Friday, November 22, 2013

Signs the Economy is Bad, November 22, 2013

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it. 

This week has not been a good week for corporations. From companies that were once mighty and are now on death watch to companies just doing stupid shit, it has been a rough week for them. So let's see what the hell has happened recently.

From Cagle Cartoons
  • The big story this week is Walmart basically being an asshole of a company. You mean again? Walmart being an exploitative and greedy employer is not new, so this story should not be shocking. It is widely known that Walmart basically does not pay their workers a living wage (hell, they barely pay them a wage), so their workers have to end up using social net services like food stamps and Medicaid. Tax payers basically subsidize Walmart's workforce (you know, that would be you and me. See this story from CNN/Money for an illustration of the point). So naturally, national attention flared up when some Walmart store in Cleveland, Ohio had a food drive (via Bill Moyers). Who was the food drive for? Its own underpaid workers. From the Moyers link, “'Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,' read signs affixed to the tablecloths." That right there probably says all that needs to be said on the predatory exploitation of Walmart when it comes to its workers. It does not get any more shameless than that. Of course, not that people seem to care since they do like their low prices. Those low prices do come with a price, and that is not a low price at all. Me? I avoid shopping at Walmart as much as possible, and I urge others to shop elsewhere as well. We do not believe in enabling this exploitation in this joint. 
  • McDonald's, another exploitative corporation, is once again in hot water for giving financial and personal advice to their poor workers (via NBC News). Yes, they are literally poor given Mickey D's is, very much like Walmart, another company that pays low forcing its workers to use the social safety nets. In fact, they are known for actively encouraging this (via Bill Moyers). However, some folks do not think Mickey D's tips go far enough. The folks at Holy Taco have added some items to the list of tips for McDonald's workers, have a look.
  • J.C. Penney's and Abercrombie and Fitch are faring badly as well. This past week we got a report that they are at risk of getting kicked out of the S&P 500 (via BuzzFeed). They are just not as cool or hip anymore to be in the "the index tracks the 500 biggest corporations by market value traded on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ"  
  • Heck, things are so bad, you can't even whack it for some cash. The sperm selling business is down (via Vice). Why you may ask? Well, the answer is "the financial recession has made sperm donating a competitive business. Sperm donation applications have doubled while the number of women looking for insemination has dropped." It seems to be a case of supply and demand. 
  • Poverty is often a very personal experience. There are degrees of poverty. Also, poverty is not just a lifestyle choice or just making poor decisions. And it is not all about "personal responsibility" like conservatives love to rail on in blaming the poor. The blogger at Killer Martinis tells us "Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or Poverty Thoughts." If you do not read anything else in my blog today, read this.  If nothing else, just for a little bit of humanity.
  • Are you down on your luck, maybe alcoholic, and you are a nuisance publicly? Well, in the Netherlands, they got a job for you (via Times Live). Get some beer and a little dinero for helping to keep parks clean. Maybe not a perfect solution, but it is certainly a constructive and practical one. And like most decent ideas, one you will not see in the U.S. any time soon. 
  • As we often point out, the economy is not bad for everyone. The one-percenters are certainly doing fine all over the place. In China, a cake millionaire has six castles (via Times of India). And I bet that, unlike certain American politician and his houses, he remembers where his castles are. 
  • Illustration of how, when you are rich, you can have choices. Want to leave the U.S.? If you have enough money, you could buy citizenship in another country. For example, for $865,000, you can buy Maltese citizenship (via Slate).
  • Now there is also the issue of underground economies and not so ethical economies. For the not so ethical, things are getting hard, so they need new ways to supplement the income. For example, in Kenya, which apparently is notorious for rampant corrupt cops, the cops are now using cellphones and mobile technology to process and receive their bribes (via Balancing Act Africa). 

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