That Escalated Quickly: The Emerging Market Currency Crisis Of 2018 Threatens To Destabilize The Entire Global Financial System

We haven’t seen emerging market currencies crash like this in over a decade, and analysts are warning that if this continues we could witness a devastating global debt crisis.  Over the past decade, there has been an insatiable appetite for cheap loans in emerging market economies, and a very substantial percentage of those loans were denominated in U.S. dollars.  When emerging market currencies crash relative to the U.S. dollar, lending dries up and servicing the existing loans becomes extremely oppressive, and that is precisely what we are witnessing right now.  This week, most of the top headlines in the financial media have been about the crisis in Turkey.  The Turkish lira fell another 8 percent against the U.S. dollar on Monday, and it is now down about 35 percent over the past week.  Overall, the lira has fallen 82 percent against the U.S. dollar in 2018, and this is putting an enormous amount of stress on the Turkish financial system

“It is about credit, since Turkey has been a huge borrower in global capital markets over the past number of years when the world’s central banks were encouraging investors to stretch for yield,” David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff, said in his daily market note. “Over half of the borrowing is denominated in foreign currencies, so when the lira sinks, debt-servicing costs and default risks rise inexorably.”

Turkey’s economy, just like all of the other major economies around the world, is utterly dependent on the flow of credit, and now lending is becoming greatly restricted.

Meanwhile, any existing loans that were made during the lending spree of the past decade that are denominated in foreign currencies are going to be causing major problems.  The following comes from CNBC

The lending spree has created two potential problems, according to Capital Economics. One is that Turkish banks looked to foreign wholesale markets as a way to fund the credit boom, instead of relying on more steady domestic deposits.

Now, the expense of servicing those loans has jumped with the lira’s decline, and they will be much more difficult for banks to roll over. The second risk is the possible sharp rise in nonperforming loans, including those made in foreign currencies, mostly to businesses.

Many of my American readers may be wondering why they should be concerned about what is going on in Turkey.

Well, the fear is that “what happens in Turkey won’t stay in Turkey”, and it isn’t just Turkey that we are talking about.  Similar scenarios are playing out in emerging markets all over the planet, and one of the most dramatic examples is Argentina.

The Argentine peso has lost 8 percent against the U.S. dollar over the last three trading days, and overall it is down about 33 percent over the past four months.

In a desperate attempt to restore confidence in the currency, the central bank raised the core interest rate 5 entire percentage points on Monday to an eye-popping 45 percent

Argentina took emergency steps to stabilize its currency in the wake of an emerging-market rout caused by Turkey’s crisis, jacking up its already highest-in-the-world interest rate by 5 percentage points and announcing it will sell $500 million to support the peso.

Policy makers set the rate for seven-day notes at a record 45 percent and pledged to keep it at that level at least until October. The central bank also said it plans to phase out 1 trillion pesos ($33.2 billion) of short-term notes by December in an effort to limit the currency volatility that often popped up when the securities were rolled over. And the bank also changed a system for dollar auctions to make them harder for traders to anticipate.

And this wasn’t the first time that the central bank has made such a dramatic move.

In fact, this was the fourth enormous rate hike that we have seen since April 27th.

The IMF has promised to intervene in Argentina with a 50 billion dollar bailout, but that may not be nearly enough.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget the complete and utter disaster that Venezuela has become.  According to the IMF, the inflation rate in that country is projected to hit one million percent this year…

A top U.N. official is warning that Venezuela is on the verge of turning into an “absolute disaster of unprecedented proportions.” And now, what was once Latin America’s richest nation is about to ravaged by hyperinflation.

Life for most people in Venezuela is already terrible, so it might be hard to believe that it is about to get even worse, but it is.

One million percent. That’s the inflation rate the International Monetary Fund predicts Venezuela will hit this year.

Yes, it is true that Venezuela has been a basket case for some time, but things are getting a lot worse.  People are starving, the entire economy is disintegrating, and chaos reigns in the streets.

And we must remember that Venezuela was once one of the wealthiest nations on the entire globe.

Will similar scenes soon be playing out in other emerging markets as this new debt crisis deepens?

In addition to Turkey and Argentina, currencies are also crashing in South Africa, Colombia, India, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and a very long list of other prominent nations.

If order is not restored to the currency markets, we are going to see an international debt crisis of unprecedented size and scope.

So keep a close eye on the foreign exchange markets over the next few days.  If emerging market currencies keep crashing, events are going to begin to escalate very, very rapidly.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

10 Numbers That Prove That America’s Current Financial Condition Is A Horror Show

America’s long-term “balance sheet numbers” just continue to get progressively worse.  Unfortunately, since the stock market has been soaring and the GDP numbers look okay, most Americans assume that the U.S. economy is doing just fine.  But the stock market was soaring and the GDP numbers looked okay just prior to the great financial crisis of 2008 as well, and we saw how that turned out.  The truth is that GDP is not the best measure for the health of the economy.  Judging the U.S. economy by GDP is basically like measuring the financial health of an individual by how much money he or she spends, and I will attempt to illustrate that in this article.

If I went out right now and got a whole bunch of new credit cards and started spending money like there was no tomorrow, would that mean that my financial condition had improved?

No, in fact it would mean that my long-term financial condition just got a whole lot worse.

GDP is a measurement of how much economic activity is happening in our society, and it is basically an indication of how much money is changing hands.

But just because more money is changing hands does not mean that things are going well.  What really matters is what is happening to assets and liabilities.  In other words, is wealth being built or is more debt just being accumulated?

Sadly, there are only a handful of bright spots in our economy.  A couple of very large tech companies such as Apple are accumulating wealth, but just about everywhere else you look debt is growing at an unprecedented pace.  Household debt has never been higher, corporate debt has doubled since the last financial crisis, state and local government debt is at record highs, and the U.S. national debt is wildly out of control.

If I went out tomorrow and spent $20,000 with a bunch of new credit cards, I could claim that my “personal GDP” was soaring because I was spending a lot more money then before.  But my boasting would be pointless because in reality I would just be putting my family in an extremely precarious financial position.

Economic growth that is produced by continually increasing amounts of debt is not a positive thing.  I wish that more people understood this very basic concept.  The following are 10 numbers that prove that America’s current financial condition is a horror show…

#1 U.S. consumer credit just hit another all-time record high.  In the second quarter of 2008, total consumer credit reached a grand total of 2.63 trillion dollars, and now ten years later that number has soared to 3.87 trillion dollars.  That is an increase of 48 percent in just one decade.

#2 Student loan debt has surpassed 1.5 trillion dollars for the first time ever.  Over the last 8 years, the total amount of student loan debt has shot up 79 percent in the United States.

#3 According to the Federal Reserve, the credit card default rate in the U.S. has risen for 7 quarters in a row.

#4 One recent survey found that 42 percent of American consumers paid their credit card bill late “at least once in the last year”, and 24 percent of Americans consumers paid their credit card bills late “more than once in the last year”.

#5 Real wage growth in the United States just declined by the most that we have seen in 6 years.

#6 According to one recent study, the “rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991”.

#7 We are in the midst of the greatest “retail apocalypse” in American history.  At this point, 57 major retailers have announced store closings so far in 2018.

#8 The size of the official U.S. budget deficit is up 21 percent under President Trump.

#9 It is being projected that interest on the national debt will surpass half a trillion dollars for the first time ever this year.

#10 Goldman Sachs is projecting that the yearly U.S. budget deficit will surpass 2 trillion dollars by 2028.

And I haven’t even talked about unfunded liabilities.  Those are essentially future commitments that we have made that we don’t have the money for at the moment.

According to Professor Larry Kotlikoff, our unfunded liabilities are well in excess of 200 trillion dollars right now.

If individuals, corporations, state and local governments and the federal government all stopped going into more debt, we would plunge into the greatest economic depression in U.S. history immediately.

The system is deeply, deeply broken, and the only way that we can keep this debt bubble going is go keep accumulating even more debt.

Anyone out there that believes that the U.S. economy has been “fixed” is completely deceived.  NOTHING has been fixed.  Instead, our long-term financial imbalances are getting worse at an escalating pace.

Unfortunately, the attitude of the general public is so similar to what it was just prior to the great financial crisis of 2008.  Most people seem to assume that just because we have not experienced great consequences for our very foolish decisions up to this point that no great consequences are coming.

And many also assume that since control of the White House has switched parties that somehow things must magically be better as well.

Of course the truth is that the only way that our long-term problems are ever going to be fixed is if we start addressing the issues that caused those long-term problems in the first place, and that simply is not happening.

As I have traveled extensively over the course of the past year, I discovered that most Americans do not want to make fundamental changes to the system, because they are under the illusion that the current system is working just fine.  So it will probably take another major crisis before most people are ready to consider fundamental changes, and when it finally arrives we will need to be ready to educate the public.

The system that we have today is not fundamentally sound at all.  We desperately need to return to the values and principles that this nation was founded upon, but until things start getting really, really bad it is highly unlikely that the American people will be ready to embrace those changes.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Now That Facebook, YouTube And Apple Have Come For Alex Jones, Guess Who They Are Coming For Next?

August 6th was one of darkest days in the history of the Internet.  When I learned that Facebook, YouTube, Apple, Spotify, Pinterest and others had colluded to take down content from Alex Jones all on the same day, I knew exactly what was happening.  They timed their attack so that it would hit the press at the beginning of the weekly news cycle on Monday so that their purge would have maximum societal impact.  And the fact that there was such overt collusion was obviously meant to send a message.  We were supposed to understand that if they can do this to Alex Jones, they can do it to any of us, and so we better shut up and fall in line.  I can’t even begin to tell you how sick I feel right now.  The big tech giants have made it abundantly clear how they feel about all of us, and there is no future for alternative points of view on any of their platforms.

The current purge of conservative voices has been going on for months, but this is the biggest bombshell by far.  The following excerpt from a Los Angeles Times article is a typical example of how the mainstream media covered this story…

Major technology companies including Apple, Facebook and YouTube deleted years of content from conservative conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars platforms over allegations of hate speech, a sudden clampdown that is fueling the growing debate over how big technology companies choose to censor.

The move was unusual for its sweep and speed, suggesting a new assertiveness by technology companies that in the past have worked to avoid alienating conservatives, who often assert that left-leaning Silicon Valley is biased against them. The removals appeared to be prompted by more users flagging Infowars content for policy violations.

In addition to the “big three”, Spotify and Pinterest pulled down content from Infowars as well, and there is no way that this could have been done simultaneously unless it was planned well in advance.  Lawyers have to be consulted, CEOs have to give their approval, etc.  This was a cold-blooded move that was carefully calculated down to the finest details.

So is there anything that conservatives can do?

Well, Mike Adams has suggested that these tech companies could be prosecuted for conspiracy…

This coordinated, illegal censorship is clear proof of an organized criminal racket being conducted by the tech giants. The RICO Act allows for federal prosecution of such criminal conspiracy.

The internet Dark Ages has now descended upon us, where radical left-wing tech giants run by deranged, mentally ill communists will decide whether your content qualifies as “hate speech.” What is hate speech? It’s anything uttered by a conservative.

I think that he is theoretically correct, but I doubt that it will ever actually happen.

Right now, the global elite do not have control of the White House, but they have discovered a powerful new weapon in the tech companies.  They are trying to use this new weapon to smash Alex Jones and other top conservative voices, and they are doing it with a tyrannical flair that is absolutely frightening.  I think that it was quite appropriate that the official WikiLeaks Twitter account made a parallel between this purge and an old Star Wars movie…

The empire strikes back: Apple, Spotify, Facebook and Google/Youtube all purge Infowars/Alex Jones. Yes, Infowars has frequent nonsense, but also a state power critique. Which publisher in the world with millions of subscribers is next to be wiped out for cultural transgression?

And it is quite noteworthy that this comes almost exactly three months before the mid-term elections.

Do you think that is just a coincidence?

After all of the uproar about “election interference”, now the big tech companies are overtly doing it very publicly and in a way that nobody can misunderstand.

The biggest reason why they are lashing out at Alex Jones, Mike Adams and a whole host of other top conservative voices is because Donald Trump never would have gotten elected without them.  I guess they figure that if they can start silencing some of those voices that they can turn future elections in their favor.

If it was just a few conservative voices that were being censored, that would be one thing.  But the truth is that hundreds and hundreds of conservatives have had Facebook pages taken down, YouTube accounts terminated and Twitter accounts shadowbanned.  I won’t repeat all of the information that I have previously published on this topic in this article.  Instead, if you would like to learn more I would recommend checking out some of my previous articles…

-“This Is The Worst Purge Of Conservative Voices In The History Of The Internet

-“Governments And Social Media Companies Are Collaborating To Censor Anyone That Would Dare To Question Mainstream Media Narratives

-“The Big Social Media Companies Are Being Used As A Weapon To Advance The Agenda Of The New World Order

-“The Censorship Is Real – EndOfTheAmericanDream.com Is Being Completely Blocked By Library Internet Filters

In the end, this is not about Alex Jones.

This is about a once free society that is becoming more Orwellian with each passing day.

Now that they have come for Alex Jones, they aren’t going to stop.

It might not be tomorrow, but eventually they are going to come for you.

I would like to end this article with a few words from Dr. Michael Brown’s excellent article about all of this censorship…

Let me repeat what I said in my earlier article about Infowars: Whether you’re an Infowars fan or you find their work distasteful, their potential removal from YouTube should concern you.

Otherwise, soon enough, we’ll have our own version of Martin Niemöller’s famous poem, which will now sound something like this:

First they came for Infowars, and I did not speak out—because I found them offensive.

Then they came for Geller and Spencer, and I did not speak out­—because I found them obnoxious.

Then they came for Prager U, and I did not speak out—because I found them opinionated.

Then they came for a host of others, and I did not speak out—because I have my own life to live.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Earth Changes Accelerate: What Is Causing These Record Heatwaves, Massive “Firenadoes”, Giant Dust Storms And Large Earthquakes?

Major changes are happening to our planet, and the experts are groping for answers.  In recent days some have suggested that what we are witnessing is the natural progression of “man-made climate change”, but that explanation has generally been received with a lot of skepticism.  Something truly dramatic appears to be happening to the globe, and it isn’t just because the amount of carbon dioxide in the air suddenly reached some sort of magical “tipping point”.  But without a doubt, temperatures are getting warmer.  In July, Death Valley experienced “the hottest month ever recorded on the planet”.  Over in Europe, Saturday was being billed as Europe’s “hottest day ever”, and temperatures in Lisbon, Portugal were expected to top 107 degrees both Saturday and Sunday.  On the other side of the planet, the crippling drought in Australia is devastating farms “like a cancer”, and things are so hot in North Korea that the government has declared “an unprecedented natural disaster”

This week, the North Korean government called record-high temperatures in the country “an unprecedented natural disaster” and said that country was working together to fight the problem.

An editorial published Thursday in Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling party, highlighted the difficulties that the long stretch of high temperatures would cause for North Korea’s agricultural sector, specifically crops such as rice and maize. The newspaper called for North Koreans to act as one and “display their patriotic zeal in the ongoing campaign for preventing damage by high temperature.”

In California, extreme heat and bone dry conditions continue to fuel some of the worst wildfires in the history of the state

Crews battling deadly Northern California wildfires prepare for another day of hot and dry conditions that could drive the flames into new areas and threaten more homes.

According to Cal Fire, more than 15,000 personnel are on the lines of 18 large blazes across California on Saturday. So far, the fires since June have killed 8, burned more than 559,000 acres and damaged or destroyed over 1,800 structures. Roughly 17,000 homes continue to be threatened by these fires, and about 45,000 residents are under evacuation.

Ultimately, this may turn out to be the worst year for wildfires that California has ever seen.

Of course there have been bad years for wildfires before.  But what we haven’t seen before are “firenadoes” that pack 143 mph winds

On Thursday, NWS researcher combed through the wreckage left behind and determined a fire whirl — commonly known as a fire tornado — roared through the area between 7:30 p.m and 8 p.m. on July 26th.

It was packing 143 mph winds, turning heavy-duty high tension power line towers into twisted pieces of metal, uprooting trees and ripping the bark off other trees.

When I first heard about this fire tornado, I was absolutely stunned.

I had never heard of a fire tornado anywhere near that size in the United States, and apparently the experts hadn’t either

“This is historic in the U.S.,” Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Research Laboratory, told BuzzFeed News. “This might be the strongest fire-induced tornado-like circulation ever recorded.”

Known as a pyrocumulus cloud, the ominous red weather formations usually occur over volcanic eruptions or forest fires when intensely heated air triggers an upward motion that pushes smoke and water vapor to rapidly rise. They can develop their own weather patters, including thunderstorms with severe winds which then further fan the flames.

Elsewhere in the Southwest, drought continues to intensify, and this is starting to produce absolutely enormous dust storms.

For example, check out what just happened to the city of Phoenix

A huge wall of dust enveloped the Phoenix metro area on Thursday in the second monsoon storm in a four-day span.

Officials at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport said flights were delayed or held until visibility improved.

National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists said blowing dust in the Phoenix area brought near-zero visibility for drivers Thursday evening.

Certainly a dust storm is less destructive than a “fire tornado” in the short-term, but as we saw in the 1930s, a consistent pattern of giant dust storms can absolutely cripple a nation.

And let us not forget all of the shaking that has been happening to the crust of our planet.

On Sunday, Indonesia was shaken by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake

The death toll rose to 82 after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked the Indonesian island of Lombok and on nearby Bali on Sunday, damaging buildings, sending terrified residents and tourists running into the streets and triggering a brief tsunami warning.

Social media posts from the scene showed debris piled on streets and sidewalks. Hospital patients, many still in their beds, were rolled out onto streets as a safeguard against structural damage to the hospital buildings.

So why is all of this happening?

Yes, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is increasing, and it has been increasing for a very long time.  Ultimately, the amount that humans contribute to the overall level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is marginal, and even if we took the most extreme measures possible there is very little that we could do to significantly affect the balance.

And scientists assure us that our planet once had much, much higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the air then we do today, and our planet appeared to have thrived under those conditions.

But the narrative won’t change.  The mainstream media will continue to tell us that the Earth changes that we are witnessing are due to global warming and that if we reverse course that we can go back to how things were before.

No, we can’t go back, because the changes that are happening are way outside of our control.

Fundamental changes are happening to our planet, and this is just the beginning.  For now these Earth changes are a minor nuisance to a lot of people, but pretty soon nobody will be able to ignore them.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Portland Braces For “Blood In The Streets” As Antifa Pledges “Militant Antifascist Resistance Against Patriot Prayer” On Saturday

If Portland authorities do not intervene in a major way, we could potentially see one of the largest street brawls in modern American history on Saturday.  On June 30th, an extremely violent confrontation in Portland between Antifa thugs and conservative groups made headlines all over the world, and now both sides have been hyping this August 4th sequel as an even bigger event.  Two conservative groups, Patriot Prayer and The Proud Boys, are claiming that they will have thousands of members in the heart of Portland for their scheduled rally, and they are very much encouraging people to bring guns.  On the other side, Eugene Antifa, Rose City Antifa, RASH NW and the Pacific Northwest Anti-Fascist Workers Collective are hoping to bring thousands of their own members, and one organizer publicly stated that they “better bring our own guns too”.  All it is going to take is for one person to get shot and killed for all hell to break loose.

At the center of this controversy is a conservative Senate candidate named Joey Gibson

For the past week, Vancouver activist, provocateur and senate candidate Joey Gibson has been talking about guns — guns that his friends and supporters with the groups Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys will likely bring to a self-described “Freedom Rally” in Portland on Saturday.

“Everyone should be carrying around guns at all times, especially in our situation,” Gibson explained in a video, posted to Facebook June 30 to promote the event.

There is certainly nothing wrong with a candidate holding a rally and encouraging his supporters to bring guns.  It happens in other major cities all the time.

And because of the violence that happened last time, conservatives are flying in from all over the country for this event.

“We’ll have people locally showing up from Vancouver, Portland, Hillsboro, California. We have people flying in from Texas and the East Coast,” he said.

If the left simply did not interfere with this rally, it wouldn’t even make national headlines.

But they aren’t going to do that.  In fact, they have been working very hard to promote their “counter-protest”, and they are openly telling us that they “make no apologies for the use of force”

For its part, Rose City Antifa released a “hype video,” encouraging people to counter-protest Gibson’s rally. They also promised violence.

“History has shown that militant resistance is a necessary and important tool in the fight against fascism,” the video’s narrator intones. “We make no apologies for the use of force in keeping our communities safe from the scourge of right-wing violence.”

In fact, the various Antifa factions are definitely planning a “direct confrontation” with Patriot Prayer and The Proud Boys…

Ahead of Saturday’s conservative rally, Antifa is back at it again – planning a “direct confrontation” with participants, according to a call to action on the leftist website “It’s Going Down.

“Rose City Antifa has continued their great work of doxxing the Portland area Proud Boys involved in this violence, and is also calling for militant antifascist resistance against Patriot Prayer,” reads the posting.

Portland authorities could prevent this by showing up with overwhelming numbers of police and by completely keeping the two groups separated.

But will they?

For Antifa, the goal of the “counter-protest” is to “chase Gibson and his supporters out of town”

Organizers of a counterprotest are hoping hundreds if not thousands of people turn up to chase Gibson and his supporters out of town.

“One of the things folks keep saying is ‘If you just ignored them, they’d probably go away,’” Effie Baum, a spokesperson for Popular Mobilization, a coalition of activists formed to mobilize a counterprotest on Saturday, told HuffPost. “There are many examples across history that explicitly tell us this is not true. The community at large in Portland has tried ignoring them… Despite that, Joey Gibson and Patriot Prayer have not gone away.”

I have been warning that civil unrest is coming to America over and over again.  I warned that it is coming in my first book, and I have warned that it is coming on radio and television all across America.  And about a month ago, Portland got a little taste of what is ahead…

On June 30, as a faceoff between opposite ends of the political spectrum exploded into a street fight, enforcement in Portland, Oregon, jumped into action. The march, organized by Patriot Prayer, a far-right outfit with a history of sparking conflict, was met by anti-fascist – antifa – and other-counter protesters. As the clash escalated, the event was declared a riot. Officers in body armor tried to unknot the scuffles. Four people left the scene in ambulances, the Portland Police later said in a statement. Four others left in handcuffs.

Other watchmen are sounding the alarm as well.  For instance, the following comes from an alert that Steve Quayle recently posted on his website

Ladies and Gentlemen we are in the midst of a war for the fundamental right to be an American. The constitution is under attack from the far left and its democratic leaders. This is only going to get worse from here. America has fundamentally changed; just as Barack Obama wanted. If you ask me, we are only a few more riot/protests away from the left and right clashing to the point of firearms being used. Once that is done, you will force the police to drastically change our approach. I don’t know how that will go but I was there in Ferguson, MO during the BLM riots and in Baltimore for the BLM riots. The police and National Guard will eventually be forced to put down the riots by force and that is not what we want nor need to happen.

Let us pray for peace, because nobody should want to see more violence.

And as I mentioned earlier, the authorities in Portland could stop the violence from happening.  The police need to show up very early in massive numbers, and they need to do everything that they can to keep the two groups apart.

Because if the two sides come face to face, there will be violence.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The Number Of Americans Living In Their Vehicles “Explodes” As The Middle Class Continues To Disappear

If the U.S. economy is really doing so well, then why is homelessness rising so rapidly?  As the gap between the rich and the poor continues to increase, the middle class is steadily eroding.  In fact, I recently gave my readers 15 signs that the middle class in America is being systematically destroyed.  More Americans are falling out of the middle class and into poverty with each passing day, and this is one of the big reasons why the number of homeless is surging.  For example, the number of people living on the street in L.A. has shot up 75 percent over the last 6 years.  But of course L.A. is far from alone.  Other major cities on the west coast are facing similar problems, and that includes Seattle.  It turns out that the Emerald City has seen a 46 percent rise in the number of people sleeping in their vehicles in just the past year

The number of people who live in their vehicles because they can’t find affordable housing is on the rise, even though the practice is illegal in many U.S. cities.

The number of people residing in campers and other vehicles surged 46 percent over the past year, a recent homeless census in Seattle’s King County, Washington found. The problem is “exploding” in cities with expensive housing markets, including Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, according to Governing magazine.

Amazon, Microsoft and other big tech companies are in the Seattle area.  It is a region that is supposedly “prospering”, and yet this is going on.

Sadly, it isn’t just major urban areas that are seeing more people sleeping in their vehicles.  Over in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, many of the homeless sleep in their vehicles even in the middle of winter

Stephanie Monroe, managing director of Children Youth & Family Services at Volunteers of America, Dakotas, tells a similar story. At least 25 percent of the non-profit’s Sioux Falls clients have lived in their vehicles at some point, even during winter’s sub-freezing temperatures.

“Many of our communities don’t have formal shelter services,” she said in an interview. “It can lead to individuals resorting to living in their cars or other vehicles.”

It is time to admit that we have a problem.  The number of homeless in this country is surging, and we need to start coming up with some better solutions.

But instead, many communities are simply passing laws that make it illegal for people to sleep in their vehicles…

A recent survey by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), which tracks policies in 187 cities, found the number of prohibitions against vehicle residency has more than doubled during the last decade.

Those laws aren’t going to solve anything.

At best, they will just encourage some of the homeless to go somewhere else.

And if our homelessness crisis is escalating this dramatically while the economy is supposedly “growing”, how bad are things going to be once the next recession officially begins?

We live at a time when the cost of living is soaring but our paychecks are not.  As a result, middle class families are being squeezed like never before.

A recent Marketwatch article highlighted the plight of California history teacher Matt Barry and his wife Nicole…

Barry’s wife, Nicole, teaches as well — they each earn $69,000, a combined salary that not long ago was enough to afford a comfortable family life. But due to the astronomical costs in his area, including real estate — a 1,500-square-foot “starter home” costs $680,000 — driving for Uber was a necessity.

“Teachers are killing themselves,” Barry says in Alissa Quart’s new book, “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America” (Ecco), out Tuesday. “I shouldn’t be having to drive Uber at eight o’clock at night on a weekday. I just shut down from the mental toll: grading papers between rides, thinking of what I could be doing instead of driving — like creating a curriculum.”

Home prices are completely out of control, but that bubble should soon burst.

However, other elements of our cost of living are only going to become even more painful.  Health care costs rise much faster than the rate of inflation every year, food prices are becoming incredibly ridiculous, and the cost of a college education is off the charts.  According to author Alissa Quart, living a middle class life is “30% more expensive” than it was two decades ago…

“Middle-class life is now 30% more expensive than it was 20 years ago,” Quart writes, citing the costs of housing, education, health care and child care in particular. “In some cases the cost of daily life over the last 20 years has doubled.”

And thanks to the trade war, prices are going to start going up more rapidly than we have seen in a very long time.

On Tuesday, we learned that diaper and toilet paper prices are rising again

Procter & Gamble said on Tuesday that it was in the process of raising Pampers’ prices in North America by 4%. P&G also began notifying retailers this week that it would increase the average prices of Bounty, Charmin, and Puffs by 5%.

P&G is raising prices because commodity and transportation cost pressures are intensifying. The hikes to Bounty and Charmin will go into effect in late October, and Puffs will become more expensive beginning early next year.

I wish that I had better news for you, but I don’t.  We are all going to have to work harder, smarter and more efficiently.  And we are definitely going to have to tighten our belts.

Many middle class families are relying on debt to get them from month to month, and consumer debt in the United States has surged to an all-time high.  But eventually a day of reckoning comes, and we all understand that.

The U.S. economy is not going to be getting any better than it is right now.  So it is time to be a lean, mean saving machine, because it will be important to have a financial cushion for the hard times that are ahead of us.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

We Are About To See A Great, Big Debt-Fueled GDP Number For The 2nd Quarter, But There Is A Catch…

What kind of number for GDP growth in the 2nd quarter will we get on Friday? The market consensus is somewhere around 4 percent, but there are many out there that are expecting a number above 5 percent. The last time we witnessed such a number was during the third quarter of 2014 when the U.S. economy grew by 5.2 percent. If Friday’s GDP figure is better than that, it will be the best report that we have had since 2003. But let’s keep things in perspective. In seven of the last 10 years, GDP growth was much lower than anticipated in the first quarter and much higher than anticipated in the second quarter. It looks like that pattern may play out again in 2018, and analysts are already warning us to expect a much lower number for the third quarter.

And even though we have seen good quarters before, we still have not had a full year of 3 percent growth since the middle of the Bush administration.

Last year the U.S. economy grew by only 2.3 percent, which would be a horrible figure even if the government was using honest numbers. According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, GDP growth for 2017 would have actually been negative if honest numbers were being used.

So let’s not get too excited over one quarter. According to the official government numbers, the U.S. economy has not grown by at least 3 percent on an annual basis in 14 years. That is the longest stretch in all of U.S. history by a wide margin, and it is going to take a really good second half to break that string this year.

But that isn’t stopping people from hyping tomorrow’s number. According to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, we should see a number “in the 4 to 5 percent zone”

“You’re going to get a GDP number on Friday that’s going to be a very impressive number. Some people are in the 4 to 5 percent zone,” Larry Kudlow, the White House economic adviser, told CBS This Morning.

And he is probably right.

In fact, we might see a number that is even better than that.

As CBS News has noted, the second quarter came after the new tax cuts were implemented but before the trade war started…

The second-quarter figure will be widely seen as a referendum on the GOP tax cuts of late 2017. This quarter benefits from a timing sweet spot, coming after the deficit-busting cuts trickled through the economy, but before the effects of the White House’s protectionist trade policies are fully felt.

If we get a really good number, it may actually be bad news for investors.

As Marketwatch has deftly observed, a high GDP growth number may affirm the Federal Reserve’s narrative that they need to keep raising rates in order to keep the economy from “overheating”…

Ultimately, a reading that comes in too hot could fuel expectations that the Federal Reserve may need to ramp up its pace of rate increases, with the possibility of a further two rate increases in September and December likely to tamp down too-hot growth. That could knock bond prices lower, conversely pushing rates up and pressuring equity markets lower as investors worry about rising borrowing costs.

Ultimately, most of the analysis that you are going to hear about this GDP number is a load of nonsense.

The only reason why the U.S. economy is showing a little bit of growth is because we are on the greatest debt binge in our history.

When Donald Trump entered the White House the U.S. government was 19.9 trillion dollars in debt, and now that figure has ballooned to 21.2 trillion dollars in debt.

If we had not added 1.3 trillion dollars to the national debt over the past year and a half, there is no way that the economy would be growing right now.

And to be honest, it wouldn’t be too difficult to ramp up GDP growth to 10 percent. All we would have to do would be to borrow and spend enough money.

So why don’t we do that?

Well, it is because we are already on a path to national suicide. It is being projected that our national debt will hit 30 trillion dollars by 2028, and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats seem concerned about doing anything to alter this trajectory.

If we do get to 30 trillion dollars in debt and interest rates return to their long-term averages, we will be paying more than 1.5 trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt and our nation will be financially destroyed.

Many of our largest states are absolutely drowning in debt as well. The following comes from Fox Business

In Illinois, for instance, vendors wait months to be paid by a government that’s $30 billion in debt, and one whose bonds are just one notch above junk bond status, according to Daniels. New York’s more than $356 billion in debt; New Jersey more than $104 billion; and California more than $428 billion.

As I have explained so many times, we are living a debt-fueled standard of living that is way above what we deserve.

If we only spent what we had, the economy would immediately plunge into a depression and our standard of living would collapse. The only way to keep the party going is to borrow and spend increasingly larger amounts of money, but everyone knows that this is simply not sustainable.

And it isn’t just government debt that is the problem.

Since the last financial crisis, corporate debt has doubled.

A massive consumer debt binge has pushed credit card debt to an all-time record high, and at this point the average American household is nearly $140,000 in debt.

When you add all forms of debt together, Americans are nearly 70 trillion dollars in the hole right now. For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled “Why America Is Heading Straight Toward The Worst Debt Crisis In History”.

So enjoy the debt-fueled GDP numbers for now, because the truth is that they aren’t going to last for long.

Our endless appetite for debt is literally destroying the bright future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have, and someday they will look back and curse us for what we have done to their country.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Wild And Unprecedented Price Fluctuations Are Causing Financial Chaos For U.S. Businesses

In every war there is a high price to pay, and this trade war will not be any different.  The normal flow of goods and services around the globe is being severely disrupted, and even though this trade war has barely just begun, it is already having an enormous impact on the U.S. economy.  Even if we ultimately win this trade war and the Trump administration is able to achieve all of the goals that it is targeting, there will still be a great cost in the short-term.  We are going to see businesses fail, we are going to see workers get laid off, and global economic activity will inevitably contract.  Heck, at this point even Fox News is calling this trade war “economic suicide”.  We live at a time when a delicately balanced formula of economic factors allows us to live a debt-fueled standard of living that is far beyond what we actually deserve.  Now we are messing with that formula, and the consequences are likely to be far more severe than most Americans are anticipating.

Let’s start by talking about steel and aluminum.  One of the chief goals of the tariffs was to help the steel and aluminum industries, and thanks to those tariffs we have seen the price of U.S. steel rise 36 percent since the beginning of 2018…

For instance, US steel and aluminum prices have soared since the imposition of tariffs. US midwest hot-rolled coil steel price, the US steel price benchmark, soared 36% between the start of the year and the start of July. This in turn causes prices of goods made with the metal to rise.

That is good news for the U.S. economy, right?

Actually, it isn’t.

Every product that uses steel and aluminum is now going to cost more.

In many cases, a lot more.

For instance, one grill company is reporting that they have had to raise prices “by almost $350 per grill”

Middleby Residential, a California-based company that makes Lynx grills, told the Dallas Morning News that even though the company uses US steel, the recent price pressures have driven up costs by almost $350 per grill.

Do you want to pay an extra $350 for your next grill?

Retail prices for washer and dryers are surging as well.  They have increased by 20 percent compared to a year ago, and that is because prices for raw materials are skyrocketing

Whirlpool Corp trimmed its full-year profit outlook as it booked a large charge on its European operations and said it wouldn’t be able to offset the effect of steel tariffs with higher prices for consumers.

The company said Monday it now expects to pay about $350 million more this year from rising raw-material costs as it faces “a very challenging cost environment.”

Anybody that purchases any products that contain steel and/or aluminum will be feeling these prices increases.

And any business that uses steel and/or aluminum on a regular basis is going to be feeling an enormous amount of pain.  For example, the largest nail company in America is already laying off workers

When President Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports last month, America’s largest nail manufacturer had little choice but to raise its prices. Mid Continent Nail Corporation quickly lost 50 percent of its orders as customers opted for cheaper suppliers. Within weeks, the firm had to lay off 60 workers. Up to 200 more might lose their jobs by the end of this month.

All over the country, companies are going to be forced to either raise prices, fire workers or move production facilities out of the United States.

Meanwhile, farmers all over America are facing a different problem.  Thanks to a massive decline in demand from China (thanks to tariffs that they have hit us with), prices are plummeting and warehouses are filling up with food that doesn’t have anywhere to go.

Every year, the U.S. usually imports about 14 billion dollars worth of soybeans to China, and I covered the plight of soybean farmers in a previous article.  But of course soybean farmers are far from alone.  It is being reported that more than 2.5 billion pounds of meat and poultry products that have been produced by our farmers is being stockpiled in cold-storage warehouses.  To help the agricultural community, President Trump announced 12 billion dollars in aid to farmers on Tuesday

As President Donald Trump embarks on a multistate tour through parts of the country hit heavily by trade battles, his administration said Tuesday it will direct $12 billion to farmers whose harvests have been hurt by tariffs.

But the idea faced immediate criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Responding to farm groups and the Republican discontent, administration officials said they have been working since April on a short-term plan to shore up slipping prices for soybeans, pork and other crops hit with retaliatory tariffs from China.

Sure, this will help farmers get through the trade war in the short-term, but isn’t this exactly the kind of big government socialism that we are always railing against?

And who is going to bail out the real estate industry?

CNBC is reporting that home sales fell a whopping 11.8 percent year over year in southern California last month…

Southern California home sales hit the brakes in June, falling to the lowest reading for the month in four years. Sales of both new and existing houses and condominiums dropped 11.8 percent year over year, as prices shot up to a record high, according to CoreLogic. The report covers Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

And do you know who has been fueling the extremely hot real estate market on the west coast?

The Chinese.

At one time they were buying up everything in sight, but now they have become net sellers of U.S. real estate.

And there are rumblings that we could soon see some sort of “national boycott” of American goods in China.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

The survey found that 54 percent of 2,000 respondents in 300 cities across China would “probably” or “definitely” stop buying US-branded goods “in the event of a trade war”. Just 13 percent said they would not.

The remaining 33 percent said they were unsure or did not at present buy US branded goods, according to the survey, conducted for FT Confidential Research (FTCR), a research unit at the Financial Times.

The survey was carried out between June 27 and July 10, mostly before the US imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34bn of Chinese goods on July 6. The move elicited an immediate tit-for-tat response from Beijing.

Of course something similar could be tried in the United States, but most Americans simply do not care if a product comes from China or not.  They are simply going to buy the cheapest stuff no matter what anyone tells them to do.

Look, I very much understand that we have been sending businesses and jobs overseas for a very long time.  I have been writing about this for years, and something had to be done.

But trying to fight trade wars with virtually everyone else on the planet simultaneously is madness, and the consequences for the U.S. economy are going to cause all of us an immense amount of pain.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

We Are Seeing Heat And Drought In The Southwest United States Like We Haven’t Seen Since The Dust Bowl Of The 1930s

Despite all of the other crazy news that is happening all around the world, the top headlines on Drudge on Monday evening were all about the record heatwave that is currently pummeling the Southwest.  Of course it is always hot during the summer, but the strange weather that we have been witnessing in recent months is unlike anything that we have seen since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s.  At this moment, almost the entire Southwest is in some stage of drought.  Agricultural production has been absolutely devastated, major lakes, rivers and streams are rapidly becoming bone dry, and wild horses are dropping dead because they don’t have any water to drink.  In addition, we are starting to see enormous dust storms strike major cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix, and the extremely dry conditions have already made this one of the worst years for wildfires in U.S. history.  What we are facing is not “apocalyptic” quite yet, but it will be soon if the rain doesn’t start falling.

Large portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah are already at the highest level of drought on the scale.  In Arizona, things are so bad that wild horses have been dropping dead by the dozens, and now authorities are trying to save those that are left

For what they say is the first time, volunteer groups in Arizona and Colorado are hauling thousands of gallons of water and truckloads of food to remote grazing grounds where springs have run dry and vegetation has disappeared.

Federal land managers also have begun emergency roundups in desert areas of Utah and Nevada.

‘We’ve never seen it like this,’ said Simone Netherlands, president of the Arizona-based Salt River Wild Horse Management Group. In May, dozens of horses were found dead on the edge of a dried-up watering hole in northeastern Arizona.

It is being projected that this will be the hottest week of the year so far for much of the Southwest, and on Monday the city of Waco, Texas actually set a brand new all-time record high temperature

Monday was the hottest day on record for Waco as temperatures climbed to 114 degrees just after 5 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

“Officially and by two degrees, this is the hottest it has ever been in Waco,” National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Cain said.

Please keep in mind that a record was not just set for that particular date.

114 degrees was the hottest that it has been in the city of Waco ever.

Of course residents of Phoenix are probably scoffing when they read that, because it was even hotter there

Temperatures approached 120 degrees in parts of the U.S. Southwest on Monday, and forecasters said this week could bring the region’s hottest weather of the year.

Phoenix reached a sweltering 115 degrees (46 Celsius), which broke the previous daily record, according to the National Weather Service.

Without air conditioning, Phoenix would not be a viable city.  During this time of the year the air conditioners run extremely hard, and authorities have issued an “excessive heat warning” until Wednesday

From Monday, July 23 to Wednesday, July 25, Phoenix will be under an Excessive Heat Warning. During this time, residents are recommended to stay indoors.

With the temperatures rising and ACs on, APS expects record numbers for energy usage.

Over in California, the big concern is whether the power grid will hold up or not.

On Monday, ISO authorities ordered Californians “to conserve electricity”

California’s power grid operator on Monday issued an alert to homes and businesses to conserve electricity on Tuesday and Wednesday when a heat wave is expected to blanket the state.

The California Independent System Operator (ISO), the grid operator, said it issued the so-called “Flex Alert” due to high temperatures across the western United States, reduced electricity imports into the state, tight natural gas supplies in Southern California and high wildfire risk.

And that followed a similar alert that was put out by Southern California Gas.  It will be very interesting to see if California can get through this current heatwave without any substantial disruptions.

In the past, heatwaves have come and gone, but things are different this time.  Unusual heat has been hammering the Southwest for an extended period of time, and nobody knows when it will end.  For example, experts tell us that the U.S. experienced the hottest month of May ever recorded

The USA is sweltering through what will likely be its hottest May on record, according to a preliminary analysis of weather data.

National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy said May 2018 should break the record set in May 1934 during the Dust Bowl.

Of course it isn’t just the U.S. that is being affected.  Over the past 12 months, we have seen an endless string of record high temperatures being set all over the world.

But what should deeply alarm those of us living in the United States in particular is the return of Dust Bowl conditions to the Southwest.  Just within the past couple of days, we have seen massive dust storms hit Phoenix and Las Vegas.  Very few of us were alive back in the 1930s, but we have heard about the immense devastation that occurred as much of the Southwest was literally transformed into a desert.

Well, now it is happening again.

Scientists tell us that the Southwest has been unusually wet for the past several decades.  For most of human history, the Southwest United States was a bleak, barren desert, and it appears that those conditions may be attempting to return.

If Dust Bowl conditions continue to intensify, it won’t just be Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah that are affected.  Agricultural production will be devastated in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and other Midwest states as well, and that would have profound implications for the U.S. economy and for the future of our society.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Beware – The Last 7 Times The Yield Curve Inverted The U.S. Economy Was Hit By A Recession

Seven times since the 1960s we have seen the yield curve invert, and in each of those seven instances an economic recession in the United States has followed.  Will this time be any different?  Today, the yield curve is the flattest that it has been in 11 years, and many analysts believe that we will see an inversion before the end of 2018.  If an inversion does take place, experts will be all over the mainstream media warning about “an imminent recession”.  Unfortunately, most Americans don’t understand these things, and when they hear terms like “yield curve” they tend to quickly tune out.  So in this article we are doing to define what a yield curve is, why it is so important, and why another U.S. recession may be rapidly approaching.

Let’s start with a really basic definition of a yield curve.  This one comes from Investopedia

A yield curve is a line that plots the interest rates, at a set point in time, of bonds having equal credit quality but differing maturity dates. The most frequently reported yield curve compares the three-month, two-year, five-year and 30-year U.S. Treasury debt. This yield curve is used as a benchmark for other debt in the market, such as mortgage rates or bank lending rates, and it is also used to predict changes in economic output and growth.

But most of the time, the experts that are talking about “the yield curve” are talking about the difference between interest rates on two-year and ten-year U.S. Treasury bonds.  The following comes from CNBC

Start with a government issued two-year Treasury bond and a 10-year Treasury bond. They both pay interest. Typically, the 10-year pays a higher interest rate than the two-year to compensate buyers for the time difference. The difference between the interest rates in these two bonds is called the “spread”. If the spread is greater than zero, it means the two-year interest rate is lower than the 10-year, and that is normally the case.

A normal spread for these two bonds will take the appearance of a rising chart — an upward sloping yield curve. But when the spread goes negative, the yield curve “inverts” giving the appearance of a negative yield curve.

An “inverted yield curve” strikes fear among investors because it makes lending unprofitable.

As a USA Today article recently explained, our banks borrow at short-term rates and lend that money out at long-term rates…

Banks borrow at short-term rates, lend long term and profit from the difference. So the gap between long and short rates predicts future loan profitability. The bigger the gap, the more eager banks are to lend. The yield curve is a great predictive proxy for future lending.

Lending matters because loans allow for economically expansive activities. Sally deposits $10,000 at Community Banks-R-Us, which can keep $1,000 in reserve and lend out $9,000 to Jim’s Widgets. Jim uses that to grow his business. Hence lending can fuel growth. So, steeper yield curves spur economic activity. Flatter curves render less.

Our economy is fueled by debt, and an inverted yield curve tends to greatly discourage lending.  When banks cut back on lending, that has the effect of “choking off” the economy, and that usually leads to an economic contraction…

In this interest-rate environment, banks would lose money by making loans. Not necessarily on all loans, but it does make some loans unfeasible and some less profitable, forcing banks to cut back on making loans; thereby choking off the access to credit markets that businesses need to grow. When it becomes harder for businesses to borrow, many businesses cancel or delay projects and hiring. Weaker businesses go out of business because they lose access to credit, which in turn causes layoffs. When this happens, it takes about a year, on average, for the U.S. economy to slip into a recession.

The yield curve inverted prior to the recession of 2008, and lending started to get a lot tighter.  The resulting recession was a surprise to many Americans, but it should not have been.  It was simply the logical conclusion of basic economic forces at work.

In fact, an inverted yield curve has preceded every single recession since the 1960s, but Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell doesn’t seem concerned that it is about to happen again…

Asked whether “a dramatic change in the shape of the yield curve in any way influence the trajectory you guys are on with respect to normalizing interest rates and the balance sheet,” Powell stated “no,” adding that “what really matters is what the neutral rate of interest is.

That’s the interest rate level that neither stimulates growth or slows it down — something that changes over time and which Fed officials try hard to gauge.

Interestingly, yield curves are about to “invert” in Japan, Germany and China too.

But it should be noted that there are some experts that insist that we are focusing on the wrong things.  One of those experts is Ken Fisher

Almost everyone everywhere misses that the total global yield curve matters much more than America’s. And it’s doing just fine, thank you. Today’s global financial system is super interconnected. Behemoth banks can borrow in low-rate countries such as Germany, transfer funds here, hedge for currency risk and lend to Jim’s Widgets in mere seconds.

The global yield curve combines every developed country’s curve, weighted by the size of each economy. You get Britain’s 0.88 percent 10-year/three-month spread, Canada’s 0.69 percent gap, Germany’s 0.92 percent, France’s 1.23 percent, Japan’s 0.18 percent and the rest. Mash them all together based on GDP weighting, and that gets you a 0.9 percent global spread that’s bouncing along, going nowhere fast. Current U.S. yield curve fears miss this.

In the end, Fisher may be right.

Without a doubt, the global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, and we may find a way to muddle through even if the yield curve inverts in the United States.

But I wouldn’t count on it.  An inverted yield curve has accurately predicted a recession every single time since the 1960s, and it is not likely to be wrong this time around either.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.