Winners And Losers

When you mention the word “globalism” to most people, they think of something that is going to happen someday in the future.  But the truth is that globalism is already here.  At this point we essentially already have a one world economy.  Goods and services flow across national borders more freely today than at any other point in human history.  A major economic event on one side of the world instantly affects financial markets on the other side of the world.  Labor has become a truly global commodity.  You can go to the exact same fast food restaurant or buy the exact same iPod on six different continents.  A whole host of international trade agreements are making national borders economically irrelevant.  Today our “big box” stores and shopping malls are jammed full with products that have been made overseas and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find American-made products.  The reality is that it has now become undeniable that globalism has arrived and we are now part of a world economy that is integrating at lightning speed.  Unfortunately, all of this globalism has created some very clear winners and losers.  But most middle class Americans are in such a deep sleep that they don’t even realize that they are the losers.

The sad truth is that as work has become a global commodity, middle class American workers have been placed in direct competition with the cheapest labor in the world.  For years the U.S. economy was so strong that nobody really noticed that it was bleeding thousands of jobs every single month.  But now that 14 million Americans are unemployed and the U.S. economy is literally hemorrhaging jobs people are starting to sit up and take notice.

Let’s take a look at one recent example.  Ford Motor Company has just announced the closure of a facility that produces the Ford Ranger in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Approximately 750 good paying jobs are going to be lost.

But isn’t Ford doing better these days?

Sure.

Don’t people still need Ford Rangers?

Of course they do.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty even offered Ford a multi-million dollar incentive package full of tax cuts and job creation incentives to keep the factory going.

Basically, Pawlenty did everything except get down on his hands and knees and beg Ford to keep the plant open.

But it wasn’t good enough for Ford.

So where is Ford going to make those Ford Rangers now?

Well, the statement issues by Ford did not say, but it did offer some clues….

“Ford continues to concentrate on implementing the plan we initiated four years ago to streamline our plant operations and better leverage our global platforms. At this time, the Twin Cities Assembly Plant does not fit into our global manufacturing strategy.”

Did you notice that the world “global” was used twice there?

In other words, Ford plans to move their factory some place where labor is cheaper.

But the truth is that this is happening in every industry.

Between 2004 to 2008, tire imports from China increased 215 percent by volume and 295 percent by value.

During that same time period, tire manufacturing in the United States fell by 25 percent.

It turns out that there are lots of people who are willing to make tires for near slave labor wages in China.

In our new “global economy”, American workers are just far too expensive.  So middle class manufacturing jobs are fleeing our shores at a staggering pace.

Since 1979, manufacturing employment in the United States has fallen by 40 percent.

Are you alarmed yet?

You should be.

The truth is that we did not have to merge our economy with nations like China.  China does not have the same minimum wage laws that we do.  China does not have the same environmental protection laws that we do.  In China, companies can treat their workers like crap.  As a result of open trade with the United States, scores of shiny new factories have opened all over China while once great manufacturing U.S. cities such as Detroit have degenerated into rotting war zones.  We continue to expand trade with China even though their communist government stands for things that are absolutely repulsive and has a list of human rights abuses that is seemingly endless.

But politicians from both parties swore up and down that globalism would be so good for us.  Now we have created a network of free trade agreements that would be virtually impossible to unwind.  The following are just some of the free trade agreements in force around the world right now….

The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA)
The Central American Integration System (SICA)
The Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA)
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
The Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Agreement (CISFTA)The G-3 Free Trade Agreement (G-3)
The Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA)
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
The Southern African Development Community (SADC)
The South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA)
The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP)

Of course the most important trade organization of them all is the World Trade Organization (WTO) which is constantly working to expand world trade and further integrate the economies of the world.

But the American people don’t understand all this.  They just want the U.S. government to do something to create more jobs. 

But whenever the U.S. Congress tries to do something nice for U.S. workers like raising the minimum wage or requiring companies to give them more benefits it ends up backfiring.

Why?

Because those things make American workers even more expensive and it gives companies even more incentive to send our jobs overseas.

We have recklessly merged our economy with economies around the world that are far less developed than our own.  Unless this thing is reversed, it is inevitable that the standard of living of American workers will be forced down until it approximately matches workers in the rest of the world.

Already, millions of high-paying manufacturing jobs are being replaced by low-paying service jobs.

The U.S. Labor Department’s 2009 Occupational Employment and Wages report found that retail sales, cashiers, general office clerks, food preparation and service workers, and nurses were the occupations with the highest levels of employment in 2009.

Retail sales and food service workers?

Those are jobs for 17 year old kids.

But today apologists for this flawed system tell us that we just need to suck it up and take two or even three low paying jobs because things will never go back to how they used to be.

So has globalism created any winners?

Of course.

As I noted yesterday, the folks down on Wall Street are doing quite well.  New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says that Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.

The reality is that the exploitation of very cheap foreign labor has enabled many large global corporations to make insane amounts of money.  Things are very good if you are at the top of the food chain.  According to Harvard Magazine, 66% of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.

In addition, our elected officials are doing quite nicely these days.  According to an analysis by The Hill, the 50 wealthiest members of the U.S. Congress saw their collective fortunes increase 85.1 million dollars to $1.4 billion in 2009.

Yes, it is very profitable to be part of America’s ruling class.

Meanwhile, tens of millions of average Americans continue to suffer.  Recently a user on Unemployed-Friends named Jim shared his tragic story….

My Name is Jim and I was laid off last June.

My whole department was outsourced.

There was talk of it and when I heard it from my boss (the CFO) when I went home I started to send out resumes.

Then the day came when the layoff came.

So in 1.3 years I have sent out 160K resumes, between blasting, send out from job boards and e-mailing my resume blindly to companies HR departments.

I was on 5 interviews.

I want to work badly.

Everyday I send out resumes but lately I have been getting depressed, I found out who my real friends and family are now.

I have been kicked down substantially in these 1.3 years.

I feel like I’m staring into an abyss of no jobs, will I ever work again? IDK.

When I used to talk to “Friends” and “Family” they all say “Things will get better” “Don’t worry”, Yeah right.

I feel so alone and worthless.

I wish I had at least 1 GOOD friend but it seems like no-a-days the dog eat dog world is worst than ever.

I’m NOT suicidal, not at all.

Then I found this site.

I have been saying we are in a depression for 2 years but nobody listened and people have dismissed what I have said.

The sad thing is it seems like we are on the verge of an economic collapse or worst.

So that is my story

Americans like Jim don’t understand why they can’t get jobs anymore.

They feel like failures, but it is actually the system that is failing.

Globalism is not good for middle class American workers.

Democrats can continue to pass law after law that attempts to help American workers, but unless something is done to protect American jobs they are going to continue to be shipped overseas.

Republicans can pass tax break after tax break, but unless those tax breaks are linked to jobs the ruling elite and the big global corporations will just pocket those tax breaks and will continue to ship jobs overseas in order to make bigger profits.

What both parties should be doing is trying to figure out ways to keep American jobs in America, but at this point both parties are completely sold out to globalism.

Globalism was the official policy of the Bush administration and it is the official policy of the Obama administration.

Unless something dramatic changes, the U.S. economy is going to continue to lose huge numbers of jobs and people like Jim are going to continue to wonder what in the world happened to their lives.

But in 2010, most Americans are so busy drinking beer, watching sports, keeping up with Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, and obsessing over the new cast of Dancing With The Stars that they aren’t even aware that things are literally falling apart all around them.

It is really sad.

30 Statistics That Prove The Elite Are Getting Richer, The Poor Are Getting Poorer And The Middle Class Is Being Destroyed

Not everyone has been doing badly during the economic turmoil of the last few years.  In fact, there are some Americans that are doing really, really well.  While the vast majority of us struggle, there is one small segment of society that is seemingly doing better than ever.  This was reflected in a recent article on CNBC in which it was noted that companies that cater to average Americans are doing rather poorly right now while companies that market luxury goods and services are generally performing exceptionally well.  So why aren’t all American consumers jumping on the spending bandwagon?  Well, it seems that there are a large number of Americans who either can’t spend a lot of money right now or who are very hesitant to.  A stunningly high number of Americans are still unemployed, and for many other Americans, there is a very real fear that hard economic times will return soon.  On the other hand, there is a significant percentage of Americans who are blowing money on luxury goods and services as if the economy has fully turned around and it is time to let the good times roll.  So exactly what in the world is going on here?

Well, in 2010 life is very, very different depending on whether you are a “have” or a “have not”.  The recent article on CNBC referenced above described it this way….

Consumer spending in the U.S. has turned into a tale of two cities in 2010, with an entire segment of consumers splurging confidently on the finer things in life, while another segment, concerned about unemployment and with little or no discretionary income, spends only on bare necessities.

So why is this happening?

It is happening because the rich are getting richer and they have plenty of money to buy stuff and the poor are getting poorer and have less money to spend than ever.

In case you haven’t been paying attention over the past couple of decades, what we have in America today is a system that is designed to funnel as much wealth into the hands of the elite as possible.

This isn’t capitalism that we have in America in 2010.  Instead, what we have created is a system where the laws are set up so that the power elite and their big, dominant corporations always win. 

Why do you think so many of America’s largest corporations pay so little in taxes? 

Why do you think so many of them are showered with government subsidies, tax breaks and bailouts?

It’s not about competition anymore.

It’s about rigging the game in your favor.

The power elite and the giant corporations they control spend millions and millions on lobbying and campaign contributions and they expect a big return on that investment.

Let’s take a look at one example.  Many people think that Barack Obama and the Democrats are supposed to be anti-business, right?

Well then why are some of Barack Obama’s biggest donors the very same corporations that are receiving giant bailouts, making record profits and paying their employees billions in bonuses?

Goldman Sachs was Barack Obama’s second biggest donor.  Microsoft was number four.  Citigroup was number six.  JPMorgan Chase was number seven.  Time Warner was number eight.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Every single year, the U.S. Congress passes law after law after law that makes it easier for big corporations to dominate and makes it easier for the rich to get even richer.

America’s economy is not about competition anymore.

It is about eliminating competition.

And unfortunately for middle class Americans, the giant predator corporations that now dominate our economy are realizing that they don’t really need nearly as many American workers anymore.

Instead, they are slowly but surely shipping our jobs off to the other side of the world where workers are willing to work for about a tenth as much.

And yet we still run out to the “big box” stores and fill up our carts with a bunch of plastic crap made on the other side of the world by these giant corporations.

Meanwhile, those giant corporations are taking the profits they make out of our communities and they are taking our jobs and are shipping them overseas.

So in the final analysis, is it any wonder why the income inequality gap is growing?

Without small businesses having a legitimate chance to compete and without good jobs for American workers, the middle class in America is going to continue to get chewed up and spit out.

The following are 30 statistics that prove that the elite are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is being destroyed in 2010….

The Rich Are Getting Richer

1 – As of 2007, the top 1 percent of all Americans was taking home 24 percent of the national income.  This was a level that had not been seen since the days of the Great Depression.

2 – Incomes have been growing in the United States, but those at the very top of the pyramid have been gobbling up almost all of the income growth.  According to Harvard Magazine, 66% of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.

3 – Even official government figures bear out the fact that the rich are getting richer.  An analysis of income-tax data by the Congressional Budget Office a few years ago found that the top 1% of all American households own nearly twice as much of the corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.

4– Most Americans have suffered during the last few years, but not the boys and girls down on Wall Street.  New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says that Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.

5 – Even as the number of Americans living in poverty skyrockets, the number of millionaires just keeps growing.  In fact, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million during 2009.

6 – The amount of money some of these Wall Street hotshots are making is incredible.  Back in 2005, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned a total of 9 billion dollars.  That would be bad enough, but even in these hard economic times the rich just keep getting richer.  One year after the recent financial collapse the top 25 hedge fund managers earned a total of approximately $25 billion.  That breaks down to an average of $1 billion each.  The truth is that the United States has been experiencing uneven prosperity for quite some time and things just seem to get worse with each passing year.

The Poor Are Getting Poorer

7 – Government anti-poverty programs are exploding in size in response to the recent economic difficulties.  USA Today is reporting that a record one in six Americans are now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program.

8Over 50 million Americans are on now Medicaid.  That figure is up more than 17 percent since the beginning of the recession.

9 – The number of Americans in the food stamp program rose to a new all-time record of 40.8 million in May.  That number is up almost 50 percent since the beginning of the recession.

10 – The number of Americans who cannot afford even the basic necessities is absolutely staggering.  A whopping 50 million Americans could not afford to buy enough food in order to stay healthy at some point over the last year.

11 – Compared to other industrialized nations, the United States is doing very poorly.  The U.S. poverty rate is now the third worst among the developed nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

12 – The saddest part of this is what we are doing to our children.  According to one recent study, approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010

13 – But the American people cannot provide for their families if they don’t have jobs.  Today there are not nearly enough jobs for everyone.  In 2010, it takes the average unemployed American worker over 8 months to find a job.

14 – Approximately 10 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment insurance, which is a number that is nearly four times higher than what it was at back in 2007.

15 – The truth is that we are creating a permanent underclass of Americans that cannot get jobs.  The number of Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits has increased over 60 percent in just the past year.

16 – Increasingly, the wealth of the United States is being held in fewer and fewer hands.  One study found that as of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.

17 – It is not a good time to be living in “the bottom half” in America.  The size of “the pie” being divided up among those at the low end of the wage scale is becoming really, really small.  In fact, the bottom 40 percent of all income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

The Middle Class Is Being Destroyed

18 – Even those Americans that still do have decent jobs are seeing their wealth fade rapidly.  For example, U.S. families have $6 trillion less in housing wealth than they did just three years ago.

19 – Home ownership used to be a sign that one had arrived in the middle class, but in 2010 an increasing number of Americans are finding out that they simply can’t afford their homes anymore.  One out of every seven mortgages were either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.

20 – The reality is that incomes have just not kept up with housing costs.  This has put an incredible amount of pressure on the middle class.  Just how much pressure?  Well, only the top 5 percent of all U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.

21 – The debt binge middle class Americans have been on over the past couple of decades has drained many of them completely dry, and now more Americans than ever have bad credit scores.  Over 25 percent of Americans now have a credit score below 599, which means that they are a very bad credit risk.

22 – A rapidly rising number of Americans are actually choosing bankruptcy as a way out of their financial problems.  Nationwide, bankruptcy filings rose 20 percent in the 12 month period ending this past June 30th.

23 – The middle class manufacturing jobs that once defined so many American cities are rapidly disappearing.  Despite the fact that the U.S. population has dramatically increased, less Americans are employed in manufacturing today than in 1950.

24 – These days it seems like almost everyone is looking for a good job, but very few people are finding them.  According to one recent survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.

25 – Even many of those Americans that still have decent jobs have been hit hard by this economic downturn.  A recent Pew Research survey found that 55 percent of the U.S. labor force has experienced either unemployment, a pay decrease, a reduction in hours or an involuntary move to part-time work since the recession began.

26 – The number of jobs that are evaporating is absolutely stunning.  According to one analysis, the United States has lost a total of 10.5 million jobs since 2007.

27 – So where are the jobs going?  It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out.  China’s trade surplus (much of it with the United States) climbed 140 percent in June compared to a year earlier.

28 – The truth is that “globalism” and “free trade” have put middle class American workers in direct competition with the cheapest labor in the world.  This is what middle class American workers must now compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.

29 – Due to these difficult economic conditions, the middle class is being squeezed as never before.  According to a poll taken in 2009, 61 percent of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck.  That was up significantly from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.

30 – So what kind of future do our young people have in front of them?  Unfortunately, things don’t look pretty.  Many fresh college graduates can’t even get a job that will allow them to be independent.  One recent survey of last year’s college graduates discovered that 80 percent moved right back home with their parents after graduation.  That was up significantly from 63 percent in 2006.

The Death Of Cash? All Over The World Governments Are Banning Large Cash Transactions

Are we witnessing the slow but certain death of cash in this generation?  Is a truly cashless society on the horizon?  Legislation currently pending in the Mexican legislature would ban a vast array of large cash transactions, but the truth is that Mexico is far from alone in trying to restrict cash. All over the world, governments are either placing stringent reporting requirements on large cash transactions or they are banning them altogether. We are being told that such measures are needed to battle illegal drug traffic, to catch tax evaders and to fight the war on terror. But are we rapidly getting to the point where we will have no financial privacy left whatsoever? Should we just accept that we have entered a time when the government will watch, track and trace all financial transactions? Is it inevitable that at some point in the near future ALL transactions will go through the banking system in one form or another (check, credit card, debit card, etc.)?

The truth is that we now live at a time when people who use large amounts of cash are looked upon with suspicion. In fact, authorities in many countries are taught that anyone involved in a large expenditure of cash is trying to hide something and is probably a criminal.

And yes, a lot of criminals do use cash, but millions upon millions of normal, law-abiding citizens simply prefer to use cash as well.  Should we take the freedom to use cash away from the rest of us just because a small minority abuses it?

Unfortunately, the freedom to use cash is being slowly stripped away from us in an increasingly large number of countries.

In fact, as countries like Mexico “tighten the noose” around big-ticket cash purchases, our freedom to use cash is going to erode rather rapidly.

The following is a summary of some of the very tight restrictions being placed on large cash transactions around the globe right now….

Mexico

In Mexico, a bill before the legislature would completely ban the purchase of real estate in cash.  In addition, the new law would ban anyone from spending more than MXN 100,000 (about $7,700) in cash on vehicles, boats, airplanes and luxury goods.

$7,700 is not a very high limit, and this legislation has some real teeth to it.  Anyone violating this law would face up to 15 years in prison.

Greece

In Europe, some of the “austerity packages” being introduced in various European nations include very severe restrictions on the use of cash.

In Greece, all cash transactions above 1,500 euros are being banned starting next year.  The following is a comment by Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou at a press conference discussing the new austerity measures as reported by Reuters….

“From 1. Jan. 2011, every transaction above 1,500 euros between natural persons and businesses, or between businesses, will not be considered legal if it is done in cash. Transactions will have to be done through debit or credit cards”

Italy

Even Italy has gotten into the act.  As part of Italy’s new “austerity measures”, all cash transactions over 5,000 euros will be banned.  It is said this is being done to crack down on tax evasion, but even if this is being done to take down the mafia this is still quite severe.

The United States

The U.S. government has not banned any large cash transactions, and hopefully it will not do so any time soon, but it sure has burdened large cash transactions with some heavy-duty reporting requirements.

For example, your bank is required to file a currency transaction report with the government for every deposit, withdrawal or exchange over $10,000 in cash.

Not only that, but if a bank “knows, suspects, or has reason to suspect” that a transaction involving at least $5,000 is “suspicious”, then another report must be filled out.   This second type of report is known as a suspicious activity report, and it is also filed with the government.

But the reporting does not stop there.  As Jeff Schnepper explained in an article for MSN Money, if you are in business and you receive over $10,000 in cash in a single transaction you must report it to the IRS or you will go to prison…..

If you’re in a business and receive more than $10,000 in cash from a single transaction, or from related transactions within a 12-month period, you have to file Form 8300 and report the buyer to the IRS. Don’t file, and you go to jail.

The IRS isnt kidding. I had a client who was a dealer in Corvette sports cars. He told me he didnt have time to file the forms. I told him several times to file. He thought he knew better. He went to jail. So did his children who were involved in the business.

This is very, very serious.

Just because someone forgets to file a certain form with the IRS, that person can go do serious jail time?

Yes.

According to Schnepper, quite a few Americans have already received very substantial sentences for this kind of thing….

In fiscal 2004, the Internal Revenue Service initiated 1,789 criminal investigations. There were 1,304 indictments and 687 convictions — and an 89.1% incarceration rate. The average sentence: 63 months.

In fiscal 2005, the IRS started 4,269 investigations, winning 2,406 indictments and 2,151 convictions and an 83% incarceration rate. Average sentence: 42 months.

The reality is that governments around the world are getting very, very sensitive about large amounts of cash and they are not messing around.

They don’t want all of us running around with big piles of cash.  They want our money in the banks where they can track it, trace it and keep a close eye on it.

On the one hand, it is a good thing to catch criminals and terrorists, but on the other hand how much privacy and freedom are we willing to lose just so that we can feel a little safer?

And as cash becomes criminalized, are all of us going to be forced into the banking system whether we like it or not?  If we cannot pay for things in cash, what other choices are we going to have?

The truth is that the more you think about this issue, the more disturbing it becomes. 

So what do you think about all of this?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Helicopter Ben Bernanke Says Everything Is Going To Be Okay

Don’t worry everybody. Federal Reserve Chairman “Helicopter Ben” Bernanke says that the U.S. economy is going to be just fine, and that if it does slip up somehow the Federal Reserve is ready to rush in to the rescue. That was essentially Bernanke’s message to an annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Friday. Bernanke insisted that even though the Federal Reserve has already cut interest rates to historic lows it still has plenty of tools that could be used to stimulate the U.S. economy if necessary. Well, considering Bernanke’s track record, the “don’t worry, be happy” mantra is just not going to cut it this time. After all, if Bernanke and his team were such intellectual powerhouses the “surprise” financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 would not have caught them with their pants down. The truth is that just before the “greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression” Bernanke was telling everyone that the economy was just fine. So are we going to let him fool us again?

But Bernanke insists that this time is different.  This time the Federal Reserve really has got a handle on things.  During his remarks at Jackson Hole, Bernanke said that the Fed will adopt “unconventional measures if it proves necessary, especially if the outlook were to deteriorate significantly.”

Unconventional measures?

Could that be a thinly veiled way of saying that Helicopter Ben and his pals will do as much “quantitative easing” as they feel is necessary to keep the economy moving forward?

Unfortunately, most Americans have absolutely no idea what quantitative easing is.

Basically, when quantitative easing takes place the Federal Reserve creates money “ex nihilo” (out of thin air) and uses that money to buy stuff like U.S. government bonds and mortgage-backed securities.  By pumping money into the economy like this, the hope is that banks will start lending more and people and businesses will have more money to spend. 

As far back as 2002, Bernanke has been openly advocating “easy money” policies as a way to stimulate the U.S. economy out of troubled times….

“The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at no cost.”

Now, before we go on and discuss some of the problems with quantitative easing, it must be noted that the statement by Bernanke above is absolutely rife with errors. 

It is absolutely frightening that someone like Bernanke has more power over the U.S. economy than any member of Congress or even the president of the United States.

First of all, the U.S. government does not issue our dollars.  They are issued by the Federal Reserve.

Just pull out a dollar bill right now.  It says “Federal Reserve Note” on it right at the top.

Secondly, the U.S. government cannot produce as many dollars as it wants.  Whenever it wants more U.S. dollars it has to give U.S. Treasuries to the Federal Reserve in exchange.

If the U.S. government could produce as many dollars as it wants, it could just print up $13 trillion and pay off the national debt tomorrow. 

But under the current system, it cannot do that.  The Federal Reserve controls the currency, and the truth is that the Federal Reserve is a private central bank that is about as “federal” as Federal Express is.

Thirdly, there is always a cost for producing more dollars.  We’ll talk about inflation in a moment, but first it must be noted that any time “the printing presses are fired up” the U.S. government goes into more debt, and every time the U.S. government goes into more debt, more interest must be paid on that new debt.

So there is a very high cost involved in the creation of more dollars.

In addition, every time a new U.S. dollar is created, every other U.S. dollar becomes a little bit less valuable.  Essentially, the more dollars there are in existence, the less purchasing power each dollar is going to have.  This phenomenon can be masked or delayed for a while, but inflation will always triumph in the end when the money supply is constantly expanded.

The U.S. dollar has lost over 95 percent of its value since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913.  This has not been a mistake.  The Federal Reserve system is designed to slowly but surely inflate the U.S. dollar.  What they do want to avoid, however, is doing it too quickly.

And this is exactly what is in danger of happening in the years ahead.  As the U.S. money supply dramatically expands in response to the exploding U.S. national debt we are eventually going to be dealing with some very, very serious inflation.

Right now, the Bush and Obama administrations have been getting the United States into so much debt that there aren’t enough buyers in the world to absorb it all (at least at the current super low interest rates on U.S. government debt).  So, instead of raising interest rates to a point where U.S. debt would be suitably attractive to investors, the Federal Reserve is stepping in and is “buying” (once again with money created out of thin air) all the excess U.S. Treasuries that don’t sell.  This is essentially a Ponzi scheme and it keeps interest rates on U.S. Treasuries artificially low.

In addition, the Federal Reserve has been handing gigantic sacks of cash to very large banks and financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup at almost zero percent interest and those big banks and financial institutions have been turning around and investing a large percentage of that cash in U.S. Treasuries.  This has created a gigantic U.S. Treasury carry trade bubble, and it has enabled many of these giant financial monsters to make massive piles of essentially risk-free cash.  This is another Ponzi scheme.

But these Ponzi schemes are not sustainable and they cannot last forever.  Right now Bernanke and his cohorts have been able to finance trillions in U.S. government debt and still keep interest rates on U.S. Treasuries and inflation very, very low.  At some point, their juggling act will come to an end and we will have a gigantic mess on our hands.

But for right now, Bernanke seems quite please with himself.  The following is how Bernanke concluded his speech at Jackson Hole….

As I said at the beginning, we have come a long way, but there is still some way to travel. Together with other economic policymakers and the private sector, the Federal Reserve remains committed to playing its part to help the U.S. economy return to sustained, noninflationary growth.

In Bernanke’s fantasy world, the U.S. economy is going to roar back to life and will soon be stronger than it ever has been.

But don’t you believe him.

The truth is that every single month the U.S. economy is seeing large numbers of jobs leave the country.

The truth is that thanks to our exploding trade deficit, the U.S. economy is poorer at the end of every single month than it was at the beginning.

The truth is that every single month the U.S. government (along with the vast majority of state and local governments) gets even deeper into debt.

The United States economy is not on the road to prosperity.

The United States economy gets poorer and deeper in debt every single month and is slowing bleeding to death.

Ben Bernanke can run around all he wants and try to convince us that “the sky isn’t falling”, but at some point the American people are going to wake up and simply not believe him anymore.

A Two-Tier Internet?

The Internet as you know it is in serious, serious danger. Some of the most powerful communications companies in the world have been involved in negotiations and have been making agreements that would throw net neutrality out the window and would move us toward a two-tier Internet.  So exactly what would that mean?  It would mean that the big corporate giants that have a virtual monopoly on other forms of media and entertainment would be able to buy access to the blazing fast “next generation” Internet that communications companies are developing and the rest of us (like this site for example) would be stuck on the decaying “gravel roads” of the old Internet.  The threat that this poses to freedom, liberty, Internet commerce and the free flow of information should not be underestimated.   

I want you to take a few moments and imagine with me what the future of the Internet could look like if something is not done.  Imagine a world in which your Internet service provider gives you more “choices” regarding your level of Internet access.  For a “budget” price, you can get email and access to several hundred of the hottest and most popular websites (controlled by the big media conglomerates of course) on the incredibly fast “next generation” Internet.  For a bit more, you can get access to thousands of websites (once again, controlled by the big media conglomerates) on the new blazing fast version of the Internet that has been developed.  Or lastly, you can get the “premium package” which will give you access to the entire Internet, including the millions of websites that are still chugging along on the “old Internet”. 

Wouldn’t that be great?

Of course not.

Isn’t it obvious what would happen?

The millions of websites that are unwilling or unable to pay the exorbitant “tolls” to get on the new blazing fast version of the Internet would rapidly start losing traffic and would eventually fizzle out almost altogether. 

After all, in this day and age who is going to stick with technology that is slow and outdated? 

For example, how many people still use “dial-up” anymore?  There are a few, but it is just not that many.

For years, the big Internet companies have been dreaming of getting permission to sell access to an Internet “fast lane” to the highest bidder.  The potential profits to be had are staggering.

But right now there is one thing that stands in the way of those profits and that must be eliminated according to them.

Net neutrality.

Up until now, any information sent over the Internet has been treated more or less equally.  When a data packet enters the Internet, it is directed to its destination regardless of the identity of the customer or the importance of the information.

But now some very powerful interests want to change all that.  The idea is to have the Internet much more closely resemble cable television.

In particular, a recent agreement regarding net neutrality between Google and Verizon is causing alarm among Internet users.

The following is how The Daily Mail described the recent agreement between Google and Verizon….

Technology giants Google and Verizon have today paved the way for a future ‘two-tier’ internet in which companies can pay extra to make sure their services get through.

Whenever anyone starts using phrases like “pay extra” when it comes to access to the Internet, alarm bells should start going off in your head.

Once we start going down that road, the big media companies with the deep pockets will do all they can to gain a “competitive” advantage.

The future of the Internet is at stake.  Are we going to continue to have a free and open Internet with millions of choices, or are we going to have an Internet dominated by “toll roads” where there are only a few thousand choices which are all tightly controlled by the giant media conglomerates?

Already, there is a lot of talk about the new “high bandwidth” Internet that is coming.

According to The Daily Mail, even Verizon’s CEO admits that the agreement between his firm and Google would create a “separate” high bandwidth Internet…. 

The new high bandwidth internet would remain separate from the normal public internet and would probably include services such as healthcare and 3D video and gaming, according to Verizon’s chief executive, Ivan Seidenberg.

So what do you think is eventually going to happen if a new “high bandwith Internet” is set up?

Well, everyone will want to move over to it of course.

And that is exactly the idea.

Over the past several years, the big media conglomerates that dominate television, newspapers, radio, movies and even video games have come to realize that they have completely and totally lost control over the Internet.

The Internet has given the common man a voice in the world, and it is probably the greatest breakthrough for the free flow of information since the printing press was invented.

But to the big media conglomerates there is a big problem.

They have lost their monopoly.

People are not forced to come to them for their news and entertainment anymore.

The rise of the alternative media has been one of the most incredible stories of this past decade, and today information flows more freely around the globe than ever before.

But now there are some very powerful corporate interests that would like to force alternative websites, radio programs and television shows to shut down for good.

They realize that they need to make their move quickly, because we are rapidly approaching a critical turning point for the Internet.

You see, the truth is that virtually all communications will eventually go through the Internet.  Phone service, television service and Internet access are rapidly merging into one.

The battle for control over this media pipeline we call the Internet is only going to heat up even more.  Literally trillions of dollars will be made or lost depending on the direction that the Internet takes in the years ahead.

So will we allow the Internet to become a network of private toll roads where the big media conglomerates control what we see and hear and think?

Or will we stand up and demand that the Internet remain a free and neutral platform where information flows freely and where we can all have our say?

As for me, I choose to stand on the side of Internet freedom.

What say you?

10 Practical Steps That You Can Take To Insulate Yourself (At Least Somewhat) From The Coming Economic Collapse

Most Americans are still operating under the delusion that this “recession” will end and that the “good times” will return soon, but a growing minority of Americans are starting to realize that things are fundamentally changing and that they better start preparing for what is ahead. These “preppers” come from all over the political spectrum and from every age group.  More than at any other time in modern history, the American people lack faith in the U.S. economic system.  In dozens of previous columns, I have detailed the horrific economic problems that we are now facing in excruciating detail.  Many readers have started to complain that all I do is “scare” people and that I don’t provide any practical solutions.  Well, not everyone can move to Montana and start a llama farm, but hopefully this article will give people some practical steps that they can take to insulate themselves (at least to an extent) from the coming economic collapse.

But before I get into what people need to do, let’s take a minute to understand just how bad things are getting out there.  The economic numbers in the headlines go up and down and it can all be very confusing to most Americans.

However, there are two long-term trends that are very clear and that anyone can understand….

#1) The United States is getting poorer and is bleeding jobs every single month.

#2) The United States is getting into more debt every single month.

When you mention the trade deficit, most Americans roll their eyes and stop listening.  But that is a huge mistake, because the trade deficit is absolutely central to our problems.

Every single month, Americans buy far, far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us.  Every single month tens of billions of dollars more goes out of the country than comes into it.

That means that every single month the United States is getting poorer.

The excess goods and services that we buy from the rest of the world get “consumed” and the rest of the world ends up with more money than when they started.

Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars leave the United States and don’t return.  The transfer of wealth that this represents is astounding.

But not only are we bleeding wealth, we are also bleeding jobs every single month.

The millions of jobs that the U.S. economy is losing to China, India and dozens of third world nations are not going to come back.  Middle class Americans have been placed in direct competition for jobs with workers on the other side of the world who are more than happy to work for little more than slave labor wages.  Until this changes the U.S. economy is going to continue to hemorrhage jobs.

The U.S. government has helped to mask much of this economic bleeding by unprecedented amounts of government spending and debt, but now the U.S. national debt exceeds 13 trillion dollars and is getting worse every single month.  Not only that, but state and local governments all over America are getting into ridiculous amounts of debt.

So, what we have got is a country that gets poorer every single month and loses jobs to other countries every single month and that has accumulated the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world which also gets worse every single month.

Needless to say, this cannot last indefinitely.  Eventually the whole thing is just going to collapse like a house of cards.

So what can we each individually do to somewhat insulate ourselves from the economic problems that are coming?….

1 – Get Out Of Debt: The old saying, “the borrower is the servant of the lender”, is so incredibly true.  The key to insulating yourself from an economic meltdown is to become as independent as possible, and as long as you are in debt, you simply are not independent.  You don’t want a horde of creditors chasing after you when things really start to get bad out there.

2 – Find New Sources Of Income: In 2010, there simply is not such a thing as job security.  If you are dependent on a job (“just over broke”) for 100% of your income, you are in a very bad position.  There are thousands of different ways to make extra money.  What you don’t want to do is to have all of your eggs in one basket.  One day when the economy melts down and you are out of a job are you going to be destitute or are you going to be okay?

3 – Reduce Your Expenses: Many Americans have left the rat race and have found ways to live on half or even on a quarter of what they were making previously.  It is possible – if you are willing to reduce your expenses.  In the future times are going to be tougher, so learn to start living with less today.

4 – Learn To Grow Your Own Food: Today the vast majority of Americans are completely dependent on being able to run down to the supermarket or to the local Wal-Mart to buy food.  But what happens when the U.S. dollar declines dramatically in value and it costs ten bucks to buy a loaf of bread?  If you learn to grow your own food (even if is just a small garden) you will be insulating yourself against rising food prices.  Storing up freeze dried food can also be a great way to prepare for what is coming.

5 – Make Sure You Have A Reliable Water Supply: Water shortages are popping up all over the globe.  Water is quickly becoming one of the “hottest” commodities out there.  Even in the United States, water shortages have been making headline news recently.  As we move into the future, it will be imperative for you and your family to have a reliable source of water.  Some Americans have learned to collect rainwater and many others are using advanced technology such as atmospheric water generators to provide water for their families.  But whatever you do, make sure that you are not caught without a decent source of water in the years ahead.

6 – Buy Land: This is a tough one, because prices are still quite high.  However, as we have written previously, home prices are going to be declining over the coming months, and eventually there are going to be some really great deals out there.  The truth is that you don’t want to wait too long either, because once Helicopter Ben Bernanke’s inflationary policies totally tank the value of the U.S. dollar, the price of everything (including land) is going to go sky high.  If you are able to buy land when prices are low, that is going to insulate you a great deal from the rising housing costs that will occur when the U.S dollar does totally go into the tank.

7 – Get Off The Grid: An increasing number of Americans are going “off the grid”.  Essentially what that means is that they are attempting to operate independently of the utility companies.  In particular, going “off the grid” will enable you to insulate yourself from the rapidly rising energy prices that we are going to see in the future.  If you are able to produce energy for your own home, you won’t be freaking out like your neighbors are when electricity prices triple someday.

8 – Store Non-Perishable Supplies: Non-perishable supplies are one investment that is sure to go up in value.  Not that you would resell them.  You store up non-perishable supplies because you are going to need them someday.  So why not stock up on the things that you are going to need now before they double or triple in price in the future?  Your money is not ever going to stretch any farther than it does right now.

9 – Develop Stronger Relationships: Americans have become very insular creatures.  We act like we don’t need anyone or anything.  But the truth is that as the economy melts down we are going to need each other.  It is those that are developing strong relationships with family and friends right now that will be able to depend on them when times get hard.

10 – Get Educated And Stay Flexible: When times are stable, it is not that important to be informed because things pretty much stay the same.  However, when things are rapidly changing it is imperative to get educated and to stay informed so that you will know what to do.  The times ahead are going to require us all to be very flexible, and it is those who are willing to adapt that will do the best when things get tough.

Do you have any additional tips that you would like to share with us?  If so, please feel free to share them in the comments below….


Home Sales Drop 27 Percent In July And Things Are Only Going To Get Worse For The U.S. Housing Industry

On Tuesday the National Association of Realtors announced that existing home sales in the United States dropped a whopping 27.2% in the month of July.  The consensus among analysts was that we would see a drop of around 13 percent, so when the 27 percent figure was announced it sent a shock through world financial markets.  To say that the real estate industry is alarmed by these numbers would be a tremendous understatement. What we are seeing unfold is essentially “Armageddon” for those involved in the housing and real estate industries.  The real estate market is grinding to a standstill and a shockingly low number of people are actually in the market to buy a home right now.  In the months ahead home sales may pick up a little bit, but only if housing prices start to fall.  Why?  Because right now there are tons of houses on the market and there are very few qualified buyers available to purchase them and potential buyers are starting to realize this.  Buyers are beginning to understand that they have all the leverage now and they are waiting for prices to fall.

Anyone who has taken Economics 101 in college knows that when supply is high and demand is low prices will fall, and that is exactly the situation we have in the U.S. housing market right now.

At the moment, most home sellers in the United States are very hesitant to lower the prices on their homes too much.  Many have no intention of selling their homes below what they originally paid for them, and many others truly believe that the housing market will eventually rebound.

But the truth is that housing prices are simply not going to rebound to 2006 levels.  If anything, they are going to continue to fall.

The following are the three basic points that every American needs to understand about the U.S. housing market right now….    

1) There Is A Gigantic Mountain Of Unsold Homes On The Market

There are a staggering number of unsold homes on the market right now.  As you can see from the chart from the Calculated Risk blog below, there is now over a year’s worth of unsold homes flooding the marketplace….

So who is going to buy all of those unsold homes with so few qualified purchasers in the marketplace?

That is a very good question.

Unfortunately, all the signs indicate that the glut of unsold homes is going to get even worse.

As of this March, U.S. banks had an inventory of 1.1 million foreclosed homes, which was a new all-time record and which was up 20 percent from one year ago.

And the tsunami of foreclosures and repossessions just keeps growing….

*One out of every seven mortgages were either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.

*According to RealtyTrac, a total of 1.65 million U.S. properties received foreclosure filings during the first half of 2010.

*U.S. Banks repossessed 269,962 U.S. homes during the second quarter of 2010, which was a new all-time record.

The supply of unsold homes is already incredibly massive and it is growing at a staggering rate. 

With such a flood of homes on the market, why in the world would anyone in their right mind pay a premium price for a home in 2010?

2) There Are Not Nearly Enough Qualified Buyers Seeking To Buy Homes

The banks and lending institutions that survived the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007 and 2008 learned some very valuable lessons.  The days when even the family dog could get approved for a home loan are long gone.  Now the pendulum has swung to the other end of the spectrum.  Fearful of making more bad loans, banks and lending institutions have really, really tightened up lending standards.  So a lot fewer people are getting approved for home loans these days.

That makes a lot of business sense for banks and lending institutions, but it also means that there are a lot fewer qualified buyers out there looking for homes.

Not only that, but millions of Americans who could potentially buy homes are waiting for the market to go down even further.

When you add that all together, you get the kind of home sales numbers discussed at the beginning of the article.

The Mortgage Bankers Association recently announced that demand for loans to purchase U.S. homes has sunk to a 13-year low.  Unless the number of Americans getting approved for home loans starts increasing, you simply are not going to see housing numbers recover much.

And the truth is that Americans are not even doing much browsing for homes right now.  Even Internet searches for homes are way down.  Internet searches on real estate websites are down about 20 percent compared to this same time period in 2009.

So with a massive flood of houses on the market and with very few qualified buyers to purchase them, how in the world are housing prices supposed to go up?

3) The Housing Industry Will Never Fully Recover Without A Jobs Recovery First

In order to get qualified for home loans, Americans have to have good jobs first.  But in this economy that is a huge problem.

Robert Dye, a senior economist with PNC Financial Services Group, recently told USA Today what he believes the bottom line problem of this housing crisis is…. 

“Jobs, jobs, jobs”

Today, 14 million Americans are unemployed and millions more are underemployed.  Unfortunately, there are not nearly enough good jobs for all of them.

Today it takes the average unemployed American over 8 months to find a job.  The number of Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits has risen a staggering 60 percent in the past year alone.

Things have gotten so bad that according to one recent survey 28% of all U.S. households have at least one person that is searching for a full-time job.

To get an understanding of how horrific the unemployment situation has become in the United States, take 38 seconds to watch the incredible video posted below….

The truth is that without jobs, Americans simply cannot buy homes.

So is there any hope that we will see a robust jobs recovery any time soon?

Well, as I have written about previously, unfortunately there is every indication that the employment market is going to get even worse.

So the bottom line is that the housing market is going to continue to suffer.

There is going to continue to be a massive glut of unsold homes on the market.

There are going to continue to be very few qualified buyers in the marketplace.

Large numbers of Americans are going to continue to be unemployed.

Yes, that is a lot of bad news, but you aren’t reading this column to get the same kind of mindless optimism that you get from the mainstream media news.

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