Friday, March 21, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad: March 21, 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 lot going on this week. Some of the stories seem to be coming back, repetitions of issues and situations that go on to show how bad things really are. In the meantime, it is the month of March, and in the U.S. that means the "March Madness" where otherwise sane people go ga-ga over college athletes dribbling a ball around while their colleges make some bucks in the process (we'll have a story on that today too, don't worry). Plus we have a few other things, so let's get on with it.

  • Let's start with a video clip, in part for our friends who may prefer to have audiovisual. This is also for those folk who think they know who depends on welfare. Follow the link and learn who is dependent on welfare. It may not be who you think. Via Equal Voice.
  • We have spoken on this blog before about college students and poverty. The oblivious and clueless tend to think that all college students have it made by virtue that they go to college. Given that the U.S. is fairly exploitative in its higher education (high tuition rates, low public funding, oppressively exploitative college loan system that pretty much puts graduates into serfdom, lack of jobs upon graduation, so on), one has to be amazed anyone goes to college. We have also written before how many college students, facing poverty conditions, often turn to their local town food banks in search of food (maybe because they have this crazy idea that starving may not be a good thing). Now, colleges are implementing and opening their own food banks on campus. So, instead of funding education adequately (hey, let us be honest, in the U.S., if this society wanted to, we could make college free for all like other more civilized places do. Society just chooses not to because investing in the future of our children is simply not a priority. Fuck them they say), we force colleges to come up with Band-Aid measures to keep their students from going hungry. This has larger consequences for the students and society at large. Story via Common Dreams
  • And speaking of college students and college graduates having the short end of the stick (if they even get a stick). The fact is that the average debt of 25-year olds has grown at least 91% in just the last decade. Oh, someone is making out like bandits: the loan lenders and servicers who keep up this serfdom. Story via AlterNet
  • I have been reading here and there about people who opt out of driving. This can be a mixed signal. It can either refer to rich people in the city who can afford car services or choose mass transit, or it can refer to poor people who "opt" out of driving because even though they need transportation, they really cannot afford that car, and thus their cycle of poverty gets worse (you can't work because you can't get to work, but you can't get to work without a car, so you need to buy a car, but you can't buy it without money from working, but you can't get a job. . . so on). The U.S. has a serious need for mass transportation and better public transportation technology and structure, but again, it's one of those things that whiny Right Wingers and selfish Libertarians scoff at because as long as they got their car, everyone else can go fuck themselves, heaven forbid we all pool resources for the public good. Still, it is worth asking "what can we learn from Millennials who opt out of driving." Not, it is not just hipsters who want to be environmentally sound or privileged people. Story via Grist
  • Meanwhile, Right Winger members of the Party of Stupid figure that the best way to "improve" the bad economy is to go after the poor on welfare by adding humiliation and harassment of drug tests before they can get their assistance. This, to be perfectly honest, is much like those churches that claim to feed the poor, but they make sure those poor listen to the fire and brimstone sermon that condemns them. The thing with this drug testing is that it has consistently proven to be nothing but costly and ineffective. Those are documented facts, but I guess to some people, facts are just inconvenient when it comes to humiliating those who are less than they are. Story via AlterNet.
  • And now, a little bit of humor. Like others out there, I have been to Comic Book Conventions (aka Cons). If you have been to one, you know some people put some serious effort (and even more of a serious amount of money) into getting their cosplay (that is costume play, where they dress up as a character) perfect. Now, not all of us have money trees in our backyards. In some cases, you need to make your cosplay in a way that would make MacGyver proud: with some toilet paper, a towel, and some optimism. Because in the bad economy, for many, even cosplay has to be on a budget. Story via Dangerous Minds
  • Finally, one for higher education where Dr. Myers reminds us that, well,  you get what you pay for, and no, that is not always a good thing. Via Pharyngula

 Now, this week, we also have some stories for the uber rich and those who do have it good.

  • As I mentioned, it is March, and in the U.S., that means "March Madness." As Mother Jones points out, "March Madness is big business. The tournament rakes in $1 billion in ad sales, $771 million in broadcast rights, and a countless amount in office pool payouts that you never win. (Players will make $0, though a select few are compensated in torn nylon.)" Someone is making money, but it certainly is not the players, and it sure as hell is not you and me (unless you are the office pool hotshot who gets the perfect bracket). But what if you set your bracket by other measures, say which one is the richest school or spends more on men's basketball. Well, Mother Jones asked just that
  • And speaking of "March Madness," guess what other business is doing well this time of year? Surgeons who do vasectomies. Apparently, it is a "thing" for some men to time this surgical procedure, which is ambulatory (but you do need some recuperation time), around this season so they can stay home and watch the games. This story actually comes around every time this year; it's one of those "human interest" stories (aka filler stuff) news sources bring out this time of year. What I honestly wonder is why the popularity? After all, you can only do this once. Story via CNN. 
  • Now,  you know the economy is bad when even the rich whine that they need some welfare. Now, some people will go to all sorts of extremes to make themselves appear worthy of assistance that should go to people that actually need it. As this boarding school reminds applicants, no, your country club membership is NOT an indication of financial aid need. Story via The New York Times.

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