Friday, August 19, 2011

Signs that the economy is bad, Aug. 19 edition

Well, we made it to the end of another week. Welcome to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian, the semi-regular feature where I do extensive research (ok, pick out interesting things out of my feeds) to bring the oh-so-subtle hints that the economy is in the crapper. Any pundit can point to the stock market going down or the bad unemployment numbers. But you have to dig a little deeper to see the little hints that tell the real story. So, here we go:

  • Porn is not selling as much as it used to on TV (via The Wall Street Journal; Hat tip to Jezebel). Cable companies are now having to admit that they are just not making as much money overall because people are buying less pay-per-view porn. Granted, those folks for one are buying less regular pay-per-view items overall, or they are cutting the cable altogether for DVD's and/or digital streaming. In the case of porn, you do have to factor in that Internet porn has just eaten into any profits the cable companies may make as well as into the profits of the established adult film houses. Still, a sign the economy is bad. 
  • And another hit on the education front. The good old days of your fancy employer paying for your executive MBA may be over, or almost over.  However, "enrollment and interest in MBA programs still appears strong." Go figure. (via Hartford Courant). 
  • College students continue to suffer under the bad economy. Students are now choosing not to buy their college textbooks. It is a known fact that college textbooks are extremely expensive. It is also fairly common knowledge that the savvy student will wait to buy textbooks until after the first day or two of class to assess how necessary that book may or not be. I know I used to do that.  (via Huffington Post).  
  • When I saw this headline, I thought it was a piece out of The Onion.  Sadly, it is a serious piece featured in The Houston Chronicle. It seems more Texans are looking to the lottery as a good economic bet. At least someone is not doing poorly in the bad economy, and that someone is the lottery agency and its retailers. I think this is a pretty sad commentary on the way things stand now. The article is worth a look for numbers highlights and some analysis. 
  • Even the folks in the military are getting a bum deal. The Department of Defense is moving to "make students responsible for up to 25 percent of tuition costs." No more "free ride." Personally, I think if anyone deserves a free education in this nation that would be military personnel, especially the active duty folks. You serve, you get your education. Pure and simple. It should be a no-brainer. Then again, apparently, for all the rhetoric of "support the troops," more often than not they get their benefits cut under the excuse of a bad economy. (via Inside Higher Ed.)
  • And we could put this as a sign that the economy is bad, though it is more likely just part of the GOP anti-education campaign they have running. Anyhow, as part of the hideous debt ceiling compromise, it seems the days of subsidized college loans are over. This is specially significant for anyone considering graduate school. So, not only do college students have to go into hock and serfdom to pay off college loans to get an education, now they can't even catch a small break on the interest. But hey, who needs educated workers anyhow when most the job creation, if any, is going to McJobs? (via Inside Higher Ed.).  
  • However, while college students and potential college students get the economic squeeze, at least one company is making a killing in the economy. The not-for-profit College Board racket is making great profits. (via Businessweek)How are they doing it? By charging more fees for their exams, not to mention doing other things like selling test takers' names to colleges.  Oh, and they also get states to foot the bill for certain test fees as well: "By 2008, 10 states agreed to pay fees to the College Board for 10th-graders to take the PSAT, according to a College Board newsletter. Texas appropriated money a year later." There are a few colleges out there that are choosing not to use the SAT, nor its rival ACT, in admissions decisions. An interesting development to watch and see if over time this racket can be dethroned. 
  • Cancer patients have to hold yard sales to help pay for their treatment. I always remember that old bumper sticker, the one that said about what a great day it will be when schools have all the funding they need, and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber. Well, it will be a wonderful day when people get the health coverage and services they need without having to go bankrupt because this nation chooses not to treat universal health care as the human right that it is. To make matters worse in this story, the poor patient had to stop her yard sales (via UPI) after some busybody neighbor decided to complain.  Yes, not only is the economy bad. Not only do people needing serious medical care have to struggle. Said patients also have to deal with busybodies lacking any sense of decency or compassion. Really? The woman makes good faith efforts to make the sales as non-disruptive as possible, trying to pay for her treatment, and Mr.or Mrs. Neighbor just could not abide it? Apparently compassion is also in short supply in this country. And to her city, change the stupid law already, or cut the woman a break. If nothing else, her cancer is terminal, so what can it cost to give her a break for a while? Stuff like this honestly makes me question faith in humanity.

            Friday, August 05, 2011

            Signs that the economy is bad, August 5, 2011 edition

            Here we go with another week of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (when I have time and/or feel like it) feature where I scour the news in search of the oh-so-subtle signs that the economy is bad. Because any fancy pants pundit can tell you that the economy is bad, but I look for what the big boys usually miss. This week, for the most part, seems to be a college student edition. College students are just getting hit pretty hard by the bad economy, especially at a time when the U.S. as a nation probably should be investing in better educating its youth. But hey, since the nation as a whole figures it is better to keep shipping jobs overseas and buying cheap stuff from China at Wal-Mart, I guess an educated workforce may not be as necessary, as these stories seem to reveal. And at the end I threw in something a bit lighthearted to balance out.

            • Public colleges have to beg for money from millionaires and other private sources. Another sign that we as a society simply choose not to fund our schools, showing that, in the end, education is not that big of a priority. According to the article, "legislatures are shifting the cost of college to students: public university tuition has nearly doubled nationwide in the past decade."(via The Washington Post).
            • And speaking of education, if you went to college, odds are good you remember all those tables out in the plazas and squares with student peons hawking credit cards to other students. It was quite the racket for credit card companies: get students to sign up for their credit cards with some little trinket thrown in as "incentive,' then hook them in with the high interest rates, so on. Well, I am not sure if this is totally a sign that the economy is bad, or that some credit fairness laws have gotten better, but it appears that less students are signing up for credit cards on campuses these days. (via The Chicago Tribune). 
            • And it is not getting better for college students. According to Moody's, "delinquency rates on student loans have not improved as have the rates for other kinds of consumer loans, raising the prospect that significant numbers of student loan borrowers will be unable to repay their loans in the coming years." In plain English kids, if you choose to go to college, make sure you go into a major that actually makes money and has demand (here is a hint: librarianship and education are not such majors) so you can make money to pay any college loans you take. Otherwise, it will serfdom after you graduate. In some cases, it may be better to simply join the workforce, do an apprenticeship, vocational program, so on. Research your options. (via Inside Higher Ed). 
            • If you are thinking you are just going to graduate school to weather the storm, things are not better there. Even getting a T.A. (teaching assistant) position to do the grunt work of teaching undergraduates is getting harder. (via The New York Times).  
            • The bad news for college students continue. Things are so bad that female students are doing sex work and even looking for sugar daddies (some males try to find a sugar mama, but this seems to be a rarer trend; via AlterNet). Now, personally, I have nothing against sex workers or, for that matter, any sexual business between consenting adults. Having said that, it is a sad commentary, once again, on the fact that society does not place a priority on investing in our youth's education when women feel that they need to do this in order to make ends meet. Now, you know it is getting to be a big deal when even CNN gets in on the story. Granted, they are doing it more from the sensationalist angle, "ooh, sugar daddies: is it prostitution? Must be bad" approach, but the fact they are even doing it is the point here.
            • Finally for now, the news is bad even for little kids. The economy is so bad that even the tooth fairy has had to cut back. Now apparently, the tooth fairy in this story was on the wealthy side because in my day, the going rate was a dollar a tooth, if you were lucky. When the hell did it go up to three bucks? And thus now the forty cents decline causes a furor. Go figure. (via CNN). Even The Colbert Report covered the story. He is suggesting you diversify into tusks, haha.