Friday, February 11, 2011

Signs that the economy is bad, February 11, 2010 Edition

Ah, it is the New Year. OK, it has been the new year for a while now, but this is our first "Signs that the economy is bad" segment for 2011 here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where your friendly librarian scours a variety of news sources to find those oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Just because we have a new year, it does not mean the economy has gotten better. Sure, those pundits may say that stocks are up or things are better for those on Wall Street. That's nice. For the rest of us in the trenches, things are still pretty grim in one way or another. But pundits just look at things like financial analysis and "expert" opinions. How do I know the economy is bad? I find the subtle signs, which I am now sharing with my three readers. So, here we go.

  • It's that most wonderful time of the year, when Girl Scouts go out to take orders for their annual cookie sale. You have to be dead, on a very restricted diet, or just cold and inhuman not to order at least one box when that cute brownie girl comes by with the form. Well, the economy is tight for the Girl Scouts as well. It seems that some of their cookie brands are going to be discontinued (link to WSJ). At least thin mints are safe. Bad news? If you liked those chocolate chip cookies that were diabetic friendly, those are gone. Too bad. (a hat tip to Jezebel).
  • Even getting a hit is getting difficult on the old checkbook. We often hear stories of women trying to hire a hitman to get rid of their pesky husband. Usually the tale ends when it turns out the wife was talking to an undercover cop posing as the hitman. Apparently telling apart the fakes from the real hitmen is not easy. And by the way, men get caught too, but for some reason stories of women doing it seem more sensational. Now, I do not know what the going rate for a hitman to take out your spouse is these days. I don't get too many phone calls at the reference desk asking, "do you know how much I should pay for a hit on my spouse or ex?" Apparently it seems that it is getting too expensive. Thus, one woman decided to try to get a cheaper option. Since she could not afford to kill the husband, she figured she would pay for just crippling the guy. The guy in question being an ex-boyfriend. She also wanted to make a down payment and put the rest of the hit on a payment plan. (a hat tip to Obscure Store and Reading Room). 
  • Guitar Hero bites the dust. Yep, the makers of the video game are going to stop making it, citing, well, economic reasons. 
Now, in case you might say I am a pessimist, I do find stories where a small part of the economy is getting better. If you are super rich, things are certainly good for you. How do I know? Well, for one, the yacht building business in Germany is facing increased demand.  According to the article from Der Spiegel, it seems Germany has become a leader in building high-end yachts. And what do customers want on their boats?

"The demands from customers are getting more and more eccentric: A helipad is already de rigueur. Some customers even want two -- after all, berths for floating palaces are in short supply, even in super-yacht marinas in places like Monaco, Nice, Portofino and Palma de Majorca. Some clients want freezer rooms so that they can have snowball fights off the Bahamas. While others order complete operating rooms or recording studios"

There is more, but I will let you read the rest. See? I am not all about the bad signs. Once in a while, you find a sign the economy is doing ok for some people.

TX Governor wants 10K Degrees (translation: wants el cheapo degrees)

This story is making the rounds to go along with the budget crisis that we now have in Texas. Oh, you did not know we have some budget issues in Texas? Well, apparently Governor Goodhair has been fudging the numbers a bit so things do not sound as bad as they really are (via Los Angeles Times. By the way, notice we get a bit better reporting from out of state on this? Ironic given how Gov. Goodhair loves to lecture about how much better than California Texas is. Really?).  And now the governor is calling for universities to create a $10,000 degree (via KXAN). Impossible you say? Not according to his party's and his rosy vision. Let's have a look at the article, shall we?

"[Sen. Dan] Patrick [R-Houston] believes tuition at four-year universities is too high, budgets are too big and said they have lost sight of the main mission to teach and prepare students for a career."

Translation:  College is too dadburn expensive. We doesn't be hankerin' t'pay fo' it even (even though we desperately need ejoocayted varmints in this hyar state). Them dadburn college professo's is paid too much t'do too li'l, spendin' time doin' research, whutevah thet means. Oh, we doesn't need kids studyin' hoominities o' literature o' ennythin' fluffy. 

Perry goes on to say:

"It is a goal Perry said could be reached with online courses and 'innovative teaching techniques.'"

Translation: Agin, we does not be hankerin' t'pay fo' classrooms on account o' kids kin jest hoof it to class in their pajamas fum their house. Professo's kin be hired on th' cheap, probably temps, an' they kin larn hundreds an' hundreds of kids online instead of in a classroom, dawgone it.

By the way, notice that "innovative teaching techniques" are never defined. I am betting that in Gov. Goodhair's La-la land it probably means something online, with some bells and whistles (not too many, he wants to be cheap). How this would work is not defined either, but apparently he does not realize that creating and running online classes do have costs as well.

So basically it seems his solution is to, eventually, just close down those fancy colleges. Keep some people and buildings somewhere with computers so they can teach all the classes online. And this does not even consider cost of textbooks (another cost I am sure the governor has not considered). Send the rest to community colleges (nothing wrong with CC's, but if you want something more than just a vocational or training certificate, like a full degree, you need a four year school). Because in the end, heaven forbid people invest in their future by making sure they have a well educated workforce and society. And I mean educated to do more than work as waitresses, fast food workers, and day laborers. Yes, you do have to hold those who voted for those politicians accountable as well, who whine "I don't want my taxes to go up" but love to benefit from public services and brag how their kid went to one of the fine universities in Texas, which won't remain fine for long if plans like these come to fruition.

Note: translations done via the Dialectizer and with some close reading of what the politicians actually say.