#9. Our Grand Selfishness
On how we continue to fight each other, and other fun topics during this pandemic
This newsletter will be a full-on data-driven and yet fiery one, you have been warned. My books, music, food, newsletter list will be on the next one. Today’s topic is yeah, again, COVID vaccines. Because we need to discuss this pronto.
Are we doing well? I hear everyone is headed to exotic locations because summer vacations. I didn’t realize the pandemic was over, because, guess what? It isn’t. I’m glad your break was lovely. I’m also a desi Debbie Downer, apparently, because every time I talk about the delta variant, people roll their eyes like it’s still localized in India. But go on, sip your cocktail on whichever beach resort you’re in. I’ll wait.
But, but, are you vaccinated? If you are, do you still wear your mask like a dork like me, or are we wandering around free and unencumbered? The CDC—much maligned, much contradictory, but still an authority in science in this country—asks us to. In the delta-concentrated regions. And this is what takes me to my current rant about the grand selfishness of Americans.
In 2008 during the housing crisis due to predatory sub-prime mortgages destroyed families, incomes, home ownership as we know it and the US economy. If you’re reading this, and are like, hm, Madhushree, really? We will talk about houses while folks are dying of a virus, really? Is this where this is going?
Well, no, yes, no. Wait. We South Asians are storytellers. So, please, go with the flow.
In 1934, Congress established the FHA that offers government insurance on these home mortgages, protecting the banks. Now the banks are more ready to offer mortgages, even in tough economic times. 4 years later, Fannie Mae was established (with government backing) to promote greater stability in mortgages. Between 1940-60, in two decades, American homeowners increased from 44 to 62%. Home ownership became a symbol of ‘having made it’ in this capitalist country.
With the growth of growth of subprime mortgage credit in the 2000s, we saw a huge generation of risky and predatory lending. This in turn was from a Wall Street demand creating unregulated mortgage lending and in turn affecting investors and their portfolio. What does this mean? What that means is brokers pushed potential home buyers into homes their income couldn’t support buying, to a predatory loan they couldn’t afford. Many of these products were not properly explained to borrowers who were then on the hook for unaffordable mortgage obligations.
What happened? Foreclosures, that’s what happened. Folks lost their homes. They lost their credit. Banks got bailed out by the government. If the finance world would crumble, there would be no America. President Bush signed the bill into law within hours of its enactment, creating a $700 billion dollar Treasury fund to purchase failing bank assets. I repeat: BANKS WERE BAILED OUT.
According to the Forbes article here, $700B is not the number, we have given out trillions in bailouts to the banks. This is just ridiculous. We continue to serve the fat cats, the financiers as we close down schools and education.
Meanwhile the folks who did get those attractive ARM rates, foreclosed and destroyed their credit? They’re still struggling to build up. This isn’t a they-lived-happily-ever-after story.
So what does this have to do with the COVID vaccine? (Squeaky Wheel Syndrome)
During this time, a caller dialed into an NPR talk show with a question that I think of daily. He said, “I have a middle-class income. I knew I could get a house with a flex ARM rate that was double the size I am in now. And yet, the others who made the risky decisions to get a mortgage that was dangerous, are now getting bailouts.”
What he said is important—the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the rule followers get zilch. That’s the essence of this newsletter, my peeps.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the rule followers get zilch
Which is to say, you don’t hear much from the folks who took their 30-year mortgage, paid regularly, and stayed within their financial means. Is foreclosure fun? No. Do we blame the victims? No. But was this a government-deregulated/unregulated/dangerous lending practice-created issue? Oh, heck, yes!
Re: COVID, the government is enticing folks to get vaccinated and get paid. THAT’S WHERE THIS IS HEADED.
Now, the COVID vaccine kerfuffle: Why aren’t folks vaccinated?
What’s happening with our vaccination rates in America? 134M people or 49.9% of folks in America have been fully vaccinated. If you review this article on world data, you can see where we land. Less than 40% vaccinated populations are in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
So, is it as simple as politics that pushes people to vaccinate or not? (See below)
Yeah sure, politics. But more importantly, misinformation about what is science versus what is nonsense. I’d rather not go into that because all I’d like to do is present data to you.
Vaccine Hesitancy versus Race/Ethnicity?
July 2021, Black folks were 15% lower than white and Hispanic people were 3% lower. Asian-Americans have always been higher, above 70%. But, but, but, that gap is closing rapidly as we speak.
THIS is what I believe is the biggest factor for vaccine hesitancy. It is how we deal with this factor and resolve it that will make or break us.
Take a look at this graph re:
When folks earn about $2K per month, they have to work to survive. They may or may not get information and likely may be attracted to misinformation. They may not get time off work. They may have religious reasons.
Now look at the $50K-75K category. Those folks earn at least twice as much. Likely have work hours that aren’t backbreaking like the previous group. What’s causing 5M of these people to say, nah, I’ll pass on the vaccine and take my chances? It’s not education/information—they have access with finance, it may be dogma/indoctrination, it may be steadfast ostrich syndrome this-can’t-get-me-I’m-American-and-therefore-invincible.
And then there’s age
I’ll put this Mayo clinic graph here and wait for you to react. Yes. Exactly.
But, but, but. How about we combine lower-income, less access to information, more access to misinformation, with an I’m-American-and-young-and-I-will-take-my-chances attitude?
So, what do we do?
Right, that’s the question. Why do we need everyone to be vaccinated? It is so we don’t die or are hospitalized. But also, which we don’t talk about much, the western powers cannot AFFORD to shut down the economy—we will be back to bartering in no time (not that it’s a bad thing at all actually). To keep the capitalist world going, we need all to be vaccinated, tackle a pandemic so it turns into a common-cold-like-virus and we get back to fighting wars, conquering continents, and economies. What can we do, that’s ethically right?
Here are a few things that the US government is trying and my thoughts alongside:
Door-to-door campaigns. It worked in India for the BCG vaccine program. I know. I was there. There is an honor to be a scientist, a medical professional—how about we give them the respect they deserve when they say, for the greater good and for you personally, get vaccinated? Pfizer’s COVID vaccine will be FDA-approved soon—won’t be EUA only. Your excuse of ‘but no data…’ is really not strong. Listen to the educators when they knock on your door. Please.
Incentives. Apparently they work. But apparently they don’t either. I have strong views about bribing some folks to do so when they’re in the hell-no-you-won’t-jab-me camp. Why are we rewarding bad behavior? Did the rest of us like being poked and stay in bed for 18 hours because post-second shot, we felt like a truck hit us? Did we? No. But it was for us to get back to the ‘new normal’—whatever that will be. And yet. And yet. Bribing someone who is afraid, genuinely afraid with the information they have, doesn’t help. Human psychology doesn’t work that way. But anyway, that’s one way to do it, if it gets the numbers higher. I wish the ones who did get vaccinated of their own free will were also given $100. In February and March when they did. Right now, that group (including me) is waiting for the unvaccinated hesitants to catch up, and watching them get $100. That’s the selfishness of America. Again,
Bribing someone who is afraid, genuinely afraid of/with the information they have, doesn’t help.
Anti-vaxxers. Do we need to say more? $100 will not change their minds. They remain steadfast on conspiracy theories, quack science and general surliness toward conforming or working with the rest of us. An AP poll showed that of the unvaccinated, 35% said likely they won’t get vaccinated and among them 45% belong to the don’t-even-think-about-it category. But, but, but. They would change their minds—mostly white folks in this category—if their Republican leaders decided to ask them to. This is political and this will kill people, even more than now and we scientists still have to prove this over and over again.
To tell you that scientists like us are exhausted with your shenanigans doesn’t even begin to tell the story. To watch healthcare workers collapse physically and mentally because you exercised your freedom of choice over the health of others is tragic. Other countries are scrambling to get vaccinated and are unable to access vaccines. This too, is a choice we, the most powerful country in the world have made—to destroy expired vaccines in our stockpile while waiting for our citizens to do the right thing.
This is, and will remain, a pandemic of the unvaccinated until the unvaccinated listen.
I’ll share cheery stuff in the next newsletter and it’ll be in a couple of days. Needed to get this off my mind and to hear what your thoughts are! Thank you for listening to my 2c and for considering greater good instead of only personal gain.
Stay safe, stay healthy, talk soon.