Friday, October 07, 2011

Signs that the economy is bad, October 7, 2011 edition

Welcome to another week of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. I wish I had more light pieces, but let's be honest. The economy is in the crapper, and there are no signs things will get better anytime soon. Even with the latest announcement that jobs were added in September, the unemployment rate remains a bad 9/1% (via The Los Angeles Times). For that kind of announcement, I do always wonder just what kind of jobs were added because if it was mostly McJobs and part-time work, then that certainly is no real reason to celebrate. However, while the pundits go over big stories, I go out and keep looking for the things not many seem to cover or care about. Here are this week's signs:

  • More Americans cannot make it on their own and have to move back in with their parents or other relatives. According to the Pew Research Center, "this helped fuel the largest increase in modern history in the number of Americans living in multi-generational households. From 2007 to 2009, the total spiked from 46.5 million to 51.4 million." If you follow the link for the press release, you can find links to the full report and other related materials. 
  • Here is one that I have not heard much about in the news. According to NACCHO (Nattional Association of County and City Health Officials), "more than half of local health departments cut services in first half of 2011."  Things are not looking good for local health services given that, for instance, " services for mothers and children among the hardest hit." 
  • Even the college educated and high income earners are filing more bankruptcies. Then again, according to the press release from the Institute for Financial Literacy, the "high income" is at $60,000 or more, which in some places, given cost of living, may not be "that high." Having said that, it is certainly higher than what a librarian often makes, so my sympathy only goes so far. You can download the full report at the first link, which breaks things down also by ethnicity and other factors. 
  • And then, there is health care. In a nation that pretty much chooses to not cover everyone and make it health care and access a for profit endeavor instead of the universal human right it should be, well, shit happens. According to the fellows at Rand Corporation, health care costs are pretty much wiping out any gains people may have in income. So, if by some miracle you get a small raise at work, the health plan will likely swallow it as the premiums go up. According to the press release, "While the median-income American family experienced a 30 percent gain in income from 1999 to 2009 (from $76,000 to $99,000 annually), health spending grew much faster. The family's monthly health insurance premium grew by 128 percent (from $490 to $1,115), and out-of-pocket spending rose 78 percent over the period (from $135 to $240)." So Americans pretty much embrace the GOP plan: don't get sick (link to YouTube video) and deity of choice help you if you develop some catastrophic medical condition.  And before anyone says "not all Americans embrace that," I will point out, "why do you keep electing them then?" 
  • As for economic mobility, that is pretty much down the drain as well if you happen to cling to the idea of being middle class. Pew's Economic Mobility Project has a report out on "Downward Mobility from the Middle Class." You may want to take a look. "Defining middle class as those between the 30th and 70th percentiles of the income distribution, this report find that a third of Americans raised in the middle class fall down the income ladder as adults." And there is more. You can get the full report at the link.
On a bit of a serious note, I do not think too many "average" people take the time to read reports be they from the government, for instance the GAO (Government Accountability Office) or think tanks (like Rand) or other organizations.  You can find a lot of good analysis and information, but you do have to do some work. While there are organizations like the GAO or the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) that are truly nonpartisan, other organizations is a bit trickier given biases. For instance, there are conservative and liberal think tanks and everything in between in the political spectrum. So skill at evaluating sources is certainly needed and valuable, the kind of skills called information literacy that (most) librarians are good at (and we are happy to teach). At any rate, many of these documents get mined by reporters, and you often hear mentions of them in the news, albeit small mentions. Not many people, if any, actually go out and seek out the reports. I do. When I hear a survey or a study or a report cited in a news article, I will try to find it when possible and at least give it a scan to see if the journalist was accurate or not. This takes effort, but it is the effort needed to be an informed citizen who can vote responsibly. Want to be a more informed citizen? A good place to start is your local library. Librarians, who are skilled and knowledgeable in cutting through the bovine excrement, will be happy to help you find what you need and decide if it is good, reliable information or not.

And that's my two cents for this post.

      No comments: