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Americans need to be more empathetic to recover from COVID-19

Americans need to be more empathetic to recover from COVID-19
  • Scott Galloway is a bestselling author and professor of marketing at NYU Stern.
  • The following is his recent blog post, republished with permission. It originally ran on his blog, “No Mercy / No Malice.”
  • Galloway says COVID-19 is an opportunity for people to reevaluate what matters most, reject material priorities and billionaire role models, and start over from scratch.
  • Now is the time, Galloway says, to invest in fellow Americans, and focus on creating a healthier and more empathetic culture. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An Etch A Sketch is a mechanical drawing toy invented by André Cassagnes of France. Two knobs move a stylus that displaces aluminum powder on the back of the screen, leaving a solid line. The genius of the toy is aluminum powder. A child only needs to flip the toy and shake, redistributing the powder over the screen.

Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway

Courtesy of Scott Galloway


COVID-19 has presented an opportunity to envision our lives when turned upside down, powder redistributed.

We can start over. We hoard relationships and the accoutrements of a life others have fashioned for us. We often don’t know any better, or don’t have the confidence to draw outside the lines until we’re older.

My colleague professor Adam Alter has done research on the regrets of the dying. One of the biggest: not living the life they wanted to lead, but the life others chose for them.

etch a sketch scott galloway



Courtesy of Scott Galloway


In 2000 I left my marriage, my career in ecommerce, and San Francisco. I hit the restart button and left a lot behind. The period was lonely, rife with collateral damage, and the right decisions. COVID-19 presents society, and each of us, with the opportunity to design a better life with … less.

What do we leave behind? Some thoughts:

Emissions. Or at least, a lot of them. I’m not an environmentalist, and mostly believe after the last human draws her final breath, the earth will register a 20-year belch and feel fine again. To be clear, I do believe climate change is man-made, as I don’t have my head up my ass, but I also believe the move to renewables will be expensive. Just as trickle-down economics is a lie, so is the notion that the Green New Deal would pay for itself.

In Florida, like many places, the water has been so clear, the sky so blue that I wonder if this is a time to move away from coal, cars, commutes … even if it’s really expensive. The last several weeks have convinced me it’s worth it. A spectacular home is worth a ton of money. Why wouldn’t we decide that a spectacular backyard (sea, sky, land), for all of us and our children, is also worth a huge investment?

NM_Economic crises Courtesy of Scott Galloway



Courtesy of Scott Galloway


Essential workers. The term essential means we’re going to treat you like chumps but run commercials calling you heroes. Just stop it. We lean out our windows and applaud healthcare workers, as we should. We don’t, however, lean out our windows to salute other front-line workers — the guy or gal delivering your groceries or dropping Indian food through the window in your back seat.

Why? Because, deep down, we’ve been taught to believe that we live in a meritocracy and that billionaires and minimum wage workers all deserve what they got. We’ve conflated luck and talent, and it’s had a disastrous outcome — a lack of empathy.

There is so much that’s jarring about American exceptionalism. Thus far, a very American image from the pandemic is a makeshift morgue in a refrigerated tractor-trailer in Queens. Even worse? We idolize the founder of Amazon, who has added the GDP of Estonia to his wealth (all tax-free/deferred) during this pandemic, as we discover 25% of New Yorkers are at risk for becoming food insecure. This isn’t a United States, it’s The Hunger Games.

This country was built by titans of industry even wealthier than billionaires today — Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan. But one in 11 steel workers didn’t need to die for bridges and skyscrapers to happen. We are a country that rewards genius. Yet no one person needs to hold enough cash to end homelessness ($20 billion), eradicate malaria worldwide ($90 billion), and have enough left over for 700,000 teachers’ salaries. Bezos makes the average Amazon employee’s salary in 10 seconds. This paints us as a feudal state and not a democracy.

Our lack of empathy for fellow Americans is vulgar and un-American. We can and should replace the hollow tributes with federally mandated $20/hour minimum wage. This “outrageous” lift in minimum wage would vault us from the 1960s to the present. As of 2018, the federal minimum wage was worth 29% less than in 1968.

values Courtesy of Scott Galloway



Courtesy of Scott Galloway


Money is a vehicle for the transfer of time and work from one entity to another. So, if we spend less money on one thing, we can invest more time on another. Could we invest less in stuff, less in commuting, and more in relationships? I’ve been howling in the money storm for so long. Believing my worth to others was a function of the stuff I had, or didn’t have.

We proffer admiration, affection, and a sense of awe on people who aggregate wealth. But that affection is often misplaced, as wealth can lead to greed and lack of empathy. This is an opportunity to spend less on stuff, spend less time commuting, and reallocate that capital and time to our partners and children.

On my podcast, the Prof G Show, I interviewed philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris. I asked him for one piece of advice on how to be a better man. He offered that rather than trying to parent, cajole, discipline, or guide your children, your real purpose is just … to love them. My 9-year-old has been having a hard time with corona. I’m spending less time correcting, explaining, arguing, and more just loving … sitting in his room when he’s doing homework, engaging in conversation, and watching The Simpsons together. We’re on season five, there’s 31.

And … we’ll get there.

Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, and Jeff Bezos have 13 kids by six women. They denied their blood under oath to avoid child-support payments, mocked the disabled, and stole from school districts (demanding tax/budget cuts) to cling to power and wealth. We need a generation of men who emerge from this crisis with a commitment to being better fathers, husbands, and citizens.

The fastest path to a better life is regularly assessing what we leave behind. The fastest blue-line path to a better world is more engaged fathers, not a better f—— phone. 

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Americans

Asian Americans shift from Republican to Democrat, abandon conservative ideals for identity politics

The Democratic Party’s identity politics has paid off with the new generation of Asian voters, who have abandoned the conservative ideals of their parents and grandparents in favor of labeling themselves “people of color” and turning to liberalism. The older generation of Asians, who were often refugees from communist countries or President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s…

Asian Americans shift from Republican to Democrat, abandon conservative ideals for identity politics

The Democratic Party’s identity politics has paid off with the new generation of Asian voters, who have abandoned the conservative ideals of their parents and grandparents in favor of labeling themselves “people of color” and turning to liberalism.

The older generation of Asians, who were often refugees from communist countries or President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s internment camps during World War II, tended to lean Republican.

That is changing, polling data and scholarly research shows.

“The younger generation grew up being ‘persons of color’ and are much more likely to resent white supremacists,” said Richard Anderson, a political science professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He also said he thinks President Trump is a white supremacist.

A June poll from Tufts University revealed that 78% of Asian American youths back Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden. The survey also showed the environment is a top election issue for the young voting bloc, followed by racial issues and health care.

A 2018 survey by an Asian American advocacy group showed that the demographic wasn’t warming to the president’s performance.

A majority of Asian Americans (58%) disapproved of the job Mr. Trump was doing during his first two years, and only about 36% approved, according to the survey, conducted by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Vote.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee surveyed Asian Americans in February and found that they preferred the Democratic candidate in congressional races by 33 percentage points in battleground states, Vox first reported.

When it came to the presidency, the February poll showed Asian Americans favored a yet-to-be-named Democratic candidate to Mr. Trump by 28 points.

Asian Americans are the fastest-growing voter demographic in the United States, but they account for only about 4% of the overall electorate. Still, pollsters say that is enough to flip close races in swing states.

“You can’t ignore 4%,” said Kenneth Warren, a pollster and politics scholar at St. Louis University. “Tiny percentage, but it’s getting to be one you can’t ignore when presidential elections are won in battleground states.”

Asian Americans have been moving toward the political left for nearly three decades. They voted Republican by a 22-point margin in 1992 but by 2012 voted Democratic by a 47-point margin, according to an analysis by the political statistics website FiveThirtyEight.com.

The number of eligible Asian American voters more than doubled from 2000 through 2020, according to Pew Research Center’s analysis of Census Bureau data. The demographic grew by 139%. That’s more than Hispanics at 121%, Blacks at 33% and Whites at 7%.

The three states with the highest Asian American populations are California, New York and Texas.

California and New York are solidly blue states, but an increasingly liberal Asian vote could make a difference in Texas, a longtime Republican stronghold that in recent years has jogged slightly to the left.

Asian Americans increasingly demand attention in presidential politics.

Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur whose parents immigrated from Taiwan, gained traction in the Democratic presidential race this year. His campaign attracted strong support among millennials with a futuristic agenda that included a government-paid universal basic income of $1,000 a month.

Mr. Biden, the White man of English and Irish heritage who ultimately won the Democratic presidential nomination, picked a running mate who is half Black and half Asian.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, who was born to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, stands poised to attract key ethnic voters in battleground states, analysts say.

“I do think that Harris will spend a good bit of time working on Asian Americans. There is an increase in their population in the last decade by over a million,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College.

According to the 2018 data from the Asian advocacy groups’ study, Indian Americans tend to identify most with the Democratic Party. In contrast, Vietnamese Americans tend to identify most strongly with the Republican Party.

James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, said the Asian American vote will be studied more in the future but the sample size for most current polls is too small to extrapolate solid trends.

“It’s tough in Texas because the Asian share of the population, while growing, is still a small share of any overall poll sample of the adult population or registered voters, and so it’s hard to draw conclusions from such small numbers,” he said.

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Americans

Americans angry at Washington should be looking in the mirror

ANALYSIS/OPINION: There was a time in America, unknown or not experienced by people under the age of 50, when politics was a contact sport played with mostly accepted rules and the equivalent of “sportsmanship.” Losers would graciously concede and wish the victor well, in most cases vowing to work with him or her for the…

Americans angry at Washington should be looking in the mirror

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There was a time in America, unknown or not experienced by people under the age of 50, when politics was a contact sport played with mostly accepted rules and the equivalent of “sportsmanship.” Losers would graciously concede and wish the victor well, in most cases vowing to work with him or her for the good of the country. The public expected it.

Somewhere around the time of the Vietnam War and Watergate it started to become ugly and instead of sportsmanship the “players” began to engage in mutually assured destruction, to borrow a term used during the Cold War when the United States and Soviet Union had missiles aimed at each other’s countries. It was appropriately abbreviated MAD.

It isn’t that in earlier elections politicians would refrain from slurring and slandering each other. Many did. The 1800 contest between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was cutthroat in the extreme.

As CNN.com recalls, Jefferson’s camp labeled President Adams “a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant.”

“In return, Adams’ men branded Vice President Jefferson “a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.”

That was nearly two centuries before the creation of modern-day media outlets, like CNN or Fox News, capable of exacerbating division and promoting slug fests as in boxing matches, or long-ago outlawed cock fights.

This year’s pre-election rioting, looting and shootings in many American cities is not only a consequence of the failure or refusal of politicians to fix problems; it is also a failure by too many citizens who look to government to find solutions for things it was never created to address.

It is not the fault of a train that it cannot fly. A car mechanic should not be blamed because he can’t perform open-heart surgery. Government has a purpose, but it is not to solve problems only an individual can address. People who are angry at government, instead of looking to Washington, should be looking in the mirror.

There have been injustices as long as humans have walked the Earth. The U.S. government has tried mightily and at great expense to fix them, but most are matters of the heart, not matters for politicians. If the latter, would not those injustices by now have been solved? While it is possible for government to impose or tolerate immorality, it is close to impossible to impose its opposite. This is the role of churches and of individuals making the right decisions for themselves and their families.

Is anyone ignorant of what creates “a more perfect union” that establishes justice and promotes the general welfare? The information is readily available. It is not classified.

The anger arises when people refuse to search, find and then live by well-established principles that have mostly worked for those who have embraced them throughout history. Anger solves nothing and only deepens divisions and multiplies the problems the angry claim they want to resolve.

In her book, “300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It’s Too Late,” Shannon L. Alder writes: “Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others — it only changes yours.”

If only the rioters devastating our cities would understand this and look to themselves and not the next election, or Washington, to redress real and perceived grievances.

• Cal Thomas, a nationally syndicated columnist, is the author of “America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires, Superpowers and the United States” (HarperCollins/Zondervan, January 2020).

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Americans fear coronavirus vaccine will be based on politics over safety

Most Americans worry that political pressure will force the Food and Drug Administration to approve a coronavirus vaccine before ensuring its safety, and more than half say they wouldn’t want a vaccine that is approved and available before Election Day, according to a poll underscoring fears that politics will override science in the scramble to…

Americans fear coronavirus vaccine will be based on politics over safety

Most Americans worry that political pressure will force the Food and Drug Administration to approve a coronavirus vaccine before ensuring its safety, and more than half say they wouldn’t want a vaccine that is approved and available before Election Day, according to a poll underscoring fears that politics will override science in the scramble to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democrats are most likely to doubt the FDA, with 85% fearing reckless speed, though more than a third of Republicans (35%) and 6 in 10 independents espouse the same view. Overall, 62% worry about undue pressure.

“Public skepticism about the FDA and the process of approving a vaccine is eroding public confidence even before a vaccine gets to the starting gate,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the poll released Thursday.

More than 8 in 10 Americans don’t believe a vaccine will be widely available by Election Day, Nov. 3, according to the poll. But if a vaccine is available and circulated widely, only about 4 in 10 Americans would want to try it.

President Trump is floating the prospect of an October “surprise” in the form of an approved vaccine from one of multiple candidates in late-stage trials. Yet members of his own party were more likely to say they would shirk a pre-Election Day vaccine. The poll showed 60% of Republicans, 56% of independents and 50% of Democrats saying they would decline the vaccine.

FDA and White House officials have repeatedly said they will not allow politics to taint the approval process, though U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams acknowledged there are “unprecedented levels of vaccine hesitancy” in general.

“We have a once-in-a-century global pandemic superimposed on a presidential election, and that’s made messaging even more difficult and concerning,” he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday. “Here’s what I can tell you: As a member of the coronavirus task force, there’s been no politicization of the vaccine process whatsoever.”

Once a vaccine is ready, Dr. Adams said, his own family will be in line to get it.

“There will be no shortcuts. This vaccine will be safe, it will be effective or it won’t get moved along,” he testified.

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said the effort must be free of political interference.

“Otherwise, I’ll have no part of it,” Dr. Collins testified.

The scientific community is developing COVID-19 vaccines at a record pace, with multiple companies starting human trials with 30,000 enrollees each.

AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company, said it had to pause its trial because of a suspected adverse reaction in one British participant.

The company said Wednesday that the voluntary pause will allow researchers to review safety data after “a single event of an unexplained illness.”

“This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials,” the company said.

It’s not uncommon to investigate such hiccups, but the trial has been paused at a fraught time in the race for a proven shot to shield people from a disease that has killed more than 190,000 in the U.S.

“It’s really one of the safety valves that you have on clinical trials,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on “CBS This Morning.” “It’s unfortunate that it happened. Hopefully, they’ll work it out and be able to proceed along with the remainder of the trial.”

In his testimony, Dr. Collins referred to a New York Times report that said the British participant was found to have transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and can be caused by viral infections.

It’s not clear whether the condition is linked to the vaccine candidate, so the company is investigating.

Dr. Collins said the pause “ought to be reassuring.”

When scientists say they are serious about ensuring safety, he said, “Here is Exhibit A about how that is happening.”

If the health condition “is a real consequence of the vaccine, then all of those currently being manufactured will be thrown away,” Dr. Collins said. “We do not want to issue something that is not safe.”

At least two other major vaccine candidates that have backing from the Trump administration are in Phase 3 or Phase 2/3 trials.

Pfizer and German-based BioNTech, as well as Moderna Inc., have partnered with the federal government as part of the administration’s Operation Warp Speed to develop a vaccine by next year.

As Mr. Trump looks to Election Day, Dr. Collins said it is impossible to determine whether a vaccine will be ready by a particular date.

“I have cautious optimism, by the end of 2020, one of these vaccines will have emerged and turn out to be safe and effective. That is a guess,” he testified. “To predict a particular date is well beyond anything any scientist could tell you and be confident they know what they are saying.”

Despite assurances, the Kaiser poll suggests public doubt about the government’s focus. Roughly 4 in 10 Americans said the FDA (39%) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (42%) are paying too much attention to politics when it comes to issuing guidelines or recommendations.

Policymakers and medical experts hope the public’s misgivings don’t spoil a historic effort to stamp out the coronavirus, which has upended normal life around the globe.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said it is important to remember that vaccines are a “true miracle of modern medicine.”

“Some people incorrectly believe ‘warp speed’ means cutting corners,” Mr. Alexander said. “But it refers to the extraordinary investment in research, development and manufacturing scale-up for a COVID-19 vaccine.”

• David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

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