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Illegal Immigrant Wages and Impact in New Jersey

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

I decided I can only respond to certain critics of my blog by breaking down their comments into smaller, more manageable chunks . And then I can only answer their questions that have actual, verifiable answers. Here is a small portion of one of my most recent critics comments from a blog post of mine entitled “America at the Crossroad of Crisis.” His comment reads in part:

“The idea that migrants and even those who are here illegally are not taking away the jobs of “Americans” is superficial bull at best. When labor unions price the services of union members to a point that few can afford such labor then will that not create job opportunities for those willing to work for far less? What is the hourly wage for a carpenter in your state or general locality? What is the rate for an electrician or a plumber?”

First, a clarifying anecdote 

A few years back I hired a middle aged factory worker named Tony to mow my lawn. I mowed my lawn for many years but suffer allergic reactions every time. I finally got smart.

Tony has a part-time lawn service to supplement his factory salary. He hires kids to help him in the summer. He told me that he paid the last young man $12.00/hr to weed-wack and leaf blow. Several weeks into the summer his helper quit to take a part-time job flipping burgers for $7.25 per hours. The kid said landscaping work was too much work.

If you read my blog or articles you know that I am very concerned about the fact the US wages have been suppressed by big business for nearly 40 years.

The US median household income for a family of four is currently about $52,000 per year. Cost of living varies state by state and New Jersey have among the highest. It is also among the wealthiest states. The median income for a family of four in New Jersey is $71,637 per year.

Carpenters

The annual average wage for all carpenters (union or otherwise) is $37,000 per year in New Jersey. Annual carpenter wages range from a low of $28,000 to a high of $66,000 per year.

This means that even union carpenters in New Jersey straddle the US median family income, and all carpenters make below the state median income. Nearly half of all the New Jersey carpenters with a family are not financially independent. Either their spouse must work , or they must moonlight to make ends meet. On their own fulltime wages, many single income carpenters in New Jersey qualify for some form of taxpayer subsidy such as daycare assistance or housing assistance.

Electricians

The annual average wage for all electricians (union or otherwise) in New Jersey is $45,000 per year. Annual electricians wages range from a low of $16,000 to a high of $111,000 per year.

Most electricians are better off in New Jersey than are carpenters or plumbers. Even so, the average electrician in New Jersey makes less than the US median income and far less than the New Jersey median income. On their own fulltime wages alone, some single income electricians in New Jersey still qualify for some form of taxpayer subsidy such as daycare assistance or housing assistance.

Plumbers

The annual average wage for all plumbers (union or otherwise) in New Jersey is $26,000 per year. Annual plumber wages range from a low of $22,000 to a high of $102,000 per year.

Notice how close to the average plumber wages the low end of plumber wages are? That means most plumbers are making close to the lower end of the range in New Jersey. Plumbers do worse economically than carpenters or electricians. Most make far less than the US median wage and only about a third of the New Jersey median salary. On their fulltime wages alone, most single income plumbers in New Jersey qualify for some form of taxpayer subsidy such as daycare assistance or housing assistance.

Immigrant Annual Wages

It isn’t easy to find solid data on the annual incomes of undocumented immigrants, but there are many independent studies and scholarly works that found undocumented immigrants are not taking away our jobs or costing us taxpayer money (references upon request). Even the very conservative US Chamber of Commerce agrees.

It is estimated that undocumented farm workers in the US make between $10,000 and $12,000 per year. The authors of that analysis also noted that, unlike most workers, wages for an undocumented worker almost never rise over time. This fact agrees with my own experiences. I have many acquaintances who are undocumented aliens. They live in the shadows, don’t complain and don’t get raises. It is almost certain that undocumented aliens makes less than $23,000 per year, and probably much less.

Another study in Chicago found that the average wage of undocumented aliens in that city was $7.00 per hour, which is $1.00 below that states minimum wage.  I haven’t found a similar study for New Jersey’s undocumented aliens yet, but suspect their average wage is at or near the minimum wage as well. Note that minimum wage in New Jersey is the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hours. A person working 40 hours per week for 52 weeks would make just over $15,000 per year.

New Jersey has the fifth largest number of undocumented aliens in the county. Many work at minimum wage and many also work below minimum wage. Almost all work more than 40 hours per week, so their annual family incomes are not directly comparable to the annual family incomes of others who work more traditional hours. Also, the number of employable adults in immigrant household are often more than in traditional families. For these reasons, the household incomes of undocumented aliens is a skewed measure. What immigrants lack in wage rates they make up for in the number of hours the spend work.

Given the huge wage rate disparity between undocumented immigrants wages and the wages of even the lowest paid, non-union plumbers, none of whom work for minimum wage, it seem unlikely that foreign born workers are taking away many US jobs. It is my experience, living next to a town that is 75% Latino, that most undocumented immigrants have jobs that no one else born here wants for wages that most Americans would never accept. As a result of their discounted labor we enjoy discounted farm produce, discounted nursing home care, discounted restaurant meals, etc.

Immigrants in New Jersey

Immigrants and their children are growing shares of New Jersey’s population and electorate.

(Source: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/new-americans-new-jersey)

· The foreign-born share of New Jersey’s population rose from 12.5% in 1990, to 17.5% in 2000, to 21.6% in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. New Jersey was home to 1.9 million immigrants in 2013, which is more than the population of the entire state of Nebraska.

· 53% of immigrants (or over 1 million people) in New Jersey were naturalized U.S. citizens in2013 —meaning that they are eligible to vote.

Immigrants Economic Impact on New Jersey

  • Unauthorized immigrants comprised 5.8% of the state’s population (or 525,000 people) in2012, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center
  • The 2014 purchasing power of New Jersey’s Latinos totaled $46 billion—an increase of 415% since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $46.3 billion—an increase of 727% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
  • Immigration boosts housing values in communities. From 2000 to 2010, according to the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, the value added by immigration to the price of the average home was $3,730 in Bergen County; $6,121 in Middlesex County; $1,875 in Essex County; $2,050 in Monmouth County; $2,096 in Hudson County, $2,509 in Union County, and $1,896 in Camden County.
  • New Jersey’s 67,755 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $29.9 billion and employed 115,024 people in 2007, the last year for which data is available. The state’s 68,374 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $10.2 billion and employed 48,059 people in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.
  • From 2006 to 2010, there were 101,251 new immigrant business owners in New Jersey, and they had total net business income of $6.2 billion, which makes up 22.4% of all net business income in the state, according to Robert Fairlie of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
  • In 2010, 28% of all business owners in New Jersey were foreign-born, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. In 2013,35.3% of business owners in the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island metropolitan area were foreign-born, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute and Americas Society/Council of the Americas. Furthermore, 49% of “Main Street” business owners—owners of businesses in the retail, accommodation and food services, and neighborhood services sectors—in the New York-Northern New Jersey metro area were foreign-born in 2013.

The other point here is this, it is much easy to make credible sounding claims on the internet disparaging other demographic groups of people than it is to research and debunk such claims. The person to whom I am responding will never accept the information I provided here for them to consider, but others who read this might be less inclined to believe everything anyone says about “illegal” immigrants in the future. (I hope)

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Let’s Elect.. The Democratic Party Platform!

I decided it would be a good thing to draft a condensed version of the Democratic Party Platform. I reasoned that a concise version of the document would benefit people who don’t have time to sit down and read it all, and it might help us keep Democrats accountable to what they say the stand for in the Platform. I didn’t realize what a daunting task it would be, or how little time I had to finish the job.

What I learned while doing this is that this is a pretty good document. If achieved, it would significantly improve the lives of most Americans. It doesn’t address Democratic Party reform issues or primary voting reforms, but it does lay out a decent course of actions that most of us can rally behind. More importantly, it gives activist citizens a template by which we can judge the performance of Democratic office holders, including Hillary Clinton if she doesn’t loose.

So while I am still upset with the DNC, the establishment Democrats and Hillary for fixing the primary against all others, including Bernie Sanders specifically, I think I can in good conscious vote for the Democratic Party Platform with a self-made promise to hold Hillary and every other Democrat to task in carrying out the Party Platform.

So without further delay, here is the incomplete, condensed version of the Democratic Party Platform:

2016 Democratic Platform (condensed version)

Democrats believe cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.  We are stronger together.

Today’s extreme level of income and wealth inequality makes our economy weaker, our communities poorer, and our politics poisonous.  We need an economy that works for everyone. We can have more economic fairness, so the rewards are shared broadly, not just with those at the top. An economy that:

  • prioritizes long-term investment over short-term profit-seeking,
  • rewards the common interest over self-interest
  • promotes innovation and entrepreneurship
  • guarantees equal pay for women.. particularly women of color
  • protects every American’s right to retire with dignity
  • [create] jobs and security that come from [transitioning to] clean energy
  • incentivize companies to share profits with their employees on top of wages and pay increases

Race still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind. We must face that reality and we must fix it.

A  good education is a basic right of all Americans. We will end the school-to-prison pipeline and build a cradle-to-college pipeline instead.

Greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street must be brought to an end. Wall Street must never again be allowed to threaten families and businesses on Main Street.

Democrats protect citizens’ right to vote, while stopping corporations’ outsized influence in elections. We will:

  • end the broken campaign finance system
  • overturn the disastrous Citizens United
  • restore the the Voting Rights Act
  • return control of our elections to the American people

Climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures.

The United States can mobilize common action on a truly global scale, to take on the challenges that transcend borders, from international terrorism to climate change to health pandemics.  We are stronger and safer when America brings the world together and leads with principle and purpose [and] strengthen our alliances. We believe in the power of development and diplomacy. Our military should be the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the world.

We must honor and support our veterans.

We respect differences of perspective and belief, and pledge to work together to move this country forward [and] strive to reach higher ground. We are proud of our heritage as a nation of immigrants.

We believe in protecting civil liberties and guaranteeing civil rights and voting rights, women’s rights and workers’ rights, LGBT rights, and rights for people with disabilities.

support workers through higher wages, workplace protections, policies to balance work and family, and other investments will help rebuild the middle class

Raising Workers’ to a living wage…  at least $15 an hour  [and]…  and index it [to inflation]. [Establish] one fair wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities.

Support a model to leverage federal dollars to support employers who provide their workers with a living wage, good benefits, and the opportunity to form a union without reprisal.

Have the right to form or join a union – give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy and to:

  • make it easier for workers, public and private, to exercise their right to organize and join unions
  • direct the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union if a simple majority of eligible workers sign valid authorization cards
  • bring companies to the negotiating table
  • support binding arbitration to help workers who have voted to join a union reach a first contract.

[We will oppose] “right to work” laws are wrong for workers [and] vigorously oppose laws [or] efforts that:

  • eliminate dues check-off procedures
  • roll-back prevailing wage standards
  • abolish fair share requirements
  • restrict the use of voluntary membership payments for political purposes
  • attack seniority
  • restrict due process protections
  • require annual recertification efforts
  • legislation and lawsuits that would strike down laws protecting the rights of teachers and other public employees

We will support efforts to limit the use of forced arbitration clauses in employment and service contracts, which unfairly strip consumers, workers, students, retirees, and investors of their right to their day in court.

Make sure that the United States enacts national paid family and medical .. that provide[s] at least 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or address a personal or family member’s serious health issue.  [Establish a] workers the right to earn at least seven days of paid sick leave [and] encourage employers to provide paid vacation.

We must help family caregivers.. to ensure family caregivers have the support, respite care, and training they need to support their loved ones. We will [do this by]:

  • creating a strong stable paid caregiving workforce by raising wages
  • improving access to training
  • giving workers the opportunity to come together to make their voices heard
  • address[ing] conditions that make it hard for workers with unpredictable or inflexible schedules to meet caregiving responsibilities.

We will take steps to:

  • expand and strengthen the home care workforce
  • increase investments to make quality childcare more affordable
  • boost wages for childcare workers, and
  • support the millions of people paying for, coordinating, or providing care for aging relatives or those with disabilities

We will preserve and increase the supply of affordable rental housing and:

  • substantially increase funding for the National Housing Trust Fund to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate millions of affordable housing rental units
  • provide more federal resources to the people struggling most with unaffordable housing: low-income families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly

We will address the lingering effects of the foreclosure crisis through [expanding] programs like the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. We will expand programs to

  • prevent  displacement of existing residents, especially in communities of color
  • create affordable and workforce housing
  • preserve neighborhood-serving nonprofit organizations and small businesses
  • reinvigorate housing production programs
  • repair public housing
  • increase funding for the housing choice voucher program and other rental assistance programs
  • [provide] robust funding to end homelessness through targeted investments to provide the necessary outreach, social services, and housing options for all populations experiencing homelessness.
  • engage in a stronger, more coordinated, and better funded partnership among federal, state, and local governments to end chronic homelessness
  • build on and expand initiatives to end veteran and family homelessness
  • support more first-time homebuyers preserve the 30-year fixed rate mortgage
  • modernizing credit scoring
  • clarify lending rules
  • expand access to housing counseling
  • defend and strengthening the Fair Housing Act
  • ensure that regulators have the clear direction, resources, and authority to enforce those rules effectively.
  • prevent predatory lending by defending the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Social Security

  • fight every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reducing earned benefits. expand Social Security.
  • cost-of- living adjustments may not reflect the spending patterns of seniors. We are committed to exploring alternatives that could better serve seniors.
  • make sure Social Security’s guaranteed benefits continue by taxing some of the income of people above $250,000.

Retirement

  • defend the right of workers to collect their defined benefit pensions and make sure workers get priority and protection when pension plans are in distress.
  • enact legislation to make sure that the earned pension benefits of Americans will not be cut
  • pay for it by closing tax loopholes that benefit millionaires and billionaires
  • fight attempt to roll back the Conflict of Interest Rule which requires that retirement advisors put the best interests of their clients above their own financial gain
  • support the Older Americans Act.

US Postal Service

  • eliminating the unsustainable mandate to “pre-fund” retiree health costs.
  • restore service to appropriate levels, including overnight delivery of first-class mail and periodicals within the same metropolitan area,
  • maintaining six-day and door-to-door delivery
  • expanding postal services [to include] basic financial services such as paycheck cashing
  • vote-by-mail to increase voter participation

Create Good-Paying Jobs

Build a full-employment economy, where everyone has a job that pays enough to raise a family and live in dignity:

  • rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.. expanding our roads, bridges, public transit, airports, and passenger and freight rail lines
  • build 21st century energy and water systems.. modernizing drinking and wastewater systems
  • modernize our schools
  • support the expansion of high-speed broadband networks
  • protect communities from the impact of climate change
  • address the backlog of deferred maintenance in our four key public land management agencies
  • create an independent, national infrastructure bank
  • support the interest tax exemption on municipal bonds..make permanent [a] version of Build America Bonds
  • revitalize hard-hit manufacturing communities
  • claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas
  • defend the Export-Import Bank
  • investing in industrial energy efficiency

Science, Research, Education, and Technology

  • educate our people and train our workforce; support entrepreneurship
  • invest in research and development, innovation hubs, as well as in getting ideas to market
  • [provide opportunities for all students] opportunity to learn computer science by the time they graduate from high school.
  • High-speed internet connectivity is not a luxury; it is a necessity
  • connect every household in America to high-speed broadband
  • increase internet adoption
  • hook up anchor institutions so they can offer free WiFi to the public.
  • take action to widely deploy 5G technology
  • support a free and open internet at home and abroad
  • oppose any effort to roll back the historic net neutrality
  • protect the intellectual property rights of artists, creators, and inventors at home and abroad
  • increase access to global markets for American intellectual property and other digital trade by opposing quotas, discriminatory measures, and data localization requirements
  • strengthen support for NASA and work in partnership with the international scientific community to launch new missions to space

Small Businesses

  • cut the red tape that holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs
  • open up access to credit
  • provide tax relief and tax simplification
  • expand access to new markets
  • make Wall Street work for the job-creating, productive economy—including by making loans more affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses

Jobs for America’s Young

  • make investments to spur the creation of millions of jobs for our young people
  • provide direct federal funding for a range of local programs that will put young people to work and create new career opportunities

Fight for Economic Fairness and Against Inequality

Reining in Wall Street and Fixing our Financial System

  • prohibit Wall Street from picking and choosing which credit agency will rate its products
  • [prohibit Wall Street] from imposing excessive fees on consumers
  • hold both individuals and corporations accountable when they break the law
  • stronger criminal laws and civil penalties for Wall Street criminals who prey on the public trust
  • extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting major financial fraud
  • providing the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission more resources to prosecute wrongdoing
  • vigorously implement, enforce, and build on President Obama’s landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law
  • stop efforts to hamstring our regulators through budget cuts
  • oppose any efforts to change the CFPB’s structure from a single director to a partisan[or] to remove the Bureau’s independent funding and subject it to the appropriations process
  • [enact] a financial transactions tax on Wall Street to curb excessive speculation and high-frequency trading
  • use and expand existing authorities [and]empower regulators to downsize or break apart financial institutions when necessary
  • new authorities to go after risky shadow-banking
  • support.. an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall
  • nominate and appoint regulators and officials who are not beholden to the industries they regulate
  • crack down on the revolving door between the private sector—particularly Wall Street—and the federal government.
  • ban golden parachutes for those taking government jobs
  • limit conflicts of interest by requiring bank and corporate regulators to recuse themselves from official work on particular matters that would directly benefit their former employers
  • bar financial service regulators from lobbying their former colleagues for at least two years
  • [make] the Federal Reserve more representative of America as a whole
  • enhance its independence by ensuring that executives of financial institutions are not allowed to serve on the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks or to select members of those boards

Stop Corporate Concentration

  • stop corporate concentration in any industry where it is unfairly limiting competition
  • make competition policy and antitrust stronger and more responsive to our economy today
  • enhance antitrust enforcement [at] the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • encourage other agencies to police anti-competitive practices in their areas of jurisdiction

Making the Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes

  • claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas
  • eliminate tax breaks for big oil and gas companies
  • crack down on inversions and other methods companies use to dodge their tax responsibilities
  • make sure that our tax code rewards businesses that make investments and provide good-paying jobs here in the United States
  • end deferrals so that American corporations pay United States taxes immediately on foreign profits and can no longer escape paying their fair share of U.S. taxes by stashing profits abroad.
  • establish a multimillionaire surtax to ensure millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share
  • close egregious loopholes
  • restore fair taxation on multimillion dollar estates
  • tax relief to middle-class families
  • crack down on tax evasion and promote transparency to fight corruption and terrorism
  • tax relief to hard working, middle-class families

Promoting Trade That is Fair and Benefits American Workers

  • develop trade policies that support jobs in America
  • review agreements negotiated years ago to update them to reflect [Democratic Party] principles.
  • Any future trade agreements must make sure our trading partners cannot undercut American workers by taking shortcuts on labor policy or the environment.
  • [trade agreements] must not undermine democratic decision-making through special privileges
  • [trade agreements] must not undermine democratic decision-making private courts for corporations
  • trade negotiations must be transparent and inclusive
  • use all our trade enforcement tools to hold China and other trading partners accountable
  • These are the standards Democrats believe must be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Bring Americans Together and Remove Barriers to Opportunities

Ending Systemic Racism

  • dismantle the structures that define lasting racial, economic, political, and social inequity
  • promote racial justice through fair, just, and equitable governing of all public-serving institutions and in the formation of public policy
  • remove the Confederate battle flag from public
  • make it clear that black lives matter and that there is no place for racism in our country.

Closing the Racial Wealth Gap

  • close this racial wealth gap
  • eliminat[e] systemic barriers to wealth accumulation for different racial groups
  • improv[e] opportunities for people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to build wealth.
  • remove barriers to achieving sustainable homeownership
  • provide for greater diversity in federal and state contracting practices
  • incentivize and expand access to retirement investment programs
  • increase opportunities for quality jobs and education
  • challenge the deeply rooted structures that perpetuate and exacerbate current disparities and ultimately stagnate the nation’s economic growth and security

Reforming our Criminal Justice System

Democrats are committed to reforming our criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration. Something is profoundly wrong when almost a quarter of the world’s prison population is in the United States, even though our country has less than five percent of the world’s population. We will reform mandatory minimum sentences and close private prisons and detention centers. Research and evidence, rather than slogans and sound bites, must guide [reforms].
(PS: Notice that the person whose name is plastered everywhere is not mentioned here.  What a relief, right?)

Police Involved Homicides – Where’s Our Outrage?

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Here’s a very disturbing story that has not been reported in the national press. You may not have heard about this even though it has been happening for decades.

There is a growing number of African-American men infiltrating local police departments and abusing their authority to intimidate predominately white men within their communities. Some of these black officers are bulking up on steroids. In some cases these black cops are affiliated with Black Power movements. These rogue officers of color are stopping and harassing white men on the street, frisking them without cause or illegally searching their cars. When white citizens object or complain, these black cops turn hostile and become aggressive. Hesitate to comply with an order and these innocent detainees are taken down, handcuffed and arrested. Any further resistance or any small suspicion that these guys are armed leads to the threat or use of deadly force.

In March of 2004 the US Department of Justice issued a report on the use of anabolic steroid abuse by police officers. Reported as specific concerns related to the psychological side effects anabolic steroid use were these:

  • · Mood swings (including manic-like symptoms leading to violence)
  • · Impaired judgment (stemming from feelings of invincibility)
  • · Depression
  • · Nervousness
  • · Extreme irritability
  • · Delusions
  • · Hostility and aggression

The infiltration of American police departments by radical racist cops was document by the FBI in a report and warning written in October of 2006. The report’s release was held up by Congress for years out of fear of the political repercussions.

And despite the growing number of police involved homicides of civilians every year, the FBI is unable to keep accurate statistics on how many white citizens are being killed by overly aggressive black cops. By some non-government sources the number is as high as 600 deaths per year.

Where is our outrage? Where is the media? Why aren’t government officials putting a stop to this carnage? Why aren’t they holding these black cops accountable for the deaths of hundreds of innocent white men every year?

If this reporting shocks you or doesn’t sound familiar, then you are among the millions of American’s who aren’t paying attention. If you can’t see the little white lies I told you above, you are part of a much bigger problem.

The white lie above is that it is actually white cops who are actually abusing their authority and victims of abusive policing are disproportionately African-American. The truth is that it is white supremacists that are infiltrating police departments. The rest is all true. It is true that hundreds of innocent black males are killed in police actions every years. It is true that the FBI is not able to collect accurate statistics on civilians killed in police actions in the US because all such reporting is voluntary. And if you didn’t recognize where my story was going, if you thought black cops are killing white civilians, then you just discovered that the media is failing us and government officials aren’t doing all they can to stop this carnage.

If my story above hadn’t contained those few white lies, if white men really were being killed by overly aggressive black cops,  you would lionize a football player sitting down during the National Anthem to call your attention to the problem. You would recognize his courage and commitment.  As it is, the misplaced outrage of sports fans against Colin Kaepernick for his lonely protest is a self indictment of our complacency and callous disregard for our fellow citizens.