Friday, December 05, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad: December 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.  

And we made it through Thanksgiving and that holy of holies day in the United States, also known as Black Friday. So, a week after Black Friday, we get to riff on it a bit. It is already known that this year's Black Friday was a bit more subdued. In our household, we did go take a peek around, although we did so after the rushes were done as we like to sleep in. Yet things seemed a lot more subdued. Sure, a bit of traffic on the roads, but not too bad. More like a normal Sunday. Then again, we just went to bookstores because, let's be honest, we just don't give a hoot about that other stuff people get obsessed over. So, in the end, the news kind of confirmed what we suspected: this year's Black Friday was a lot more subdued. Part of it may have been retailers having "extended" Black Friday sales ranging from a week before to even a month before, and part of it may be that the economy is still bad, so people had less money to shop.

So, let's have a look at our stories this week:

First, the Black Friday stuff: 

  • Now, sure, Black Friday may have been more mellow this year, but we still got an insane person or two, like these ladies who camped out in front a Best Buy 22 days before Black Friday. Because it would not be Black Friday without a couple of crazy people pitching camp in front of a big box store. Story via Addicting Info.
  • The New York Times, along with other outlets, reported that Black Friday sales fell by 11% this year. However, sales were still in the billions, so maybe things are not as bad. Sure, the bad economy may still be pinching a lot of people, but I get the feeling that a good number of people seeking a little escape from their daily misery busted up another credit card or two to appease the gods of consumerism. 
  • New York Magazine blames the lower performance of Black Friday on the bad economy, retail cannibalism, and the Internet. They write that "the depth of the recession and the sluggishness of the early recovery also might be lingering in families’ minds, leading them to hold back on spending even when they have the money to spend." I had a small chuckle over that, the idea that people may actually have money to spend. Sure, gasoline may be cheaper now, adding a little bit of money to people's pockets. However, gas prices may well go up soon enough, and Americans don't quite learn their lessons or put their pennies away if given a chance. I mean, they are buying up SUVs and pickup trucks again. Remember the days of people stuck with a gas guzzling SUV not being able to get rid of it?
  • In the end, Black Friday is a sign the economy is bad, seriously bad. (Story via Truth Out). According to Alan Pyke, quoted in the article, ""for millions of low-income and middle-class families, the day's deals are a necessity not a luxury." Think about that for a moment. How deep into the hole do you have to be that you pray for Black Friday to get deal? You want to know what is really pathetic? In many cases, retailers were repeating their "deals" (via CNN) from last year, not that the so-called deals are really that good overall.  
Other signs the economy is bad:

  •  Walmart is still suffering. I previously commented on a story about how Walmart had it bad, and they decided to cut some health benefits for workers. Well, things are not getting better for the giant behemoth. They are not getting better for their workers neither. So, Walmart was having yet another food drive for its workers (story via Bill Moyers). Meanwhile, according to the report, the Waltons don't really do much in terms of charity when it comes to their charitable foundation. In fact, "according to the report, the Waltons use their family’s foundation primarily to avoid paying their fair share of taxes." Because what is a few starving workers as long as you can keep adding to your obscene wealth at the expense of said workers? 
  • A moment of silence. We remember with nostalgia when shopping at JC Penney's and Sears was a special experience. Now, they are just dead men walking (story via The Stranger). Any of you out there old enough to remember the Sears Wish Book that came out every Christmas season? I bet a few of you as kids went through it and circled or marked what you wanted so your parents could tell Santa and/or the Three Kings (this applicable mostly in Latin America). I do. Heck, a lot of the Star Wars collection I had back in the day was selected from a Wish Book. Well, those days are gone. 
  • How else do we know the economy is bad? We can start asking "How Many Homeless People Will Freeze This Winter?" (Story via Think Progress). Not much more I can say here. The fact we can ask that question, and if you think about it, make it sound like we are gambling, is comment enough on how bad things are.  Last year's polar vortex is bad, and if current conditions are any indication, weather will be bad too this year. 
  • Now you may think if you somehow manage to get into college, maybe you can make things better for yourself. Well, yes and no. In fact, going to college is not what it used to be. Robert Reich explains why college is necessary but gets you nowhere. This is a seriously depressing reading, but it has a lot of insight. Because college may be necessary, but not for the reasons you may think. 

However, not all is bad news. There are some places where things are better, and as usual, the uber rich have it good:

  • OK, I fibbed a little. The uber rich are not doing as well. Turns out they also face a serious inequality gap. There is now a tragic gap between the very uber rich and the seriously obscenely uber rich (Story via The New York Times, with a hat tip to Pharyngula, who gives a great comment on the story).  It's terrible how some of them can no longer afford the high end private jets and yachts. Won't someone think of the uber rich?
  • College football coaches are doing well. At least 27 of them are making more than $3 million a year (Story via Inside Higher Ed). Must be nice. Meanwhile academic programs starve or even need to shut down while tuition keeps rising and becoming less affordable. 
  • Turns out the markets for "murderabilia, the disturbing hobby of collecting artifacts related to murders and those who commit them. . . ", are doing very well.  Story via AlterNet
  • The sex doll market is getting better as well. So, if you are not having good luck finding a good sexual companion, but you still have some needs, good sex doll tech is getting better, so hang in there. This assumes you do have some deep pockets, at least for now. Story via AlterNet.
  • And finally, I previously commented on a story that the uber rich now have a new app to facilitate dating among those with oodles of money. As I wrote previously, "After all, if you are part of the 1%, there are not many others like you out there. So trying to find a suitable and well-off financially mate is kind of a hardship." However, some rich folks, say bankers, may want to enhance that date with a little sex play. Now for people like this, not just any old sex toy would do. Uber rich males are rich, and dang nab it, they demand the very best, even when it comes to cock rings for their manhoods. So, for them, a sex toy company now offers a cock ring exclusively for bankers. And it even comes with matching cuff links. Check out the story via Epiphora (warning, some content there may be NSFW). The question to ask here is, how about the lady bankers? Do they get their own exclusive high end sex toy? 

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