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All signs point to economic slump

| Wednesday, July 9, 2008

National Public Radio recently issued a report of eight signs that show the U.S. economy is faltering.

The results were illuminating and somewhat unexpected -- who'd have thought, for example, that a 20 percent to 40 percent decline in foot traffic at Nevada's 28 legal brothels would spell doom for our economic future?

The report didn't pause at the cathouse door, either. Other, more expected signs of an economic slowdown were a leveling off in charitable giving and a reduction in the use of school buses by districts hoping to save money. There's also been a nationwide run on bicycles and motorized scooters as more people are finding the cost of gas too much to handle.

But for some odd reason, Americans go to the movies more frequently when they're out of cash, a trend that's being reported by the National Association of Theater Owners.

NPR reported that 935 trucking companies went bust during the first quarter of the 2008, up from 385 in the same quarter of 2007. Those companies were driven -- no pun intended -- out of business by skyrocketing fuel costs.

We Pittsburghers don't need to hear about nationwide trends to know the economy is flat-lining. Evidence of a downturn in cash flow is never hard to find in our town, where many of us never noticed an end to the last period of red ink that started with the fall of the steel industry.

So if you hadn't noticed, here are The Top 10 Ways Pittsburghers Know The Economy's Gone Sour:

1. Your jitney driver asks for payment in advance so he can put gas in the tank.

2. People in Strip District nightclubs are seen snorting their cocaine through $1 bills instead of $50s.

3. Lincoln-Larimer's Crips and Bloods gangs resort to walk-by shootings.

4. Several $300,000 Downtown condos offer rental programs to government-subsidized Section 8 recipients.

5. WPXI's Chopper 11 is no longer a helicopter but a customized 1978 Harley-Davidson on loan from the Pagans.

6. Double-wide trailers located along low-lying riverbanks are featured properties in Howard Hanna's "Showcase of Homes."

7. People who aren't poor, black or elderly begin riding Port Authority buses.

8. Strippers at the city's gentlemen's clubs begin appearing onstage with change-making machines.

9. The guy who just hit you up for spare change was the real estate agent for your McMansion in Cranberry a couple years ago.

10. Attorney Edgar Snyder now chases ambulances on a Schwinn.

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