The Economy

Sobering Loan, Debt, Savings News; Or, Janet is Yellen at Us Again

We Americans are in dire straits. We need to pay people to find us roommates so that we can afford to live in grossly overpriced apartments on the outskirts of where the jobs are. Student loans are such a crushing financial burden, totaling $1.2 trillion, that an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street called Rolling Jubilee has started urging debtors to organize and fight back.

Americans have an average of about $30,000 worth of student debt, and one in ten borrowers default on their loans. According to Andrew Ross, a Rolling Jubilee board member and professor at New York University, this sizable group of people can make an impact if they act as a unit. … “Debtors often don’t identify their condition as permanent,” Taylor said. Unlike medical debt, which is usually perceived as unavoidable, “people with student loans feel like they made a choice. It’s their problem. They feel shame instead of outrage.” …

The long-term goals, group members say, are to challenge the very existence of student loans in the first place and advocate for free education. “There’s this strong sense in the United States of morality behind debt—that being a good person means paying what you owe,” said Thomas Gokey, 35, who has $67,000 in student loans and came up with the idea of buying portfolios on the secondary market for the collective’s first action back in 2012. “We hope to undermine this fake morality around debt.” Since the debt was bought for pennies on the dollar, he says, people “really don’t owe this debt at all. Someone is simply making a profit.”

The GOP blocked Elizabeth Warren’s student loan bill, again. And now Fed Chair Janet Yellen has some more grim news

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Pros and Cons of “The Uber for Housecleaning”

Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post wrote about the new “Uber for home cleaning” companies like the one I used this week. This one focuses on Homejoy, and smartly discusses a lot of the pros and cons.

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Parent Penalty FOR MOMS ONLY Blah Blah Blah Let’s Talk About Something More Cheerful

Mommies, especially low-income ones, take a hit in the labor market, whereas daddies, especially already privileged ones, reap rewards. You must be as tired of reading this nonsense as I am of writing about it.

Ms. Correll asked participants how much they would pay job applicants if they were employers. Mothers were offered on average $11,000 less than childless women and $13,000 less than fathers. In her research, Ms. Correll found that employers rate fathers as the most desirable employees, followed by childless women, childless men and finally mothers.

Low-income women lost 6 percent in wages per child, two percentage points more than the average. For men, the largest bonuses went to white and Latino men who were highly educated and in professional jobs. The smallest pay bumps went to unmarried African-American men who had less education and had manual labor jobs. “The daddy bonus increases the earnings of men already privileged in the labor market,” Ms. Budig wrote.

GAH SEXISM UNEQUAL OPPORTUNITY OUR CLASSLESS SOCIETY okay I’m out. Only good news now:

Jesse Mecham of YNAB did an AMA.

New Orleans’s economy has seriously bounced back post-Katrina; it reversed a pre-hurricane decline and is now outperforming the country in general.

Here’s what Rupert Giles maybe studied at Watcher / Librarian school.

+ New pizza box will save the world.

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1 Source Of Income: Good. 12 Sources: Better!

I paid two months of COBRA premiums with my winnings from Cash Cab, since I no longer had a job and was able to do things like be on a game show at two in the afternoon on a Monday.

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On Who Pays Writers & Being Really Interested In That $50

n+1 has published one of their Editorials with that smooth, authoritative voice that gets me every time. It Tells Us About The World like a maestro conducting an orchestra of discriminating tab-openers, who nod in time with the paragraph breaks. That all-knowingness, so calm on the surface but you know his eye is twitching from all the drafts and redrafts. Copy of copy of copy of August 2014.

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Festivus Poles, Soup Nazi Soup, & More “Seinfeld” Micro-Economies

Remember a time before “Seinfeld”? Of course you don’t. The show that changed television, according to Matt Zoller Seitz, has rewired our brains so that we cannot reach back to a more innocent time when words like “sponge-worthy” and “anti-dentite” meant something else or perhaps nothing at all. It wasn’t 9/11 that turned all Americans into New Yorkers; it was “Seinfeld.” And not surprisingly, a phenomenon that total had — even continues to have, lo these many years later — its own economy, as helpfully detailed today on Vulture.

Some of the fun facts:

$3.1 billion: The amount the show has generated since entering syndication in 1995.

$400 million: What Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld can each make just from the most recent syndication cycle.

Festivus Poles: The Wagner Companies, a Milwaukee railing company, has owned exclusive rights to make Festivus poles since 2005. It sells a steady 800 per year, at up to $39 apiece.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis changed its calculation of the country’s gross domestic product in 2013, creating a new category that counts long-running shows like Seinfeld as investments (rather than expenses). The tweak adds $70 billion to the GDP of the United States.

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How Americans Think About Fairness and the Economy

There is massive new Pew Research Center poll (185 glorious pdf pages) that dissects the attitudes of Americans on all sorts of things. There is much to mull over, starting with the study’s division of the American populace into eight ideological groups: Solid Liberals (all left all the time; like me, more or less), Steadfast Conservatives (fiscally and socially conservative), Business Conservatives (corporatist, but not so down on gays and immigrants), Young Outsiders (socially liberal Republicans), Hard-Pressed Skeptics (left-leaning, working class, disillusioned), Next-Generation Liberals (like the Solid Liberals, but unconvinced of the need for social programs or anti-discrimination legislation), Faith and Family Left (like the Solid Liberals, but homophobic), and (boringly) Bystanders, who are what they sound like: disengaged and uninformed.

These groups break down mostly as you’d expect (although the right is more polarized than the left). The study is full of charts that show the spread of each group’s opinions across some typical left-right divide, and they all pretty much look like this one:

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It’s a Good Time to Go to Law School? Really?

Slate.com, the website we know & love for its consistently contrarian attitude, has upped its game, declaring that we should once again consider applying to law school. Really! Forget everything you’ve heard over the past five years about how it’s a terrible field to try to break into because there’s a surplus of struggling, desperate wannabes competing for every spot. Read crisis as opportunity.

Here is the key number to keep in mind: 36,000. That is roughly the number of new J.D.s we should expect to graduate in 2016. Getting to that figure is pretty straightforward: In the fall of 2013, 39,700 students enrolled in law school. Given that about 10 percent of each law school class generally drops out, we should expect no more than 36,000 to reach commencement. (I’m actually rounding up the number a bit to be conservative.) In comparison, 46,776 law students graduated in 2013. So we’re talking about a potential 23 percent plunge. With less competition it should be far easier for graduates to find decent work.

As the daughter of two lawyers, the sister to another, and the wife of a fourth, not to mention a friend to countless others, let me assure you, law is hardly “decent work.” You want to spend 80 hours a week protecting the interests of cigarette companies and oil conglomerates? Surely there’s a way to do that without going six figures into debt first.

The Atlantic backs me up with a tart and timely article today subtitled, “For work that doesn’t feel meaningful, become a lawyer.” Slate ignores us both, though, gets all wonky with some data, and concludes that ACTUALLY, despite appearances, we’re back in the rosy Clinton years. (Goody! We have the Bush II years to look forward to!)

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“That’s Not Sharing, It’s Selling.”

Enlighten your capitalism today with the always-incisive Susie Cagle’s illustrated report back from the “Share” conference. It’s so good.

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My Time on the Assembly Line Working Alongside the Robots That Would Replace Us

The small town I grew up in was surrounded by factories and existed for the sole reason of supporting the local paper mill, which employed most of our residents and brought people in from outside cities. In the surrounding areas, there were numerous paper mills and medical supply factories. Everyone in my immediate family worked in a factory at one time or another; some still do.

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