Friday, July 25, 2014

Signs the economy is bad: July 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 made it to another Friday here at The Itinerant Librarian. We have a small selection of stories this week, including some in higher education. As my four readers know, higher education, for all its ideals, has its little dirty secrets and not-so-secret things. This week we feature a couple of stories from higher education that highlight the not so nice side of the Ivory Tower. In addition, it seems the uber rich have it good this week, as we shall see.

  •  Let's start with a look at the big picture. Truthdig reports on a new United Nations report, the 2014 Human Development Report. According to the article, "almost one-third of all humans are living in poverty, or very close to it." We are talking about 22 billion people. I don't know about you, but that does seem like a lot of people to me. And there is more. It seems more people are at risk of falling back into poverty. You can find the report at this UN page with options to download in various languages.
Now let's see. The uber rich have had some good moments, but they have also faced some very tough moments. And you know the economy is bad when the uber rich have it bad. Let's see how what's been happening in the world of the rich and glamorous.

  •  The uber rich often worry about things like property values. They buy expensive property; they keep fancy houses, and when in the city, they live in high rises. New York City is a very desirable place for the uber rich. Sadly for them, other hoi polloi live in the city, and since living spaces are so scarce and expensive, the city has measures in place to help the not so uber rich. This includes things like rent controls. However, the rich do not particularly appreciate having to share their gorgeous high rises with the common people. So, in places like this, they set up separate entrances to the building so they do not have to see poor people among them (Story via Addicting Info). Imagine the horror of Mrs. Hunting-Wellington St. John arriving in the building to see some plumber using the same entrance. And by the way, the uber rich residents do not want the peons using the pools or the nice spaces and amenities of the building neither. Because you need to keep the masses in their place.
  • Now, as if things weren't bad enough with having to share your fancy condo building with common people, the streets are not much better for the uber rich. It is bad enough they may have to mingle with people, but then there are homeless. Ew ew ew. Those horrible bums not only bring down property values, but they take away from the charm of nice places, and who knows what else they bring. Again, the horror. So, they feel a need to get rid of them, which leads them to work to pass laws to criminalize the homeless (story via PBS Newshour). Yes, being homeless is becoming a crime in more cities, and they could not care less how you got to be homeless.  Oh, and did we mention "a national shortage of shelter beds and housing options is roiling the system." It's tough to be rich with all those homeless people clogging up the streets.
  • Now, speaking of crime, it is commonly known that there are two justice systems in the United States. There is the hard time penitentiary dungeon time for the poor, and there is the cozy club nice detention, or better yet alternative options for the rich. If you are a poor schmuck with a drug problem or alcohol, it's jail for you, you doggone deadbeat trash. Period. However, if you are a rich urban mom, and you get busted, you can choose to get an addiction coach to help you through your "issue." In fact, it seems addiction coach is becoming a new lucrative career path. Story via AlterNet. Because it is tough being rich with a little alcohol problem. I mean, all those temptations. According to the article, "if you’re a celebrity like Lindsay Lohan, a trust-fund baby, or perhaps a Wall Streeter with a problem, your sobriety coach will accompany you to social events, sometimes posing as a yoga teacher or life coach, to keep you from popping a pill or snorting a line. She will pry the drink out of your fingers at weddings and polo matches. She will even move into your house to keep you from falling off the wagon." If you are a poor woman with kids? No coach for you. It's jail, no medical care, and your kids get taken away. 
  • Meanwhile, in higher education, like many other employers, they like paying the least possible for labor. The adjunctification of higher education is a well known phenomenon. For the most part, adjuncts are the bottom of the labor barrel for colleges, and colleges tend to do only the absolute minimum in terms of compensation, facilities, so on. Now, one college is taking doing the absolute minimum when it comes to adjunct hiring. Apparently, it is too much trouble for this one college to hire its own adjuncts. That takes work. Besides, they are temporary workers anyhow, so why not get a temp agency to fill those jobs? Well, in Michigan, a few colleges did just that and outsourced their adjunct hiring to some staffing agency.  Hell, in one college, their faculty union signed onto the deal. You know you are not worth much as faculty when the faculty union, which won't likely take you, is willing to sign a deal to outsource their adjunct brethren's hiring. I guess as long as the "real" faculty do not get outsourced, it's all good. Thing is. . . first they came for the adjuncts, and they did not say anything because they were not adjuncts. Actually some full time faculty there expressed "concern." Story via Inside Higher Ed.
  • Finally, we get the outrageous example of a rich guy out of touch for the week. A well heeled provost decides to write about the hard choices he has to face. The hard choice? In his own words, "my wife and I gave our daughter a choice for her sixteenth birthday. If she wanted, she could have a party or we could go on a family cruise." It goes down hill from there as suddenly he decides to compare college to a cruise ship. I don't need to tell you how bad the out of touch privilege was here. Just read the comments. I usually do not advice that, but this time, many of them are worth it. So while adjuncts starve, as well as many of the college's service workers, the provost is so concerned with making sure his daughter has a nice rich time for her 16th birthday with either a big party or a cruise ship. Must be nice. Story via Inside Higher Ed.

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