Friday, September 12, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad; September 12, 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.  
Bread line, NYC, 1932. From

Let's get on with it for this week.

  • So far, it has not been a good year for American workers as they have seen their wages dropping in the first half of 2014. There is a reason why fast food workers are going on strike in various places. There is reason your buck is just not giving you much bang. "According to new research by the Economic Policy Institute, real hourly wages declined for almost everybody in the U.S. workforce in the first half of 2014. Thanks, so-called recovery." When the pundits say everything is OK, you better check your wallet. Story via AlterNet.  
  • I have said it before: the student loan crisis is the next time bomb. It is a slow one, but when it blows up, it will not be pretty. The folks at Bizmology do not see it as a big threat as the mortgage crisis. They write "however, it does represent a significant risk to consumers’ spending, balance sheets, and their contribution to the acceleration in growth. For example, students burdened by debt are much more likely to postpone purchases of houses, curtailing the number of much-needed first-time homebuyers that could reignite the housing market recovery." One does have to keep in mind that some homeowners did have some bailout options or breaks (albeit little and not everyone), but that may have been better than what many college students who may well be "underwater" (unemployed, underemployed, disabled, so on) may get. And bad comes to worse, homeowners could always declare bankruptcy and likely keep their house. Former college students get none of that since college loans cannot be discharged by bankruptcy, and they (lenders) can do things like garnish wages, tax refunds, and other earnings. It truly brings in questions such as the value of a higher education and whether even young people today may have a future or not, let alone an ability to help lift up the bad economy. 
  • Meanwhile, Mother Jones highlights how tuition and fees for college have increased 1,112 percent since 1978 (yes, you read that number right). And that is not all. They also point out how student debt is outpacing all other debt in the nation. That seems to me a bigger deal than the mellow outlook from the Bizmology folks. Add to this the previous story of wages actually going down, and I think the trouble speaks for itself.
  • Students head back to school this month, and Robert Reich explains how they head into greater income and social inequality and disparity. In this piece, Reich reminds me of some of Jonathan Kozol's writings. They both share this idea in common; Reich writes, "
    Money isn’t everything, obviously. But how can we pretend it doesn’t count? Money buys the most experienced teachers, less-crowded classrooms, high-quality teaching materials, and after-school programs. Yet we seem to be doing everything except getting more money to the schools that most need it." 
  • Meanwhile, Texans love to brag about how the recession passed them by and their Texas miracle. However, the so-called miracle is nothing more than a mirage as the state leads in things like poverty, high teen pregnancies, and poor (but well armed) schools.  The so-called miracle has often left people choosing between rent and electricity. Read all about it here at the Texas Tribune
  • Who else suffers in the bad economy? Military families. Via The Nation, a new report from Feeding America finds that 620,000 U.S. military families rely on food banks to make ends meet (article includes link to the Feeding America report).  Because, as I have said before, the U.S. is real good about sending soldiers overseas and doing nation building, but heaven forbid it properly takes care of its own soldiers and their families.  
  • Very often, in the bad economy, people have to get creative to make ends meet. Via Yes! Magazine, read about a group of women who have set up bartering economies to help each other out.
  • In the bad economy, some things you have to let go. Many people like making bucket lists (having nothing to do with that ice bucket thing), but let's be honest. For many of us, when it comes to a bucket list, we may as well say fuck it. I mean, why feel bad if you can't even afford the bucket? Having said that, it does not mean you stop trying for the little things. Story via AlterNet.
Now, some are making out like bandits in the new economy. Let's have a look at how the uber rich are doing this week: 
  • If you happen to be a military "contractor" or one of those shady special ops who do the outsourced work of the U.S., odds are good you may be doing better. Because the U.S. may pay a pittance to its own soldiers, but "the U.S. government is paying private contractors billions of dollars to support secretive military units with drones, surveillance technology, and 'psychological operations,' according to new research." Story via The Intercept. Story includes link to the report that notes this and more.
  • If you are a lobbyist, you are certainly a member of the uber rich. The Center for Public Integrity takes a look at "How Much Money Can a Lobbyist Make?"

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