Friday, March 20, 2015

Signs the Economy is Bad: March 20, 2015 (March Madness 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.  

AP Photo from The Daily Mail, "Baltimore is Still Poverty-Plagued" 4/10/13

This week, the U.S. national cult tradition known as March Madness started. The highlight this week is how well the NCAA does at the expense of the student athletes it exploits. John Oliver lays it all out for us. (A hat tip to AlterNet). The outright exploitation is pretty shameless, but hey, go on and fill out your brackets, play hooky from work to work out said bracket and watch the games while betting in the work pool, etc. Whoop dee doo!

So what else has been going on this week in the bad economy? Let's have a look.

  • While March Madness is going on, well rural hospitals continue to lose funding and close (story via The Daily Yonder). 
  •  The Census Bureau is also tight on money, so as a result, it is cutting back on data for middle-sized places. They are having to cut back on the American Community Survey (story via The Daily Yonder). Why is this a problem? "The availability of less timely data means being less responsive to real social and economic changes. Small communities competing for grants and program funding will be at a disadvantage if they can’t show the impact of plant closures or national economic downturns. These events will be captured in the data for large cities and metros but data covering a five year period simply isn’t adequate for monitoring change." By the way, this can also affect librarians who need to work with and help others in finding this kind of information.
  • If you are an LGBTQ woman, the likelihood of being poor is much higher (Story via The Advocate).  The report draws on this study.
  • Yet another story on dying shopping malls. Sure, online shopping had a lot to do with it, but it is also a sign of the bad economy. Story via HBS Working Knowledge. Article also includes an excerpt of the book Retail Revolution.
  • And by the way, the NCAA is not the only one blatantly engaging in exploitation of its labor force. McDonald's apparently is doing so poorly that they cannot afford to have a simple first aid kit in its stores. So they were caught telling their employees to put condiments to treat burns. According to the article, "After such accidents occurred, management often lacked first-aid supplies to treat the injuries and instead often told the workers to treat their burns with condiments." Naturally, McDonald's will blame franchise owners and activists (you know, the people who expose them), but in the end, the buck stops back in the corporation that fosters the exploitative culture. "McDonald’s closely monitors all aspects of its franchisees’ operations, but when it comes to health and safety, it looks the other way with a 'wink and a nod', alleges Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fight for $15. 'McDonald’s has the power to protect its employees, but it’s just not doing it,' said Fells."
However, not all is going poorly in the bad economy. We can find a beacon of light or two:

  • Sales of luxury toilet paper are going up. Yea, things may be bad, but people want to wipe their asses with high end toilet paper.  What is luxury paper? It is "anything quilted, lotioned, perfumed or ultra-soft, from two- to four-ply" and sales "climbed to $1.4 billion last year, outpacing all other kinds of toilet paper for the first time in nearly a decade, data from market research firm Euromonitor International show." Story via The Washington Post.
  • And if you are hipster with money to burn and don't want to mingle with the hoi polloi, you can now ride a special fancy commuter bus in San Francisco. Story via City Lab.

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