Friday, April 10, 2015

Signs the Economy is Bad: April 10, 2015 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.  

A lot of stuff going on in the last couple of week, so let's get on with it.

  • College basketball was the big story last week with the end of March Madness. University of Kentucky got close, but they did not make it all the way. Still, they did very well overall. Now you would think that this would mean an economic windfall for them. Sure, they will get a good chunk of money, but they also stand to lose quite a bit of it. Turns out their loss to Wisconsin will lose them a few bucks in royalties from merchandising, but it is the retailers who sell all those "we are champions, blah blah" tee shirts who are really going to lose money. That and a whole lot of Third World countries will be getting new shipments of tee shirts and other clothing merchandise no one here wants.  Story via ESPN.
  • If you are poor, having a smile is getting harder. No, it is not that being poor gives you less reasons to smile. It's that access to affordable dental care is much worse if you happen to be poor. Dentists are not exactly known to be affordable for starters. Unlike other doctors, whose costs are (somewhat) reigned in by HMOs and insurance, dentists rarely have such restraints, and their charges can be quite astronomical for things as simple as a cleaning. People often put off going to the dentist precisely because they are so expensive, and it seems the dental profession has no interest in addressing that. I mean, why mess with the gravy train, right? Now, why is this a story now? Well, when it was just the poor, as usual, no one gave a shit. But now that it is affecting the middle class, it is becoming a problem. Story via AlterNet.
  • We are getting to that wonderful time of the year: tax season. If you are getting a refund on your taxes, you probably want it soon. The predators of those tax preparer services know that as well, which is why they invented things like advances on your refund, and other fees to separate you from your money. Low income families who may be a bit desperate are most vulnerable to this exploitation. Story via Equal Voice.
  • And in the U.S., since humiliating the poor in every way possible is the national hobby, the poor can't catch a break. Not only are debtors' prisons alive and well for people. They are alive and well for their dogs too. You lose  your dog, and the pound gets it, you are screwed when they blackmail you: pay up our outrageous fee, or we kill your dog. "Across the country, some animal control agencies seem to be targeting low-income pet owners and applying large fines to small infractions." Story via AlterNet
  • And speaking of debtors' prisons, at least a small bit of good news as one of those vulture companies that "collect" fees for courts was recently charged with racketeering. Not a full solution, but it is certainly a good start.  Story via Mother Jones
  • And speaking of rackets, a lot of municipalities are using traffic tickets to help add funds to their budgets. Yea, cops very often do have quotas. Catch the clip and hear John Oliver explain how cities exploit the poor with citations and tickets to make their ends meet.  As the story reports, "municipal violations most often involve traffic tickets and parking tickets, but can also include fines for things like loitering, trespassing, 'failing to vaccinate your ferret,' peeing in public (despite a woeful lack of public restrooms in many places), spitting, and jaywalking." Story via Addicting Info.
  • Given the bad economy, raising your own food be it via a modest garden or maybe raising your own chickens for eggs and meat seems like a great idea. But if you live in a city, that could be a challenge. If you want chickens, you may not be able to afford or find the space to keep chickens. Well, if you can't afford your own chickens, here is a service where you can rent the chickens, coop and feed included. Story via Good.IS. 
  • And speaking of food, this may be of interest to some folks. A new report out by the Economic Research Service on "The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2014 Annual Report." Find the link to the full report here via Full Text Reports
  • In the end, we the average folks and the poor may be screwed overall as the uber rich keep buying off influence and power. They already own the politicians, and now they are also buying off churches and non-profits (the ones who could have helped counter their oligarchy). Robert Reich explains how. Story via AlterNet.

On the positive, some people have had it real good recently. And not all were rich. It turns out if you are hateful, bigoted asshole, and you announce it to the world, people will actually send you money. So, how did the uber rich and the bigots do this week?

  • The highlight of the week is what I mentioned: be a bigot, announce it to the world with joy, and people send you money. Yes, that petty small town pizza maker in Indiana who announced she would discriminate against gays got paid not to work. And you thought government farm subsidies were bad. For me, that says more about the people who sent her the money than her. There is a lot of bigots out there.  Story via Addicting Info (though I think by now, the funding has gotten higher than that report as of this post).
  • Now hate and conflict not only pays for bigots. It also pays for large weapons suppliers. Hell, they are pretty shameless about admitting it: yes, war is very good for business. Fuck, you don't even need a real war. Just the threat or perception that war could come is great for business. Story via AlterNet.
  • Do you live in New York City? Are you rich? Do you need to get around in luxury without having to mingle with the hoi polloi? Well, if you own a yacht or a plane, the city will be happy to give you a tax break. Because we all know they so desperately need a tax break. Story via Daily Intelligencer.
  • And if you need to ride a helicopter to get around, well there is a nice helipad under the FDR in New York City. Plus, since waiting for your helicopter ride can be harrowing, the place even has its own speakeasy so you can sip on a martini while you wait. Story via
  • Finally, let's say you want to get out of the city. Maybe you feel like "roughing it a bit and going camping? Not a problem. Now if you have money to burn, you can buy a very nice and fancy hybrid yacht-camper. It only starts at $17,000, so what are you waiting for? Story via The Week.

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