Friday, August 26, 2016

Signs the economy is bad: August 26, 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.  

Here we are on another Friday. It has been a bit of while since the last installment of this series, and a lot of things have piling up on my feed reader that I've wanted to share, so let's get on with it.

  • The Big Fuckery This Week (a new category here at "Signs the Economy is Bad") has to be the company that makes the lifesaving epipens jacking up the price to astronomical levels in what is basically shameless gouging. Meanwhile, their CEO gave herself a nice juicy multi-million dollar raise. Once the company saw the serious backlash, they claimed they would lower the price a bit for some consumers, but that is still not enough. Basically a token gesture to try to appease the rage of the people who are rightly angry at this. However, the CEO basically doubled down in her pseudo-apology. If there is a hell, I hope there is a special room in it for her. Her punishment? To suffer an eternal series of severe and painful allergic reactions while the devil holds an epipen and refuses to give it to her since she will not be able to afford it. After all, you can't take your money with you to the afterlife. Stories via Truth Out, The New York Times, and AlterNet
  • However, epipen price gouging is not the only pharmaceutical fuckery this week. It turns out that insulin prices have been going up through the roof as well forcing patients, especially poor ones, to have to decide between food, rent, and insulin. Stories like this provide the evidence you need to implement a national health care system in the U.S. and to do some seriously tight regulation of the pharma industry, an industry that has clearly proven they could not care less about human lives because what they worship is money and profits. Story via Slate
  • The other big hoopla this past week or so were the Olympics. In my previous installment of "Signs the economy is bad" I mentioned a story of how many of the U.S. athletes had to crowdfund to make it to the Olympics. As if that was not bad enough, it turns out if they win medals, they have to pay taxes on them and any other monies they could receive as a result from, for example, the U.S. Olympic Committee.  So not only do they have to pay to go there because their nation does not have the decency to subsidize them (but they sure get all rah rah when they win), but they also get the IRS to hound them when they come back. Story via Counter Current News
  • One more Olympics story. I am sure folks are familiar with Ryan Lochte and  his lying. As a result he lost his major sponsors who do not want to be associated with his lying and vandalism. However, he has gotten an offer or two for work. For one, a sex company had offered him a deal to help advertise their male toy product. So far, he has not taken that offer. He did get another offer, and he did accept this one, from a cough drop company. I guess when you do petty crime, lie about it, and overall fuck up your reputation and value as a  role model, you can't be too picky about what work you get offered. Stories via AlterNet and The Daily Beast.
  • By the way, cities that host the Olympics often get a seriously raw economic deal. Story via AlterNet.
  • Credit card companies are getting worried. It turns out Millennials are not rushing any time soon to sign up for credit cards. I can't imagine why, but  good for them. Story via The New York Times
  • In higher education news, it turns out that colleges with high endowments, members of the so-called "$500 million club", tend to be the most stingy when it comes to aid to low income students. Why would they? These are basically the grooming grounds of the one percent, and no one really wants the riff raff coming in. Story via Truth Out
  • Across the pond they are finding out that university is not the be all, end all as it turns out that "a quarter of graduates are low earners 10 years after leaving university. . . ".  Story via The Guardian
  • Meanwhile, in election news, businesses are getting worried the crappy elections in the U.S. will hurt them. The two candidates that the two major oligarchic conglomerates political parties managed to puke out like bad hairballs are apparently causing a lot of uncertainty in the markets and the economy, including keeping people from spending. Story via The Washington  Post
  • As if things were not bad enough, there are worries about a restaurant recession. Story via The Washington Post
  • Once again, John Oliver does the job that so-called journalists long ago gave up on. This time he takes on the vultures of the subprime auto loan industry, "an industry that too often tricks vulnerable people into paying far more for a used car than it's actually worth." Story via Mother Jones, which features also the Oliver clip plus a link to more in-depth coverage on  the topic. 
  • In a quest to hopefully spark local economies in  terms of textiles, African nations are telling the West, "we don't want your crappy second hand clothes." Maybe they are also tired  of feeling like the little sibling  getting stuck with older sibling castoffs. Story via Sustainable Brands
  • Yes, phone sex and phone sex operators still exist. One of the traits of this work path is that "while many phone sex operators choose their profession out of personal preference, a picture emerged of an industry with particular appeal to individuals (mainly women) who can’t access the traditional job market." Think for instance, the disabled. An interesting article on a trade that  is often misunderstood or maligned. Story via Priceonomics
  • In education news that I am not sure if they are uplifting or depressing, Whirlpool is donating some washing machines to some public schools so poor children can get their laundry done. This is mostly in some urban schools for now. Read the story and learn more from AlterNet.
  • Turns out Walmart is not just bad for communities because it eliminates local small businesses, exploits its workers, and other reasons. It also turns out they are a crime magnet, and as a result tax local police departments and their resources. Story via Bloomberg
  • The bad economy has even hit the prison system, so bad it has changed the currency structure. Usually, the currency was based on cigarettes. Now, it's ramen noodles. Read the story and learn more.  

And this week, we do have a some news from the world of the uber rich, let's have a look: 

  •  The Playboy Mansion has been sold for $100 million dollars. The catch? Hugh Hefner gets to live in it as tenant pretty much  for the rest of his life. Awkward. Story via Reuters. 
  • Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley and upper California, the uber rich can have their $1000 dinners in the swankiest of restaurants. However, things are  not so  good for the  midlevel restaurants. What does midlevel mean? "Meanwhile, those so-called midlevel restaurants — by which I mean restaurants that cater to the merely loaded — exhibit all the innovative exuberance and anxiety of the tech-employee class for whom money would be abundant if not for the cost of local living." So yea, if you are not way loaded, but just merely loaded, a  night out could be out of your price range. And that  is not  all. The bad economy hits the workers of those restaurants worse given the pay and cost of living gaps. Story via The New York Times
  • And when you are done eating your swanky, $1000 or so meal, you can clean your teeth with a whisky-infused toothpick. Most people can buy a box of toothpicks for 55 cents or so. These toothpicks are 55 cents EACH. Story via Maclean's

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