Friday, April 04, 2014

Signs The Economy is Bad: April 4, 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 quite a few things this week, so let's get on with it.  For openers, there were some "good" news, if you consider the following: "The U.S. added 192K jobs in March and the unemployment rate is 6.7%!" Unfortunately, the bad news is: "The U.S. added only 192K jobs in March and the unemployment rate is still 6.7%." I added the emphasis. Sure, some jobs were added, but a lot of them are crappy McJobs that do not pay much. So yea, we can still say the economy is bad, no matter what some pundits in the Department of Labor may report. This story via Marketplace. Want proof? Read on.

  • Once again, predatory exploitation of college students by lenders is back in the news. I have said it once, and I will say it again: this is the next giant bubble waiting to explode, and when it does, it is going to be ugly. Sure, now they got college graduates gripped nice and tight (can't discharge on bankruptcy, wage garnishments, other forms of harassment that may or not be legal, so on), but the day those people finally say enough is enough, let's just say I would not want to be a banker or lender. The situation really has the makings of a bubble waiting to burst. This may well be what you need to remember: "'Many of these financial and educational institutions do not have student outcomes at the heart of their mission,' says [Rachel] Fishman [policy analyst at the New America Foundation]." Story via AlterNet.
  • The big story this week has to be Walmart finally admitting what we all knew: that their profits depend on poverty. Walmart recently filed their annual report to the SEC as publicly traded companies are required to do. They admit that "changes in taxpayer-funded public assistance programs are also a major threat to their bottom line." There you have it. Not only does Walmart spread poverty wherever it goes by pretty much forcing all competitors out, paying poverty wages, and encouraging its workers to go on welfare programs like SNAP, it also depends on people other than their workers staying poor and getting assistance. This is the first time that the company makes that admission public. The story comes from Common Dreams, and it includes a link to the SEC report if you are interested. In addition, Marion Nestle at Food Politics blog provides more coverage as she asks "Is Walmart the biggest SNAP beneficiary?"
  • By the way, you know what else does not help the U.S. economy? The constant drive to outsource and privatize in the interest of saving a buck, which by the way, really does not save that much and decreases jobs available. No jobs, no money. No money, and people cannot afford to buy things, no matter where they are made. You would think business would grasp that simple idea. Story via AlterNet.
  • Meanwhile, homelessness remains a major problem. And it gets worse when cities are not ready to handle a major explosion in the homeless population, as is the case of Washington D.C. It gets more complicated when it is whole families suffering homelessness. Story via  
  • Of course, in this nation, if the homeless try to help themselves and get a job, what does society do? Why, they put them in jail of course. We recently heard the case of a woman who had a bad dilemma: go to your job interview and leave your kids in the car while you do so, or just not go and stay unemployed. She chose door number one, and The Man decided to toss her in jail in another fine example of criminalizing poverty. The article writer is one of those more than happy to toss her in jail. Was leaving the kids unsupervised a serious issue? Yes. Does it really deserve jail time given the circumstances? No. Cut the woman a break; people like that writer love to say "there are always options," which is debatable at best. You may have options. She may not have had the same options. If you need to punish her, give her a citation, a warning, a fine. Her children are certainly not going to be better off with her in jail. This woman does not need condemnation or judgment from the privileged. She and her children need help. Story via The Root. For me, this falls under, "there but for the grace of [insert your deity of choice here] go I."
  • Going right along with poverty, this nation makes it a hobby to demonize the poor. So, let's do a little debunking of Right Wing nutjob bullshit. Today I want to highlight the following: "Debunkifying the Meme: The Welfare Fridge." Story via Poor as Folk.
  • Then again, many politicians, elected by Right Wing selfish nutjobs, have made it a past time to cut back on safety nets in the interest of "austerity." Because when their guy spends like a drunken sailor on things like unnecessary wars and tax breaks to his rich cronies, that is OK. But when it comes to a little spending to make sure people don't starve, have a roof over their heads, and maybe a job to keep their dignity and make a living, all of a sudden, austerity is the rallying cry. This year historians remember the War on Poverty. Well, the war did not fail; the economy is bad, and those politicos and the idiots who keep electing them (many of them clearly dumb AND poor) have kept making it worse. Story via Equal Voice
  • So why do we need safety nets? Well, don't take my word for it. The mayor of Ithaca, New York speaks on this. He has some experience on the matter seeing as he grew up homeless for a time and poor. He tells how food pantries helped his family and him during their darkest hour.  Story via Poor as Folk.
  • And speaking of bad policies, they are another reason that the U.S. is running low on some basic medicines, including things as basic as IV fluids. How the hell do you run out of something as basic and common as IV fluid? Simple. Basic stuff like that is made by one or two companies, and when one or two stop making it (whether voluntarily or something happened to delay production), stuff runs out. It's what happens with a pharma industry more interested in profits than in the health of the people. After all, stuff like IV fluid is not exactly a money maker. Story via Marketplace.
  • One industry that is still working and making money? Phone sex operators. This did amaze me a bit. I would have thought that with the Internet and more recently the popularity of webcam girls that phone operators would be phasing out I guess that is not the case. According to the article from, "the average earnings of a full-time Phone Sex Operator (PSO) earns around $40,000 per year. However, that amount would be considered pocket change in comparison to the incalculable billions sex-related professions earn each year as a whole." Granted, more money can be made in other parts of sex work, but hey, $40K is not bad if your cost of living is not high. Hell, I made less than that in previous library jobs. Just saying. Do keep in mind many PSO's are part-timers, and they often do have other "more respectable" (to some folks) jobs. 
  • Hell, even celebrities cannot catch a break. Lindsey Lohan apparently is not doing well since in a recent shopping trip she had her credit cards declined. It's tough out there. Story via Radar Online.

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