Mortgage Horror Stories: The U.S. Housing Industry Will Never Recover If Qualified People Can’t Get A Home Loan

Back about five or six years ago, when the housing bubble was still rising, just about anyone could get a mortgage.  Lending institutions were handing out ridiculously bloated home loans to almost anyone who breathed.  It didn’t matter if you had a rotten credit history, it didn’t matter if you didn’t have a job and in some cases it didn’t even matter if you had any income at all.  It was basically an orgy of mortgage lending.  But now the pendulum has swung 180 degrees in the other direction.  Severely burned by the subprime mortgage crash, mortgage lending institutions have been seriously tightening their lending standards.  As a result, in 2010 it is extremely difficult to get a home loan or a mortgage modification.  In their determination not to get burned again, mortgage lenders have completely overreacted and now a lot of highly qualified people can’t get a home loan.

This point was beautifully illustrated recently by one of our readers named John….

I was just turned down for a home loan. My credit score is 799, my wife’s 804. We had $40,000.00 to put down, which was almost 30%. BUT! Our bank turned down our application! Why? They required us to have 6 months “operating expenses” in the bank after all closing costs were covered. They came up with an arbitrary number on their own, based on our bills and such. We had that amount and more on top of our closing monies. Then why were we denied the loan? Several thousand dollars were from “cash” and the bank required that “cash” be in the bank for at least 60 days or they wouldn’t consider it fluid funding. Needless to say we didn’t make the closing date and are hiring an attorney to avoid being sued (by the seller).

A reader named distressedinbham on another website had an even more frustrating experience trying to get a home loan modification….

I am self-employed, have been all my life and have owned a home for 30 years. When I started my Loan Modification process in August of 09 I WAS NOT behind on any payments. I sent full documentation, over 150 pages, with the things they needed to verify my income. I am now 2 payments behind and I am getting nowhere. They keep flipping me between Loss Mitigation and Imminent Default, back and fourth month end month out. I made a habit of calling every week, then every two weeks just to be sure all was moving forward. From the middle of November I was told my file was with the underwriter and it would only be 30-60 days. I began automatically updating my income verification, verification that I still resided at the property and an updated 4506-T every month. In the middle of April a rep finally told me I was not in the loan modification process. In fact, that I had been denied on March 2. Keep in mind, I’m talking to these people every 2 weeks. She did a financial interview and sent me a new packet so that I could start all over, resubmitting all the documentation yet again. She told me she was my Account Manager. I completed the packet, called with a question (2 weeks later – over a week to receive the packet and another few days to complete it and gather all my documents again) and learned that my “Account Manager” was on maternity leave and I now didn’t have an account manager. Also, I was told that I had received the incorrect packet…it was the old version rather than the updated version. She asked me to fax four or five pieces of information in the hopes it would, quote, “jump start my file back into the process” and said she we send me another packet. That was mid April. Here we sit, 2-1/2 months later, I have still not received anything in writing about my rejection. And, though I’ve now had people tell me on three separate occasions that I would receive a new packet, it has yet to show up on my door step. I asked several times why my application was denied and the answer I finally got last week was that it was because I was DELIQUENT in my payments. Call me crazy but I thought that was the whole point??!! I almost hired a third party but am so hesitant to take that step. Every time I get on the phone with them it takes an hour out of my day and I am usually so upset I find it difficult to work, so I just don’t call. I’m going to sit back and regroup and decide what I need to do next.

The truth is that scenes such as these are being repeated over and over again across the United States right now.

Scott Stern, the CEO of Lenders One, says that a lot has changed since 2007….

“Lending standards have tightened dramatically between 2007 and 2009.”

In an attempt to avoid the mistakes of the housing bubble, the mortgage industry has now created a situation where standards are so tight that the entire industry is freezing up.

In May, sales of new homes in the United States dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.  To be more exact, new home sales dropped 32.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000. 

Keep in mind that a “normal” level for new homes sales is an annual rate of about 800,000. 

New homes have never sold this slowly ever since the U.S. Commerce Department began tracking this data back in 1963.

Now, a lot of the drop in new home sales has to do with other factors, but certainly the fact that people are having such a hard time getting approved for loans is playing a role.

If large numbers of qualified people are getting turned down for mortgages that is going to suck a lot of money out of the marketplace.

And without enough qualified buyers, the U.S. housing industry is simply not going to recover.

But it isn’t just a lack of qualified buyers that is the problem.

The truth is that the U.S. real estate market is a complete and total disaster right now and there is every indication that things are going to get even worse.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that it is going to remain very difficult to sell homes.

It means that prices are going to continue to come down.

It means that real estate agents will continue to suffer and there will continue to be high unemployment in the construction industry.

In fact, every industry that is highly dependent on the U.S. housing market is likely to continue to feel a lot of pain for a long time to come.

So do you have a mortgage horror story to share?  If so, please feel free to leave it in a comment below…..

25 Signs That Almost Everyone Is Expecting An Economic Collapse In 2010

At times like these, it is hardly going out on a limb to say that we are headed for hard economic times.  In fact, it seems like almost everyone in the financial world is either declaring that a recession is coming or is busy preparing for one.  The truth is that bad economic signs are everywhere.  Consumer confidence is plummeting, big banks are hoarding cash, top financial experts are issuing recession warnings and it seems like almost everyone is trying to accumulate as much gold as possible.  Now that the G20 nations have all pledged to dramatically cut government spending in an effort to get debt under control, worries about a double-dip recession have reached a fever pitch.  So will we see the full-fledged economic collapse that so many analysts are warning of before the end of 2010?  Of course it is possible, but it seems much more likely that  we will just see the beginning of another recession that could certainly deepen into a depression as we head into 2011 and 2012.  There are so many variables and so many moving parts that it is always difficult to predict exactly how things will play out.  What does seem virtually certain, however, is that we are heading into a time of extreme economic stress.

The following are 25 signs that almost everyone in the financial world is expecting an economic downturn during the second half of 2010….

#1) The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index declined sharply to 52.9 in June.  Most economists had expected that the figure for June would be somewhere around 62.  To get an idea of how bad this is, the index was at 100 back during the baseline year of 1985.

#2) Major banks are being instructed to hoard cash in preparation for the next financial crisis.

#3) French bank Societe Generale is forecasting that gold could reach $1,430 an ounce in the third quarter of this year due to fears of a double-dip recession.

#4) Paul Krugman of the New York Times declared in a recent column that we are about to enter “the third depression”.

#5) According to one recent poll, about eight out of every 10 Americans expect the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to damage the U.S. economy and drive up the cost of gas and food.

#6) Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, is not optimistic about the chances of avoiding another recession….

“There’s an uncomfortably high probability that we slip back into recession.”

#7) The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting that the number of Americans on food stamps will increase to 43 million in 2011.

#8) George Soros claims that a European recession in the coming months is “almost inevitable”.

#9) Kevin Giddis, the Managing Director of Fixed Income at Morgan Keegan says that a lot of people are making some really large financial bets that a recession is on the way….

“There is big money making big bets that at a minimum we we’ll have a recession if not a depression that could last for years.”

#10) The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently said that U.S. states in fiscal 2011 could be facing the worst budget situation that they have experienced since the economic downturn began in 2007.

#11) Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is publicly saying that the U.S. unemployment rate is quite likely to remain “high for a while”.

#12) The National League of Cities is warning that large numbers of cities across the U.S. will be facing horrible economic conditions over the next couple of years….

“City budget shortfalls will become more severe over the next two years as tax collections catch up with economic conditions.  These will inevitably result in new rounds of layoffs, service cuts, and canceled projects and contracts.”

#13) According to the Wall Street Journal, debates have already begun inside the Federal Reserve about what to do in the event of a “double-dip” recession.

#14) In May, sales of new homes in the United States dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.  The truth is that the American people know economic hard times are coming and so they aren’t running out and buying expensive new homes that they can’t afford.

#15) Mike Whitney says that without more “stimulus” from the federal government a recession by the end of 2010 is extremely likely….

“Without another boost of stimulus, the economy will lapse back into recession sometime by the end of 2010.”

#16) One recent poll found that 76 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. economy is still in a recession.

#17) Richard Russell, the famous author of the Dow Theory Letters, is not mincing words about what he believes is headed our way….

“Do your friends a favor. Tell them to “batten down the hatches” because there’s a HARD RAIN coming. Tell them to get out of debt and sell anything they can sell (and don’t need) in order to get liquid. Tell them that Richard Russell says that by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country. They’ll retort, “How the dickens does Russell know — who told him?” Tell them the stock market told him.”

#18) The Bank of International Settlements said in its annual report that major banks on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean continue to remain “highly leveraged and still appear to be on life support”.

#19) Mish Shedlock recently raised eyebrows by openly proclaiming that “an economic depression is here”.

#20) Bob Chapman of the International Forecaster is very pessimistic about the state of the world economy as we head into the second half of 2010….

“There is still no question in our minds that Greece was a setup to lead to a deflationary collapse later and the Greek people refused to listen. As a result it is now apparent that Greece is even worse off than the elitists imagined. We do not see European bailouts going any further. The result is the US and UK will follow. Financial Europe is history. You should all keep in mind that this is child’s play. Wait until England and the US go down, perhaps before the end of the year.”

#21) An article on Bloomberg’s website says that 46 U.S. states are facing a “Greek style” financial crisis.

#22) Charles Cooper at Oriel Securities says that worries about the global economy right now are actually very good for the price of gold….

“Debt on government balance sheets and worries that the world could be heading towards a double-dip recession are driving the gold price higher.”

#23) Richard Suttmeier recently wrote an article for Forbes magazine in which he predicted that we are headed for another dramatic decline in housing prices….

Home prices will decline again with risk of another 50% down to get house prices back to levels of 1999 / 2000.

#24) University of Maryland professor Peter Morici is warning that the decision by European governments to slash their budgets makes the prospect of another recession much more likely….

“Europeans cutting their budgets now could thrust the global economy into a double-dip recession.”

#25) John P. Hussman, fund manager of Hussman Strategic Total Return and Hussman Strategic Growth, has issued a full-fledged recession warning: “Based on evidence that has always and only been observed during or immediately prior to U.S. recessions, the U.S. economy appears headed into a second leg of an unusually challenging downturn.”

So in light of all this, what should we all do?

We should all start preparing for difficult times.

Now is a great time to get out of debt, to reduce expenses, to develop additional streams of income and to start storing up food and supplies for when things really fall apart.

After all, you don’t start preparing once the storm has already arrived.  You start preparing the moment that you see the first signs of trouble on the horizon.

There is no excuse for not getting yourself prepared.  The signs that we are headed towards an economic nightmare are all around us.

Do what you have to do for yourself and for your family.

7 Potential Economic Effects Of A War With Iran

As each day passes, war in the Middle East seems increasingly likely.  The truth is that Israel will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and Iran is absolutely determined to continue developing a nuclear program.  So right now Israel and Iran are engaged in a really bizarre game of “nuclear chicken” and neither side is showing any sign of blinking.  In fact, even prominent world leaders are now openly stating that it is basically inevitable that Israel is going to strike Iran.  For example, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently made the stunning admission that the G8 nations “absolutely believe” that Israel will attack Iran.  But a conflict between Israel and Iran would not just affect the Middle East – it would have staggering implications for the rest of the globe.

So just what would a war between Israel and Iran mean for the world economy?

The following are 7 potential economic effects of a conflict between Israel and Iran….

#1) The Price Of Oil Would Skyrocket – One of the very first things a war with Iran would do is that it would severely constrict or even shut down oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz.  Considering the fact that approximately 20% of the world’s oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz, world oil markets would instantly be plunged into a frenzy.  In fact, some analysts believe that oil prices would rise to $250 per barrel.

So are you ready to pay 8 or 10 dollars for a gallon of gasoline?  What do you think that would do to the U.S. economy?

The truth is that every single transaction that we make every single day is influenced by the price of oil.  If the price of oil suddenly doubles or triples that would absolutely devastate the already very fragile U.S. economic system.

#2) Fear Would Explode In World Financial Markets – Even without a war, the dominant force in world financial markets in 2010 is fear.  We are already seeing unprecedented volatility in financial markets around the globe, and there is nothing like a war to turn fear into a full-fledged panic.  And what happens when panic grips financial markets?  What happens is that they crash. 

#3) World Trade Would Instantly Seize Up – Once upon a time the economies of the world were relatively self-contained, so a war in one area would not necessarily wreck economies all over the globe.  But all of that has changed now.  Today, the economies of virtually every nation are highly interdependent.  That has some advantages, but it also has a lot of disadvantages.

If a war with Iran did break out, nations all over the globe would start taking sides and world trade would seize up.  The global flow of goods and services would be severely interrupted.  That would be enough to push many nations around the world into a full-blown depression.

#4) Military Spending Would Escalate – Even if the United States was not pulled directly into a conflict between Israel and Iran, there is little doubt that the U.S. would be spending a lot of money and resources to support Israel and to build up military assets in the region in case a wider war broke out.  The U.S. has already spent somewhere in the neighborhood of a trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  If war does break out with Iran the amount of money the U.S. government could be forced to spend could be absolutely staggering.   

The truth is that the U.S. is already drowning in debt.  At this point the U.S. government is over 13 trillion dollars in debt, and another Middle East war is certainly not going to help things.    

#5) Russia Would Greatly Benefit – Russia and other major oil producers outside of the Middle East would greatly benefit if a war with Iran erupts.  Russia is already the number one oil producer in the world, and if supplies out of the Middle East were disrupted for any period of time it would mean an unprecedented windfall for the Russian Bear. 

#6) Massive Inflation – A huge jump in the price of oil and dramatically increased military spending by the U.S. government would most definitely lead to price inflation.  We would probably see a dramatic rise in interest rates as well.  In fact, it is quite likely that if a war with Iran does break out we would see a return of “stagflation” – a situation where prices are rapidly escalating but economic growth as a whole is either flat or declining.

#7) The Price Of Gold Would Go Through The Roof – When there is a high degree of uncertainty in world financial markets, where do investors turn?  As we have seen very clearly recently, they turn to gold.  As high as the price of gold is now, the truth is that it is nothing compared to what would happen if a war with Iran breaks out.  When times get tough, we almost always see a flight to safety.  Right now none of the major currencies around the globe provide much safety, so investors are increasingly viewing precious metals such as gold and silver as a wealth preservation tool. 

War is never pleasant.  If war with Iran does break out it could potentially set off a chain of cascading events that would permanently alter the world economy for the rest of our lifetimes. 

So let us hope that war does not erupt.  It wouldn’t be good for anyone.  But the reality is that at this point it almost seems like a foregone conclusion.  Tensions in the Middle East are rising by the day, and all sides are certainly preparing as if they fully expect a war to happen.

Even without a war with Iran, incredibly hard economic times are on the way, so if a war does happen it could mean a complete and total economic disaster. 

So what do you think?  Will a war with Iran devastate the world economy?  Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion….

Budget Cuts?

As violent protests erupted outside, the leaders of the world’s largest economies plotted the future course of the global economy at this weekend’s G20 summit.  So what was decided?  Well, according to various reports in the mainstream media, it was the “deficit hawks” who got their way.  Apparently the consensus of the G20 meetings was that a round of tough budget cuts is the medicine that the world economy needs.  In fact, the G20 leaders all pledged to cut their respective budget deficits in half by 2013.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, one of the key advocates of budget cuts, said that the G20 nations need to walk a “tightrope” between stimulating their economies and debt reduction.  But as the largest economies around the globe transition from reckless government spending to budget reductions and austerity measures, what is that really going to mean for the world economy?

Well, the truth is that as good as “budget cuts” sound, they can have some very nasty short-term side effects.

You see, there is no getting around the fact that whenever governments spend more money it is good for economic growth.  The problem is that a large number of governments around the globe have been consistently spending way beyond their means for decades and now they find themselves up to their eyeballs in debt.

The exploding sovereign debt levels around the globe are not sustainable by any definition, and so it was undeniable that something had to be done.

In fact, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso put it quite succinctly during the G20 meetings in Toronto when he told the press the following….

“There is no more room for deficit spending.”

The reality is that nations such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy are already on the verge of default.  Japan has accumulated so much debt that it makes headlines almost constantly in the newspapers over there.  The exploding U.K. debt was one of the key factors that enabled the Conservatives to take power in the most recent election.

But nobody has more debt than the United States.  As of June 1st, the U.S. National Debt was $13,050,826,460,886.97.  The U.S. government has accumulated the most colossal mountain of debt the world has ever seen and it is exploding at a rate that is breathtaking.

So, yes, the largest economies of the world have a major problem with government debt.

But are budget cuts and austerity measures the correct solution?

It depends who you ask.

The reality is that the U.S., the U.K. and many of the other most powerful economies in the world now find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

If they continue recklessly going into debt their economies will continue to be stimulated (at least to some degree), but interest expenses will continue to spiral upwards and borrowing costs will go through the roof as credit ratings fall.  In the end, nation after nation would end up defaulting and the world financial system would crash hard.

However, if the G20 nations actually do implement the hard budget cuts that are necessary to get their debts under control, it will suck a ton of money out of the system and could send the already vulnerable global economy into a devastating deflationary depression.

The truth is that neither option is a good option.

Either path is going to contain a good amount of economic pain.

So what do you do when there is no good solution?

Stephen Lewis of Monument Securities recently argued that the path of “fiscal stimulus” has been totally played out and so there is no good reason to continue to go down that path….

“Growth could be negative again as soon as the fourth quarter. There is no easy way out since fiscal stimulus has already been pushed as far as it can credibly go without endangering US credit-worthiness.”

However, Chris Whalen, a former Federal Reserve official and now head of Institutional Risk Analytics says that unless the printing presses are quickly cranked up again we are definitely headed for deflation….

“The party is over from fiscal support. These hard-money men are fighting the last war: they don’t recognise that money velocity has slowed and we are going into deflation. The only default option left is to crank up the printing presses again.”

So what is the right answer?

For now, G20 leaders have decided that budget cuts and austerity measures are the right answer.

Not that Barack Obama and U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke didn’t fight behind the scenes for additional “stimulus” for the world economy.

You see, when it comes to “Helicopter Ben”, his first instinct is to always pump more money into the economy.  In fact, according to one major U.K. newspaper, U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has been fighting an intense behind the scenes war for control of U.S. monetary policy.  Bernanke is reportedly frightened that the U.S. could be headed for a deflationary spiral and has been pushing the idea of a fresh injection of money into the U.S. economy.

But for now Bernanke has lost.  Barack Obama has joined the other leaders of the G20 in promising to cut their budget deficits by 50 percent by 2013.

Not that we are actually going to see that happen.

We all know how reliable Barack Obama’s promises are.  He was busy breaking his 2008 campaign promises before he was even sworn in.

And the day will come when Barack Obama needs to turn the economy around in order to win some votes, and when that day arrives the temptation to “stimulate” the economy with some more government spending will prove irresistible.

But for the moment, Obama is lining up with the other G20 leaders and is swearing that he is going to get spending under control.

That should settle world financial markets down for the moment, but the reality is that as all of the major economies around the world suddenly see a dramatic reduction in government spending, a substantial economic slowdown will be inevitable.

When the world economy slows down, unemployment will spike, the global real estate mess will get even worse and “austerity riots” could even break out in many areas of the globe.

So at some point, the pendulum will once again swing back towards “stimulus” and world leaders will indulge their debt addictions once again.  But that will only make the long-term global economic problems even worse.

The truth is that the entire world economic system is broken.  It is built on a fraudulent pyramid of debt, derivatives, central banking and paper money that is doomed to fail.  But world leaders will continue to keep it alive for as long as they can.

Right now their big solution is to get all of the major industrialized nations to agree to huge budget cuts.  These budget cuts, if they are actually implemented, are very likely to lead to a severe economic slowdown and potentially even a deflationary depression.

But continuing on the path that the G20 leaders were on would have resulted in a wave of sovereign defaults and hyperinflationary meltdowns.

So the G20 leaders have decided to change course and they are hoping that they can navigate the economic minefield ahead and bring our economies through all of this okay.

But in the end they are going to fail.

What Do You Believe Is America’s Biggest Economic Problem?

Today there are literally dozens of major threats to the U.S. economy.  Each one of these threats alone could cause a major economic implosion.  The Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the derivatives bubble, the housing crisis, the exploding U.S. national debt and the burgeoning European debt crisis all threaten to push the struggling U.S. economy over the edge.  But which one is America’s biggest economic problem?  Below, 16 of America’s greatest economic threats are listed in no particular order.  The goal of this article is to hear what all of you readers believe is the worst crisis the U.S. economy is facing.  If you would like to vote, please choose one of the 16 economic problems listed below (or nominate one of your own) and leave a comment explaining your choice….

#1) The Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill – The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is already the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.  Is it also about to become the worst economic disaster in U.S. history?   

#2) The Derivatives Bubble – The total value of all derivatives worldwide is estimated to be well over a quadrillion dollars.  In fact, the danger from derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet has called them “financial weapons of mass destruction”.  Will the derivatives bubble end up being the major cause of the next depression?

#3) The Housing Crash – Last month, sales of new homes in the United States dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.  Also, the number of U.S. home foreclosures set a record for the second consecutive month in May.  Very few Americans are buying houses right now.  The subprime mortgage crisis brought the U.S. financial system to the brink of ruin in 2007 and 2008.  Is it about to happen again?

#4) The Federal Reserve – Instead of printing and issuing their own currency, the U.S. government actually has to go into more debt before any new currency is created.  But the problem is that the money to pay the interest on that debt is not created at that time, so in order to pay that interest the U.S. government will need to create even more currency in the future.  That means going into even more debt.  Thus the U.S. government is caught in an endless debt spiral that has now become impossible to escape.  By basing our economy on mountains of debt and paper money that is backed by nothing, have we essentially guaranteed that our economic system will totally fail someday?     

#5) The European Sovereign Debt Crisis – Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and a number of other European nations are in real danger of actually defaulting on their debts.  If a wave of national defaults starts sweeping the globe, will it end up wiping out the U.S. economy as well?

#6) The Growing Welfare State – For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.  More than 1 in 5 American children now live below the poverty line.  Nearly 51 million Americans received $672 billion in Social Security benefits in 2009.  How many people can the U.S. government possibly support financially before it finally collapses under the weight?

#7) Illegal Immigration– There are an estimated 30 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States.  Not only is this a very serious economic burden, but it is a huge national security issue as well.  Federal agents and local law enforcement officials along the border are now openly telling the media that they are outgunned, outmanned and are increasingly being shot at by the Mexican drug cartels that are openly conducting military operations inside the United States.  There is now significant Latin American gang activity in almost every large and mid-size city in the United States.  Meanwhile, Barack Obama continues to leave the border wide open.  

#8) Corruption On Wall Street– The corrupton in the financial system that has been revealed in 2010 has been absolutely mind blowing.  Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers and Wachovia are all being investigated by the government at this point.  The rampant manipulation of the gold and silver markets was completely blown open by an industry insider, and the U.S. government has finally been convinced to take a look at it.  It seems like the more the layers are peeled back, the more corruption we find in the financial community.  So how long can the U.S. financial system survive when corruption is seemingly everywhere? 

#9) War In The Middle East – The U.S. government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars fighting the war in Iraq.  The U.S. government has spent over 247 billion dollars on the war in Afghanistan, and yet June 2010 has now become the deadliest month of the Afghan war for coalition troops.  Now there is a very real possibility that war could erupt with Iran.  How long can the U.S. government continue to afford to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into wars in the Middle East?  Not only that, but if a war with Iran cuts off the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, what would that do to our economic system that is so highly dependent on oil?

#10) Barack Obama’s Health Care “Reform” – Barack Obama’s pet project is actually the biggest tax increase in U.S. history, it is going to cause the premature retirement of thousands upon thousands of American doctors, and it is going to drive health insurance premiums through the roof.  Health insurance companies are going to do very well (they actually helped write the bill), but the rest of us are going to be absolutely crushed by this brutal legislation.  So what will happen when the U.S. healthcare system implodes?

#11) Barack Obama’s “Cap And Trade” Carbon Tax Scheme– Rather than focusing all of his attention on fixing the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, Barack Obama has been busy playing golf and figuring out how he can use this crisis as an opportunity to get his “cap and trade” carbon tax scheme pushed through the U.S. Congress.  But will Barack Obama’s obsession with “global warming” end up totally wrecking the U.S. economy?

#12) Globalism – Most American workers had no idea that free trade would mean that they would suddenly be competing for jobs against workers in the Philippines and Malaysia.  Today, corporations often find themselves having to choose whether to build a factory in the United States or in the third world.  But in the third world workers often earn less than 10% of what American workers earn, corporations are often not required to provide any benefits to workers, and there are usually hardly any oppressive government regulations.  How can American workers compete against that?

#13) The Moral Decline Of America – An economy stops working efficiently when people stop feeling safe and when they stop trusting one another.  As greed, selfishness, lust, pride, theft and violence continue to explode, how much longer will the U.S. economy be able to function normally?

#14) Genetic Modification – Scientists around the globe have now produced “monster salmon” which grow three times as fast as normal salmon, corn that has been genetically modified to have a pesticide grow inside the corn kernel, cats that glow in the dark and goats that produce spider silk.  Is it possible that all of this genetic modification could unleash an environmental hell that could destroy not only the economy but also our entire society?

#15) Unemployment – Tens of millions of Americans are out of work and nearly a million people have lost their unemployment benefits because the U.S. Senate has once again failed to pass a bill that would extend those benefits.  In some areas of the United States unemployment has been pushing up towards depression-era levels.  For example, a while back the mayor of Detroit said that the real unemployment rate in his city is somewhere around 50 percent.  So is the biggest problem that the U.S. economy is facing the fact that so many millions of willing American workers simply cannot find work?

#16) The U.S. National Debt – As of June 1st,  the U.S. National Debt was $13,050,826,460,886.  According to a U.S. Treasury Department report to Congress, the U.S. national debt will top $13.6 trillion this year and climb to an estimated $19.6 trillion by 2015.  The total of all government, corporate and consumer debt in the United States is now about 360 percent of GDP.  The United States has piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world.  So how long will it be before this mountain of debt collapses?

So of the 16 economic problems listed above, which one do you believe is the biggest threat to the U.S. economy?

Please feel free to leave a comment with your vote….

The Coming U.S. Real Estate Crash

This week headlines across the United States screamed that new home sales in the U.S. had declined to the lowest level since the U.S. government began keeping track in 1963.  But in the news stories covering this data in the mainstream media, they were always very careful to give their readers lots of reasons why things are going to “get back to normal” very soon.  But the truth is that is simply not going to happen.  Right now the United States is heading for another real estate crash.  The only thing that has been holding it back was the huge bribe (called a tax credit) that the U.S. government was giving people to buy houses.  Now that the tax credit has expired, there is no artificial incentive to buy homes and the real estate market has fallen through the floor.  Unfortunately, there is every indication that things are going to get even worse.  Read on to find out why…. 

The following are 7 reasons why the U.S. real estate market is already a total nightmare….

#1) In May, sales of new homes in the United States dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.  To be more precise, new home sales dropped 32.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000.  A “normal” level is about 800,000 a month.  New homes have never sold this slowly ever since the U.S. Commerce Department began tracking this data back in 1963.

#2) The median price of all new U.S. homes sold in May was $200,900, which represented a 9.6% drop from May 2009.  If prices are still falling on new homes that means that the real estate nightmare is not over.

#3) New home sale figures for the previous two months were also revised down sharply by the government.  Apparently their previous estimates were far too optimistic.  But those were supposed to be really good months for home sales with so many Americans taking advantage of the tax credit right before the deadline.  So the fact that the data for the previous two months had to be revised downward so severely is a very bad sign.

#4) Newly signed home sale contracts in the U.S. dropped more than 10% in May.

#5) According to the U.S. Commerce Department, housing starts in the U.S. fell approximately 10 percent in May, which represented the biggest decline since March 2009.

#6) Internet searches on real estate websites are down about 20 percent compared to this same time period in 2009.

#7) The “twin pillars” of the mortgage industry are a complete and total financial mess.  The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the final bill for the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be as high as $389 billion.  Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continue to hemorrhage cash at an alarming rate, but the truth is that without them there wouldn’t be much of a mortgage industry left in the United States.

The following are 7 reasons why things are going to get even worse….

#1) The massive tax credit that the U.S. government was offering to home buyers has expired.  This tax credit helped stabilize the U.S. real estate market for many months, but now that it is gone there is no more safety net for the housing industry.

#2) Foreclosures continue to set all-time records.  In fact, the number of home foreclosures set a record for the second consecutive month in May.  Not only that, but the number of newly initiated foreclosures rose 18.6 percent to 370,856 in the first quarter of 2010.  A rising tide of foreclosures means that there is going to be a growing inventory of foreclosed homes on the market.  As of March, U.S. banks had an inventory of approximately 1.1 million foreclosed homes, which was up 20 percent from a year ago.  There is no indication that the number of foreclosed homes that need to be sold is going to decrease any time soon.  This is going to have a depressing effect on U.S. home prices.

#3) Another giant wave of adjustable rate mortgages is scheduled to reset in 2011 and 2012.  This “second wave” threatens to be as dramatic as the first wave that almost sunk the U.S. mortgage industry in 2007 and 2008.  Unfortunately, what this is going to cause is even more foreclosures and even lower home prices.

#4) Banks and lending institutions have been significantly tightening their lending standards over the past several years.  It is now much harder to get a home loan.  That means that there are less potential buyers for each house that is on the market.  Less competition for homes means that prices will continue to decline.

#5) Home prices are still way too high for most Americans in the current economic environment.  Based on current wage levels, house prices should actually be much lower.  So the market is going to continue to try to push home prices down to a point where people can actually afford to buy them.  Right now Americans can’t even afford the houses that they already have.  The Mortgage Bankers Association recently announced that more than 10% of all U.S. homeowners with a mortgage had missed at least one mortgage payment during the January to March time period.  That was a new all-time record and represented an increase from 9.1 percent a year ago.

#6) The overall U.S. economy is caught in a death spiral.  Unemployment remains at frightening levels, a large percentage of Americans are up to their eyeballs in debt and more than 40 million Americans are now on food stamps.  If people don’t have jobs and if people don’t have money then they can’t buy houses. 

#7) The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history, and it is threatening to become one of the greatest economic disasters in U.S. history.  Already, real estate agents along the Gulf coast are reporting that the oil spill has completely killed the real estate industry in the region.  As this disaster continues to grow worse by the day, homes in the southeast United States will continue to look less and less appealing.  In fact, many are now projecting that the crisis in the Gulf will actually crush the housing industry from coast to coast.

So honestly there is not a lot of reason to think that the housing industry in the U.S. is going to rebound any time soon.  In fact, for those waiting for a “rebound” the truth is that we have already seen it.  Where we are headed next is the second dip of the “double dip” that so many of the talking heads on CNBC have been talking about.  For those seeking to sell their homes this is really bad news, but for those looking to buy a home this is actually good news. 

Who knows?  Home prices may actually come down to a point where many of us can actually afford to purchase a home.

Does The Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill Mean That The U.S. Is Headed For Gas Lines, Higher Food Prices And A Broken Economy?

As the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis enters a third month, the economic impact of this environmental nightmare is starting to become clearer.  The truth is that the “oil volcano” spewing massive amounts of oil into the Gulf has absolutely decimated the seafood, tourism and real estate industries along the Gulf coast.  Not only that, but energy industry insiders are now warning that the chilling effect that this crisis will have on offshore drilling could precipitate a new 1970s-style energy crisis.  Considering the fact that the U.S. economy was already on incredibly shaky ground even before the oil leak, the last thing we needed was a disaster of this magnitude.  But it has happened, and the reality is that the long-term effects of this crisis are potentially going to reverberate for decades. 

The American people certainly have a negative view on the impact that this oil spill will have on the economy.  According to a new poll, about eight out of every 10 Americans expect the oil spill to damage the U.S. economy and drive up the cost of gas and food.

But is a new 1970s-style energy crisis really a possibility?

Could we actually soon be headed for blackouts and gas lines?

Well, former Shell executive John Hofmeister believes that is exactly what we are headed for….

“Within a decade I predict the energy abyss looks like brownouts, blackouts and gas lines.” 

In fact, Hofmeister claims that some of his fellow energy industry insiders expect things to be even worse than he is projecting in the years ahead.

Why?

Hofmeister says that the problem is the U.S. government….

“Our federal government, when it comes to energy and the environment, is dysfunctional, it’s broken, and it’s unfixable in its current form.”

Without a doubt, the oil spill will have a chilling effect on offshore drilling.  But does that mean that we are going to be facing a shortage of oil in the future?

Well, that is what the advocates of peak oil would have us believe. 

But the truth is that there are actually a TON of untapped reserves throughout the United States that could provide everything that we need for decades and more.

Nobody is really supposed to talk about it, but the reality is that there are massive deposits of oil in Alaska, the Colorado Rockies and in the Bakken formation in Montana and the Dakotas that are larger than anything found in Saudi Arabia. 

So we will only have an “energy crisis” if that is what oil industry insiders and the U.S. government want.

You see, the oil industry likes to keep the supply of oil down because it means much larger profits for them, and these days the folks in Washington D.C. like anything that causes the U.S. public to use less oil, so higher energy prices are just fine with them.

In fact, rather than focusing on getting the crisis in the Gulf solved, Barack Obama has been exploiting this oil spill to really push his economy-killing climate bill.  It seems like Barack Obama would do just about anything to foist his “cap and trade” carbon tax scheme on the American people. 

Energy issues aside, the impact that this oil spill is having on other areas of the Gulf coast economy is very significant.

For example, the Gulf oil spill is absolutely playing havoc with real estate prices in the region.

Real estate agent Linda Henderson recently put it this way….

“I can tell you that things have pretty much dropped to dead.”

After all, who is going to pay top dollar for beachfront property down there at this point?

Nobody.

Not only that, but obviously the oil spill is devastating the seafood industry in the Gulf as well.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the average wholesale price for Gulf brown shrimp has jumped by more than half since the crisis began.

In addition, oyster prices are up 33% since the beginning of the oil spill, and as oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico the price increases are only going to become more dramatic.

In fact, many are wondering if the seafood industry in the Gulf will ever recover from all of this.

The truth is that fishermen in Cordova, Alaska are still struggling 21 years after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill devastated the fishing industry in that area.

Some local shrimpers in Louisiana are already predicting that it will be seven years before they can set to sea again, but even that actually may prove to be too optimistic.

Some scientists are warning that the massive quantities of methane that are being spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from the “oil volcano” could create “dead zones” where oxygen is so depleted that literally nothing lives.

So if the oil continues to flow for several more months could very large portions of the Gulf of Mexico become dead zones?

That is a legitimate question at this point.

In addition, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is completely destroying tourism along the Gulf coast.

The truth is that nobody wants to visit places where the beaches are coated with oil and where breathing the air makes your kids want to gag.

Public Service Commissioner Benjamin Stevens recently described what this is going to mean for beaches in his area….

“You get hit by a hurricane and you can rebuild. But when that stuff washes up on the white sands of Pensacola Beach, you can’t just go and get more white sand.”

Hotel Owner Dodie Vegas was even more blunt in describing what this crisis means for her business….

“It’s just going to kill us. It’s going to destroy us.”

But not everyone has been ruined economically by this oil spill.

In fact, it turns out that BP CEO Tony Hayward cashed in about a third of his BP stock one month before the well on the Deepwater Horizon exploded.

Not only that, it has been revealed that Goldman Sachs sold 58% of its shares in BP between January and March of this year.

Isn’t it amazing how the elite always seem to have such perfect timing?

Even if Tony Hayward resigns as a result of this crisis, he is going to get a 10.8 million pound ($16 million) golden parachute.

No, the true losers in all of this are going to be those living along the Gulf of Mexico who have had their lives, their businesses and the beautiful environment around them destroyed.

We are literally watching an entire region of America slowly die, and Barack Obama still refuses to accept any of the international assistance that is being offered. 

If what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico is not enough to get the American people angry, then what will?  This crisis has been so badly mismanaged that it is absolutely mind blowing.  Let’s just hope that someone can find a way to stop the oil soon.

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