Friday, January 10, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad, January 10, 2014 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.  

Welcome to the first edition of 2014. What? You did not think the economy miraculously just got fine because we have a new year, right? Yep, things are still bad, even when the powers that be want to claim things are OK. So, let's take a look at what has been happening out there.

  • A lot of economic pundits will tell you that the recession is over. It does not mean that poverty is over. In fact, "Nearly 1 in 3 in the U.S. Experienced Post-Recession Poverty." That sounds like a pretty bad sign things are bad. As the article points out, the thing about poverty is that "it’s more like a revolving door, as many people move in and out of poverty over the course of time." Many people can be fine and comfortable in the middle class, or at least in the upper poor class, you know, enough to stay out of serious trouble now and then end up in deep trouble in the blink of an eye. As a wise man once told me, and I am modifying a bit, "there but for the grace of [the deity of choice], go I." That is a lesson more people should heed and show more compassion. Story via Equal Voice.
  • Want another number? How that "1-in-5 American Homes [are] 'Deeply Underwater'"? Story via TruthDig.
  • John Light, in a piece posted at Moyers and Company, asks "How Close to Poverty Are You?" This week 50 years ago, President Johnson launched what became known as the "War on Poverty," which, among other things, brought forth safety nets we know today like Social Security and Medicaid. Back then, people thought that starving seniors was probably not a good idea. Apparently, for the Right Wing politicians and their voters in the U.S., starving out grandma means a decrease in the surplus population. The War on Poverty is far from over, and from the looks of the report that Mr. Light highlights, poverty is very close to us indeed. 
  • Now, you think I am picking on the Right Wing when it comes to poverty? Allow me to present the facts and evidence to illustrate that indeed, the GOP and the Right Wing of the U.S. are more than happy and willing to help decrease that surplus population.
    • Well, they are the ones who say that poor children should have to work for their school lunch. According to this Georgia Republican paragon of compassion and virtue,  that is exactly what we should do. "Hey kid, want to eat? Grab that broom and sweep those floors first." Story via Addicting Info.
    • A writer at Forbes magazine, one of the bibles of the uber rich in this country, and who also works for the Cato Institute. went on to claim that SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, what we commonly know as food stamps) is cruel, and we should get rid of it. The link from Crooks and Liars includes a video from The Daily Show highlighting this. By the way, the very compassionate thinker from the libertarian think tank also says that if there were such a thing as poverty that churches and charity would rise up to take care of it. 
    • Except churches and charities simply cannot just take care of everyone. In addition to the various logical answers to that fallacy, the fact is many of those churches are not exactly doing well financially themselves. Hey, this is a bad economy after all. And for many churches, they are spending way more than they take in from collections, so on. Story via Addicting Info.
    • To add to the shameless lack of any compassion and their sense of selfishness, the Right Wingers, especially the uber rich, are now whining they are getting demonized (the poor babies). In another segment from The Daily Show, Jon Stewart lays it out on the line. Link to the segment. A hat tip to AlterNet.
  • We often talk about children in poverty who face hunger. In public schools, they often qualify for free lunch, so at least they get one meal a day for sure. However, what happens when those kids leave high school and go to college? Just because they graduate, it does not mean that poverty ended. Contrary to popular belief, college students are not just rich people brats (although at the rate things are going with higher education funding cuts, it may soon be that rich brats will be the only ones to be able to attend). Many poor young people attend college, often on a combination of grants and scholarships (which are decreasing), college loans (which are pretty much becoming a form of indentured servitude), work, pluck, and often some starvation. Wick Sloane, writing for Inside Higher Ed, asks this kind of question: "How many of these are the same students who were eligible for free and reduced lunch in high school? No one knows and no one is counting. How many are from households on food stamps? No one’s asking, either." His essay, "A Higher Ed Reform? 45 Million Peanut Butter Sandwiches" is worth reading. Personally, given my current job, I am a bit more aware of the poverty of college students given our demographic, so this piece did make me think.
  • The situation is not bad just here. In the U.S., food banks have been hit hard as people who never need to use one all of a sudden found themselves poor and needed food. This is a story I have covered on this blog before (see here and over here). Well, it is not just Americans who have it bad. Food banks in Germany are getting hit hard as well with more people in need. There is even talk over there of charging for some charity services. Story via Spiegel Online.
However, not everyone has it bad. This week we have some features on how good the uber rich have it.

  • The mofos at Google are doing fine. They are doing so well that they are flying around in their corporate jets. No big deal you might say. Corporations send their big shots around in corporate jets all the time. However, it seems they are buying fuel for those jets in a less than kosher way.  Yet another recent example of the company that claims the motto of "don't be evil" pretty much doing evil and somewhat shady stuff (to put it mildly). Story via Crooks and Liars.
  • Katie Couric seems to be doing pretty well. She recently landed a part-time job at Yahoo! worth $6 million dollars. "The salary rounds out to a million per minute that she’ll be inside Yahoo’s New York offices." Snark aside, it's a job for a few hours a month at the most. That is in addition to her talk show and other gigs at ABC News. Must be nice. Story via BetaBeat.
  • There is one industry that is doing fine in the bad economy: the guns and firearms industry. Now, this is not just bad economy. A lot of this is basically Right Wing hysteria where they think the U.S. government will be taking away guns because of events like Sandy Hook. Apparently, to those "responsible gun owners" any talk of some reasonable regulation and gun control equals brown shirts goose stepping into homes to confiscate personal firearms. So, the industry is raking in the money. For example, "Remington Outdoor Company, makers of the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle used at Sandy Hook, announced a dramatic increase in sales for 2013." Story via Addicting Info.
  • And finally, let's toss in something a little sexy. Some folks like a little kink here and there. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think kink is fine. I am not really into the whole sex webcam thing, but hey, I am a "your kink is not my kink, but your kink is ok" kind of guy. For the uber rich, well, you can get much higher quality kink. For instance, you could (if you have the money), plop down $42,000 for a webcam session with a dominatrix. Not just any dominatrix though. Maitresse Madeline, via, auctioned off a session with her for just that amount. Some people do have it good. Story via

Photo credit: Photo from the Social Security Administration historical archives.  Link to the photo's page. By the way, when less than bright Right Winger fundamentalists say that "churches will rise up to take care of poverty if poverty ever exists," guess who often did sponsor soup kitchens like the one in the photo back in the 1930s? The churches? Nope. The government? Try again (although they did try, you know, that whole New Deal thing Right Wingers hate). In this case, it was the Mob. Say what you will, but at least The Mob cared enough about the working man to give him a cup of joe and maybe some soup. A Right Winger today would be more than happy to let a working person starve rather than give him a small break of compassion. Click the link to learn more.

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