The Beginning Of The End
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11-Year-Old Girl BANNED From Selling Cupcakes By Control Freak Government Bureaucrats

Marble Cupcakes - Photo by F_A from Ostwestfalen, GermanyAmerica is being suffocated to death by red tape.  You are about to read about an 11-year-old girl in Illinois that had her cupcake business brutally shut down by government bureaucrats.  Her name is Chloe Stirling and her crime was doing something that we used to applaud young people in America for doing.  Instead of sitting on her sofa and watching television all day, she actually started her own business.  And it turned out there her little business started thriving.  In fact, it started doing so well that a local newspaper took notice of it.  Well, that is when the control freaks swooped in and took her business away and banned her from selling any more cupcakes.  The really sad thing is that people are being paid to do this with our tax dollars.  All over America, little entrepreneurs are having their lemonade stands shut down and are being banned from selling Girl Scout cookies, and our tax dollars are paying the people that are doing it.  As I wrote about earlier this month, the level of economic freedom in the United States is at an all-time low, and it gets worse with each passing year.  The country that so many of us love is dying, and it is being replaced with something that I like to call “the USSA”.

In the Union of Soviet Socialist Americans, you have to have a government “license” or “permit” to do just about anything.  If the government does not give you permission, you can get into a whole lot of trouble.

Little 11-year-old Chloe Stirling must have thought that this was still the nation that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson once founded, because she dared to actually start a business and sell cupcakes to the public.  Little did she know that she would soon make national news

An 11-year-old girl from Illinois got a dose of regulation American-style this week when local government officials shut down her cupcake business.

Chloe Stirling, from Troy, got the front-page treatment from her local newspaper, which featured how well her business, Hey, Cupcake, was doing. By all accounts, it was a successful little enterprise. Chloe was getting $10 for a dozen cupcakes and $2 for each specialty cupcake. She even donated her cupcakes when a boy in her school fighting cancer held a fundraiser.

So why did they shut her down?

Well, it turns out that she didn’t have a “permit” to sell cupcakes and her kitchen was not “licensed”.

Like I said, you have to have permission from the government to do just about anything these days.

Another example of this phenomenon that is absolutely infuriating took place out in Fauquier County, Virginia.  When a mother held a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls and posted the photos on Facebook, she never imagined that she would soon be hit with $15,000 in fines…

Martha Boneta owns a small farm in Fauquier County, Virginia, where she recently hosted a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls. They wore hats, picked veggies, and made goat’s milk soap. The county says she should have obtain a license before hosting such an event and hit her with a $5,000 fine.

Boneta also got slammed with two more fines for $5,000 each, one for advertising a pumpkin carving and another for violations in the small shop on her property. Boneta sells produce from her farm, as well as eggs, yarn, birdhouses, and local crafts. She sought and received a license for the shop in 2011, but the county now says she can’t sell handiwork or produce from her neighbors under that license.

Stuff like this just makes me want to scream sometimes.

What is happening to this country?

A few years ago, my wife used to take old pieces of furniture, sand them down, repaint them and sell them to others.  It was something that she really enjoyed doing and she made some extra money along the way.

But if you try doing that in some areas of the country today, the EPA could potentially hit you with a fine of $30,000 for a single incident in which you do not follow the proper procedures.  The following is an excerpt from a discussion that some furniture painters were having on Facebook.  It is a little technical, but it is worth reading.  In this excerpt the identity of the business has been removed to protect the business from overzealous regulators…

As a painter in PA, I am required by law to test everything that I disturb and I must charge the customer $60 for every test I perform which adds up. What the law states in my area is that if I disturb more than 6 square inches on anything made prior to Jan 1 1979 I must test it. Disturbing means, sanding, scraping, or even using a sponge/scuff pad (like you use on your pots) if I disturb more than 6 inches, I must take photographs, document in 4 different logs, I have local, county, state, and federal log books. If I find lead then I must suit up. Originally, the law stated that if there were no children around then you didn’t have to do that however some lame brained legislator decided that if a child enters the premises for more than one hour a day, we must assume they will be in contact with the lead and therefore will contract lead poisoning. Then the legislators decided that if you were over the age of 60 then it didn’t matter, you didn’t have to test who cares if you get poisoned. Lo and behold OSHA stepped in and joined forces with the EPA, they decided that all were at risk including your pets and the leaves on your trees can hold the lead dust and …..well, that’s a whole other issue.

What is happening now is that so many painters decided they weren’t going to follow the lead law, that OSHA and EPA send out secret shoppers. A lot of us don’t even put our logo’s on our vehicles because that invites these shoppers to investigate. If you come to the **** ********, you won’t see signage on the building, you have to get to the actual door of the workroom to know we are there. We no longer have logo’s on our vehicles either as the fines are too stiff. There isn’t one of us that can afford a find of $30,000.00 A DAY, not a year, A DAY.

The government bureaucrats are running wild and the rest of us are just sitting back and letting it happen.

Things have gotten so bad in this country that the federal government even requires small-time magicians to submit “disaster plans” for the rabbits that they use in their acts.  The following is an excerpt from one of my previous articles

Central planning in this country is getting completely and totally out of control.  These days, you can hardly do anything without running into a suffocating web of red tape.  For example, a small-time magician from Missouri that does magic shows for kids was absolutely horrified when he learned that the Obama administration is requiring him to submit a 32 page “disaster plan” for the rabbit that he uses in his shows.  Yes, this is actually true.  His name is Marty Hahne, and he thought that it was bad enough when the U.S. Department of Agriculture busted him for not having a “license” for his rabbit.  He went out and acquired the proper “license” for his rabbit, but he never dreamed that eventually he would also have to submit a 32 page “disaster plan” for the same rabbit.

You can read the rest of that article right here.

Are you starting to get the picture?

These control freaks want to completely dominate every aspect of our lives.  The “nanny state” is entirely out of control and it is up to “we the people” to do something about it.

Barack Obama revealed the kind of mentality that is behind this “nanny state” when he recently made the following statement

“I would not let my son play pro football”

And without a doubt, the control freaks that run things will try to ban football (or at least “tone it down”) the moment that they think that they can get away with it.

America was supposed to be a place where liberty and freedom were maximized and the interference of the federal government in our lives was supposed to be minimized.

Instead, what we have now is just the opposite.

No wonder Americans consider the government to be their biggest problem.

Marble Cupcakes - Photo by F_A from Ostwestfalen, Germany

32 Statistics That Obama Neglected To Mention During The State Of The Union Address

Barack Obama State Of The UnionShow this article to anyone that believes that the economy has actually improved under Barack Obama.  On Tuesday evening, Barack Obama once again attempted to convince all of us that things have gotten better while he has been in the White House.  He quoted a few figures, used some flowery language and made a whole bunch of new promises.  And even though he has failed to follow through on his promises time after time, millions upon millions of Americans continue to believe him.  In fact, you can find a list of 82 unfulfilled promises from his previous State of the Union addresses right here.  Soon we will have even more to add to that collection.  At this point, you have to wonder if Obama even believes half the stuff that he is saying.  Of course it is extremely unlikely that he is going to come out and admit that he has failed and that he has been lying to us this whole time, but without a doubt the gap between reality and what he is saying to the public is becoming ridiculously huge.  To say that his credibility is “strained” would be a massive understatement.  No, things have not been getting better in America.  In fact, they continue to get even worse.  The following are 32 statistics that Obama neglected to mention during the State of the Union address…

#1 According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 28 percent of all Americans believe that the country is moving in the right direction.

#2 In 2008, 53 percent of all Americans considered themselves to be “middle class”.  In 2014, only 44 percent of all Americans consider themselves to be “middle class”.

#3 In 2008, 25 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket considered themselves to be “lower class”.  In 2014, an astounding 49 percent of them do.

#4 Right now there is approximately a billion square feet of vacant retail space in the United States.

#5 There are 46.5 million Americans that are living in poverty, and the poverty rate in America has been at 15 percent or above for 3 consecutive years.  That is the first time that has happened since 1965.

#6 Barack Obama says that the unemployment rate has declined to 6.7 percent, but if the labor force participation rate was at the long-term average it would actually be approximately 11.5 percent, and it has stayed at about that level since the end of the last recession.

#7 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the number of Americans on food stamps has gone from 32 million to 47 million.

#8 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the percentage of working age Americans that are actually working has declined from 60.6 percent to 58.6 percent.

#9 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the average duration of unemployment in the United States has risen from 19.8 weeks to 37.1 weeks.

#10 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, social benefits as a percentage of real disposable income has risen from about 17 percent to nearly 21 percent.

#11 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to levels that we have not seen in nearly two decades.

#12 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row.

#13 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline has gone from $1.85 to $3.27.

#14 At the end of Barack Obama’s first year in office, our yearly trade deficit with China was 226 billion dollars.  Now it is over 300 billion dollars.

#15 Workers are taking home the smallest share of the income pie that has ever been recorded.

#16 Sadly, 1,687,000 fewer Americans have jobs today compared to exactly six years ago even though the population has grown significantly since then.

#17 One recent study found that about 60 percent of the jobs that have been “created” since the end of the last recession pay $13.83 or less an hour.

#18 Only 47 percent of all adults in America have a full-time job at this point.

#19 It is hard to believe, but an astounding 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

#20 The Obama years have been absolutely brutal for small businesses.  According to economist Tim Kane, the following is how the number of startup jobs per 1000 Americans breaks down by presidential administration

Bush Sr.: 11.3

Clinton: 11.2

Bush Jr.: 10.8

Obama: 7.8

#21 You can still buy a house in the city of Detroit for just one dollar.

#22 The U.S. cattle herd is at a 61 year low.

#23 It is being projected that health insurance premiums for healthy 30-year-old men will rise by an average of 260 percent under Obamacare.

#24 According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program each month.

#25 When Barack Obama was first elected, the U.S. debt to GDP ratio was under 70 percent.  Today, it is up to 101 percent.

#26 The U.S. national debt is on pace to more than double during the eight years of the Obama administration.  In other words, under Barack Obama the U.S. government will accumulate more debt than it did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.

#27 Right now, there are 1.2 million students that attend public schools in the United States that are homeless.  That number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

#28 Only 35 percent of all Americans say that they are better off financially than they were a year ago.

#29 Only 19 percent of all Americans believe that the job market is better than it was a year ago.

#30 According to a recent CNN poll, 70 percent of all Americans believe that “the economy is generally in poor shape”.

#31 According to a recent Pew Research survey, only 19 percent of all Americans trust the government.   Back in 1958, 73 percent of all Americans trusted the government.

#32 According to another poll that was recently released, 70 percent of all Americans do not have confidence that the government will “make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014.”

Barack Obama State Of The Union

Why Are Banking Executives In London Killing Themselves?

JPMorgan Tower In London - Photo by Danesman1Bankers committing suicide by jumping from the rooftops of their own banks is something that we think of when we think of the Great Depression.  Well, it just happened in London, England.  A vice president at JPMorgan’s European headquarters in London plunged to his death after jumping from the top of the 33rd floor.  He fell more than 500 feet, and it is being reported by an eyewitness that “there was quite a lot of blood“.  This comes on the heels of news that a former Deutsche Bank executive was found hanged in his home in London on Sunday.  So why is this happening?  Yes, the markets have gone down a little bit recently but they certainly have not crashed yet.  Could there be more to these deaths than meets the eye?  You never know.  And as I will discuss below, there have been a lot of other really strange things happening around the world lately as well.

But before we get to any of that, let’s take a closer look at some of these banker deaths.  The JPMorgan executive that jumped to his death on Tuesday was named Gabriel Magee.  He was 39 years old, and his suicide has the city of London in shock

A bank executive who died after jumping 500ft from the top of JP Morgan’s European headquarters in London this morning has been named as Gabriel Magee.

The American senior manager, 39, fell from the 33-story skyscraper and was found on the ninth floor roof, which surrounds the Canary Wharf skyscraper.

He was a vice president in the corporate and investment bank technology department having joined in 2004, moving to Britain from the United States in 2007.

What would cause a man in his prime working years who is making huge amounts of money to do something like that?

The death on Sunday of former Deutsche Bank executive Bill Broeksmit is also a mystery.  According to the Daily Mail, police consider his death to be “non-suspicious”, which means that they believe that it was a suicide and not a murder…

A former Deutsche Bank executive has been found dead at a house in London, it emerged today.

The body of William ‘Bill’ Broeksmit, 58, was discovered at his home in South Kensington on Sunday shortly after midday by police, who had been called to reports of a man found hanging at a house.

Mr Broeksmit – who retired last February – was a former senior manager with close ties to co-chief executive Anshu Jain. Metropolitan Police officers said his death was declared as non-suspicious.

On top of that, Business Insider is reporting that a communications director at another bank in London was found dead last week…

Last week, a U.K.-based communications director at Swiss Re AG died last week. The cause of death has not been made public.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence that these deaths have all come so close to one another.  After all, people die all the time.

And London is rather dreary this time of the year.  It is easy for people to get depressed if they are not accustomed to endless gloomy weather.

If the stock market was already crashing, it would be easy to blame the suicides on that.  The world certainly remembers what happened during the crash of 1929

Historically, bankers have been stereotyped as the most likely to commit suicide. This has a lot to do with the famous 1929 stock market crash, which resulted in 1,616 banks failing and more than 20,000 businesses going bankrupt. The number of bankers committing suicide directly after the crash is thought to have been only around 20, with another 100 people connected to the financial industry dying at their own hand within the year.

But the market isn’t crashing just yet.  We definitely appear to be at a “turning point“, but things are still at least somewhat stable.

So why are bankers killing themselves?

That is a good question.

As I mentioned above, there have also been quite a few other strange things that have happened lately that seem to be “out of place”.

For example, Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report posted the following cryptic message on Twitter the other day…

“Have an exit plan…”

What in the world does he mean by that?

Maybe that is just a case of Drudge being Drudge.

Then again, maybe not.

And on Tuesday we learned that a prominent Russian Bank has banned all cash withdrawals until next week…

Bloomberg reports that ‘My Bank’ – one of Russia’s top 200 lenders by assets – has introduced a complete ban on cash withdrawals until next week. While the Ruble has been losing ground rapidly recently, we suspect few have been expecting bank runs in Russia.

Yes, we have heard some reports of people having difficulty getting money out of their banks around the world lately, but this news out of Russia really surprised me.

Yet another story that seemed rather odd was a report in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that stated that Germany’s central bank is advocating “a one-time wealth tax” for European nations that need a bailout…

Germany’s central bank Monday proposed a one-time wealth tax as an option for euro-zone countries facing bankruptcy, reviving a idea that has circled for years in Europe but has so far gained little traction.

Why would they be suggesting such a thing if “economic recovery” was just around the corner?

According to that same article, the IMF has recommended a similar thing…

The International Monetary Fund in October also floated the idea of a one-time “capital levy,” amid a sharp deterioration of public finances in many countries. A 10% tax would bring the debt levels of a sample of 15 euro-zone member countries back to pre-crisis levels of 2007, the IMF said.

So what does all of this mean?

I am not exactly sure, but I have got a bad feeling about this – especially considering the financial chaos that we are witnessing in emerging markets all over the globe right now.

So what do you think?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

JPMorgan Tower In London - Photo by Danesman1

Are We On The Verge Of A Massive Emerging Markets Currency Collapse?

Currency CollapseThis time, the Federal Reserve has created a truly global problem.  A big chunk of the trillions of dollars that it pumped into the financial system over the past several years has flowed into emerging markets.  But now that the Fed has decided to begin “the taper”, investors see it as a sign to pull the “hot money” out of emerging markets as rapidly as possible.  This is causing currencies to collapse and interest rates to soar all over the planet.  Argentina, Turkey, South Africa, Ukraine, Chile, Indonesia, Venezuela, India, Brazil, Taiwan and Malaysia are just some of the emerging markets that have been hit hard so far.  In fact, last week emerging market currencies experienced the biggest decline that we have seen since the financial crisis of 2008.  And all of this chaos in emerging markets is seriously spooking Wall Street as well.  The Dow has fallen nearly 500 points over the last two trading sessions alone.  If the Federal Reserve opts to taper even more in the coming days, this currency crisis could rapidly turn into a complete and total currency collapse.

A lot of Americans have always assumed that the U.S. dollar would be the first currency to collapse when the next great financial crisis happens.  But actually, right now just the opposite is happening and it is causing chaos all over the planet.

For instance, just check out what is happening in Turkey according to a recent report in the New York Times

Turkey’s currency fell to a record low against the dollar on Friday, a drop that will hit the purchasing power of everyone in the country.

On a street corner in Istanbul, Yilmaz Gok, 51, said, “I’m a retiree making ends meet on a small pension and all I care about is a possible increase in prices.”

“I will need to cut further,” he said. “Maybe I should use my natural gas heater less.”

As inflation escalates and interest rates soar in these countries, ordinary citizens are going to feel the squeeze.  Just having enough money to purchase the basics is going to become more difficult.

And this is not just limited to a few countries.  What we are watching right now is truly a global phenomenon

“You’ve had a massive selloff in these emerging-market currencies,” Nick Xanders, a London-based equity strategist at BTIG Ltd., said by telephone. “Ruble, rupee, real, rand: they’ve all fallen and the main cause has been tapering. A lot of companies that have benefited from emerging-markets growth are now seeing it go the other way.”

So why is this happening?  Well, there are a number of factors involved of course.  However, as with so many of our other problems, the actions of the Federal Reserve are at the very heart of this crisis.  A recent USA Today article described how the Fed helped create this massive bubble in the emerging markets…

Emerging markets are the future growth engine of the global economy and an important source of profits for U.S. companies. These developing economies were both recipients and beneficiaries of massive cash inflows the past few years as investors sought out bigger returns fostered by injections of cheap cash from the Federal Reserve and other central bankers.

But now that the Fed has started to dial back its stimulus, many investors are yanking their cash out of emerging markets and bringing the cash back to more stable markets and economies, such as the U.S., hurting the developing nations in the process, explains Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist at BlackRock.

“Emerging markets need the hot money but capital is exiting now,” says Koesterich. “What you have is people saying, ‘I don’t want to own emerging markets.'”

What we are potentially facing is the bursting of a financial bubble on a global scale.  Just check out what Egon von Greyerz, the founder of Matterhorn Asset Management in Switzerland, recently had to say…

If you take the Turkish lira, that plunged to new lows this week, and the Russian ruble is at the lowest level in 5 years. In South Africa, the rand is at the weakest since 2008. The currencies are also weak in Brazil and Mexico. But there are many other countries whose situation is extremely dire, like India, Indonesia, Hungary, Poland, the Ukraine, and Venezuela.

I’m mentioning these countries individually just to stress that this situation is extremely serious. It is also on a massive scale. In virtually all of these countries currencies are plunging and so are bonds, which is leading to much higher interest rates. And the cost of credit-default swaps in these countries is surging due to the increased credit risks.

And many smaller nations are being deeply affected already as well.

For example, most Americans cannot even find Liberia on a map, but right now the actions of our Federal Reserve have pushed the currency of that small nation to the verge of collapse

Liberia’s finance minister warned against panic today after being summoned to parliament to explain a crash in the value of Liberia’s currency against the US dollar.

“Let’s be careful about what we say about the economy. Inflation, ladies and gentlemen, is not out of control,” Amara Konneh told lawmakers, while adding that the government was “concerned” about the trend.

Closer to home, the Mexican peso tumbled quite a bit last week and is now beginning to show significant weakness.  If Mexico experiences a currency collapse, that would be a huge blow to the U.S. economy.

Like I said, this is something that is happening on a global scale.

If this continues, we will eventually see looting, violence, blackouts, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks in emerging markets all over the planet just like we are already witnessing in Argentina and Venezuela.

Hopefully something can be done to stop this from happening.  But once a bubble starts to burst, it is really difficult to try to hold it together.

Meanwhile, I find it to be very “interesting” that last week we witnessed the largest withdrawal from JPMorgan’s gold vault ever recorded.

Was someone anticipating something?

Once again, hopefully this crisis will be contained shortly.  But if the Fed announces that it has decided to taper some more, that is going to be a signal to investors that they should race for the exits and the crisis in the emerging markets will get a whole lot worse.

And if you listen carefully, global officials are telling us that is precisely what we should expect.  For example, consider the following statement from the finance minister of Mexico

“We expected this year to be a volatile year for EM as the Fed tapers,” Mexican Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said, adding that volatility “will happen throughout the year as tapering goes on”.

Yes indeed – it is looking like this is going to be a very volatile year.

I hope that you are ready for what is coming next.

Wheelbarrow of Money

20 Early Warning Signs That We Are Approaching A Global Economic Meltdown

Earth From SpaceHave you been paying attention to what has been happening in Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Ukraine, Turkey and China?  If you are like most Americans, you have not been.  Most Americans don’t seem to really care too much about what is happening in the rest of the world, but they should.  In major cities all over the globe right now, there is looting, violence, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks.  We are not at a “global crisis” stage yet, but things are getting worse with each passing day.  For a while, I have felt that 2014 would turn out to be a major “turning point” for the global economy, and so far that is exactly what it is turning out to be.  The following are 20 early warning signs that we are rapidly approaching a global economic meltdown…

#1 The looting, violence and economic chaos that is happening in Argentina right now is a perfect example of what can happen when you print too much money

For Dominga Kanaza, it wasn’t just the soaring inflation or the weeklong blackouts or even the looting that frayed her nerves.

It was all of them combined.

At one point last month, the 37-year-old shop owner refused to open the metal shutters protecting her corner grocery in downtown Buenos Aires more than a few inches — just enough to sell soda to passersby on a sweltering summer day.

#2 The value of the Argentine Peso is absolutely collapsing.

#3 Widespread shortages, looting and accelerating inflation are also causing huge problems in Venezuela

Economic mismanagement in Venezuela has reached such a level that it risks inciting a violent popular reaction. Venezuela is experiencing declining export revenues, accelerating inflation and widespread shortages of basic consumer goods. At the same time, the Maduro administration has foreclosed peaceful options for Venezuelans to bring about a change in its current policies.

President Maduro, who came to power in a highly-contested election last April, has reacted to the economic crisis with interventionist and increasingly authoritarian measures. His recent orders to slash prices of goods sold in private businesses resulted in episodes of looting, which suggests a latent potential for violence. He has put the armed forces on the street to enforce his economic decrees, exposing them to popular discontent.

#4 In a stunning decision, the Venezuelan government has just announced that it has devalued the Bolivar by more than 40 percent.

#5 Brazilian stocks declined sharply on Thursday.  There is a tremendous amount of concern that the economic meltdown that is happening in Argentina is going to spill over into Brazil.

#6 Ukraine is rapidly coming apart at the seams

A tense ceasefire was announced in Kiev on the fifth day of violence, with radical protesters and riot police holding their position. Opposition leaders are negotiating with the government, but doubts remain that they will be able to stop the rioters.

#7 It appears that a bank run has begun in China

As China’s CNR reports, depositors in some of Yancheng City’s largest farmers’ co-operative mutual fund societies (“banks”) have been unable to withdraw “hundreds of millions” in deposits in the last few weeks. “Everyone wants to borrow and no one wants to save,” warned one ‘salesperson’, “and loan repayments are difficult to recover.” There is “no money” and the doors are locked.

#8 Art Cashin of UBS is warning that credit markets in China “may be broken“.  For much more on this, please see my recent article entitled “The $23 Trillion Credit Bubble In China Is Starting To Collapse – Global Financial Crisis Next?

#9 News that China’s manufacturing sector is contracting shook up financial markets on Thursday…

Wall Street was rattled by a key reading on China’s manufacturing which dropped below the key 50 level in January, according to HSBC. A reading below 50 on the HSBC flash manufacturing PMI suggests economic contraction.

#10 Japanese stocks experienced their biggest drop in 7 months on Thursday.

#11 The value of the Turkish Lira is absolutely collapsing.

#12 The unemployment rate in France has risen for 9 quarters in a row and recently soared to a new 16 year high.

#13 In Italy, the unemployment rate has soared to a brand new all-time record high of 12.7 percent.

#14 The unemployment rate in Spain is sitting at an all-time record high of 26.7 percent.

#15 This year, the Baltic Dry Index experienced the largest two week post-holiday decline that we have ever seen.

#16 Chipmaker Intel recently announced that it plans to eliminate 5,000 jobs over the coming year.

#17 CNBC is reporting that U.S. retailers just experienced “the worst holiday season since 2008“.

#18 A recent CNBC article stated that U.S. consumers should expect a “tsunami” of store closings in the retail industry…

Get ready for the next era in retail—one that will be characterized by far fewer shops and smaller stores.

On Tuesday, Sears said that it will shutter its flagship store in downtown Chicago in April. It’s the latest of about 300 store closures in the U.S. that Sears has made since 2010. The news follows announcements earlier this month of multiple store closings from major department stores J.C. Penney and Macy’s.

Further signs of cuts in the industry came Wednesday, when Target said that it will eliminate 475 jobs worldwide, including some at its Minnesota headquarters, and not fill 700 empty positions.

#19 The U.S. Congress is facing another deadline to raise the debt ceiling in February.

#20 The Dow fell by more than 170 points on Thursday.  It is becoming increasingly likely that “the peak of the market” is now in the rear view mirror.

And I have not even mentioned the extreme drought that has caused the U.S. cattle herd to drop to a 61 year low or the nuclear radiation from Fukushima that is washing up on the west coast.

In light of everything above, is there anyone out there that still wants to claim that “everything is going to be okay” for the global economy?

Sadly, most Americans are not even aware of most of these things.

All over the country today, the number one news headline is about Justin Bieber.  The mainstream media is absolutely obsessed with celebrity scandals, and so is a very large percentage of the U.S. population.

A great economic storm is rapidly approaching, and most people don’t even seem to notice the storm clouds that are gathering on the horizon.

In the end, perhaps we will get what we deserve as a nation.

U.S. Cattle Herd Is At A 61 Year Low And Organic Food Shortages Are Being Reported All Over America

Drought 2014If the extreme drought in the western half of the country keeps going, the food supply problems that we are experiencing right now are only going to be the tip of the iceberg.  As you will see below, the size of the U.S. cattle herd has dropped to a 61 year low, and organic food shortages are being reported all over the nation.  Surprisingly cold weather and increasing demand for organic food have both been a factor, but the biggest threat to the U.S. food supply is the extraordinary drought which has had a relentless grip on the western half of the country.  If you check out the U.S. Drought Monitor, you can see that drought conditions currently stretch from California all the way to the heart of Texas.  In fact, the worst drought in the history of the state of California is happening right now.  And considering the fact that the rest of the nation is extremely dependent on produce grown in California and cattle raised in the western half of the U.S., this should be of great concern to all of us.

A local Fox News report that was featured on the Drudge Report entitled “Organic food shortage hits US” has gotten quite a bit of attention. The following is an excerpt from that article…

Since Christmas, cucumbers supplies from Florida have almost ground to a halt and the Mexican supply is coming but it’s just not ready yet.

And as the basic theory of economics goes, less supply drives up prices.

Take organic berries for example:

There was a strawberry shortage a couple weeks back and prices spiked.

Experts say the primary reasons for the shortages are weather and demand.

And without a doubt, demand for organic food has grown sharply in recent years.  More Americans than ever have become aware of how the modern American diet is slowly killing all of us, and they are seeking out alternatives.

Due to the tightness in supply and the increasing demand, prices for organic produce just continue to go up.  Just consider the following example

A quick check on the organic tree fruit market shows that the average price per carton for organic apples was $38 per carton in mid-January this year, up from an average of just $31 per carton last year at the same time. At least for apple marketers, the organic market is heating up.

Personally, I went to a local supermarket the other day and I started to reach for a package of organic strawberries but I stopped when I saw that they were priced at $6.99.  I couldn’t justify paying 7 bucks for one package.  I still remember getting them on sale for $2.99 last year.

Unfortunately, this may only be just the beginning of the price increases.  California Governor Jerry Brown has just declared a water emergency, and reservoirs throughout the state have dropped to dangerously low levels.

Unless a miracle happens, there is simply not going to be enough water to go around for the entire agriculture industry.  The following is an excerpt from an email from an industry insider that researcher Ray Gano recently shared on his website

Harris farms has released a statement saying they will leave about 40,000 acres fallow this year because the FEDS have decided to only deliver 10% of the water allocation for 2014. Lettuce is predicted to reach around $5.00 a head (if you can find it). Understand the farmers in the Salinas valley are considering the same action. So much for salad this summer unless you grow it yourself.

The reason why the agriculture industry in California is so important is because it literally feeds the rest of the nation.  I shared the following statistics yesterday, but they are so critical that they bear repeating.  As you can see, without the fruits and vegetables that California grows, we would be in for a world of hurt

The state produces 99 percent of the artichokes grown in the US, 44 percent of asparagus, a fifth of cabbage, two-thirds of carrots, half of bell peppers, 89 percent of cauliflower, 94 percent of broccoli, and 95 percent of celery. Leafy greens? California’s got the market cornered: 90 percent of the leaf lettuce we consume, along with and 83 percent of Romaine lettuce and 83 percent of fresh spinach, come from the big state on the left side of the map. Cali also cranks a third of total fresh tomatoes consumed in the U.S.—and 95 percent of ones destined for cans and other processing purposes.

As for fruit, I get that 86 percent of lemons and a quarter of oranges come from there; its sunny climate makes it perfect for citrus, and lemons store relatively well. Ninety percent of avocados? Fine. But 84 percent of peaches, 88 percent of fresh strawberries, and 97 percent of fresh plums?

Come on. Surely the other 49 states can do better.

Are you starting to understand how much trouble we could be in if this drought does not end?

About now I can hear some people out there saying that they will just eat meat because they don’t like vegetables anyway.

Well, unfortunately we are rapidly approaching a beef shortage as well.

On January 1st, the U.S. cattle herd hit a 61-year low of 89.3 million head of cattle.

The biggest reason for this is the 5 year drought that has absolutely crippled the cattle industry out west…

Back in the late fall 2013 there was a freak snowstorm that killed close to 300,000+ cattle. This is a major hit to the cattle market.

I know in Texas where they still have a 5 year drought they are dealing with, they are having to ship grass bails in from Colorado, Utah and other parts of the country just to feed the cattle. Ranchers are sending their female cattle to the slaughter houses becasue they can not afford to feed them anymore. It is the females that help re-stock the herd. SO if you are slaughtering your females, your herd does not grow. It is expected that the US will not see cattle herd growth returning until 2017, maybe even later.

This is a problem which is not going away any time soon.

According to the Washington Post, the U.S. cattle herd has gotten smaller for six years in a row, and the amount of beef produced is expected to drop to a 20 year low in 2014…

The U.S. cattle herd contracted for six straight years to the smallest since 1952, government data show. A record drought in 2011 destroyed pastures in Texas, the top producing state, followed the next year by a surge in feed-grain prices during the worst Midwest dry spell since the 1930s. Fewer cattle will mean production in the $85 billion beef industry drops to a 20- year low in 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

It would be hard to overstate how devastating this ongoing drought has been for many ranchers out west.  For example, one 64-year-old rancher who lives in Texas says that his herd is 90 percent smaller than it was back in 2005 because of the drought

Texas rancher Looney, who is 64 and has been in the cattle business his whole life, said his herd is still about 90 percent below its size from 2005 because of the prolonged dry weather. It will take years for the pastures to come back, even if there is normal rainfall, he said. About 44 percent of Texas was in still in drought in the week ended Jan. 7, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

And it isn’t just the U.S. that is dealing with this kind of drought.  The largest freshwater lake in China that was once about twice the size of London, England has almost entirely dried up because of the ongoing drought over there.

Meanwhile, global demand for food just continues to rise.

If this drought ends and the western half of the nation starts getting lots of rain, this could just be a temporary crisis.

However, the truth is that scientific research has shown that the 20th century was the wettest century in the western half of the country in 1000 years, and that we should expect things to return to “normal” at some point.

So is that happening now?

Over the past couple of years, I have warned that Dust Bowl conditions are starting to return to the western half of the United States.  Just see this article, this article and this article.

Now the state of California is experiencing the worst drought that it has ever gone through and “apocalyptic” dust storms are being reported in Colorado and Nevada.

Just because things seem like they have always been a certain way does not mean that they will always stay that way.

Things out west are rapidly changing, and in the end it is going to affect the lives of every man, woman and child in the United States.

Top 1% Has 65 Times More Wealth Than The Bottom Half And The Global Elite Like It That Way

85 Richest People - Photo by OxfamDid you know that the 85 richest people in the world have about as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the entire global population does?  In other words, 85 extremely wealthy individuals have about as much wealth as the poorest 3,500,000,000 do.  This shocking statistic comes from a new report on global poverty by Oxfam.  And actually Oxfam’s report probably significantly underestimates the true scope of the problem, because Oxfam relies on publicly reported numbers.  At the very top of the food chain, the global elite are masters at hiding their wealth.  In fact, as I have written about previously, the global elite have approximately 32 trillion dollars (that we know about) stashed in offshore banks around the world.  That would be about enough to pay off the entire U.S. national debt and buy every good and service produced in the United States for an entire year.  These elitists live on an entirely different planet than the rest of us do.  In fact, according to Oxfam, the richest one percent of the global population has 65 times more wealth than the bottom half of the global population combined.

There is certainly nothing wrong with making money.  In fact, the founders of the United States intended for this nation to be a place where free markets thrived and where everyone could pursue their dreams.  Unfortunately, this country (along with the rest of the world) has moved very much in the opposite direction.  Today, we have a debt-based global financial system which is dominated by gigantic predator corporations and big banks.  Working together with national governments, these corporations and banks have constructed a system that I like to call “Corporatism” in which the percentage of all global wealth that is being funneled to the very top of the pyramid steadily grows over time.

The Founding Fathers were very correct to be very suspicious of large concentrations of power.  In the early days of the United States, the federal government was very small and the size and scope of corporations was greatly limited.  Our nation thrived and a huge middle class blossomed.

Sadly, over the past several decades the pendulum has completely swung in the other direction.  Today, our society is completely and totally dominated by big banks, big corporations and big government.

And of course this is also happening in virtually every other nation on the face of the planet.  The global elite have rigged the game to send just about all of the rewards their way, and it is working.  The following are facts taken directly from Oxfam’s latest report

•Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.

•The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.

•The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.

•Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

•The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.

•In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

Starting on Wednesday, several thousand members of the global elite will gather for the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland.  The following is how USA Today described this conference.

For several days at the end of January, presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and corporate titans jostle with actors, rock stars and major influencers for top billing at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The confab takes place in the Alpine village of Davos, about 90 miles southeast of Zurich, and for a brief spell each year the pristine ski resort half-sheds its Graubünden roots and becomes a ground zero for the political and business elite.

Unless you are independently wealthy, you can forget about going to this conference.  A ticket to Davos is going to cost you about $30,000, and that is on top of the $55,000 that it costs to join the organization.

Needless to say, it is an organization of the elite, by the elite and for the elite.

This year, the theme of the meeting is “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business“.  And the founder of the World Economic Forum says that the time has come to press the “reset” button for the global economy…

It’s time to press the “reset” button on the world, the founder of the World Economic Forum said Wednesday, addressing media ahead of the WEF’s much ballyhooed annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, that gets underway in a week’s time.

“The world is complex, it’s fast-moving, it’s interconnected, and we in Davos want to provide a mirror to the world as it is. It is not a meeting devoted to one set of issues. It’s a meeting that address the complexity of our world,” said Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman.

At first glance, that sounds pretty good.

Personally, I would love to hit a “reset” button for the global economy.

But what the elite mean by “reset” is much different from what most of the rest of us would mean.

The following is an excerpt from the executive summary for the agenda for the 2014 World Economic Forum…

“At an international level, the formal architecture for global governance was not designed for the interdisciplinary challenges and collective action problems of today. As a result, international cooperation has yet to fully enter the information age and capture its associated productivity gains.”

For the global elite, the answers to our problems always involve more centralization and more “global governance”.  In other words, the answers to our problems always involve giving them more control and more power.

The elite never actually want the pendulum to swing back in the direction of the “little guy”.  The elite are generally pleased with how the game is being played because they are winning.

Most people don’t even realize that they are participants in a debt-based neo-feudalist system in which money is being used as a form of social control.

As I have written about previously, there is about 190 trillion dollars of debt in the world, but global GDP is only about 70 trillion dollars.

There is no way that all of this debt could ever be paid off at one time.  It is mathematically impossible.  Over time, all of this debt transfers the wealth of the planet away from us and to the global elite.  If this game was allowed to go on long enough, eventually they would have nearly all of it.

And some would argue that we are already getting close to that point.  A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research discovered that the bottom half of the global population only owns approximately 1 percent of all wealth, and at this point about a billion people throughout the world go to bed hungry every night.

This is one of the reasons why I am so adamant about the fact that the Federal Reserve needs to be shut down.  It is at the very heart of the debt-based system that we have in the United States, and over the past 100 years it has brought us to the brink of economic Armageddon.

Sadly, most Americans do not understand any of these things.  They just assume that the debt-fueled prosperity that we have been enjoying will be able to go on indefinitely.

So is there any hope for the “little guy”?

Well, you could try to win the one billion dollar NCAA tournament bracket contest that Warren Buffett is backing.

Or you could go out and try to win the lottery or try to date a famous professional athlete.

But the odds of any of those things actually happening are so low that they aren’t even worth mentioning.

Personally, I would rather spend my time trying to wake people up and help them understand how our global system really works.

I believe that a “great awakening” is coming.

I believe that millions of people are going to start breaking out of the “matrix of control” that has such a tight grip on their lives and are going to start thinking for themselves.

I believe that as the darkness gets even darker that the light is going to get even brighter.  I believe that we are going to see “renewal” on a whole bunch of different levels.

Yes, a great economic collapse is coming.

Yes, there is going to be a tremendous amount of pain.

But it won’t all be bad news.

The times ahead are going to be full of adventure and excitement for those who are willing to embrace it.

So what do you think about what is coming in the years ahead?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

85 Richest People - Photo by Oxfam

The $23 Trillion Credit Bubble In China Is Starting To Collapse – Global Financial Crisis Next?

Bubble - Photo by Jeff KubinaDid you know that financial institutions all over the world are warning that we could see a “mega default” on a very prominent high-yield investment product in China on January 31st?  We are being told that this could lead to a cascading collapse of the shadow banking system in China which could potentially result in “sky-high interest rates” and “a precipitous plunge in credit“.  In other words, it could be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for Asia.  And since the global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, that would be very bad news for the United States as well.  Since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, the level of private domestic credit in China has risen from $9 trillion to an astounding $23 trillion.  That is an increase of $14 trillion in just a little bit more than 5 years.  Much of that “hot money” has flowed into stocks, bonds and real estate in the United States.  So what do you think is going to happen when that bubble collapses?

The bubble of private debt that we have seen inflate in China since the Lehman crisis is unlike anything that the world has ever seen.  Never before has so much private debt been accumulated in such a short period of time.  All of this debt has helped fuel tremendous economic growth in China, but now a whole bunch of Chinese companies are realizing that they have gotten in way, way over their heads.  In fact, it is being projected that Chinese companies will pay out the equivalent of approximately a trillion dollars in interest payments this year alone.  That is more than twice the amount that the U.S. government will pay in interest in 2014.

Over the past several years, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England have all been criticized for creating too much money.  But the truth is that what has been happening in China surpasses all of their efforts combined.  You can see an incredible chart which graphically illustrates this point right here.  As the Telegraph pointed out a while back, the Chinese have essentially “replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system” in just five years…

Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis. “They have replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system in five years,” she said.

The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990. “This is beyond anything we have ever seen before in a large economy. We don’t know how this will play out. The next six months will be crucial,” she said.

As with all other things in the financial world, what goes up must eventually come down.

And right now January 31st is shaping up to be a particularly important day for the Chinese financial system.  The following is from a Reuters article

The trust firm responsible for a troubled high-yield investment product sold through China’s largest banks has warned investors they may not be repaid when the 3 billion-yuan ($496 million)product matures on Jan. 31, state media reported on Friday.

Investors are closely watching the case to see if it will shatter assumptions that the government and state-owned banks will always protect investors from losses on risky off-balance-sheet investment products sold through a murky shadow banking system.

If there is a major default on January 31st, the effects could ripple throughout the entire Chinese financial system very rapidly.  A recent Forbes article explained why this is the case…

A WMP default, whether relating to Liansheng or Zhenfu, could devastate the Chinese banking system and the larger economy as well.  In short, China’s growth since the end of 2008 has been dependent on ultra-loose credit first channeled through state banks, like ICBC and Construction Bank, and then through the WMPs, which permitted the state banks to avoid credit risk.  Any disruption in the flow of cash from investors to dodgy borrowers through WMPs would rock China with sky-high interest rates or a precipitous plunge in credit, probably both.  The result?  The best outcome would be decades of misery, what we saw in Japan after its bubble burst in the early 1990s.

The big underlying problem is the fact that private debt and the money supply have both been growing far too rapidly in China.  According to Forbes, M2 in China increased by 13.6 percent last year…

And at the same time China’s money supply and credit are still expanding.  Last year, the closely watched M2 increased by only 13.6%, down from 2012’s 13.8% growth.  Optimists say China is getting its credit addiction under control, but that’s not correct.  In fact, credit expanded by at least 20% last year as money poured into new channels not measured by traditional statistics.

Overall, M2 in China is up by about 1000 percent since 1999.  That is absolutely insane.

And of course China is not the only place in the world where financial trouble signs are erupting.  Things in Europe just keep getting worse, and we have just learned that the largest bank in Germany just suffered ” a surprise fourth-quarter loss”

Deutsche Bank shares tumbled on Monday following a surprise fourth-quarter loss due to a steep drop in debt trading revenues and heavy litigation and restructuring costs that prompted the bank to warn of a challenging 2014.

Germany’s biggest bank said revenue at its important debt-trading division, fell 31 percent in the quarter, a much bigger drop than at U.S. rivals, which have also suffered from sluggish fixed-income trading.

If current trends continue, many other big banks will soon be experiencing a “bond headache” as well.  At this point, Treasury Bond sentiment is about the lowest that it has been in about 20 years.  Investors overwhelmingly believe that yields are heading higher.

If that does indeed turn out to be the case, interest rates throughout our economy are going to be rising, economic activity will start slowing down significantly and it could set up the “nightmare scenario” that I keep talking about.

But I am not the only one talking about it.

In fact, the World Economic Forum is warning about the exact same thing…

Fiscal crises triggered by ballooning debt levels in advanced economies pose the biggest threat to the global economy in 2014, a report by the World Economic Forum has warned.

Ahead of next week’s WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the forum’s annual assessment of global dangers said high levels of debt in advanced economies, including Japan and America, could lead to an investor backlash.

This would create a “vicious cycle” of ballooning interest payments, rising debt piles and investor doubt that would force interest rates up further.

So will a default event in China on January 31st be the next “Lehman Brothers moment” or will it be something else?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter.  The truth is that what has been going on in the global financial system is completely and totally unsustainable, and it is inevitable that it is all going to come horribly crashing down at some point during the next few years.

It is just a matter of time.

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