Saturday, December 31, 2011

Signs the economy is bad, December 30, 2011

Welcome to the last post in the semi-regular (as in I do it when I feel like it and/or find the time) feature "Signs the economy is bad" for 2011. Things have not gotten better, and from the looks of it, they may not get better anytime soon. This means that I may be doing this feature in 2012 as well keeping my three readers informed of the oh-so-subtle signs that the economy is bad. Any pundit can point at some chart and say the recession is over (as if), say unemployment numbers are better (but he probably does not count the underemployed or those who just gave up on looking or just ran out of unemployment benefits), but it takes someone with some time to kill once in a while to go out and find the not so obvious things that tell the real story. So, here we go.

  • Apparently more women, especially mothers, are taking more phone sex operator jobs to make ends meet. We are not talking "MILFs" so to speak, but your average soccer mom that you would never imagine as working a phone sex line. Now personally, I have no problem with the line of work. If someone wants to pay a woman to have some sexy talk, and she agrees to provide it for a mutually agreed upon fee, that's a market. But the point is that more women who would rather work more "mainstream" work feel this is their only option to get a little extra money for their families. And that does make a comment on the bad economy. Via Jezebel
  • I have seen this story in a couple of places, including this one at Bizmology. Dollar Stores and Pawn Shops are doing very well in the bad economy. It makes perfect sense. Salaries have been stagnant, and in some cases, shrinking, which means less buying power for people. And that is assuming people still have a job to earn a paycheck. People may have had reservations about pawn shops, but it looks like they are overcoming them, plus the shops are working to improve their image and be more welcoming. 
  • And speaking of pawn shops, this is just a sad story. Personally, I do not think this kind of thing should be happening in the U.S., especially with how supposedly patriotic Americans are and all about "supporting the troops." More often than not, those Americans are a lot like pro-lifers. They are all about caring for the fetus or whatever it is before it is born. But once born, they are very happy to deny the actual baby any form of health care or safety and care. Same thing with soldiers. While enlisted and wearing the uniform, it is all "rah rah" and "support the troops" and "thank you for your service." When they become veterans, Americans mostly forget about their former soldiers, especially if they are wounded (physically, or more often, mentally, which is harder to see). Thus we get stories like this. In this story, a soldier in need has to pawn his Purple Heart medal to pay for Christmas. Story via The Huffington Post. Actually, this story is even worse since it was a soldier on leave. So, bad enough the nation barely takes care of its vets, they can't even pay them decently enough to meet their needs while enlisted. Of course, I would recommend not bothering with reading the comments. There are a lot of the usual judgmental, non-charitable asshats judging the poor guy. As if they knew. Hat tip to mikeroweWORKS.(On updates, it seems he did manage to pay off the pawn loan).
  • Just in time for Christmas, there is a shortage of Frankincense. Apparently, it is made from the sap of a rare tree that growers are choosing to grow less because it may be more lucrative to use the land for something else. At least, that is one of the reasons. Via Jezebel.  
  • Movie studios are not doing well, according to this article from Bizmology.  The article gives a lot of the usual excuses: competition from other technologies, glut in some film genres, star power not what it used to be, reliance on sequels. However, in the end, I don't think we need pundits and geniuses. Allow me to tell you what I think are reasons movie studios are not doing well: 1) Movies that people do not want to see because, let's be blunt, they suck. It does not matter how many strong or famous stars you put in your movie. Harrison Ford or anyone else can only do so much to save a crappy movie, even a movie with what may seem a good premise (Cowboys and Aliens does make a good premise, but hey if the movie sucks, no one will want to see it). 2) Simple economics. Going to a movie theater is an expensive proposition. Tickets ranging to ten bucks or so per person. Add the overpriced concessions, and this can rival going out for a five star meal at any swanky restaurant. I do feel pity for families who feel a need to take their whiny kids to see the latest crappy animated sequel in the theater. At the end of the day, money only goes so far, and as we have mentioned before, with stagnant salaries, job losses, a night at the movies is not a priority. This should be a no-brainer. 3) Going to a movie theater is often an unpleasant experience full of selfish assholes who have to talk during the movie, yak on their cellphones, or otherwise ruin it for everyone else. When you have that combined with the big sticker price, you pretty much skip the theater. 4) This I am guessing, but nowadays you can get any movie on DVD/Blue Ray fairly quick. Even with any restrictions studios put into getting the movies out, it is still relatively quick, and unless you are one of those freaks who just can't wait, you can get anything on Netflix/your preferred online service or rent it shortly after. So, why not stay home, rent the movie, make your own popcorn, and relax in that big screen TV and set-up you have at home? Just a thought. 
  • However, not all is bad in the economy. There is one sector in the economy that may be doing well if this story is any indication, and that is the weapons production sector. Hey, war is always going on someplace, and there's money to be made in it. And of course, if you happen to be a big superpower (or former superpower depending who you ask) with interests (*cough* oil *cough) in a very dry part of the world, you want to make sure your allies have the weapons they need. Thus, "US finalizes sale of $30 billion fighter jets to Saudi Arabia."  As my father says, "not to take the beans out of anybody's mouth," but give that some thought: the U.S. does keep the Saudis (who are as repressive and regressive as they come when it comes to regimes) pretty well armed. Why? Well, besides those interests (*cough* oil *cough*), "Production of the aircrafts, which will be manufactured by Boeing, will support 50,000 jobs and have a $3.5bn annual economic impact in the US, the White House said." It's economics. The folks at Boeing do have to eat like the rest of us. So, on the one hand, would be nice if the U.S. was not such a big weapons seller, but hey, what are you going to do with all the weapon makers if they lose their jobs? Serious food for thought there. Story via Common Dreams.

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