This is the video of Radical Elders’ April 15 webinar/conversation on the Disappearing Safety Net
An Urgent Call by Radical Elders
We are Radical Elders who care deeply about the world our children and grandchildren are inheriting from us. We are particularly outraged by the continued dominance of the fossil fuel industry—oil, coal and methane gas—allied with other mega-corporations, and their criminal efforts to keep the world hooked on their destructive products as long as possible solely for private profit. Time is short and the need for action is urgent.
- Elders, especially low-income, low-wealth, and people of color elders, are and will be disproportionately affected by the increasing number and strength of heat waves, polar vortices, wildfires, floods, droughts, earthquakes, and major storms as the climate emergency deepens. Under our current corporate-dominated economic and political system, tens of millions of people do not have the resources to have a decent chance of dealing with these emergency situations. Emergency funding is needed now to expand inadequate local and state climate-change disaster infrastructure and personnel. We support the creation of climate-change disaster sanctuaries in all public schools and other public buildings in every neighborhood and town across the U.S.
- The world must rapidly shift from fossil fuels to wind, solar, and other as-clean-as-possible renewable energy sources, as well as energy conservation measures, such as massive insulation and air sealing of buildings, efficiency, and a widespread ethic of conservation. We particularly support “power to the people” in the form of solar and wind cooperatives including community-controlled and -led microgrids, such as the inspiring example of Casa Pueblo in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. We support democratic and community, not corporate, control over all electricity production and distribution including the local, regional, and national electricity grid. We oppose nuclear power as a supposed “solution” and mega green energy projects that seize land, push people off it, and destroy Mother Nature
- Those of us who benefit economically because of the Global North’s historic and continuing oppression and exploitation of the Global South have a responsibility to both consciously challenge that reality and support programs that lead to society-wide reductions in wasteful and harmful overuse of energy. Without collective, cooperative, equitable energy reductions in the Global North and moving from individual solutions based on wealth to societal solutions based on need, humans will never win the race between fossil-fuel extraction and conservation-based renewable energy.
- In our work for a just transition to clean energy and sustainable living, we uplift that Indigenous resistance has stopped greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to nearly ¼ (24%) of annual, total U.S. and Canadian emissions. We support returning land to Native people, recognizing that while comprising less than 5% of the world’s population, Indigenous people protect 80% of global biodiversity. We recognize the fundamental importance of Indigenous rights and support honoring all treaties signed by the U.S. government with Indigenous Nations, noting that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution defines treaties as the supreme law of the land.
- We support organizations based in local environmental-justice communities, those who have suffered for decades from the air, land, and water pollution caused by the fossil-fuel industry, in their fights against environmental racism and classism. Especially egregious examples are the ongoing Flint, Michigan lead-in-water disaster and the racist proposed takeover and lack of funding and maintenance of the Jackson, Mississippi water system. We call for the shutting down of existing, polluting, fossil-fuel plants and other fossil-fuel infrastructure in EJ communities. We oppose the construction of any new fossil-fuel infrastructure, as called for by the International Energy Agency (!) two years ago.
- We demand societal solutions that are of benefit to all. We need all-electric, free, accessible, 24/7/365 bus and rail public transportation funded by federal, state, and local governments. Electric cars and trucks are a better solution than gas-fueled vehicles, but all-electrified public transportation and all-electrified freight and passenger rail are the best options. We support not just heat pumps and solar panels, but also widespread insulation and weatherization of all buildings.
- We demand the enactment of a strong Green New Deal that connects action on the climate emergency with job creation, new housing construction, Medicare for All, poverty elimination, taxing the rich, and similar steps.
- We demand the shift of money from the Pentagon budget to Green New Deal–type programs. The U.S. military itself is the largest single institutional producer of greenhouse gases in the world. War is the most environmentally destructive human activity ever.
- We call for land reform that generates a shift away from corporate, industrial agriculture to local rural and urban farming cooperatives and family farms that produce organic healthy food and are democratically controlled by local families who work the land to naturally sequester carbon in the soil. We call for an end to large-scale monoculture plantations and the continuing destruction of woods and forests and those Indigenous and other peoples sustainably living within them all over the world. We oppose all forms of geoengineering, carbon capture and storage, and all corporate schemes that only perpetuate the fossil fuel industry.
- Most immediately, we demand that President Biden, governors, and mayors use their powers to issue Executive Orders declaring a climate emergency and then use those powers to advance these kinds of climate justice solutions.
Time is short. Climate scientists predict that the 2023 and especially the 2024 summers will be the hottest in recorded history because of the combined effects of El Niño and global heating. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2021 that the world must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 to have a chance of avoiding major and escalating ecosystem and societal breakdowns going forward. Some steps toward that end are being taken but nowhere near enough, while the extraction of fossil fuels is actually increasing. With young people and others, we must rise like the waters because we hear the voices of our grandchildren saying, shut this crisis down.
A Statement by Radical Elders
On Monday, January 30, 2023 President Biden announced that the federal government will end the COVID public health emergency on May 11, 2023. Immediately governors declared an end to their states’COVID public health emergencies on May 11 or before.
Since Biden’s announcement there have been 1 million new cases, 15,000 deaths and 30,000 people hospitalized daily from COVID. Only 16% of U.S. residents have the new multivariant COVID vaccine.
On March 1, 2023, thirty million children and adults lost their SNAP food benefits or had them decreased. Medicaid for 15 million adults and children in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) ends March 31, 2023. Among SNAP recipients, older Americans will see the largest benefit decrease per person, according toan analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
It is unconscionable to declare the COVID Pandemic over while rates of COVID infections and related deaths continue at an alarming rate especially in low-income communities of color and in particular among elders.
These communities remain much less likely to have access to tests, vaccines, and treatments and more likely to get COVID, long COVID, serious infections, and related deaths.
Since COVID began three years ago, 75% of all deaths are among elders, with the African-descent, Latinos and Indigenous elders dying at a rate 2–3 times higher than whites. Deaths from COVID-19 have become the third greatest cause of death (after heart disease and cancer), the vast majority of deaths being among the most vulnerable.
Treatment for new COVID infections and vaccines will soon be unaffordable and less accessible. Free COVID rapid home tests for Medicare recipients end May 11th, 2023. Moderna and Pfizer have announced COVID vaccines that were covered by the federal government will now cost $110-$130 each.
Radical Elders commits to fighting for an effective COVID response that addresses the systemic problems in public health, the economy, and decision-making at the root of the COVID emergency, acknowledges the crisis is not over, particularly for elders, and offers resources for the specific prevention and management needs of elders. We understand the federal emergency measures were insufficient but demand they be reinstated and insist they be expanded.
Radical Elders demands that President Biden, his administration, and the federal government:
• Immediately rescind the ending of the COVID Public Health Emergency
• Continue emergency status including expanding Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP),Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as well as free-of-cost COVID-19 tests,
masks, vaccine, and treatment access
Radical Elders asks all family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, unions, worker centers, community organizations, churches, mosques, synagogues and temples to organize petition drives, press conferences,
rallies, COVID information sessions, etc. demanding that President Biden, elected representatives and officials, local Public Health agencies continue and expand the COVID-19 state of emergency.
A Revolutionary Elder: Presente!
Covid Now a Pandemic of Elders
It’s now a pandemic of the old
By David Wallace-Wells
(originally published in the New York Times — 12/7/2022
Americans received their first Covid-19 vaccine doses in December 2020, which means we are now approaching the beginning of the third year of the pandemic’s vaccine phase. And yet hundreds of Americans are still dying each day. Who are they? The data offers a straightforward answer: older adults.
Though it’s sometimes uncomfortable to say it, mortality risk has been dramatically skewed by age throughout the pandemic. The earliest reports of Covid deaths from China sketched a pattern quickly confirmed everywhere in the world: In an immunologically naïve population, the oldest were several thousand times more at risk of dying from infection than the youngest.
But the skew is actually more dramatic now — even amid mass vaccinations and reinfections — than it was at any previous point over the last three years. Since the beginning of the pandemic, people 65 and older accounted for 75 percent of all American Covid deaths. That dropped below 60 percent as recently as September 2021. But today Americans 65 and over account for 90 percent of new Covid deaths, an especially large share given that 94 percent of American seniors are vaccinated.
Yet these facts seem to contradict stories we’ve told about what drives vulnerability to Covid-19. In January, Joe Biden warned that the illness and death threatened by the Omicron variant represented “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” But that month, in which nearly 85,000 Americans died, the unvaccinated accounted for 59 percent of those deaths, down from 77 percent the previous September, according to analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The share of deaths among older adults that January was nearly 74 percent.
Over the months that followed, the unvaccinated share of mortality fell even further, to 38 percent in May 2022. The share of deaths among people vaccinated and boosted grew significantly as well, from 12 percent in January 2022 to 36 percent in April. Those levels held roughly steady throughout the duration of the summer, during which time just about as many boosted Americans were dying as the unvaccinated. The share of deaths among older adults kept growing: In April, 79 percent of American deaths were among those 65 and older. In November, 90 percent.
As many Twitter discussions about the “base rate fallacy” have emphasized, this is not because the vaccines are ineffective — we know, also from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, that they work very well. Estimates of the effectiveness of updated bivalent boosters suggest they reduce the risk of mortality in Americans over the age of 12 by a factor of 15 compared to the population of unvaccinated. That is a very large factor.
But it isn’t the whole story, or vaccinated older adults wouldn’t now make up a larger share of Covid deaths than the unvaccinated do. That phenomenon arises from several other factors that are often underplayed. First is the simple fact that more Americans are vaccinated than not, and those older Americans most vulnerable to severe disease are far more likely to be vaccinated than others.
It is also partly a reflection of how many fewer Americans, including older ones, have gotten boosters than got the initial vaccines: 34 percent, compared to 69 percent. The number of those who have gotten updated bivalent boosters is lower still — just 12.7 percent of Americans over the age of 5.
Finally, vaccines are not as effective among older adults because the immune system weakens with age. It’s much harder to train older immune systems, and that training diminishes more quickly. In Americans between the ages of 65 and 79, for instance, vaccination reduced mortality risk about eightfold, compared to the unvaccinated. This is a very significant reduction, to be sure, but less than the 15-fold decline observed among those both vaccinated and bivalent-boosted in the overall population. For those 80 and above, the reduction from vaccination alone is less than fourfold.
That is a very good deal, of course. But it also means that, given the underlying age skew, a twice-boosted 87-year-old shares a similar risk of Covid death as a never-vaccinated 70-year-old. Which is to say, some real risk. If it was ever comfortable to say that the unconscionable levels of American deaths were a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” it is surely now accurate to describe the ongoing toll as a “pandemic of the old.”
So why aren’t we?
One answer is that as a country, we prefer just to not see those deaths at all, regarding a baseline of several hundred deaths a day as a sort of background noise or morbid but faded wallpaper. We don’t need to understand who is dying or why in part because we don’t want to reckon with the fact that around 300 Americans are now dying from Covid-19 every day, at a rough pace of about 100,000 per year, making it the country’s third leading cause of death. This is normalization at work, but it is also a familiar pattern: We don’t exactly track the ups and downs of cancer or heart disease either.
Another answer is that — partly to promote good behavior, partly to more easily blame others for our general predicament — the country spent a lot of time emphasizing what you could do to protect yourself, which left us without much of a vocabulary to describe what underlying vulnerability inevitably remained. Vaccine refusal was a cancer on the American experience of the Covid years — that is undeniable. But we got so comfortable equating personal choices and individual risk that even identifying vulnerabilities came to feel like an accusation of irresponsibility. And where does that leave older adults? In a pandemic of the unvaccinated, what do you say to or about the 45 percent of seniors who died in January who’d gotten their shots? Or the 60 percent of them who died this summer?
Many of us were also turned off by dismissive rhetoric from the beginning of the pandemic, when those minimizing the threat pointed to the disproportionate risks to the very old as a reason to not worry all that much about limiting spread. The country as a whole may be ageist, without all that much empathy for the well-being of octogenarians and nonagenarians. But hearing the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro or the Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick so blithely dismissing the deaths of older adults in 2020 probably made the whole subject seem considerably more taboo to the rest of us than it might’ve been otherwise.
Throughout the last few years, the country has also struggled to consider individual risk and social risk separately. In the first year of the pandemic, we seemed to build our sense of individual risk backward from the social need to limit spread — underemphasizing some of the differential threat and focusing instead on universal measures like social distancing and mask wearing. With the arrival of vaccines, we began to build a collective picture of social risk in the opposite way, up from an individual basis instead.
The picture that resulted was hugely relieving to most of us without being, at the highest levels, misleading: Vaccination and natural immunity had indeed dramatically reduced the country’s overall mortality risk. But while it’s comforting to believe that protection is a choice, for some populations it isn’t. And in moving pretty swiftly from treating everyone as high-risk to treating everyone as low-risk, we neglected to pay much attention to the differential of risk: that even if the average American had reduced his or her chances of dying by a factor of five or 10, 300 or more Americans might still be dying each day for many months, and there were probably some targeted things to do about that.
What are they? There is no simple or silver-bullet solution, which may be another reason we’ve spent more energy on the need for vaccination than on the vulnerabilities of age (that is, the fix is far more straightforward). But clearer communication — from public health officials to politicians and the media — about differential risk could nevertheless help, emphasizing not just that more shots are good but that different groups probably need different approaches, and that even with up-to-date vaccination and bivalent boosting, infection represents a considerable threat to older adults.
More targeted guidance might also underline the way that boosters still deliver what would have seemed like mind-blowing reductions in risk two years ago, even if they don’t eliminate it entirely, and point to certain settings where rapid testing should continue or be reinstituted (nursing homes, say). And there is surely much more to be done to aggressively promote treatments like Paxlovid, which are being criminally underutilized given their efficacy in vulnerable populations. (Their efficacy for younger and healthier people remains a kind of open question.) And while infrastructure investments and other mitigation strategies do not come as cheaply as communication, there is a bundle of things we know could help reduce transmission almost invisibly, without really burdening individuals: higher indoor air quality standards, for instance. You might even choose to target those investments and improvements less in schools than in care facilities, too.
Would all that be sufficient? Probably not to eliminate some ongoing death toll, unfortunately, given how promiscuously the disease is spreading. But it would presumably reduce by some fraction those hundreds of deaths we’re seeing each day. At the moment, the country is treating those deaths as the cost of normalcy.
RE Supports Rail Workers
Immediate release allowed
December 5, 2022
We Support This Country’s Rail Workers Right to Strike For Safer Working Conditions and Paid Sick Leave!
An Official Statement from Radical Elders
On December 1st the U.S. Senate voted to deny rail workers their democratic right to strike and to side again with some of the most powerful robber barons in US history, the seven Class 1 freight railroads.
For elders, the protection of railway work and its workers is essential. For Radical Elders, that social importance is enhanced by the political importance of these workers’ fighting for the right to strike over safety and paid sick days.
Radical Elders understands that, for seniors, the agreement represents the continuing abuse of a vital part of this country’s frontline workforce. Biden and Congress are carrying out the will of rail companies at the expense of those who put their lives at risk each day to get us food, water, medicine, clothing, fuel and vital equipment. The rail-based supply line is crippled after lay-offs of over 20 percent of the workforce between 2019 and 2021. These supply-line disruptions have sent prices soaring, forcing many elders to choose between some of these basics and paying their rent or mortgage and face a potentially life-threatening winter.
We should all be rallying to honor the work of rail workers and protect their security. It’s clear that President Biden and the Congress aren’t going to do that.
Eighty Democratic and Republican Senators approved President Biden’s rail contract agreement that does not contain any paid sick days for overworked rail workers, fails to address the companies’ unfair points-based attendance policy, and does nothing to improve the federal government’s oversight of the dangerous Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). The Senate failed to pass an amendment to guarantee the seven sick days the House passed in a separate bill Wednesday or the 15 paid sick days rail workers demanded.
“Because of PSR, our members are forced to work more hours, have less stability, suffer more stress, and receive less rest. The ask for sick leave was not out of preference, but rather out of necessity. No American worker should ever have to face the decision of going to work sick, fatigued or mentally unwell versus getting disciplined or being fired by their employer, yet that is exactly what is happening every single day on this nation’s largest freight railroads” Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees of International Teamsters (BMWED)
“This agreement,” President Biden said, “is a big win for America, a great deal for both sides. What was negotiated was so much better than anything they ever had.” The “big win” agreement calls for a 24% pay raise over 4 years (below the inflation index) and one personal day per year.
Four unions, representing the majority of the 110,000 U.S. rail workers, who handle a third of all freight, voted against the contract and oppose this week’s Senate vote: BMWED; The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; The Sheet Metal, Air & Transportation Workers (SMART); and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers: “Congress should not have to intervene. The railroads should provide paid sick leave to its employees. They have the money to do it, and it literally would cost them a penny of every dollar of record profits to provide it. It’s only 2% of what CSX, NS and UP spent so far this year in stock buybacks. It’s literally nothing to them, yet they refuse to provide it.”
Rail workers have a strict points-based attendance policy forced upon them with no relief from either the U.S. Department of Labor or OSHA: “Workers say that they have been pushed to their physical and mental limits on the job, where they are expected to be on call 24/7 — sometimes working for weeks at a time with only one day off per month — and face a strict points-based attendance policy that quickly leads to penalties.”
Instead of the federal government using the power of the President, the Secretaries of Labor, Transportation and Commerce and the Congress they have given in to every move the rail robber barons have made to increase profits by cutting the workforce, failing to modernize and maintain equipment and rails and violating safety rules. Trying to force one worker crew on trains up to 4 miles long and PSR, have resulted in more deadly accidents across the country.
We should all unite in solidarity with rail workers and their unions to force Biden to extend President Obama’s 2015 Executive Order 13706, requiring federal contractors to provide employees with seven paid sick days annually, to cover up to now excluded rail workers. The struggle over PSR, points-based attendance continue as does the need to abolish the 1926 Railway Labor Act, which substitutes bargaining, arbitration and mediation for strikes to resolve labor disputes and for the revolutionary reform of public/worker control of rail and all transportation.
Radical Elders is a U.S.-based national organization of elder activists committed to fundamental social change. It practices democracy and intentionality.
Pretty shocking stuff published in Naked Capitalism and of importance to every elder in this country.
Jeff Perry Presente!
Radical Elders joins so many others in mourning the death and celebrating the remarkable life of Dr. Jeffrey Perry: life-long revolutionary, scholar, analyst and leader of RE.
Jeff joined our ancestors yesterday, September 24, 8:45 am Eastern/U.S. time.
Many of us in RE met Jeff in the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. He later was a postal worker and union organizer/activist in the Post Office while he obtained his degrees including the Doctorate from Columbia University.
During his prolific life, he wrote on a wide variety of subjects but his major theme, the one he constantly returned to, was racism: the folly on which it was based and the importance of centralizing it in all our struggles in this country. He wrote and lectured on that theme extensively and he spoke frequently about it within RE, helping make it one of the principles on which we organize.
We continue that organizing, thinking of him and being inspired by his life of commitment. He will always be “presente” for us!
The FACTS on Covid
Covid IS an elder disease
From January of 2020 to last month, June 2022, 1,005,236 people have died from COVID in the United States.
Of that number, 936,323 were over the age of 55.
That’s 93 percent!
COVID is an elders’ disease. Now what???