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It Is All About The Numbers

Updated on April 3, 2020
jackclee lm profile image

Before retiring, Jack worked at IBM for over 28 years. His articles have over 120,000 views.


The world is very complex. We have many issues. The reason we may focus on one and not the other is usually based on numbers. If a small number of the population is affected or involved, we tend to ignore it. However, if a large number of people is involved, it rises above the radar. This is the case with the latest coronavirus pandemic.

This has always been the case. It is like the old saying, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In economics, we also watch the numbers and monitor them. For example, unemployment numbers is a sign for the health of our economy. When the number rises, we are in jeopardy of a recession. When it is low, we are experiencing a boom.

The stock index is another leading indicator. It is high when the business community feels the future growth is positive and companies are going to make a profit.

Our society is driven by numbers. The census which is held every decade is a mandated count of our population so that we have an accurate representation based on population.

- March 2020

Updated - April 2020 (as a result of comments by members of my writers group)


The concept of counting is necessary because we have limited resources. We cannot do everything. We need to prioritize. We do this in our personal life. Government does it in the running of our country. We put resources in the area with the greatest need and therefore we get bang for the buck. This is just common sense.

The concept of a budget is exactly the natural result. We have a list of expenses. We have a fixed income. We prioritized and decide what and how much to allocate to each item.

Without a plan, things can go south very quickly. That is why some businesses go under. They fail to plan or they miss allocated their funds so they ended up failing.

Another factor is the rate of change. Besides the actual numbers, how fast those numbers go up and down is very key. It points to the velocity or rate of change. In mathematics, it is called the slope. The steeper the slope, the faster the rate of change.



In the case of the current crisis with coronavirus, it is that rate of change that is frightening. In terms of the absolute numbers of infections, it is low by historical standards. So far, less than 500,000 worldwide are affected as of March 25, 2020.

  • “It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases,” WHO’s top official says.

This exponential growth cannot last too long or else the whole population of the world will be affected in short order. It is usually a curve that flatten out at some point. This is just the normal trajectory of virus infections. As more people are infected, the situation changes. We humans adapt and react to counter this spread. We self quarantine, we restrict travel, we contain, we work on a vaccine... As time passes, the infection rate slows and as we develop antidotes, it becomes less threatening. That is how past pandemics ends.

Just for a comparison. The H1N1 flu of just 10 years ago, ended with 60 million people infected in the US alone and a death rate of 12,000 and approx. 18 months timeframe.

So far, we are at the early stages of this pandemic with only 3 months.

The Three Sigma Rule

In quality control, there is a term call sigma. It is a measure of standard of deviation. That is to say, in any production run of a product, a test is performed to see the quality of that run. If 68% of the product passes the test, that is 1 sigma. If 95% passes that is 2 sigma, and if 99.7% passes that is 3 sigma.

We can apply the same judgement to any issue.

In the illegal immigration case, assume we use the low estimate of 15 million, we are already at 4.5% of our population. That is a 2 sigma threshold. Look at the plot at top of his article. The area under the curve is the total of number of population. With each sigma, you can see the percent of the population affected.

Illegal Immigration

Just to switch gears and address another problem that has been plaguing our nation. This problem is long in the making. It was back in the 1980s when we reached a point of significance. Under the Reagan administration, a compromised solution was reached between Congress and the administration. We gave amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants that came over our borders. The compromise was to strengthen border security to stop the influx of people from our southern borders. As we all know, it was not followed through. The amnesty was granted, but border security remained poor.

Fast forward 30 years, we are in a worse shape with regard to illegal immigration. We have an estimated 15-30 million illegal population. Relating back to the sigma calculation, we are below the 2 Sigma point. That is over 5% of our population of 330 million are illegal or have no legal status.

The actual number is not known. Our government have gone out of their way to not count them. You have to wonder why? Even with the latest census, we are prevent to ask the question - Are you a citizen of our country? Yet, the census is conducted in two languages, English and Spanish. Coincidentally, our election ballots are also conducted in dual languages.

This is by design. What we have in this situation is a portion of our government officials ignoring the rising numbers. The illegal population has been growing between 500,000 and 800,000 per year for many decades. If this was coronavirus, you would be alarmed right?

After 30 years, it is now reaching a breaking point. Breaking in terms of economics, social and healthcare point of view. These influx is not uniform. They are concentrated in a few States and large cities. In Los Angeles, for example, all you have to do is turn on the radio and scan the dial. You will find half of the radio stations are broadcasting in Spanish. They are catering to their audience base. That is just one indicator. In Ossining NY, a town near my town in Westchester county, they conduct their local court house with a permanent translator. That is because the majority of cases are involved with Spanish speaking only people.

What is a Reasonable Threshold?

The question is, what is a threshold? At what point should we as a society take notice? Is it 1%, 5%, 10%, 25%?

Obviously, this number is not the same for all issues. It depends on the severity of the issue. For example, in criminal justice, we deem murder as a more serious crime than theft. Therefore, the threshold for murder is much lower than theft. That is to say, the local police will react by stepping up their responses in a rising crime wave depending on what that wave is.

The threshold is fluid based on public sentiment and perception. Depending on what part of the country you are from, you may have a different perception. In the immigration issue, a border State has a vastly different experience than someone from the Mid-west. A person from a large city may experience differently than a person living in a rural town.

The media also drives public opinion. They can be biased in their reporting by downplaying the crime problem relating to illegal immigrants while pushing sanctuary cities policy.

Our government also sends mix messages. On the one hand, they pass laws regarding immigration. On the other hand, some local government choose to not obey those same laws. Even our Congress is all over the map. They all say they want to fix this growing problem. When it comes to actual solutions, they are hard to come by. Our Congress refuse to deal with this issue. It comes up every election cycle and then quickly forgotten.

To answer my own question, I think we have surpassed the critical threshold for immigration. We cannot have 5% or more of our population being undocumented or falsely documented.

A National Referendum

Since our country seems to be divided on this immigration issue, and no solution is in sight, I propose a national referendum to settle it. This is not the preferred method, but given we have a dysfunctional Congress when it comes to this issue, perhaps it is the only way.

Let the people decide. Should we either allow people to come here without the immigration and naturalization process, or should we enforce those laws on the books? Either way, we should pass new laws or revise the current laws to reflect the national sentiment. Let us debate this and weigh the plus and minus.

This is the best for all of us, including the immigrants. I think it would be better to have a system where we have only one class of citizens and not the two tiers we have today, a legal and an illegal tier. I want all people to have the same legal status. Just like Reagan did back in the 1980s, let's fix this problem once and for all.

Some Myths...

One argument I hear from some of my colleagues is that the immigrants are doing the jobs Americans won't do. That is a myth. Americans have always done the jobs needed to build our country. The problem has to do with pay scale. Americans will not do a job that is under paid. Especially when they have other options. An illegal immigrant lacks those other options and therefore are happy to take these low wages jobs and being exploited by the bosses. If we start to pay these workers a higher wage, guess what, more Americans will want those jobs and be willing to work hard. It will take some time to transition from one economic model to another but it will happen. The law of supply and demand always work.

Another point I hear is no human is illegal, in reference to the use of the term illegal alien. This is a deliberate distortion of the meaning of this term. It might sound good as a bumper sticker or campaign speech, but it is not derogatory. It is an accurate description of the acts of crossing a border illegally or overstaying a visa illegally.

My call for referendum will resolve this once and for all. Let's make them legal, one way or another. I will stop using this term once we have either passed a new immigration law or have amnesty or created a guest worker program.

Illegals as a population commit less crime than Americans. Technically, that is a true statement. All stats show, illegals tend to commit less crimes as compared to the general population. However, these are crimes usually committed against each other, and drug related and drunk driving...and sex trafficking.

The difference is these crimes are preventable. If these people were not here, they would not add to the existing crime. In terms of total crime, the number of crime would be lower without the illegal population.

If you think this is a small problem, just ask the Angel moms. These are the parents whose kids have been killed by illegal immigrants. Check the stats in the link provided below.


Some people refuse to understand how our society can be harmed by an influx of illegal immigrants. They cite race as the primary reason why some Americans seems to be concerned. The truth is, it was never about race. Our country welcome legal immigrants from all over the world to the tune of 1 million per year.

To focus on race as the only motive is dishonest. This issue has elements of economic impact, wages, healthcare, welfare, and education and our public services. It also has a criminal element with drug related crimes and human trafficking and gangs.

We will never be free as a nation when we fail to defend our borders. Our country is defined by a common language, a well defined border and a shared culture. This culture comes about with assimilation.

I welcome opposing opinions and comments and debate.

Possible Solutions

I am one for results. I like to solve problems or come up with creative solutions. It seems to me we are at a deadlock in this country. No one is willing to give an inch or do the hard work.

I have a proposal.

1. We give all the current illegals and undocumented immigrants a chance to come out of the shadows and get legal status. They will be given green cards after passing some basic requirements...such as no felony criminal convictions and a clean bill of health. This is very similar to what Reagan did back in the 1980s.

2. In exchange, we start funding a wall on parts of the borders that are the most porous.

3. People who refuse to register or sign up are given free pass to their home country.

4. After a grace period, anyone caught without legal status will be deported. There is no reason why a person given such generous offer would not come forward and be legalized.

5. I am sure there will still be a small population of people who are part of the criminal elements who will stay in the shadows. They will be taken care of by our legal system. When they are caught committing a crime, and they are found without legal status, they will be deported expeditiously.

That is the whole plan, simple, straight forward, and fair. The goal being to give all people here a legal status. This will eliminate the need or excuse to have sanctuary cities. No need to protect illegal aliens because there will be none to speak of. The people left are most likely criminal elements that deserve no protection.

Once given green cards, these same people will have the opportunity to become naturalized citizens in 5 years time. This is the amount of time they would need to assimilate, learn our language, our culture and our civics. They will have a right to vote as any other US citizen.

I like to hear some feedback on this plan. I am open to criticism and modifications to improve it. I would also like to hear from people who support it, including the people who are currently illegal. They would want this. It is in effect making the Dream Act applied to all illegals.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Jack Lee


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