Friday, December 13, 2013

Signs the Economy is Bad, December 13, 2013 edition

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.  

We made it to another Friday here, and we have a lot of stories this week.

  • McDonald's once again makes it into our post this week. This is a follow-up to the stories from last week about the fast food strikes, including strikes against McDonald's. While the strikes were going on, the "thoughtful" corporation was advising "its employees to make sure they tip their pool boy and personal fitness trainer." And that is not all. Read on. This editorial cartoon from Clay Bennet summarizes the McDonald's exploitation of its workers nicely. Both items via TruthDig
  • Bill Moyers and Company, a report on "Record Numbers of Americans Can't Afford Their Rent." Forget the "American Dream" of owning a house, folks are struggling just to find an affordable roof to keep over their head. Factors include lack of affordable housing and unemployment. Naturally, if you folks can find housing, many of them end up homeless. In a nation like the U.S., this kind of situation is wrong. Then again, when people keep pretty much electing politicians that favor the mantra of "I've got mine, Jack...," this is the kind of situation you get. 
  • Via AlterNet, thought the bankruptcy of Detroit was bad? We covered that here last week. However, that is just a preview of the theft and robbery that will come to the rest of the nation unless people wake up. In essence, the newest scam that Right Wingers of the GOP and their corporate overlords are now running is outright stealing the pensions that workers have earned along with their health benefits. This is specially bad for public workers. Your city or state made a deal with you, often meaning lower pay, in favor of good benefits like a pension, and now they are basically reneging on the deal, a.k.a. ripping you off by breaking their contract. From the second story, "In these and other government jurisdictions, the foremost question is not why legions of elected officals have failed to provide for the employees who did their jobs and made the cities function. Instead, the question seems to be how much they can plunder earned and pledged benefits, so they can avoid raising taxes or cutting services." It's plunder pure and simple. It's theft. 
  • And speaking of things being bad in the U.S., you can tell they are bad when often the best journalistic coverage of what is happening in the U.S. actually comes from overseas. Al Jazeera America had a very good piece on service workers and servants in the United States. The title is "Is Service Work Today Worse Than Being a Household Servant." When the Gilded Age was actually a better time for servants in terms of pay and benefits they were offered for the work, say working as a domestic for a rich family, than today, you know shit has hit the fan. 
  • Via Reason Magazine, an interview with Mike Rowe on the high cost of college, college lending, and other topics.  Some good points on the piece, but this caught my attention: "'If we are lending money that ostensibly we don't have to kids who have no hope of making it back in order to train them for jobs that clearly don't exist, I might suggest that we've gone around the bend a little bit,' says TV personality Mike Rowe, best known as the longtime host of Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs." What higher education and legislatures across the U.S. in collusion with bankers do to  make students take out exploitative college loans knowing full well the students have no hope of making enough money to pay, let alone even finding a job, is simply criminal. They should all be prosecuted under a RICO statute because what they do is basically a racket that dooms students to a life of indentured servitude to the loan company. 
  • By the way, who do the higher education lenders squeeze the most? According to a new study, it's middle class students.  Here is the catch: "'Children from middle-income families make too much money to qualify for student aid packages, but they do not have the financial means to cover the costs of college,' Houle writes in the article." I know I was in that boat back in my day, as are many families in the U.S. today. Via Inside Higher Education.
  • And speaking of exploitative lenders, I often preach to people to stay away from those pay day loan and similar quick cash rackets. How they are not made illegal by usury laws is a credit to their lobbyists and the politicians who help them exploit the poor and vulnerable for profit. Well, it turns out exploitation is not the only thing they do. Basically, these lenders are now using courts to sue people for payment, and they are making serious profit at it. Who says debtors' prisons are a thing of the past? These vultures are working to bring them back with a vengeance. Don't believe it? Read on. Via ProPublica.
  • Meanwhile, homelessness and demands for food aid in the U.S. are on the rise in U.S. cities. A bit from the article: "The cities, located throughout 18 states, saw requests for emergency food aid rise by an average of seven percent compared with the previous period a year earlier, according to the US Conference of Mayors study, published Wednesday." 
  • Now, you may be thinking, as you sit warm and toasty in your home, that the homeless are such a distant problem, an abstract situation you barely hear about. And if you are kind of an asshole, you probably say, so what? Well, via The New York Times, here is a piece that follows a young homeless girl to show us that poverty and homelessness are not just abstractions. The policies of the the GOP, libertarians, and tea baggers and those who vote for them embracing selfishness and dismantling the idea of a common good above all do harm real people. A hat tip to PZ Myers' blog.
  • In other somewhat fluffy news, Martha Stewart is laying 100 workers off or so from her media empire. And right on time for the holidays.
  • Now, you figure, well, things are bad, what kind of job can I get? Well,  you have heard of drones, right? From the Obama administration's use of drones to bomb all sorts of innocent people to Amazon recently announcing that drones to deliver packages could be a possibility, you might ask yourself, who pilots those drones? And more importantly, how do I get that job? Well, ask no further. Before, you probably had to enlist in the military to get such training. Soon, you will be able to go to any regular aviation school and learn how to fly drones. And unlike library school, where job prospects are fairly dismal, for drone piloting and engineering, "for students, it all adds up to strong job prospects after graduation." Via The Christian Science Monitor.

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