Friday, December 06, 2013

Signs the economy is bad, December 6, 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.  

The big story this week seems to be the fast food workers' strikes, which happened yesterday December 5, 2013, and the issue of raising the minimum wage. Here are some stories on it:
  • Via Bill Moyers & Company, "12 Fast Facts About Today's Fast Food Strike." If you need to get some quick evidence why they, and other low paid workers, deserve a better minimum wage, this is a good start. 
  • If you want to go a bit more in-depth, Mother Jones has a pretty good piece entitled "How Those Fast-Food Strikes Got Started."
  • Want to know what it's like for a fast food worker who went on strike? This one answers some questions over at Common Dreams. You could also ask the Better Half, who works in a fast food place. She can certainly testify to the efforts the industry goes to for keeping workers under the 40 hours (in order to avoid decent pay, let alone benefits. And in fast food management world, "overtime" is a dirty, bad word). In the Better Half's case, I am employed as well (though I am not raking in the big bucks neither), and we use my health insurance. We both know we are fortunate when compared to other folks.
And more on poverty and the working poor, who are certainly a sign the economy is bad:
  • Poverty and the working poor? Yea, those are still present. How bad are things? Contrary to what pundits say about the economy getting better, so on, we have "Nearly 9 of 10 Low-Wage Workers Fear They Can't Make Ends Meet." Honestly, if you bust your ass working, you should be able to make a living wage so  you can feed yourself, keep a roof over your head, provide for family, and keep some dignity. Story via TruthDig.
  • Also via TruthDig, learn a bit of "What Life is Like in the Economic Trenches." From the article, "so [Eduardo] Shoy is fully employed, and then some, and still the family is going broke." Again, things like that are just not right. 
  • Amy Goodman discusses "Poverty Wages in the Land of Plenty." Personally, I find it sad and ironic that in the U.S., which loves to tout itself as a land of plenty and opportunity, both those things are often lacking for a vast majority of its population. As she writes, "the dark secret that the retail giants like Wal-Mart don’t want you to know is that many of these workers subsist below the poverty line, and rely on programs like food stamps and Medicaid just to get by." Link from TruthDig.
  • And then we get those with a bit more blaming the poor for their ills. It's not just the rich who do it. Many folks who are barely in the middle class figure that as long as they are "better off," it is perfectly acceptable to bash the poor. As a wise man once told me, "there but for [the deity of choice], go I." Thing is folks like that never have to worry about things the poor worry about You don't know what the poor could possibly worry over? Why, here is a list of "20 Things the Poor Do Everyday that the Rich Never Have to Worry About." Story via AlterNet.
  • Then again, if you do not care about individuals, how about a whole city going bankrupt? Another big news item this week is that Detroit was finally allowed to declare bankruptcy. Now, think so what? Think again: "As Jordan Marks, executive director of the National Public Pension Coalition notes, 'In the bankruptcy, the modest pensions of Detroit’s firefighters, police officers, and other city employees could be all but wiped out, even as Wall Street banks continue to extract hundreds millions of dollars from the city’s economy. This is a dark day for people of Detroit who worked hard, played by the rules, and are now at risk of losing everything.'” Story via Common Dreams.
  • Oh, and who else falls under the working poor? Here is one I admit was unexpected: bank tellers. It turns out they have a lot about as bad as Walmart workers. According to this story from The Washington Post, "researchers say taxpayers are doling out nearly $900 million a year to supplement the wages of bank tellers, which amounts to a public subsidy for multibillion-dollar banks." P.Z. Myers picked up on the story and commented further, which is worth a look too.  
  • So, think holiday deals and buying cheap at Amazon is great? Well, it comes with a price, and Robert Reich explains it in "The True Price of Great Holiday Deals."  In brief, "Get it? Technology and globalization are driving the good deals American consumers are getting this holiday season. But the same forces are keeping wages down, and are even on the verge of eliminating many of the low-wage retail and related service jobs many Americans now need to make ends meet."

And because the economy does move on, here are some odd and curious news to see that, at least for some people, not everything is bad: 

  • Pig semen trade may be doing well. Great Britain just struck a deal with China to send them some pig spunk. China has a large production of pork, but they need a little genetic diversity. That is where the Brits (or rather their pigs) come in, and thus a deal worth 45 million pounds. Story via The Guardian.
  • In Japan, independent tofu makers are on the verge of extinction. This is due to "a hike in the cost of soy beans. Supermarkets and grocery stores are demanding lower prices from tofu makers, and independent tofu makers that sell tofu have to compete with the price of cheap mass‐produced tofu, amid Japan's economic stagflation." Story via Global Voices
  • In higher education, things are not much better. The University of Pennsylvania System is having financial woes due to budget cuts and decreased enrollment. Also, "University Research Spending Flat in 2012." Both stories out of Inside Higher Education.
  • On the other hand, some books are selling very well thanks to people willing to plunk down a lot of moolah for a rare one. Via the Fine Books & Collections blog, "Bay Psalm Book: New World Record for Any Printed Book."
  • I need to know what kind of parties the Fed throws (and how come I am not getting invited). It seems that during the recent government shutdown, anticipating not being able to buy liquor, the U.S. State Department bought $180,00 worth of liquor to stock up, "and racked up a total of more than $400,000 for the whole year, three times the entire liquor tab for all of 2008." Story via The Washington Times. Don't get me wrong, if having a glass of wine or bourbon with some foreign officer helps to ease some tensions diplomatically, I am all for that, but still, that seems a lot of money. Maybe they need to switch to lower shelf brands?
  • And to go under the "if there is way to make a buck, someone will find it," there is a business to help ladies buy a new hymen so they can "prove" they are virgins. Yes, you can buy an artificial hymen. Story via Dangerous Minds.

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