Sunday, October 05, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad: October 5, 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.  

This week, a Sunday edition, is a "Special Ebola Edition." Keep reading to find out why. In the meantime, things are still bad as rampant exploitation, poverty, and other issues mark the signs of the bad economy.

  • Now some pundits may be celebrating that "this week, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that there was a statistically significant decline in poverty last year.  It is the first decline since 2006, and just the second since 2000." Now, as we always say in this blog, pundits, what do they know? Not much. It turns out this decline, other than being a statistic, does not reflect the reality that the Average Joes and Janes in the United States face daily. Talk Poverty has a roundup of scholars and activists to give us a precise and solid response to the data. Here is a bit from one of the responses to give you some perspective: "One in every seven women lives in poverty. This is not and cannot be thought of as your grandma’s 'skid row' poverty. This is post-recession, soccer mom poverty. Look at your Facebook friends list and count.  Every seventh (or every one) of those women may be working full-time and still struggling to make ends meet."
  • Another reason that poverty and the bad economy remain problems is that you and I may be working more, but we are being paid less, often a lot less. Need a visual? Mother Jones has it in a nice chart
  • The exploitative system that is the student loan industry is a common topic here at "Signs the Economy is Bad." That system has often kept recent college graduates already suffering in the bad economy in a worse situation. And if things were not bad enough, here is more evidence that death may well be the only way many college graduates may be able to finally rest from the oppression of student debt. According to a story from The Hill, "a new government report has uncovered that seniors are facing yet another barrier to a secure retirement: their student debt. Once thought to be a young person’s issue, new data released by the Government Accountability Office shows that older Americans are also finding themselves buried under the weight of their student loans. The data helps paint a much larger picture of the overall economic insecurity that too many of our country’s seniors face every day." So, as if folks did not have enough problems, for many, retirement is nothing more than a word. 
  • You know what else can toss people into poverty and bad economic conditions? Being gay. According to this report from NBC News, there is "an untold number of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people nationwide who suffer economic distress and in some cases, poverty, as a result of anti-gay laws such as same-sex marriage bans, or from a lack of legal protections, like non-discrimination ordinances, according to a new report by two think tanks, the progressive Center for American Progress and the pro-LGBT Movement Advancement Project."

Now, as we know, in the bad economy, we always have a few vultures who do well. Let's see who has been profiting off the misery of others this week:

  • The Center for Public Integrity has an excellent series of articles on how prisons exploit prisoners and their families. How do they do it? Through banking. If you have a family member in prison, and you have to send them money, get ready to be exploited by the banks that have the contracts to "facilitate" the process. See stories on who makes money of prisoners' families,  how the debit cards slam them with various exorbitant fees,  financial gouging, the no-bid contracts the banks get, and learn a bit how the reporters uncovered much of this racket. 
  • The self-help and advice industries always do well in the bad economy. Telling people how to save money in obvious ways and often condescending ways can be a moneymaker for the scam artists and advice gurus peddling their stuff. A favorite item that they love to tell you as a tip is to cut back on your lattes. However that piece of advice may well just be a big pile of bullshit. Read why here via the New York Magazine. On a side note, if you want to read more good advice from bad people, there is a book for that
  • And in the ebola news we promised, it turns out pharma stocks may start doing well. You see, ebola is one of those diseases that Big Pharma really does not have an incentive to try to cure (there is a statement for not making health care a for profit operation). Here is the explanation: "Ebola lacks many of the characteristics that give private pharmaceutical companies an incentive to invest. It afflicts a small number of people, most of whom are very low-income individuals living in very low-income countries. That means that even if a company did spend the millions or billions of dollars necessary to develop a treatment, it would deliver it only to a limited market with extremely constrained financial resources." Well, with the recent outbreaks, and the possibility the disease might afflict white people in places like the U.S. (the horror), well suddenly Big Pharma may find people who can actually pay for any medication. It works like this: "If American insurers and European governments are going to want to buy Ebola drugs, pharmaceutical companies are going to want to produce them." Read the full article from New York Magazine here.

On a final note, let's see how the uber rich have been doing:

  • Well, many of the uber rich do not have to worry about blending with the hoi polloi when it comes to flying. They have their own jets. However, if the jet is in the shop, they still have options for not mixing with the common masses. They can book a private suite on Singapore Airlines for the bargain price of $23,000.
  • On the other hand, some uber rich have not been doing well in the bad economy. How bad have things gotten? So bad that not even Ben Bernanke can refinance his house. Yea, a little ironic that one of the engineers of the current economic clusterfuck is not a victim of that clusterfuck (though I am sure in the end he will land just fine, unlike millions of other people). Story via Crooks and Liars.
  • And finally, for the uber rich, turns out the economy is so bad even some of them have to use public assistance like WIC. Now, if you need to use the safety net because things are bad, I don't begrudge that. The problem with his asshole politician is he was doing so while earning a six figure salary. Yes, the bastard, a Republican politician (you know, the hypocrites who love to whine about the poor as parasites) was cheating the system meant to help the rest of us. And best part? How do we know? His ex revealed the scheme when he scorned her. Read the details over at Juanita Jean's. This was good to pass up.

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