Friday, December 03, 2010

Signs that the economy is bad, December 2, 2010 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I go find those oh so subtle signs that the economy bad. Because big shot pundits can tell you about the usual unemployment rates, mortgage issues, people losing their houses, so on. I use my impressive and powerful research skills (ok, just surf the web and have some well selected RSS feeds) to find those oh so subtle hints. I usually try to keep this semi-regular feature (as in I do it when I feel like or have time) fairly light, but given the current climate, it is getting harder to keep the light tone. So this week I may be a bit more serious. Anyhow, here are the highlights for the week.

  • Well, it seems like less people are using credit cards these days (story from CNBC). I know that I am not using them, and this may be a very small silver lining in the gray cloud of the bad economy. Considering the predatory practices of the credit card companies and banks, in many cases exploitative, I am not too sympathetic to the card issuers. And contrary to the article spin, I don't think it is all non-voluntary (i.e. someone who got bad credit rating over some missed payment or two and the bank just wrote off the debt, namely sold it to some vulture collector and shut down the account). This may also be that "a significant portion of the decrease in card usage reflects decisions by cardholders to stop using credit." Don't get too excited though: credit cards are not going away yet. A hat tip to Americablog.
  • And you know things can't be that much better when students in the U.S. are looking for U.K. schools as a bargain in terms of tuition (story from The Wall Street Journal). According to the article, "as tuition at U.S. colleges increasingly becomes less affordable for many—and as spots at the most competitive institutions more and more resemble gold dust—some American high schoolers are looking to the United Kingdom to meet their educational needs." I get the impression we are still looking at kids from fairly wealthy homes; I just don't think kids that are mostly headed to the local community college or maybe their state's 4-year college are looking across the pond as an option to save on the tuition. 
  • For Spain, gum being too sticky is a problem. So to lower the costs of cleaning up after people who spit their gum on the ground, they want to make gum less sticky (story from The Guardian). According to the article, "Barcelona's city hall estimates it scrapes up 1,800 bits of gum a day from its streets - at a cost of more than €100,000 (£85,000) a year." By the way, most gum in the world is made by two companies, according to the article, Cadbury and Wrigley, which are American (or American-owned now. Cadbury is owned by Kraft, and Wrigley by Mars). Take that for what it's worth. 
  • Food banks are bracing themselves for more people with need for food as unemployment benefits may lapse.  I used the link from Crooks and Liars because I want people to also see the Dickensian image they use about the poor and workhouses given that, at the rate things are going and given the lack of compassion and common decency in this nation overall, going back to things like debtor's prisons and workhouses may be the next option. Oh wait, in some parts of the U.S., it seems prison for debtors are making a comeback


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