Friday, April 25, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad: April 25, 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 missed last week. Not for a lack of stories. It was a busy week for me, so we have a bit more this week to make up for it. Among the big stories this week is the fact that the U.S. middle class is falling way behind not only domestically but when compared to other industrialized nations. In addition, the recurring theme of how the poor are exploited constantly continues. All that and more this week.

  • You know there is a bad economy when people can't catch a break. A large number of Americans in the U.S. suffer chronic diseases. As if that was not bad enough, it turns out that a third of those chronic condition sufferers also face food insecurity (link to TruthDig). What is food insecurity you ask? According to this piece, "Food insecurity is a term being used to describe the fact that, according to studies, many Americans can’t afford to pay for the good food or medications they require to stay healthy in the face of diseases such as 'diabetes, asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke, a mental health problem, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.' What’s worse is that food insecurity itself causes plenty of conditions such as anemia, obesity and depression, among others" But what the hell, right? They probably got sick due to scarfing up all those Ho-Ho's, right? They deserve what they got? I am sure right now there is some Right Wing conservative arguing just that, and that's just sad. On the positive, at least some doctors are trying to help out (link to The Atlantic, with the full story).
  • Children also suffer food insecurity. Across the pond, they are reporting that a quarter of teachers have to bring in food (or at least a snack) to feed their own students because the students lack good food. And it gets worse. That problem is not exclusive to the British. Here in the U.S. lack of food security, and often lack of a home, can be an issue for many students in public schools. And if you want more, ask the average public school teacher how much they spend on school supplies for their classrooms because their school districts lack funds to supply said supplies (the usual translation: stingy, whiny parents and community members, usually Right Wingers who love things like "austerity," who bitch and moan about school taxes and thus refuse to fund schools properly, and a few of them then hypocritically send their kids to private schools while they badmouth and want to deprive the public schools of funds). Story via The Independent (UK). 
  • Now when it comes to children suffering food insecurity, the U.S. is notorious for pretty much not giving a shit. Did you know that 1 out of 5 children in the U.S. go hungry?  So what do the elected officials in this nation do? Why, they cut food stamps, and if they are Republicans (which most of these "austerity," a.k.a. heartless wealthy asshats, are), they celebrate it. So, where are all these hungry children? And why are not these people, who often claim to be very Christian, not helping feed the children? I think that guy Jesus had a few things to say about that. Well, according to the story from Addicting Info, "of the top 8 states where children not not adequately receive food, six are Republican states. That comes as no surprise, given the Republicans malice towards feeding hungry children in the last few years. Even less surprising, the report found that the hungriest counties are largely concentrated in the deep south and southeastern United States, with just a little less than 12 percent of the group coming from outside those regions. That means 88% of children that go hungry in this country come from the southern Bible Belt. Just like Jesus would have wanted." Yes. In heavily Christian areas (they do call it the Bible Belt for a reason), letting children starve is what Jesus would have wanted. And they do take their Jesus seriously down there. 
  • And speaking of Jesus, it turns out he needs money. Apparently the economy has been bad even for him. Well, it's more a case that his followers need money (we are talking the Jesus brand ones). It's so bad that they can't even afford tickets to a Duck Dynasty appearance show in Springfield, Missouri, and the show was cancelled due to low ticket sales. Story via Juanita Jean's.
  • Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to go up. This includes the ability to pay for a place to live. Now not everyone can afford a house, so they have to rent. Now, as this guy said, "the rent is too damn high!" Now, Jimmy McMillan was mostly referring to New York City, but it turns out other major cities also have obscenely high rents, and if you have to live in a city (oh I don't know, maybe because you work in one?), this can a problem. It's really bad: "In December, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan declared 'the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has ever known.'” Story via The New York Times.
  • If you want more on cities having too high rental rates, AlterNet highlighted five particularly bad ones. The list is made mostly of the usual suspects. The one that stands out is Williston, North Dakota? Why? Oil boom (plus a few other issues that come along with the boom).
  • So, what options do you have when you can't afford a house, and the rent is too damn high?
  • Now, if you don't have a car, in some places you might take advantage of one of those car sharing programs. Many people say these are wonderful because they help the environment or any other number of noble reasons. The reality is not quite so idea. In reality, a lot of the sharing economy, be it cars, apartments, or other forms of labor, is really driven by desperation. Yes, the sharing economy is a sign that the economy overall is bad. As the author of the New York Magazine article writes, "the sharing economy has succeeded in large part because the real economy has been struggling."  
  • Now let's say by some miracle you still have a couple of bucks to get some Ramen noodles and maybe a can of very generic beef stew (if you are really lucky). You decide to hit the dollar store. However, that could be a bit more difficult. Family Dollar is reporting that it is closing a good number of locations. Story via Equal Voice. You know that the shit has really hit the fan when it comes to the economy when dollar stores are closing due to low demand. What? Was poverty solved? Does everyone now have a decent paying job and can afford to shop in a place like a grocery store? No, not quite. It turns out that things are so bad the poor can't even afford to shop at a dollar store, any dollar store. This is a contrast to a couple of years ago when I highlighted here reports that dollar stores were booming in the bad economy. My, how the mighty have fallen. 
  • Now, let's say you are really up shit's creek. You are in so bad form you feel that the only option is to get one of those payday loans (please don't do it). We have mentioned previously on this blog how those loans are basically a raw deal for borrowers. Well, the Supreme Court of the United States, which has been busy recently doing nice things like dismantling affirmative action (link to The Washington Post) has been also busy finding other ways to screw the poor in order to appease the rich owners of society. How? They are making it easier now for payday lenders to prey on the poor. This story via AlterNet. This was decided in their usual 5 (the white wealthy clueless folk plus the privileged black guy sellout) versus 4 (the women, and the one guy with some empathy) way of decision making.
  • The SCOTUS is not the only one screwing over the common person. Amazon is doing it to their workers as well. Now, the exploitation of their warehouse workers is well-documented. Well it turns out they are also exploiting their delivery drivers. Those are the folks who bring you the stuff you love to order cheaply online from Amazon because, hey, it's nice and convenient and "saves" you money. (Yes, I get the deal about some people who live in the sticks, still, there are other online retailers who have better scruples). What they are doing is hiring "independent contractors" to do the delivery (story from The Huffington Post). Why is this a big deal? "These particular drivers work under a system that shifts the costs associated with employment away from the company and onto the worker. In this arrangement, a busted transmission can be the difference between putting food on the table and being out of a job. That's partly why the service is so cheap for retailers, and, ultimately, for customers as well." So when you get all excited about ordering from Amazon because you got it cheap, you may want to consider just exactly you got it "so cheap." On whose back did you get that package so cheap?
  • And the big story this week: the Middle Class in the U.S. is no longer #1. So, who is doing better? Well, quite a few nations, but the highlight of the story was Canada. Now some whiny Right Wingers who can't stand the idea of something not being "Murrkah #1 Fuck Yea!" will complain that Canadians have "their pockets looted" and keep less of their money because of those big, bad taxes. Let's be honest for a minute. Sure, they pay more in taxes, but look at what they get. They get cool things like universal health care, subsidized child care, better leave options, and a nice social safety net. They also have strong unions to make sure their labor gets taken care of. So, yea, they get value for their money so to speak. Here? Not so much, but I guess for some people as long as they can yell they are #1 (even if they are not) is fine. Story via AlterNet.

However, it has not been all bad. The uber rich have continued their upper climbing, and they have caught some pretty good breaks in the bad economy. For example:

  • Remember the Texan "affluenza" kid?  The spoiled brat got probation and was ordered to get rehab, paid by the parents. Well, it turns out the parents won't even have to pay the full cost of the treatment after all. So even though the little mofo's parents can pay, due to some sliding scale (one has to wonder), they are basically paying "less than two days' worth of treatment." Must be nice to be able to get away with killing four people and not even having to pay fully for the court-ordered rehabilitation therapy that he got in lieu of the tough jail sentence he should have gotten had he not been afflicted with affluenza. Story via The Week.
  • In other news, we know that one of the things the uber rich often like to do is buy valuable and expensive pieces of art. Hey, if you got it, flaunt it, right? However, sometimes they do have to pay some taxes on the purchase if you are shipping it from one state to your state of residence. So, what's a wealthy person who wants to be "fiscally responsible" to do? Why, find a loophole, of course. The loophole of choice? Just lend your art piece to a museum for a while, and then you can ship it back home tax free. That way, you look magnanimous and generous, you get a little plaque saying "this item on loan from the Le Hot Shot Family" to go with the piece while on exhibit, and you can skip on your fair share of taxes unlike the rest of us. Story via The New York Times.
  • And finally, with the weather warming up, a nice cool treat like ice cream sounds like a good idea. Now you and me common folk might go out and get a small cone. We might splurge and go for a sundae if we have a few extra coins we found under the couch (that's a good day right there). However, the uber rich don't get just any sundae. Oh no. Now they can get a $1,000 sundae with champagne sorbet, gold brownies, and a side of "a black steel, white gold, and diamond ring from the jeweler Mauboussin." Story via The Week.

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