Friday, May 15, 2015

Signs the Economy is Bad: May 15, 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.  

After a quiet week or so, we are back with a few new subtle hints that the economy is bad. Let's get rolling:

  • If you are a young black person in the U.S., odds are good you may not be doing good, and if you are a young black male, your life expectancy is not doing very well lately. Well, you may say a college education is a way to maybe help increase said life expectancy. However, if you are a black college student, college debt is specially oppressive for you. Quoted in the story, one college graduate says, ". . . I’m not sure if I had known how difficult it would be to pay off student loans on a public school teacher’s salary, I would have chosen this career." I can certainly relate to that since I too suffer from student loans, and I was a school teacher; I may be a librarian now, but salary-wise, not that much better. As one may often say, if I knew then what I know now. Story via Bill Moyers. 
  • In the end, whatever color you are, it seems that if you are a college graduate, you may not be doing well in the bad economy. According to a recent survey, "Forty-nine percent of students who graduated college in 2013 and 2014 consider themselves underemployed." Story via Inside Higher Ed. And let's not even get started on how bad things may be for you if you just got a library degree and want a job as a librarian. Just find an honest librarian who is not all blinded by ALA's oh so shiny propaganda; they will give you the truth, but that is another story. 
  • If you are a child in a rural area, poverty may be afflicting you. According to a new report, "America’s youngest children have the highest rates of poverty compared to other age groups, and rural kids have the worst rates of poverty compared to all other age or geographic groups." Story via The Daily Yonder.  
  • Now, if you are a child in Kansas in public schools, you may be headed off home early. That is because Republicans there, including their governor, cut funding for schools, so the schools cannot afford to stay open the full day.  Early summer vacation kids. Story via Crooks and Liars. Basically the GOP there wanted to be popular hotshots by cutting the income tax, mostly for the well to do, and naturally, when you cut your source of revenue, you have to make it up somehow, and they chose to do so by cutting school funding. Besides, kids don't need that much schooling anyhow.
  • I think we can consider this story a "canary in the mine" story. According to this story, one in four local banks are vanishing. They are vanishing mostly because giant megabanks are buying them up and out.  Now why the hell should you care, you may ask? Local banks, in addition to creating local jobs, are the ones who often finance and lend money to small businesses in your area as well as provide loans to locals for homes, so on. Large megabanks just do not have very much of a local interest in anything. Sure, they may loan you money (if you are lucky), but a local investment interest, not so much. You could think of it a bit as how Bailey's Building and Loan worked in the film It's a Wonderful Life where Bailey explains "Well, your money's in Joe's house...that's right next to yours. And in the Kennedy House, and Mrs. Macklin's house, and, and a hundred others." Story via Yes! magazine.
  • A few years back, right when the economy was tanking in the Big Recession, there was a story about Cessna, the maker of private aircraft, basically questioning the manhood of big shots if they did not keep or buy a private jet. That was quite a sign the economy is bad. Anyhow, apparently those big shots decided their manhoods were secure enough not be shamed into buying a jet they could not afford given sales of private jets are suffering. Reported this week, Bombardier, another private jet maker, is laying off people. I guess you can pound your chest all you want, but in the end, if your wallet is lighter, oh well, learn to live without your private jet. Story via MacLean's.
  • When manipulating and exploiting the poor for entertainment and profit starts to become the norm, you know the economy is really bad. You also probably know (if you are a decent human being) that society has reached a seriously new low. Let me just use a quote from the article: "CBS has announced a new reality series, The Briefcase, a cruel show on which producers screw with two financially challenged families to squeeze out some ratings in their next attempt to create a reality hit." Allow me to be blunt: how fucked up do you have to be as a human being to come up with this idea and think it is good television? And let me take it further, if you as a viewer think this would make good television, you are beyond fucked up. You make those Romans cheering at the Colosseum look like good samaritans. Story via Reality Blurred
  • You know things are bad when what people ask for as wedding presents has changed. Having a gift registry is just not as practical. Let us be perfectly honest. What many of those couples starting out a life together really need is money. Send them money. Now, a new start up is making that a bit easier. Hey, if I was getting married today, I would probably ask folks to donate money too instead of a china set.  Story via BetaBeat.
  • Now this has to be the most depressing story that came across my feed this week. It is specially depressing for my profession, and a ton of other librarians shared it. Here is the story as the Annoyed Librarian tells about it in her blog: "A public elementary school in Arizona is trying to save the job of the school librarian, or media specialist, or whatever it is they’re called these days. They’re doing it with a 'Go Fund Me' campaign, which is a sorry commentary on contemporary public education." She does include a link to the source story. It is indeed not just a sign of the bad economy; this is just a sad comment on the state of public education and the fact that most people are just unwilling to fund it properly. Because people love to give lip service to public education, until it comes time to pay for it, and then they whine about not wanting to pay taxes, they don't have kids in schools themselves so why should they pay (oh, I don't know, maybe so you do not have illiterate morons ruining the nation you live in?), etc. So yea, now to save school librarians we may need to run startup internet campaigns and hope they are popular enough for people to chip in. 

Well, not everyone is doing bad this week. Some people are, as often the case, doing well in the bad economy. Let's see what the uber rich have been up to:

  • The prison industrial complex continues to do well. As part of the privatization of prisons (aka as politicians selling off jails left and right for a quick buck), there is yet another racket within the racket: prison phone services as "states began signing contracts with private phone companies like AT&T, who, in turn, began charging sky-high rates for phone calls between prisoners and their families." Read the full story over at Truthout.  
  • The NFL may have given up its tax exempt status, but it does not mean they will be losing money. If nothing else, the U.S. Government is more than happy to give them money. This time, the government is buying a lot of advertising space and time to advertise for the armed forces. You know those cute cheerleaders dressed in pseudo military uniforms during halftime or those flyovers as you sing the national anthem at the stadium, or better yet, the tons of recruitment ads you get while watching the game at home? Yes, the NFL is paid for those and more. As the article states, "All this patriotic propaganda- the troop-salutes, the banner ads, even the community service events where troops and NFL teams 'build or re-build' a playground together, come with a price tag. Fourteen NFL teams were paid a total of $5.4 million by the Department of Defense to cover the nationalistic propaganda filling downtime during the games." Read the story for details at AlterNet
  • NFL has also been doing very well in their concessions, specially in New Jersey. In what has to be quite an amazing feat, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was busted after revelations came that he spent $82,000 on snacks at NFL games. Now, granted, he was also buying for friends and cronies, but that is hell of a lot of snacks even at $10 beers. Story via New York Magazine.

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