Friday, July 01, 2016

Signs the Economy is Bad: July 1, 2016 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.  

This week we do have a bit of fuckery, but we also have some amusing news as well. So let's have a look.

  •  A recent survey found that 7 out of 10 Americans agree that the economy is rigged against them. I do not think this is surprising at all. All you have to do is look around and see the signs and evidence. Story via Common Dreams. You can find the report over at Marketplace, which includes a PDF link to the full poll. And that is not all. The poll also found that "moreover, 71 percent said they were afraid of an unexpected medical bill and 53 percent feared being unable to make a mortgage payment. Of renters, 60 percent fear being unable to pay rent." 
  • Student loan debt continues to be a problem, and now it is hitting fields considered to be high earning. So no, it is not just teachers and social workers and artists feeling the oppression. Now lawyers and finance folks are getting the pinch. However, those folks often have a privilege that the rest of us in service professions do not have: high end employers like brokerage houses and big investment banks willing to help pay the loan debts of their high end workers. Story via Good.Is. My advice on this remains the same: do not go to college if you have to take out a loan. No matter what. Either make sure the college gives you a good financial aid package that covers it all with no loans, work extra to pay for it yourself, or just skip college. Being a modern indentured servant or slave to college loans is not worth it. 
  • Naturally, in every exploitation system someone is making money, and this is true in the student loans racket. Here, Wall Street and the U.S. Government are really making out like robber barons on the backs of the college students they often swindled or baited and switched in the process. Think I am being harsh? Read the piece because "today, just about everyone involved in the student loan industry makes money off students – the banks, private investors, even the federal government." Story via Center for Investigative Reporting's Reveal
  • College loan lenders are not the only racketeers out there. Payday loan lenders are probably lower in the scum hierarchy. By some miracle, apparently one of those vultures had a change of heart and decided to "confess" his deeds. Read about Phil Locke, his change of heart, and how he felt like a modern-day gangster. Though let's be honest, he would be worse than a gangster. Story via The Intercept.
  • Meanwhile, in some areas, renters are getting yet another raw deal where their landlords are colluding with local ISPs for internet access. Story via Back Channel.
  • In the world of bookstores, things are not that much better. Barnes and Noble, which for a while has been more of a gift, collectible, and toy shop than an actual bookstore, is now moving to sell beer and wine in its coffee shops. Yep, you read that right. In the near future, you could have a nice cerveza while you sit in the coffee shop perusing some book or magazine. Oh, and it is not just beer. According to the article, "it’s not just going to be random beers in the cafe—they’re going full on table service, with 'shareable, American food.'”I guess they gotta do what they gotta do to avoid going the way of Borders. Story via AlterNet.
  • Meanwhile, in a story that can have a local impact for me, Hastings announced its Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing. They owe money to Diamond, the comics distributor, and to Funko, maker of geek toy statues, the Pop! ones that seem so popular lately. Story via The Outhousers. Now there is a Hastings up in Richmond, KY, which is the "big town" next to Berea, KY, and where pretty much anyone in Berea and surrounding small towns go to shop. The thing about Hastings is that they set up shop in what is known as tertiary markets, i.e. the places in the middle of nowhere that stores like Barnes and Noble would not even consider. So if Hastings does go bust, which looks likely unless they find a buyer, it would mean no bookstore/entertainment options in this area. For the privileged and lucky, you could drive to Lexington, the "big metropolis" in the area for a bookstore, but for the rest of the people who can't, they would be shit out of luck. It is not just the books. Hastings sells comics, collectibles (which in some areas are quite hot now), music, and it is one of the few places that rents movies and video games (no, not everybody has Netflix or Game Fly). Oh, here is another detail: the one here hosts the local Friday Night Magic (as in Magic: the Gathering) league, so that would go out too. And if you do Tarot or other divination, that would go too as they are the only seller of such in this area. There are no new age or witchy shops anywhere near here (keep in mind this is Kentucky, fairly rural, and very religiously repressed. That kind of stuff is not welcomed here really). So if  you are lucky or privileged, it is a bit longer drive or shopping online. If not, you are up the creek. We'll see what happens. 
Finally, this week, we do have a couple of stories from the world of the uber rich:

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