Friday, September 26, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad: September 26, 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.  

The thing about poverty and the bad economy, along with the other bad things like inequality, is that it is self-inflicted. All this bad stuff we talk about here regularly could be avoided if Americans had the will to be serious, be compassionate, and work on it for the benefit of all. However, instead, Americans actively choose to keep people poor on purpose (story via Yes! Magazine. Article looks at Hedrick Smith's book Who Stole the American Dream, which sounds like one to read). No, you cannot blame it all on the politicians since, after all, Americans are the ones who vote those politicians in. There are solutions (story via Common Dreams), but American have to choose to implement them for the good of all. At the moment, I am not holding my breath on Americans developing a sense of decency all of a sudden.

In the meantime, there is a lot of stuff going on. There are many ways to know the economy is bad, so let's get on with it.  

  • I have been saying to a a while that student debt is the next time bomb. Given its exploitative nature, it may take a while longer to explode, but it will likely be seriously bloody when it does. In fact, it is so bad, it follows even the elderly. Yes, odds are good that if you have college loans, the only way you might ("might" being the keyword) discharge them is when you die. In the meantime, it will follow you right into retirement (assuming you make it that far). It is a rigged game, and it does not favor the student trying to make it through a higher education that gets more expensive consistently. This theme continues to make the news. The best explanation of it in recent days may be John Oliver's take on during his show. It does boil down to national leaders and society at large in the United States just decided to say "fuck it," that education is not important enough to invest in. Stories via TruthDig and Inside Higher Ed.
  • When things get bad, college students need to find ways to make ends meet. One possibility is with textbooks. They are expensive; just ask any college student.  It has gotten so bad that some students just turned to online piracy to get their books cheaper or just plain free. Story via Vocativ, with a hat tip to COED.
  • Now before you go blaming professors for assigning expensive textbooks (though they do deserve some of the blame) or complaining they are overpaid, you may want to consider that the fact is odds are good your college student is taught by an adjunct, especially if they go to a big college or university. And odds are very good that adjunct is on food stamps. Because, in this case, the U.S. and its higher education system just said "fuck it," we are not investing in education let alone paying those educators a living wage. Story via AlterNet.
  • Then again, it is not just college loans and colleges exploiting its labor. You could very well show that colleges DO work you over, and no, this is not a good thing. Some of their practices are downright unethical. Story via Washington Monthly.
  • Now, college graduates with student loans likely have it harder because those loans are pretty much rigged. Unlike other loans, which you could, in extreme cases, discharge in a bankruptcy, college loans do not have such protections. However, things are not that much better for folks who may have debt in the bad economy, say for things like a medical catastrophe (which contrary to what some folks say, can happen to anyone). Debt collectors have gotten more vicious in the ways they collect, including taking your wages and even money right out of your bank,  lawsuits and even getting people put in jail (hey, who says debtors' prisons do not exist anymore?). Stories via ProPublica.
  • So, who else has it bad in this economy? Members of the American armed forces. Now this one does anger me because, for one, I have family who have served and serve actively now in various branches of the services. Two, I happen to think they deserve to be paid a living wage at the least. However, it seems the military members (i.e., mostly the enlisted because we all know the officers are not suffering) and veterans are the new face of poverty in the U.S. But hey, keep putting up cute yellow ribbons and claiming out loud you support the military. I guess for you "supporters," it's perfectly fine if families of military members have to go to a food bank to make ends meet. Story via IVN.
  • OK, so we have mentioned some very obvious signs the economy is bad. But let's say you ignore those? How do you know the economy is bad? Well, for one, a lot of people are not sleeping well. According to this piece from Big Think, "being poor results in sleeping less for a variety of reasons." No, it is not because they are anxious about being poor. Here is a sample reason: "one major factor is public transportation and the fact that conforming to bus schedules can sometimes take hours out of one's sleep schedule each day." Another example I can give from experience: if you work a job in fast food, and your schedule is flexible, meaning you may work days one week, nights the next, so on, that does a serious bad number on the sleep cycle. 
  • If you happen to be a gun worshiper, one of those folks who ran out to buy AR-15s because you thought Obama was taking guns away, you did help keep the firearms economy afloat. They have a very nice boom. However, like all economic bubbles, even that one has burst. Makers of the popular firearm now face a slump due to a glut of the guns, layoffs, and a factory after factory just closing down. Here is what happened: "The firearms market is just like every other market on the planet. It obeys the same laws of economics. By creating a surge in the demand of AR-15’s, the arms manufacturers then created a surge in supply. But this in turn caused a glut, which then sated the demand. Now they are facing a major financial loss, with no real solution in sight." I can't say I am sad about this development. Story via Addicting Info.
  • Even cities are facing difficulties in the bad economy. Tax revenues are down. We have seen the havoc Detroit has suffered, for example. Some cities and states try things like legalizing gambling or the lottery. Others get a bit more creatives. In the case of Kansas, they have decided to have a fire sale. Yes, just like you and me, when things get tight, one way to get some money is to sell off items you own. What do they own? A whole bunch of sex toys, and they are putting them on sale for the best offer. According to the article from The Topeka Capital-Journal, "Kansas state government is on the verge of a financial windfall with the auctioning of thousands of sex toys seized by the revenue department for nonpayment of income, withholding and sales taxes, an official said Wednesday [September 24, 2014]." Even the Rude Pundit was asking if anal beads can save Kansas?

So, how are the uber rich doing and who is still doing well in the bad economy this week? 
  • Now you know things are bad when even the uber rich are crying they are broke. The reality in this is not as bad as it sounds. For the most part, these "rich broke" people are just wealthy people who apparently decided to spend way beyond their means. Why is this first world problem a sign of the bad economy? It's getting reported in the mainstream press. Poor people are rarely seen in the mainstream press;  you will notice I often dig in the alternative press for such coverage. But some pendeja "who made $200,000 a year but managed to amass $300,000 in credit-card debt" gets covered in the regular press, and it becomes a "big deal." I guess they discovered that just because you have money, it does not automatically entitle them to a certain lifestyle. Story via New York Magazine
  • Now, for the uber rich, all these bad news of a bad economy may get them down. It may get them a little depressed. Maybe they want to perk up a bit with some music. And what better way to listen to music than with some speakers in the shape of dictators' heads?  "The speakers come in three sizes. The 10-inch model costs about $1,200 and is appropriate for use with a desktop computer. The largest is the 43-inch model, which runs roughly $39,000 and will instantly become the most attention-getting object of almost any room. . . . " Story via Dangerous Minds
  • Now, for some of those with a bit of money to burn, especially men, if the old ball and chain is getting out of date, they may want to get a newer model. Using one of those dating sites may be an option. However, even that dating site may need a little extra money, so for the men with some dinero who cheat, if they want to delete that profile (and thus clean their tracks), it's an extra $19 bucks or so. It's tough out there in the bad economy.
  • In spite of the recent domestic abuse scandals, the NFL is doing fine. People keep going to the games, buying their merchandise, and overall supporting them. Seeing an NFL team in person is not exactly cheap, especially if you are a Dallas fan. Story via Business Insider
  • Going abroad, the Chinese are doing well. One area of the economy the Chinese are doing well in is making and selling torture devices. In fact, they are doing so well, they are even selling their products to the U.S. Story via The Week, which includes a link to the full Amnesty International report on the topic.
You know, at the end of the day, if you somehow manage to have some money leftover that you could save or invest (as if, but work with me here), things are so bad you may as well let a rodent manage your money. I mean, to be honest, the rat is doing better than most human money managers. Story via New York Magazine.

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