Thursday, December 15, 2011

Census: Report shows nearly 50% of American people are poor or low-income

QUOTE: Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.
The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families."Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too 'rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty. 

Yet another reason to ignore the statistics put out by the Labor Department each week.  By ignoring those who have exhausted their benefits the unemployment rate magically shrinks.  Hmmm...  I'm curious if anyone believes those Employment press releases anymore?  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

USA TODAY: Home electricity prices skyrocking

QUOTE: High taxes, limits on air-polluting fuels and the expense of maintaining an underground transmission system keep consumer costs high, says ConEd spokesman Chris Olert.

Sadly, the pinch is already on families these days because of the economy and this can only make it worse.  I've noticed that nationwide more people are turning to alternative heat sources (such as wood) in response as heat in the winter is one of the bigger drivers of electricity usage.
All of this of course suggests yet another reason to try to be as independent of the electrical grid as possible, but I've probably beaten that dead horse to death enough on the podcast. :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cops use Predator drone to nab cattle rustlers

QUOTE: Meet the Brossarts, a North Dakota family deemed so dangerous that the local sheriff needed unleashed an unmanned Predator drone to help bring them in.  The Brossart's alleged crime? They wouldn't give back three cows and their calves that wandered onto their 3,000-acre farm this summer.
The same aerial vehicles used by the CIA to track down and assassinate terrorists and militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan are now being deployed by cops to spy on Americans in their own backyards. 

I began writing a book sometime back about a post-collapse scenario, and in that book I used the idea of Predator drones being used to hunt and kill American citizens.  At the time, I thought it was sort of a science-fiction-y idea but you can see it isn't all that far beyond the scope of possibility these days.  Reminds one of the Hunter-Killer robots in Terminator...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Washington Post: Do-It-Yourself Trends a Step Back For Women?

QUOTE: But lately, many women (and a few men) are diving into domesticity with a sense of moral purpose. The homemade jar of jam becomes a symbol of resistance to industrial food and its environment-defiling ways. This view has been brewing for a while, a thick stew of Slow Food and locavorism and DIY brought to a boil by recession and anxiety. Suddenly, learning the old-fashioned skills of our great-grandmothers seems not just fun, but necessary and even virtuous.

QUOTE #2: But Paska’s daily life more closely resembles a 19th-century farm wife’s: soaking beans for stews, feeding her backyard chickens and rabbits, drying herbs, baking bread, keeping bees on her apartment roof. Her frugal, home-based life allowed her to leave a desk job she disliked; she now lives on $1,000 a month earned by teaching classes on DIY urban food production and writing about beekeeping and other pre-industrial skills.

QUOTE #3: A few years ago, her friends thought she was nuts. Now, with the economy stagnating and career disillusionment growing, they all want to imitate her. 

How can "self-empowerment" of this type be a step back for women?  If anything this movement to increase what we would call "self-sufficiency" is one of the best things to happen to women (and families in general) for a long time.
Let's hope it really catches on. 

Central Bank Action Yesterday Merely 'Buys Time' for Europe

QUOTE: Europe's already crippling debt crisis is set to worsen in 2012, when many of the region's governments are forced to refinance huge amounts of debt. According to Ilian Mihov, a professor of Economics at the INSEAD business school, Italy alone will have to roll over 400 billion euros ($538 billion) in 2012, about 20 percent of its total debt. With yields on bonds at 7 to 8 percent, that could be difficult, he added.

It was interesting to see stocks sail ever higher yesterday, which is definitely a good thing in the short term.  However, with such an 'exaggerated' rise comes the potential for an even deeper drop later so I think it behooves everyone to be a bit cautious about these wild swings up and down.  I'm hoping for a strong economic recovery, but keeping an eye on the long-term trends such as the still excessively-high unemployment figures.