Friday, March 14, 2014

Signs the economy is bad: March 14, 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. 

We have a variety of issues this week, from unethical companies profiting in the bad economy to those who are suffering, so let's get on with it.

  • An industry that is doing very well in this economy is the debt collection industry. Part of why they are doing so well is their often excessively aggressive and unethical practices. 
    • For example, they are now investing and using spotter cars to find cars they need to repossess. Basically, much like Google runs cars to take photos and build their maps and Earth products, repo agents and collection agencies send out spotter cars scanning hundreds of thousands of license plates. They are happy because it means they can find more people. However, that is not the only problem with this. In addition, "the most significant impact of Sousa’s business is far bigger than locating cars whose owners have defaulted on loans: It is the growing database of snapshots showing where Americans were at specific times, information that everyone from private detectives to ­insurers are willing to pay for." Yes, not only do they make money chasing poor folks who may have fallen on hard times, but they can also collect all that information and sell it, thus making even more money. Want to complain about illegal, or certainly questionable surveillance, this is certainly something you can write your public officials about. Story via
    • And on a side note, if you think it's only unscrupulous, shady corporations using Orwellian surveillance techniques on the poor, try again. The government does it as well.  And why? Well, here is a reason. "Persistent stereotypes of poor women, especially women of color, as inherently suspicious, fraudulent, and wasteful provide ideological support for invasive welfare programs that track their financial and social behavior. Immigrant communities are more likely to be the site of biometric data collection than native-born communities because they have less political power to resist it." Story via The American Prospect.
    • Debt collectors, as I mentioned, are known for their aggressiveness. In that aggressiveness, they often conveniently disregard the law. Another bad practice? They are going after members of the U.S. armed forces. Unlike you and me, members of the military do enjoy, by law, certain additional protections. According to the article, "while all Americans are covered by laws barring debt collectors from overly aggressive or deceptive tactics, military members and their families are supposed to receive additional consideration, including protection from foreclosure while deployed, tricky high-rate loans and other financial pitfalls." Debt collectors are pretty much disregarding the law to exploit members of the military and their often vulnerable families to line their pockets. Story via The Center for Public Integrity.
  • A study in San Diego reveals something that many of us already know: many full-time jobs are not enough to make a living.  Why is this significant? "Because incomes are low, many families skip child care services and basic repairs to their cars, CPI said, noting that the relatives also “double up” on housing to save money. The local economy also is hurt, researchers said, because families do not have enough money to spend at area businesses." You see, what the "blame the poor" crowd fail to get is that low, exploitation wages not only hurt those stuck in those poor jobs, but it also hurts communities overall. Story via Equal Voice
  • College students and college graduates have been suffering in the bad economy. This is a topic we have discussed before on this blog, but here are more signs:
    • Data shows that the 2008 recession (you know, the one recession that some pundits are saying is over) is hitting college graduates hard. Story via Inside Higher Ed.
    • Another issue affecting millions of students is the exploitative student debt. In fact, progressive groups are being launched to try to help. It will remain to see if something comes out of this other than talking about how bad things are. Story also via Inside Higher Ed.
  • And then the bad economy keeps haunting the young. Sure, the so-called recession is over, yet that housing crash is STILL haunting and preventing young families from getting ahead. According to this article, "the main reason young families' balance-sheet recovery lags is the recent housing crash and its lingering effects. The homeownership rate among younger families has plunged, reflecting both the loss of many homes through foreclosure or other distressed sales and delayed entry into homeownership among newly formed households." Story via the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, with a hat tip to Full Text Reports
  • In addition to the bad economy, we are having a harsh winter this year. That certainly makes things worse for the poor. When things get bad for the poor, they often turn to food pantries. However, food pantries are also suffering under the bad economy.  Story via The Forecaster.
  • Corporations are having a bad time in this economy too. In fact, they are having such a hard time that they can't afford to clean up their own environmental messes, the poor babies.(who are we kidding? Let's end the snark). In what is basically an example of chutzpah, serious white whine, and just being an a bastard asshole, one of Duke Energy's  "coal ash ponds in North Carolina sprung a leak and dumped millions of gallons of highly toxic goop into the Dan River." Being the assholes they are, instead of cleaning their own mess, like our mamas taught most of us, they want the locals to pay for cleaning up the pollution Duke Energy caused, and sadly it is legal for them to do so. Story via Addicting Info.
  • Now, Duke Energy is not the only company suffering in the bad economy and pleading for others to bail it out for their misdeeds. Duke is not the only company that does not give a shit about its community. Chimerix, a pharma company, pleads that it cannot provide a dose of an experimental drug that could save a sick child. The thing is that though the company pleads poverty, that it would cost too much to give the one dose, the fact is the company has given the drug in question to other patients under the compassionate use notion. However, the 7-year old kid is pretty much worthless to them: "But CEO Moch argues that the data provided by those patients helped with the testing and development of the drug. Now there is little left to be learned from giving the drug to more compassionate use patients." At any rate, one kid less does help to decrease the surplus population. Story via Addicting Info.

In the meantime, how are the uber rich doing?

  • Well, they certainly get preferential treatment in politics. A new study confirms, again, what many of us know: if you have money, say for "political contributions,"  your lawmaker will be happy to listen to you.  In essence, the study found that "those with potential donations were five times as likely to get a meeting with someone at the top." Unfortunately for the rest of us, we can't exactly stuff in a big wad of Benjamins in the envelope, call it a "donation," and send it along when we write to our public officials on some issue. For some of us, "democracy" is financially out of reach. Story via 
  • The rich also need to amuse themselves. In addition, given the fear they live in that the poor may some day rise like the poor French on Bastille Day, the wealthy need to be prepared. So, what better to be prepared and entertained that going to the shooting range? But no just go out in a field and shoot some beer cans. Oh no, our "betters" go their luxury gun clubs. This seems to be a new trend among those with money to burn. Story via AlterNet.

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