Friday, June 01, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: June 1, 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.

This week we have some alleged good news as news sources report the job numbers, a.k.a. the unemployment rate is better (NPR article). However, do not be fooled. You need to look at the broader picture:
  1. The unemployment rate is based on a government survey where they sample the population, about 60,000 households to get a measurement (you can get the full explanation of how the government measures it here). It is better than the common assumption that they just measure unemployment claims (I had to look this up to verify it, and thus learned about the sampling survey). 
  2. The news accounts are also mentioning job numbers are up. However, if you look closely, a lot of those jobs are gig economy jobs or  McJobs, i.e. precarious, variable, and not stable, not to mention the pay is not that good.
  3. A lot of this was trending since before 2016, but the Pendejo In Chief will happily take the credit for it. 
  4. To learn more, FiveThirtyEight also takes a look at the May jobs report and puts it in context
So overall, some stuff sounds nice, but it is far from the rosy picture a lot of the media is pushing. Meanwhile, the rest of the economy is still bad. Let's have a look:

  • If the Pendejo In Chief's plans to launch a tariffs war on aluminum and steel with Mexico, Canada, and the European Union happens, the economy is probably going to go from bad to even more bad. Story via NPR.
  • A lot of rural areas that had coal mines still live under the delusion that somehow coal will come back with all those wonderful jobs and suddenly destitution will end. Kentucky, fueled by their U.S. senators rhetoric of "War on Coal" is a prime example. But the reality is that the coal industry is dying; it is not coming back, and it is leaving devastated communities scrambling to find ways  to cope and move forward. Story via Mother Jones.
  • One option for a few places could be allowing the cultivation of hemp (not to be confused with  the marijuana plant you can smoke, though legalizing that too may be good, but I digress).  Story via Pacific Standard
  • Recycling is the kind of thing that often makes people feel good. However, people often have  no idea where their recycled products end up. Well, a lot of it went to China, who was very happy to buy up a lot of the  things Americans toss in the recycling bin. Now China is on an anti-pollution campaign, and they are a lot more selective about the recyclable trash they buy, often just opting for not buying anything. This is creating problems domestically as suddenly all the feel good, beautiful recycling trash is headed to dumpsters. Story via The New York Times.
  • That line about use education to end poverty? Not quite true given poverty can be extremely persistent. However, one small community college in Texas is trying to help out. Story via The Atlantic.
  • And speaking of poverty, did you know it is rising faster  in the suburbs? Story via The Conversation
  • Meanwhile, in health insurance fuckery. You often see ads on TV for various drugs, and they often advertise "if you can't afford your medication, our company may help." Well, turns out if the pharma company does  help you, your insurance may jack up your co-pays. It is just plain fuckery. Story via NPR.
  • In Millennials' news, this article argues that Millennials are worse off than Gen-X'ers. No, the avocado toast nor the recession are the main reasons why that is so. For one, things are a heck of a lot more expensive now, and wages have been and remain stagnant. Story via Inc. That is not to say GenX is doing better. I can attest we are not.
  • Meanwhile, back in the U.S. colony, Puerto Rico's public schools are still in crisis. 167 schools closed a year ago before Hurricane Maria, due to the bad economy and austerity. This year, 265 more schools are slated for closure. Story via The New York Times
  • The Rural Blog laments that many rural places are losing their community newspapers. This may be an issue in many places, but I can tell you, if those local community papers are anything like the weekly rag we get where I live, if that paper closes down, it would not be much of a loss at all. It's not like they cover much of anything here; they have a pretty clear political bias (conservative mostly, especially the owner), and the rest of the rag is mainly local advertising. If it closed down tomorrow, no one would miss it. 
So, how are the uber rich doing this week? Plus some other odd fuckery news:

  • And while that little college in Texas is working to tackle poverty among its students and community, in Vanderbilt, their chancellor is definitely part of the uber rich as the school lavishes him with a $4.3 million dollars compensation package. Story via Inside Higher Ed. Must be nice. My father was asking me the other day if  I ever had any interest in moving up and working in college administration, where pay would be more. I said I liked my  job fine, and I  did not want to do that kind of move as it would take me away from what I love. Then again, after seeing the example of that Vanderbilt guy and some other higher ups, I am wondering if I am in the wrong line of work. Just saying.
  • Keurig Coffee Company, the maker of those single cup coffee makers for lazy rich people that  use environmentally unfriendly pods, is laying off people in Vermont. Story via Lexington Herald Leader. Don't worry, they are still operating, so you can still get your pods for your fancy single coffee cup. 
  • I have mentioned before that, as both a reviewer and a librarian, I do not trust most online reviews, especially when it comes to books. More often than not, reviews posted on sites ranging from Amazon to Yelp can easily be gamed, and those site owners mostly let it slide. Well, turns out that fake reviews may be here to stay, and they are becoming the cost of doing business. So much for integrity. This is why you often see rinky dink authors reviewing their own works, or getting their friends and family to post positive reviews to inflate their product as well as other fake review forms. Story via Boing Boing.
  • And speaking of cheating, turns out that according to Hasbro, at least 50% of Monopoly players cheat. So, they just figured they would make the best of it, and they created a Cheater's Edition of Monopoly. Again, so much  for integrity. Story via
  • Finally for this week, Starbucks is trying to  do  some damage control on their image of being racist and elitist establishments. One way they are doing that is by declaring that their bathrooms are open to everyone and anyone, whether they buy something or  not. You need to pee? Go right in and use their bathroom. However, this new measure is upsetting the uber rich who are now terrified that homeless people, you know, dirty unwashed masses, might use the restroom in their Starbucks. The horror. Just ask Megyn Kelly, who is scared and clutching her pearls at the idea the hoi polloi might enter Starbucks while she is there sipping her overpriced latte. Story via The Week

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