Friday, July 31, 2015

Signs the Economy is Bad: July 31, 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 has been going on in the past two weeks, so let us get on with it. This week let's look at some numbers:

  • More kids are living in poverty now in the U.S. than before the Great Recession. How many more you ask? "Twenty-two percent of American children were living in poverty in 2013 compared with 18 percent in 2008, according to the latest Kids Count Data Book, with poverty rates nearly double among African-Americans and American Indians and problems most severe in South and Southwest."  (Story via Equal Voices).
  • Three in five Americans Have Experienced a Year of Poverty. So, how bad is this? According to the study, "Our results indicate that the occurrence of relative poverty is fairly widespread. Between the ages of 25 and 60, 61.8 percent of the population will experience at least one year of poverty, whereas 42.1 percent will experience extreme poverty. Furthermore, 24.9 percent of the population will encounter five or more years of poverty, and 11.4 percent will experience five or more years of extreme poverty.”(Story via Big Think).
  • Meanwhile, home ownership rates are dropping in the U.S. According to Bloomberg, "it was lowest reading since 1967." Why should you care? Well for one, if you are a renter, as I am, it means your rent is liable to go up and so will rents in your areas as more of those people would would have bought a home can't and end up renting too.
  • And in the world of higher education, one in eight Americans are burdened by student loan debt, including 700,000 seniors. It is basically the curse that never really goes away, and in the end dying may well be the only way to discharge an exploitative onerous student loan debt. According to the story, we are talking about 41 million people. (Story via AlterNet).
  • In fact, overall, 80 percent of Americans have some form of debt, and this debt often spans generations from folks who were born before World War II to the Millennials today. (Story via NPR). 
  • There is an article on 7 ways the porn industry is changing. This caught my eye in part because I do enjoy some porn (sometimes even with the Better Half, and yes, we do strive to buy and be ethical about it), but it also does reflect a bit that the economy is bad. Additionally it reflects the industry has changed for reasons ranging from the Internet to changes in tastes, porn becoming more mainstream, so on. However, there are some things that remain the same. For instance, some older folks still order porn from mail order catalogs. The article argues this is because those older folks just don't want to change, though part of me wonders, you know, if you order the old school way, you are not putting your credit card number on the Internet. Hmm, maybe the old folks are onto something. (Story via AlterNet).
  • "For the two-thirds of Americans over 65 who are expected to need some long-term care, the costs are increasingly beyond reach." Elder care is getting more expensive in the United States, and more people are not able to afford it. It's another time bomb waiting to go off. (Story via Equal Voices).
  • Women are having troubles too. According to the Guttmacher Institute, "Twenty million U.S. women were in need of publicly funded family planning services in 2013, an increase of 5%, or 918,000 women, between 2010 and 2013, according to “Contraceptive Needs and Services, 2013 Update” by Jennifer Frost et al."
  • When it comes to providing grant and aid assistance, foundations and other organizations are seriously shortchanging rural areas. How bad is it? According to this piece at Truthout, "USDA economists analyzed grants from 1,400 of the largest foundations from 2005 to 2010 and concluded just 5.5 to 7.5 percent benefit rural counties, even though 19 percent of Americans live there."  
  • The U.S. government and right wingers in the U.S. love to whine about illegal immigration and how you should not hire illegal immigrants. Now, guess who is one of the largest if not outright the largest employer of undocumented immigrants? Yes, the government through the prison industrial complex.  Of course, that means that they can pay them next to nothing in poverty wages. After all, who are they going to complain to? How badly are these captive workers paid? According to the story from NPR, "the pay for an eight hour shift in a detention center is $1 a day, or roughly 13 cents an hour."
  • In fact, the government exploits immates so badly it even charges them in many cases for their own medical care. Many immates as a result forgo getting needed care because they cannot afford it.  According to The Rural Blog, "At least 38 states authorize the collection of fees—typically $20 or less—from a prisoner for medical services received while incarcerated, Michael Ollove reports for Stateline." Yea. Even in prison the dreaded copays follow you. 
  • In other news, due to the weakening of unions and the rise of other forms of exploiting workers, an underground economy where illegal practices of labor abound, is on the rise.  How bad is it? Well, to give one example, according to this report at Truthout, "in California alone, which boasts the largest economy among the states and the eighth largest in the world, the Employment Development Department estimates that the underground economy employs 15-17 percent of the state's labor force and generates $60 to $140 billion per year in economic productivity. This translates to an annual loss to the state of between $8.5 billion and $28 billion in corporate, personal, and sales and use taxes, money that could otherwise fund education, infrastructure maintenance and expansion, and a variety of social programs."
  • Other times, when the economy is bad, you have to get creative to find employment. Now for some, this entrepreneur may not be popular, but this one woman helps students who have been accused of rape or other sexual bad behaviors get back into college and find a second chance. Naturally, she does charge for her services. She may be one, but it is a business with a lot of potential. Article is certainly worth a look by anyone with an interest in higher education. Story via BuzzFeed.
  • Meanwhile, around the world. Let us be blunt, even though many people think things like child slave labor is appalling, they honestly don't give a shit and go right on to buy that bargain shirt made in some slave labor factory. So, let us look at the picture a bit. Here is a United Kingdom example, via The Telegraph, "there are believed to be as many as 13,000 Vietnamese victims of trafficking and slavery in the UK, along with many thousands more from other countries, with some 3,000 Vietnamese children brought to Britain to work in cannabis farms and nail bars, living in appalling conditions."
  • And in a bit of a ridiculous item of the day, one governor's daughter had it rough in the bad economy, so she came back home and set up her trailer on the governor's mansion's lawn. This was in Oklahoma. Now a lot of people gave them shit over it (OMG, she plugged the trailer home to the house to get her electric, so on, holy shit, we taxpayers are outraged, blah blah). But I bet if it was their own children, they'd be happy to do that, be they government officials or not. Story via Addicting Info
  • Now, not everybody is suffering in the bad economy. The Saudi king recently went on holiday, and he took along an entourage of a 1,000 people. Now there is a job creator for you. (Story via The Telegraph).
  • And some big old ranch in Texas is being sold. Asking price? $725 million. Story via Bloomberg.
  • Heck, even dogs get better treatment in the bad economy. JFK airport is building one seriously luxurious pet terminal. That is right, a pet terminal. So while you sit like cattle in their crappy seats waiting for your delayed flight after being humiliated by the TSA, pets get a luxury pet terminal.  So, how much are they spending on this boondoggle? According to New York magazine, "the entire complex will cost $48 million."

Puerto Rico Special Feature This Week

Cartoon from the Chicago Tribune republished in Marshall Everett, ed., Exciting Experiences in Our Wars with Spain and the Filipinos (Chicago: Book Publishers Union, 1899), p. 326. Cartoon shows Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines knocking at the door of the U.S. Found at LearnNC (

Puerto Rico's financial woes have been in the news (gee, sure took the gringos a while to notice the woes in their colony):

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