Friday, May 02, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad: May 2, 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. 

As I type this week, I reflect upon the fact that my college celebrates its 2014 commencement this weekend, I think about the hopes and aspirations of our graduates. Then I think of the challenges they will face in the tough economy and market out there. I will be keeping good thoughts for them as they go forth into the world. This week, our topics include college adjuncts, burger flipping and terrorists. So, let's get on with it.

  • The plight of a McDonald's worker (or any fast food worker for that matter) is pretty well known. Working for Mickey D's is not easy for a parent trying to provide for a child. This is why many fast food workers are uniting now and fighting to get an increase in their wages. Story via AlterNet.
  • Unfortunately, you may as well get used to crappy low-paying McJobs given that those are the jobs that are being created. When the politicos all pat themselves on the back about jobs being created, the question I always ask is if they are good paying jobs. Well, right, and for the foreseeable future the answer is no. Story via The New York Times. A hat tip to The Stranger's Slog.
  • And by the way, those workers have to live someplace. Well, I would think they have to live someplace other than under a bridge. However, even renting a simple one-bedroom apartment is a significant challenge. According to recent reports, "No single county in America has a one-bedroom housing wage below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 (several counties in Arkansas come in at $7.98)." So there you have it. For the most part, minimum wage will not even get you a roof over your head. Story via TruthDig
  • Next, poor workers have to eat. If by some miracle they manage to have some money left over, or more likely get some food assistance, they have to go shop for groceries. For many of these workers, it is already shameful enough have to swallow their pride and ask for government assistance to feed their families because their employers are exploitative misers who could not care less about their workers that produce the employers' fortunes. Now, on top of that, there are judgmental assholes in grocery stores, cashiers and customers (who may be a bit better off), exercising their judgmental morality and trying to tell poor people what they can and can't buy. Story via AlterNet. In fact, this has received additional coverage over at The Onion where they are "reporting" on "Woman A Leading Authority On What Shouldn't Be In Poor People's Grocery Carts." This is a case where the "satire" is actually way too close to reality. My advice to you all judgmental assholes? Quit it, or at least keep it to yourself. Because unless you are part of the 1%, you may well be the one on food assistance soon enough. 
  •  In other news, the plight of the college adjunct faculty member makes it once again here in our blog. The Atlantic has a piece on how adjuncts are trying to organize to get better working conditions. How bad are things for some adjuncts you ask? Here is an example: "Mary-Faith Cerasoli has been reduced to “sleeping in her car, showering at college athletic centers and applying for food stamps. . . " Let's be blunt: faculty adjuncts are pretty much the McWorkers of academia, and they get treated just about the same by their campuses.

On the other hand, as often is the case, some people DO have it good in the bad economy (often because of how they exploit everyone else). Let's see how the uber rich have been doing:

  • Now, we know that most companies pay their workers poverty wages. Let us be honest. If they could get away with not paying a minimum wage, they would do it in a heartbeat. Oh wait. It turns out in some places, employers can and do pay a hell of a lot less and minimum wage, and it is completely legal. Where is this employer utopia you ask? Why, in the prison system. There is a boom in prison labor. According to researchers, “All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day." Story via Poor as Folk. And given that things like debtor's prisons are rising (see here, right here, and over here), a topic we have discussed previously, a lot of poor folk may end up feeding the prison labor system so corporations can make their wealth in this most exploitative and immoral way.
  • Walmart and Walgreens are doing fine, at least in Puerto Rico. There are more Walmarts and Walgreens per square mile in the island than anywhere else in the U.S. No, it is not because Puerto Ricans have more money or desire to shop there necessarily. It is a case of "an expansion that has not been able to be controlled by the state agency that regulates monopolistic entrepreneurial practices." Highlight via Global Voices. The full report (in Spanish) from Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism is here. In other words, as the wealthy and big corporations often do, they are skirting the law
  • In addition, things are not so bad. Sure, big oil companies cause major oil spills and seriously fuck up the environment and the local economies where the spills happened. However, think positive here. Oil spills create jobs. No, I am not making that up. Some asshole energy company executive suggested that "spill response and clean-up creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and clean-up service providers." Environment? Who needs that stuff, right? Story found at Esquire.
  • Who else is doing well in the bad economy? The security and counter terrorism industry. In fact, they recently had one of their trade shows to highlight the many things you can buy in their industry. Did you know that this industry is "
    £3.5 billion industry in the U.K. alone?" Yes, it does pay to live off stoking people's fears. So go on over and stock up on "non-lethal grenades, bombs, tear gas and all kinds of things that explode." Story via BuzzFeed.
  • And what are politicians doing? Why they are doing the usual; they are padding the pockets of their rich contributors while ignoring their constituents and making life hell for the working poor. In fact, if you happen to be in a certain Texas Congressional District, and you are on "the list" of the Congressman, he might lavish you with some nice presents around Christmas including Godiva chocolates and nice hams.  In fact, the Republican Congressman is so generous that he even sent a ham to his tea bagger party rival. Story via Addicting Info. The Itinerant Librarian has to make do with chocolates on sale after a holiday like Valentine's Day and generic sliced ham from the grocery store. Must be nice for some people. Story via Addicting Info.

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