes) have no political leaning
  • 52% of all non-voters (47.7 million votes) want more government services, not less
  • The 64.2 million non-voting Democrats, left-leaning or neutral eligible voters represent over 6.4 times the number of swing voters in the 2016 election
  • This compares with 65.9 million Democratic votes for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election

Who are the eligible voters that are not engaged in voting?

  • 66   million non-voters (72%) are under age 50. They are mostly younger voters
  • 59.6 million non-voters (65%) are dissatisfied with the way things are in the country
  • 54.1 million non-voters (59%) are White (non-Latino) citizens
  • 19.3 million non-voters (21%) are Latino citizens
  • 11   million non-voters (12%) are Black citizens
  • 55  million non-voters (60%) either graduated or dropped out of high school
  • 54.1 million non-voters (59%) are single
  • 46.8 million non-voters (51%) experienced unemployment in their household in the prior 12 months

39.4 million non-voters (43%) have household incomes of $30,000 or less per year

By far, the largest number of eligible non-voters are people who once made up the base of the Democratic Party. They are citizens for whom the rightward and upward shift of both political parties over the year has left them without a voice in government. It is not only the right thing to do to reconnect with these less-fortunate Americans, but it is also in the best interest of the Democratic Party and the Nation. These disillusions, often angry citizens are most vulnerable to the nationalistic authoritarian appeals to which they are being targeted.

Reaffirming Our Faith in This Republic

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

This five-minute video message of actor Matthew Cooke, below, is worth a listen. It is a reaffirmation of faith in our republic at a time when it is most threatened and vulnerable. It articulates our founding principles, which contrasts sharply with current Republican behavior in Congress.

I try not to refer to Republicans as a “party” anymore because, despite any philosophical differences, political parties always maintain their fidelity to the nation’s constitution. That isn’t true of Congressional Republicans. Under Mitch McConnell, Republicans in Congress are more of a political movement to replace democracy with a plutocratic autocracy, a single “party” system that mostly represents a small but wealthy minority. So, it is time for each of us to stand up in unity to depose those for whom democracy, with its equitable distribution of power, is an obstacle to their corrupt designs.