Friday, March 30, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: March 30, 2018 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.

Welcome to a Good Friday edition of "Signs the economy is bad." My workplace today closed due to Good Friday (thank you Christians for the holiday weekend), which gives me a bit more time to blog. In looking over my feeds, turns out I had plenty of stories to do this feature today, so here we go.

  • The big news this week is the Pendejo In Chief imposing tariffs on the Chinese and triggering a trade war. Naturally, the Chinese are not taking it lying down, and they are retaliating. According to the story, "China will impose tariffs on more than 100 products, including a 25 percent tariff on pork, and 15 percent on fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, wine, modified ethanol and American ginseng." Story via The Rural Blog. Many of those tariffs will hurt farmers and people in the rural U.S., which by the way also happen to be the people who overwhelmingly voted for the Pendejo In Chief and the Party of Stupid. So basically they are now getting what they voted for. 
  • And because the Pendejo In Chief can not just piss off the Chinese, he is also pushing for tariffs to the Europeans, and the Europeans are already threatening to strike back too at very American things like Harley Davidson, Levi's jeans, and Kentucky bourbon. Story via The Guardian. Now, the Kentucky bourbon thing strikes right into the heart of U.S. Senator for Kentucky Mitch McConnell, but more importantly it can hit bourbon makers in Kentucky quite seriously. The big corporate brands will probably survive fine since they have diversified big portfolios. But a lot of small bourbon makers have emerged in recent years given bourbon is experiencing good times in the state, and those would be the ones to suffer in a trade war. Not to mention all the tourism they do in Kentucky, such as the Bourbon Trail and the recently implemented KY Bourbon Craft Trail (for small craft distilleries). Those trails and the tourists from in and out of state who travel them bring in a lot of revenue and goodwill to the state. The Better Half and I have done much of the trails (just a few more to go to get the t-shirt), and it is interesting to see and meet people from out of state, sometimes from around the world, who are doing it too. Last thing this state needs is a Party of Stupid hissy fit trade war to fuck it all up. Then again, this state also overwhelmingly and happily voted for the Party of Stupid and the Pendejo In Chief. So, oh well. If bourbon gets too pricey or brands start going bust, I guess time to switch to some other spirit.
  • So, if you are still asking how bad can this tariff stuff get, here are four charts to explain why the Pendejo In Chief's tariffs hurt just about anyone. Via The Conversation.
  • The other big news this week was Remington, the firearms maker, declaring bankruptcy. In the latest, they are getting some "rescue" financing from some banks. Story via Reuters. Overall, for all the fuss, nothing to get excited over. This is Chapter 11, the one where they reorganize. When it becomes Chapter 7 and liquidation, then I will get excited. All this means now is they get refinanced, some people lose ownership, others gain some ownership, and they keep working. One may think it is amazing a gun maker can be in financial trouble in the U.S. where people just worship guns, but the fact is most guns are bought by the same small group of people. According to this article from The Guardian, "Just 3% of American adults own a collective 133m[illion] firearms – half of America’s total gun stock." To provide further perspective on the gun issues in the U.S, Pew Research Center has a look at the demographics.
  • In news of "how much more can we fuck teachers in the U.S.?" turns out that, according to a new report, the Department of Education, schools of education nationally, and also some teachers who really should have read the fine print all combined to screw over a bunch of teachers when their DoE grants became loans that they now have to repay. It is quite the clusterfuck. Story via Inside Higher Education. This is the kind of story that makes me glad I left public school teaching years ago. Why anyone in their right mind would become a public school teacher in the U.S. in these days is beyond me. 
  • In agriculture, turns out farmers get very little money for their crops and products. Who gets most of it? Marketers. "What this tells us is that 80% of the cost of food is accounted for by marketing." You go ahead and ponder that. Story via Food Politics.
  • In other news, some people love to praise the so-called "gig economy" for it being flexible, or offering jobs in specific niches, but it seems the reality is a bit more insidious as it is more and more becoming a modern form of serfdom. Story via AlterNet. Now, I will disclose that I have a close family member of senior age who works in the "gig economy" to supplement and get income in retirement. He has two different gig jobs, one of them is delivering groceries through an app company. He is healthy enough he can drive and do that work, and he enjoys meeting different people, often people his age and older who may not be as healthy so they need their groceries delivered. However, these are not jobs that can really provide a living given often low pay and lack of any benefits. You are at the whim of the company and customers. As I said, it works for him, but at his age and by his admission, he has few needs so gig jobs work well. For other folks needing more, gig jobs are not exactly a good option. Certainly not something to raise a family on. 
  • Meanwhile, speaking of Kentucky and McConnell's "War on Coal," turns out that half of US coal-fired power plants were unprofitable in 2017. Story via The Rural Blog. One of McConnell's bugaboos is that regulations are killing coal. Want to guess what helped keep those power plants open? According to the story, "Plants that didn't make enough money were able to stay open because most were located in areas where rates were determined by regulators rather than market forces." No, it was not the Party of Stupid's vaunted "free market" that kept those plants in business. They needed government help to keep operating or the "free market" would have shut them down. 
  • In higher education news, females still can't get a break. Even when they get high grades, they still can't get a job. What factor does make a difference? Being likable. In fact, according to the story from Inc., "simply put, you're better off being a woman with an average GPA than a woman with a great GPA." 
  • Meanwhile, in news from abroad, finding a job is still tough no matter where you go. In India, recently they had over 25 million people apply for 90,000 railway jobs. Story via Al Jazeera. Kind of reminds me of the librarian shortage myth (discussed here by The Annoyed Librarian) that ALA continues to peddle where hundreds of librarians can be applying for a single job opening in Podunk, USA. 
  • Because once in a while I try to also be helpful to my readers in the bad economy, here are some advice pieces that may be helpful (or just make you realize most people really are assholes): 
    •  So you have been using that one credit card with the travel points, or you have managed to somehow save enough points in some loyalty program to get some free travel. Well, not so fast buckaroo. The plane ticket may be free (maybe, and let's not even go into what kind of plane seating you are getting), but the airlines and travel industry are not about to just let you waltz on and travel for free. No sirree. There are a lot of hidden costs in that "free travel." Story via Wise Bread. As a wise man once said, "TANSTAAFL."
    • You already knew a vast amount of car dealers are shady, unscrupulous, and unethical. So here is just more confirmation. Turns out they pretty much do not give a shit if you can afford a car or not; they will do anything to sell it to you, even if it means getting you into crushing debt. So beware. There may be one or two decent car dealers out there, but you are going to have to look hard to find them. Story via Jalopnik.
    • Want to have a baby? You live in the United States? You may want to reconsider that or maybe go have your baby abroad in a more civilized country where having a child will not drive you into financial disaster. Here are five charts to show you how expensive having a baby can be in the U.S. Story via The Conversation. The Better Half and I got lucky with our one daughter years ago. At the time, I had really good health insurance (the one good thing maybe from my public school days, the district was big enough to have decent insurance), so it covered much, but not all, of the expenses. Daughter was premature, by the way, which adds complications (and costs). Still, we were fortunate. Many others are not.
  • And how are the uber rich doing? In First World Problems, it seems Kim Kardashian is a little miffed at Kanye for his extravagant expenses of bling, private jets, and other gifts (gifts which I am guessing Kim is not getting because otherwise she would not be bitching). According to her, such expenses are bad. Now let us be honest. She does not give a shit about him. He can go fucking broke for all she cares. But in typical Kardashian fashion, “she’s scared to death he’ll drag her down with him because their finances are so intertwined.” Story via Radar Online.
  • Finally in awesome jobs and how do I get that job, learn about a man who spent 15 years collecting rhino semen. Yes, 15 years jacking off male rhinos to get their seed, and it is now finally paying off. It is all in the hopes of saving white rhinos from full extinction. Story via Mother Jones.

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