Friday, April 24, 2015

Signs the Economy is Bad: April 23, 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 since the last post. If you are poor in the U.S, it is a very bad time for you. But some people have done well enough. Let's have a look.

  • If you are in Kansas, and you are poor, they really hate your guts there. They are passing new laws just to make things harder for poor people who may need public assistance. This is basically a statement of how much Americans hate the poor; if the poor saps would hurry it up and die so the rest of the nation do not have to see them, that would be nice. Story via Common Dreams (but it has been in quite a few news outlets).
  • The hate for felons in the U.S. is notorious. Though many preach about rehabilitation for criminals, the reality is those folks and most of the U.S. would love nothing better than to lock them up and toss away the key. It is why when felons get out of jail and try to remake their lives, it is practically impossible for them to find housing, a job, and now, well, no access to food stamps and public assistance if they need it. And then we wonder why so many turn again to a life of crime. Story via AlterNet
  • In New York, they are finally questioning the practice of "on-call scheduling" for workers. If you happen to be in retail or food service, this is the common practice where "employees can wind up spending time, and money, commuting to their job, only to be told to leave early, or that they're not needed at all that day. A sudden call to work can mean scrambling for child care, or turning down much-needed hours. And a constantly shifting schedule can lead to uneven earnings, with income spiking in some months and plummeting in others, making it incredibly difficult to budget." Folks with steady jobs tend to lack sympathy for these folks, but as the old adage goes, there but for the deity of choice go I. Robert Reich goes on to explain why this is basically an insidious way to exploit workers and ruin families all in the name of the might dollar. Stories via City Lab and AlterNet.
  • If you live in a rural area, odds are good you are seeing job losses. Story via The Daily Yonder.
  • And if you are an LGBTQ person of color, economic hardship and poverty are very likely in your future. A new report, "Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT People of Color examines the economic insecurity this group experiences, compared to white LGBT people and non-LGBT people of color." You can read the full report here. Story via The Advocate
  • The plight of college adjunct teachers is back on the news. People in the U.S. love to think that being a professor is all peachy in the Ivory Tower. The reality is that colleges and universities shameless exploit adjuncts to pack those classrooms (unfortunately, it's not like they pass the savings on to students given how tuition keeps rising in cost over time). A new "report [link to report] shows that part-time—adjunct—faculty at colleges and universities are on some form of public assistance at about half the rate of fast-food workers" Story via AlterNet. Think about it: they are worse off than Starbucks baristas, who at least do get health benefits and earn more than a college adjunct that usually has at least a Masters degree if not a doctorate. But hey, it is not all bad, right? ". . . [A]n adjunct from Vermont reports that she’s 'allowed to get free coffee in the dining room before 11 a.m. if she brings her own cup.'” That's right, just pay her in coffee in addition to whatever measly wages you pay. In the end, it boils down to teaching for food. Second story via Common Dreams.
  • Hell, the economy is so bad even one of the guys who cooks for U.S. Senators and Congressmen has to go on public assistance because they don't deign to pay him a living wage. Why would they bother? They outsourced their food service to some company that basically pays exploitation wages to the workers. I used the AlterNet report, but this story has been all over the news. Not that honorable men and women in Congress would have any sense of shame or human decency to do anything about it while they stuff their faces with food that, at the end of the day, we taxpayers pay for. It's so bad the guy finally went on strike. We'll see where that goes. It does boil down to this: "American voters should ask themselves: if presidential candidates won’t help the workers who serve them every day, will they really help the millions of low-wage American workers who they don’t know or see?" I will save you the thinking: the answer is no they won't, and Americans will still be stupid enough to vote for them. There is an election coming up in 2016; we'll see. This other story via Crooks and Liars.
  • Now, people can rag on the poor all they want. They should not, but they do. And they usually do without having any facts or touch with reality. Reality such as the fact that "that 73 percent of people receiving public assistance are members of working families." This is according to "a report from the University of California's Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education released Monday. . ." Again, you can either keep subsidizing rich corporations that refuse to pay living wages and as a result have to keep spending tax money on public assistance, or you can demand said companies pay living wages so those folks do not have to go on public assistance. You cannot have it both ways, and if you choose to subsidize the corporations, then you cannot whine about workers with poverty wages needing public assistance. Story via The Week.
  • Now you know the shit has hit the fan when even McDonald's is having troubles. In their case, it is a combination of the bad economy and the fact that other food places are taking their lunch. Story via Bizmology.
  • In the end, this should go without saying but it clearly needs saying. The poor don't need your moralizing and judgmental bullshit. What they need is a helping hand and a damn living wage so they can lift themselves up. Really, it is that simple. Story via Common Dreams.
  • Or if that article was too complicated for you, allow the Rude Pundit to give you a summary in two paragraphs of what it's like to be poor in American in 2015. If after reading that, you still don't get it, there is no hope for you.
  • Or here, how about you read what some children suffering from poverty have to say in their own words? If this does not move you, may the deity of choice have mercy on whatever passes for a soul for you. Story via Addicting Info.
  • And I have to add one more because this is a long term bad sign. The marriage part we can kind of debate, but the bottom line-- that there will be a big epidemic of people who will get Alzheimer's disease and have no one to care for them when it comes-- is a valid one that should concern us all. Story via Big Think, which includes link to a Psychology Today article on the topic. This also goes along with some points I learned in reading Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (link to my review).

In the end, for this week, I think this summarizes the feeling well:

However, let's not be so pessimistic. As usual, some folks do very well in the bad economy. Granted, it is often at the expense of the poor and the vulnerable, but hey, as any good capitalist will tell you, you have to screw over a lot of people to make a fortune. So let's have a look at who has been doing very well lately:

  • The prison-industrial complex continues to do just fine. Private prison corporations need those jails to stay nice and full so they can make money. So, one way to do that is this: "Private prison companies are spending millions of dollars to lobby the U.S. government for harsher immigration laws that, in turn, spike corporate profits by driving up incarceration levels, a new report from the national social justice organization Grassroots Leadership reveals." Story via Common Dreams. If you are interested, this is the link to the report itself. In addition, poverty continues to be criminalized, and this is good news for private prison corporations as well as predatory judicial collection agencies (aka the vultures that courts lazily outsourced the collections of fines to). Read more on how poverty is being criminalized and fueling mass incarcerations. Story via Abolish Prisons, with a hat tip to Poor as Folk.
  • Unfortunately, in the bad economy, sometimes the uber rich have to suffer a small inconvenience. The Itinerant Librarian apologizes in advance to those rich people who may suffer small indignities in the bad economy. I mean, people rising up to demand better work conditions and wages is usually great. Except when it inconveniences some rich guy. Alec Baldwin sadly suffered such indignity when a workers' protest recently caused a traffic jam in his route. I am sure Mr. Baldwin suffered a serious hardship while being briefly delayed since clearly he was not able to find an alternate route. To a guy worth about $65 million bucks, the little people pleading "in the most measured of ways, for some kind of dignity—some kind of way of life" are just a pain in the ass. Story via AlterNet. Anyhow, we are sure Mr. Baldwin will sleep just fine. 
  • Credit card issuers and companies are doing great as credit card debt continues to grow, and they keep piling on the interest and extra fees. Apparently, Americans are using plastic again a lot (I can't imagine why. I mean, those stagnated wages would not have anything to do with it, would it?). Who else is doing well? The financial service processors. Who the hell are they you ask? Well, for one, they are companies that "make money from merchants on every point-of-sale system installed and every swipe of the plastic, are also banking from the recent credit card binge." And there is more, so read on. Story via Bizmology
  • Medical tourism is also doing well. Given that the American health care system is an embarrassingly expensive boondogle, if you can go overseas to care for some medical basics like dental, knee, or cosmetic surgery, you may as well. After all, even with things like plane tickets, the hotel you may stay in to recuperate before you fly back, it is still a fraction of the cost of the medical procedure in the U.S. Who is gaining from these medical tourists? Latin America and Asia. And these countries are seriously getting into it with strong marketing campaigns in some nations to attract those medical tourists. Story via Bizmology.
  • And while in the U.S., the tobacco industry is getting hit hard by those "health nuts," in China, cigarette sales are doing very well. This is an interesting piece that discusses how the Chinese government runs China National, which is basically bigger than even Philip Morris and is basically a monopoly in China and much of Asia, is doing quite well financially. Story via Bloomberg.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We get by on using plastic. The credit card companies and banks are destroying America. The banks got their bail out and now they just focus on selling their specialized services for the rich and demonize the rest of us for having financial hardship. Big business is as big as it was in the Vanderbuilt era with a well fed and prosperous luxury small class of people and a large population of struggling Americans poor and middle class. Though there is really no middle class at this point.