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Obama’s Climate Fascism Is Another Nail In The Coffin For The U.S. Economy

American Flag Painting - Public DomainIs Barack Obama trying to kill the economy on purpose?  On Sunday, we learned that Obama is imposing a nationwide 32 percent carbon dioxide emission reduction from 2005 levels by the year 2030.  When it was first proposed last year, Obama’s plan called for a 30 percent reduction, but the final version is even more dramatic.  The Obama administration admits that this is going to cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars a year and that electricity rates for many Americans are going to rise substantially.  And what Obama is not telling us is that this plan is going to kill what is left of our coal industry and will destroy countless numbers of American jobs.  The Republicans in Congress hate this plan, state governments across the country hate this plan, and thousands of business owners hate this plan.  But since Barack Obama has decided that this is a good idea, he is imposing it on all of us anyway.

So how can Obama get away with doing this without congressional approval?

Well, he is using the “regulatory power” of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Congress is increasingly becoming irrelevant as federal agencies issue thousands of new rules and regulations each and every year.  The IRS, for example, issues countless numbers of new rules and regulations each year without every consulting Congress.  Government bureaucracy has spun wildly out of control, and most Americans don’t even realize what is happening.

In the last 15 days of 2014 alone, 1,200 new government regulations were published.  We are literally being strangled with red tape, and it has gotten worse year after year no matter which political party has been in power.

These new greenhouse gas regulations are terrible.  The following is a summary of what Obama is now imposing on the entire country

Last year, the Obama administration proposed the first greenhouse gas limits on existing power plants in U.S. history, triggering a yearlong review and 4 million public comments to the Environmental Protection Agency. In a video posted to Facebook, Obama said he would announce the final rule at a White House event on Monday, calling it the biggest step the U.S. has ever taken on climate change.

The final version imposes stricter carbon dioxide limits on states than was previously expected: a 32 percent cut by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, senior administration officials said. Obama’s proposed version last year called only for a 30 percent cut.

In America today, the burning of coal produces approximately 40 percent of the electrical power used by Americans each year.

So what is this going to do to our electricity bills?

You guessed it – at this point even the Obama administration is admitting that they are going to go up.  The following comes from Fox News

The Obama administration previously predicted emissions limits will cost up to $8.8 billion annually by 2030, though it says those costs will be far outweighed by health savings from fewer asthma attacks and other benefits. The actual price is unknown until states decide how they’ll reach their targets, but the administration has projected the rule would raise electricity prices about 4.9 percent by 2020 and prompt coal-fired power plants to close.

In the works for years, the power plant rule forms the cornerstone of Obama’s plan to curb U.S. emissions and keep global temperatures from climbing, and its success is pivotal to the legacy Obama hopes to leave on climate change. Never before has the U.S. sought to restrict carbon dioxide from existing power plants.

And we must keep in mind that government projections are always way too optimistic.  The real numbers would almost surely turn out to be far, far worse than this.

In addition, these new regulations are going to complete Barack Obama’s goal of destroying our coal industry.  In a previous article, I included an excerpt from a recent news article about how some of the largest coal producers in America have just announced that they are declaring bankruptcy

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the biggest American producer of coking coal, Alpha Natural Resources, could file for bankruptcy as soon as Monday.

Competitor Walter Energy filed for bankruptcy earlier this month, and several others have done the same this year.

Barack Obama has actually done something that he promised to do.

He promised to kill the coal industry, and he is well on the way to accomplishing that goal.

Of course Hillary Clinton thinks that this is a splendid idea.  She called Obama’s plan “the floor, not the ceiling”, and she is pledging to do even more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The following comes from the Washington Post

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Sunday that if elected she will build on a new White House clean-energy program and defend it against those she called “Republican doubters and defeatists.”

Clinton was the first 2016 candidate to respond to the ambitious plan that President Obama will debut on Monday. Details of the program, which aims to cut greenhouse-gas pollution, were released over the weekend. The new regulation will require every state to reduce emissions from coal-burning power plants.

And you know what?

The climate control freaks will never be satisfied.  Since just about all human activity affects the climate in some way, they will eventually demand control over virtually everything that we do in the name of “saving the planet”.  That is why I call it “climate fascism” – in the end it is all about control.

During the month of September, the Pope is going to travel to the United Nations to give a major speech to kick off the conference at which the UN’s new sustainable development agenda will be launched.  As I have documented previously, this new agenda does not just cover greenhouse gas emissions and the environment.  It also addresses areas such as economics, agriculture, education and gender equality.  It has been called “Agenda 21 on steroids”, and it is basically a blueprint for governing the entire planet.

Unfortunately, that is ultimately what the elite want.

They want to micromanage the lives of every, man, woman and child on the globe.

They will tell us that unless people everywhere are forced to reduce their “carbon footprints” that climate catastrophe is absolutely certain, but their “solutions” always mean more power and more control in their hands.

Barack Obama promised to fundamentally transform America, and he is doing it in hundreds of different ways.  These new greenhouse gas regulations are just one example.  Our nation is being gutted like a fish, and most Americans don’t seem to care.

What in the world will it take for this country to finally wake up?

The South American Financial Crisis Of 2015

South America - Public DomainMost nations in South America are either already experiencing an economic recession or are right on the verge of one.  In general, South American economies are very heavily dependent on exports, and right now they are being absolutely shredded by the twin blades of a commodity price collapse and a skyrocketing U.S. dollar.  During the boom times in South America, governments and businesses loaded up on tremendous amounts of debt.  Since much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars, South American borrowers are now finding that it takes much more of their own local currencies to service and pay back those debts.  At the same time, there is much less demand for commodities being produced by South American nations in the international marketplace.  As a result, South America is heading into a full-blown financial crisis which will cause years of pain for the entire continent.

If you know your financial history, then you know that we have seen this exact same scenario play out before in various parts of the world.  The following comes from a recent CNN article

The dollar’s gains should make history nerds shake in their boots. Its rally in the early 1980s helped trigger Latin America’s debt crisis. Fifteen years later, the greenback surged quickly again, causing Southeast Asian economies, such as Thailand, to collapse after a run on the banks ensued.

In particular, what is going on right now is so similar to what took place back in the early 1980s.  At that time, Latin American governments were swimming in debt, the U.S. dollar was surging and commodity prices were falling.  The conditions were perfect for a debt crisis in Latin America, and that is precisely what happened

When the world economy went into recession in the 1970s and 80s, and oil prices skyrocketed, it created a breaking point for most countries in the region. Developing countries also found themselves in a desperate liquidity crunch. Petroleum exporting countries – flush with cash after the oil price increases of 1973-74 – invested their money with international banks, which ‘recycled’ a major portion of the capital as loans to Latin American governments. The sharp increase in oil prices caused many countries to search out more loans to cover the high prices, and even oil producing countries wanted to use the opportunity to develop further. These oil producers believed that the high prices would remain and would allow them to pay off their additional debt.

As interest rates increased in the United States of America and in Europe in 1979, debt payments also increased, making it harder for borrowing countries to pay back their debts. Deterioration in the exchange rate with the US dollar meant that Latin American governments ended up owing tremendous quantities of their national currencies, as well as losing purchasing power. The contraction of world trade in 1981 caused the prices of primary resources (Latin America’s largest export) to fall.

Sadly, the same mistakes have been repeated once again.  In recent years South American nations have loaded up on vast amounts of debt, and now that commodity prices are tanking and the U.S. dollar is surging, all of that debt is creating tremendous headaches.

For instance, just consider what is happening in Brazil

Brazil’s real plummeted to a 12-year low of 3.34 to the dollar, reflecting the country’s heavy reliance on exports of iron ore and other raw materials to China.

The devaluation tightens the noose on Brazilian companies saddled with $188bn in dollar debt taken out during the glory days of the commodity boom. The oil group Petrobras alone raised $52bn on the US bond markets.

Today, Brazil has the 7th largest economy on the entire planet.

So a major financial crisis in Brazil would be extremely significant.

And that is precisely what is starting to happen.  It is being projected that Brazilian government debt will soon be reduced to junk status, Brazilian stocks have already entered “correction territory“, and economic forecasters say that the Brazilian economy is heading into its worst recession in at least 25 years

Brazil needs to brace itself for some very tough times. Brazilian banks are currently forecasting another economic contraction for the South American country in 2016, marking the first time that Brazil’s economy has shrunk in two consecutive years since the Great Depression.

Last Friday, economist Nelson Teixeira of Switzerland-based financial services holding company Credit Suisse released a revision of his already dour forecast for the Brazilian GDP, moving this year’s numbers from -1.8 percent to -2.4 percent.

The IMF is also projecting that 2015 will be a year of recession for the second largest economy in South America (Argentina) and the third largest economy in South America (Venezuela).

And actually Venezuela is in the deepest trouble of all.  According to a recent Bloomberg article, it appears to be inevitable that there will be a debt default by the Venezuelan government in the very near future…

Harvard University Professor Ricardo Hausmann last year questioned Venezuela’s decision to keep paying bondholders as the country sank deeper into crisis and suggested it stop honoring the debt.

Now, he’s saying Venezuela will have no choice but to default next year.

Hausmann’s comments come as a deepening collapse in oil prices and a shortage of dollars stoke concern Venezuela is fast running out of money to stay current on debt. The country’s bonds plunged last year after Hausmann, who served as Venezuelan planning minister after Hugo Chavez’s failed 1992 coup, raised the specter of default, saying he found “no moral grounds” for the government to pay debt at a time when Venezuelans were facing shortages of everything from basic medicine to toilet paper.

The inflation rate in Venezuela today is an astounding 68.5 percent, and the country is plunging into full-blown economic collapse.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

As we recently warned, the hyperinflationary collapse in Venezuela is reaching its terminal phase. With inflation soaring at least 65%, murder rates the 2nd highest in the world, and chronic food (and toilet paper shortages), the following disturbing clip shows what is rapidly becoming major social unrest in the Maduro’s socialist paradise… and perhaps more importantly, Venezuela shows us what the end game for every fiat money system looks like (and perhaps Janet and her colleagues should remember that).

Here is the video that was mentioned in the excerpt above.  As you watch this, please keep in mind that the United States is on the exact same path that Venezuela has gone down…

Economic chaos is beginning to erupt all over the planet, and the depression that we are entering into will truly be global in scope.

For the moment, many in the United States still believe that what is going on in the rest of the world will not affect us.  But the truth is that we are also right on the verge of a major financial crisis, and it is going to be even worse than what we experienced back in 2008.

So what do you think about what is going on down in South America?

Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

12 Ways The Economy Is Already In Worse Shape Than It Was During The Depths Of The Last Recession

Twelve - Public DomainDid you know that the percentage of children in the United States that are living in poverty is actually significantly higher than it was back in 2008?  When I write about an “economic collapse”, most people think of a collapse of the financial markets.  And without a doubt, one is coming very shortly, but let us not neglect the long-term economic collapse that is already happening all around us.  In this article, I am going to share with you a bunch of charts and statistics that show that economic conditions are already substantially worse than they were during the last financial crisis in a whole bunch of different ways.  Unfortunately, in our 48 hour news cycle world, a slow and steady decline does not produce many “sexy headlines”.  Those of us that are news junkies (myself included) are always looking for things that will shock us.  But if you stand back and take a broader view of things, what has been happening to the U.S. economy truly is quite shocking.  The following are 12 ways that the U.S. economy is already in worse shape than it was during the depths of the last recession…

#1 Back in 2008, 18 percent of all Americans kids were living in poverty.  This week, we learned that number has now risen to 22 percent

There are nearly three million more children living in poverty today than during the recession, shocking new figures have revealed.

Nearly a quarter of youngsters in the US (22 percent) or around 16.1 million individuals, were classed as living below the poverty line in 2013.

This has soared from just 18 percent in 2008 – during the height of the economic crisis, the Casey Foundation’s 2015 Kids Count Data Book reported.

#2 In early 2008, the homeownership rate in the U.S. was hovering around 68 percent.  Today, it has plunged below 64 percent.  Incredibly, it has not been this low in more than 20 years.  Just look at this chart – the homeownership rate has continued to plummet throughout Obama’s “economic recovery”…

Homeownership Rate 2015

#3 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, government dependence has skyrocketed to levels that we have never seen before.  In 2008, the federal government was spending about 37 billion dollars a year on the federal food stamp program.  Today, that number is above 74 billion dollars.  If the economy truly is “recovering”, why is government dependence so much higher than it was during the last recession?

#4 On the chart below, you can see that the U.S. national debt was sitting at about 9 trillion dollars when we entered the last recession.  Since that time, the debt of the federal government has doubled.  We are on the exact same path that Greece has gone down, and what you are looking at below is a recipe for national economic suicide…

Presentation National Debt

#5 During Obama’s “recovery”, real median household income has actually gone down quite a bit.  Just prior to the last recession, it was above $54,000 per year, but now it has dropped to about $52,000 per year…

Median Household Income

#6 Even though our incomes are stagnating, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily.  This is especially true of basic things that we all purchase such as food.  As I wrote about earlier this year, the price of ground beef in the United States has doubled since the last recession.

#7 In a healthy economy, lots of new businesses are opening and not that many are being forced to shut down.  But for each of the past six years, more businesses have closed in the United States than have opened.  Prior to 2008, this had never happened before in all of U.S. history.

#8 Barack Obama is constantly telling us about how unemployment is “going down”, but the truth is that the  percentage of working age Americans that are either working or considered to be looking for work has steadily declined since the end of the last recession…

Presentation Labor Force Participation Rate

#9 Some have suggested that the decline in the labor force participation rate is due to large numbers of older people retiring.  But the reality of the matter is that we have seen a spike in the inactivity rate for Americans in their prime working years.  As you can see below, the percentage of males between the ages of 25 and 54 that aren’t working and that aren’t looking for work has surged to record highs since the end of the last recession…

Presentation Inactivity Rate

#10 A big reason why we don’t have enough jobs for everyone is the fact that millions upon millions of good paying jobs have been shipped overseas.  At the end of Barack Obama’s first year in office, our yearly trade deficit with China was 226 billion dollars.  Last year, it was more than 343 billion dollars.

#11 Thanks to all of these factors, the middle class in America is dying.  In 2008, 53 percent of all Americans considered themselves to be “middle class”.  But by 2014, only 44 percent of all Americans still considered themselves to be “middle class”.

When you take a look at our young people, the numbers become even more pronounced.  In 2008, 25 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket considered themselves to be “lower class”.  But in 2014, an astounding 49 percent of all Americans in that age range considered themselves to be “lower class”.

#12 This is something that I have covered before, but it bears repeating.  The velocity of money is a very important indicator of the health of an economy.  When an economy is functioning smoothly, people generally feel quite good about things and money flows freely through the system.  I buy something from you, then you take that money and buy something from someone else, etc.  But when an economy is in trouble, the velocity of money tends to go down.  As you can see on the chart below, a drop in the velocity of money has been associated with every single recession since 1960.  So why has the velocity of money continued to plummet since the end of the last recession?…

Velocity Of Money M2

If you are waiting for an “economic collapse” to happen, you can stop waiting.

One is unfolding right now before our very eyes.

But what most people really mean when they ask about these things is that they are wondering when the next great financial crisis will happen.  And as I discussed yesterday, things are lining up in textbook fashion for one to happen in our very near future.

Once the next great financial crisis does strike, all of the numbers that I just discussed above are going to get a whole lot worse.

So as bad as things are now, the truth is that this is just the beginning of the pain.

The ‘Greek Debt Deal’ Is Already Starting To Fall Apart

Puzzle Pieces - Public DomainThe “deal that was designed to fail” has already begun to unravel.  The IMF, which was expected to provide a big chunk of the financing, has indicated that it may walk away from the deal unless Greece is granted extensive debt relief.  This is something that the Germans and their allies have resolutely refused to do.  Meanwhile, outrage is pouring in from all over Europe regarding what the Greek government is being forced to do to their own people.  Most of this anger is being directed at the Germans, but the truth is that without German money the Greek banking system and the Greek economy will completely and utterly collapse.  So even though Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras admits that this is a deal that he does not believe in, he is attempting to get it pushed through the Greek parliament, and we should know on Wednesday whether he was successful or not.  But even if the Greek parliament approves it, we could still see either the German or the Finnish parliaments reject it.  It seems as though nobody is really happy with this deal, and these negotiations have exposed very deep divisions within Europe.  Could this be the beginning of the end for the eurozone?

The Germans appear to believe that they can push the Greeks out of the eurozone and that everything will be okay somehow.  This is something that I wrote about extensively yesterday, and it turns out that a lot of other prominent voices agree with me.  For example, just consider what Paul Krugman of the New York Times had to say about this.  I am kind of amazed that he finally got something right…

Suppose you consider Tsipras an incompetent twerp. Suppose you dearly want to see Syriza out of power. Suppose, even, that you welcome the prospect of pushing those annoying Greeks out of the euro.

Even if all of that is true, this Eurogroup list of demands is madness. The trending hashtag ThisIsACoup is exactly right. This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t accept; but even so, it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for.

Greece desperately wants to stay in the euro, and they desperately want money from the rest of Europe to keep coming in.  At this point, they will agree to just about anything to keep from getting booted out of the common currency.  That is why the Germans and their allies had to make the deal so horrible.  They were attempting to find some way to make things so harsh on the Greeks that they would finally choose to walk away.

And to a certain extent it seems to be working.  Even some members of Syriza are publicly declaring that they are going to vote against this package.  The following comes from the Washington Post

Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who leads a hard-line leftist faction within Syriza, said in a statement Tuesday that the country’s creditors had “acted like cold-blooded blackmailers and economic assassins.”

Yet he also took indirect aim at Tsipras, calling on the Greek prime minister to reverse himself and tear up the agreement, which he described as a violation of the party’s ideals.

Even if Tsipras can pass the deal in Parliament, as he is expected to do, Lafazanis vowed that the Greek people would “annul it through their unity and struggle.”

Right now, the vote looks like it could be quite close.  Even though Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras has publicly admitted that this is a deal that “I do not believe in“, he is really pushing hard to get the votes that he needs.  In fact, according to Reuters he has been actively reaching out to opposition parties to secure votes…

Having staved off a financial meltdown, Tsipras has until Wednesday night to pass measures tougher than those rejected in a referendum days ago. With as many as 30-40 hardliners in his own ranks expected to mutiny, Tsipras will likely need the support of pro-European opposition parties to muster the 151 votes he needs to pass the law in parliament.

But even if this deal gets through parliament, it is highly questionable whether Greece will actually be able to do what is being required of them.  For instance, the 50 billion euro “privatization fund” seems to be something of a pipe dream

Privatisation agency Taiped has put out to tender assets with a nominal value of 7.7 billion euros since 2011, but has cashed in only just over 3.0 billion euros, according to 2014 figures.

On June 26 even the International Monetary Fund (IMF), one of Greece’s creditors, raised eyebrows over the idea of raking in lots of money from privatisations.

It stressed that the sale of public banking assets was supposed to raise tens of billions of euros but it was “highly unlikely that these proceeds will materialise” considering the high levels of nonperforming loans in the banking system.

It said that realistically only 500 million euros of proceeds were likely to materialise each year — at which rate it would take around 100 years to reach the 50 billion euro goal.

For the moment, though, let’s assume that the Greek parliament agrees to these demands and that by some miracle the Greek government can find a way to do everything that is being required of them.

And for the moment, let’s assume that this deal is approved by both the German and Finnish parliaments.

Even if everything else goes right, this deal can still be killed by the IMF

The International Monetary Fund has sent its strongest signal that it may walk away from Greece’s new bailout programme, arguing in a confidential analysis that the country’s debt is skyrocketing and budget surplus targets set by Athens cannot be achieved, reports FT.

In the three-page memo, sent to EU authorities at the weekend and obtained by FT, the IMF said the recent turmoil in the Greek economy would lead debt to peak at close to 200 percent of economic output over the next two years. At the start of the eurozone crisis, Athens’ debt stood at 127 percent.

In order for the IMF to participate in this new Greek bailout, the IMF must deem Greek debt to be sustainable.  And at this point that does not appear to be the case

Under its rules, the IMF is not allowed to participate in a bailout if a country’s debt is deemed unsustainable and there is no prospect of it returning to private bond markets for financing. The IMF has bent its rules to participate in previous Greek bailouts, but the memo suggests it can no longer do so.

But the Germans made it very clear that there would be no bailout unless the IMF was involved.

So what would satisfy the IMF?

The IMF study seems to indicate that massive debt relief for Greece would be required.  The following comes from Reuters

The study, seen by Reuters, said European countries would have to give Greece a 30-year grace period on servicing all its European debt, including new loans, and a dramatic maturity extension. Or else they must make annual transfers to the Greek budget or accept “deep upfront haircuts” on existing loans.

Needless to say, those kinds of concessions are anathema to the Germans.  There is no way that anything like that could ever get through the German parliament.

But to be honest, the Germans never intended for this deal to be successful anyway.  Just consider what German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble told reporters on Tuesday

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble made clear in Brussels on Tuesday that some members of the Berlin government think it would make more sense for Athens to leave the euro zone temporarily rather than take another bailout.

This is what Schauble and his allies have wanted all along.  This entire “deal” was crafted with the intent of creating conditions under which Greece could be forced out of the euro.

By this time tomorrow, we should know what the Greek parliament is going to do.  However, that won’t be the end of the story.  One way or another, the Germans are going to get their wish.  But once they do, I think that they will be quite surprised by the chaos that is unleashed.

Germany Never Intended For Greece To Stay In The Euro

No Deal - Public DomainThere never was going to be any deal.  All along, Germany has been seeking to establish conditions that would never be met so that they could force Greece out of the eurozone.  But the Germans had to do this subtly so that they would end up looking “reasonable” and would not turn the rest of the eurozone against them.  So why does Germany want to get rid of Greece?  Well, to be honest, it is because the Germans are sick and tired of paying for Greek mistakes.  In Germany, there is an obsession with having a balanced budget.  They even have a term for it – “the black zero“.  So it absolutely infuriates the Germans that the Greeks can never seem to get their act together and that German citizens have to keep paying for it.  At this point, the amount of money that Germany has already poured into Greece breaks down to more than 700 euros per citizen, and now Greece is going to need a new bailout of somewhere between 82 billion and 86 billion euros over the next three years.  Needless to say, the Germans are fed up with pouring money down a financial black hole, and they know that if they keep bailing Greece out that it is only a matter of time before they will have to bail out Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, etc.

So, no, it hasn’t been the Greeks holding up a deal all this time.

It has been the Germans.

And now that we have reached the endgame, the Germans are pushing for what they have always wanted from the very beginning

The German government has begun preparations for Greece to be ejected from the eurozone, as the European Union faces 24 hours to rescue the single currency project from the brink of collapse.

Finance ministers failed to break the deadlock with Greece over a new bail-out package, after nine hours of acrimonious talks as creditors accused Athens of destroying their trust…

Should no deal be forthcoming, the German government has made preparations to negotiate a temporary five-year euro exit, providing Greece with humanitarian aid while it makes the transition….

The Germans are sick and tired of having the Greeks be so financially dependent on them.  So the Germans would really like to cut them off and have them go fend for themselves.

So that is why the EU laid out such draconian conditions for the Greeks over the weekend.  The following is how Zero Hedge summarized where things currently stand…

For those who missed today’s festivities in Brussels, here is the 30,000 foot summary: Europe has given Greece a “choice”: hand over sovereignty to Europe or undergo a 5 year Grexit “time out”, which is a polite euphemism for get the hell out.

As noted earlier, here are the 12 conditions laid out as a result of the latest Eurogroup meeting, which are far more draconian than anything presented to Greece yet and which effectively require that Greece cede sovereignty to Europe, this time even without the implementation of a technocratic government.

  1. Streamlining VAT
  2. Broadening the tax base
  3. Sustainability of pension system
  4. Adopt a code of civil procedure
  5. Safeguarding of legal independence for Greece ELSTAT – the statistics office
  6. Full implementation of autmatic spending cuts
  7. Meet bank recovery and resolution directive
  8. Privatize electricity transmission grid
  9. Take decisive action on non-performing loans
  10. Ensure independence of privatization body TAIPED
  11. De-Politicize the Greek administration
  12. Return of the Troika to Athens (the paper calls them the institutions… for now)

Greece has been given until Wednesday to pass all of the legislation necessary to implement all of those conditions.

And if Greece does somehow get all that done, it still won’t get them a deal.  All it will do is allow them to come back and restart negotiations.

Needless to say, the Greeks are steaming mad at this point.  This new “deal” is being called “very bad” and “insulting” by Greek politicians.

But what they may not understand is that Germany does not actually want any deal to happen.  Instead, they are working very, very hard to get the Greeks booted out of the euro.  The following comes from the Washington Post

The simple story is that Germany and the other hardline countries don’t trust Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza party to actually implement, well, austerity. And so rather than coughing up another 60 or 70 or 80 billion euros, they seem to want to push to kick Greece out of the common currency instead. That, at least, was the plan that leaked on Saturday. And now it’s part of the actual plan on Sunday. Indeed, it’s tentatively been included in the European finance ministers’ latest joint statement. This isn’t just what Germany is considering. It’s what Germany is trying to get the rest of Europe to go along with.

If anyone still doubts what the Germans are trying to do, here it is in black and white…

And this is not an idea that is new.  In fact, some hardliners in Germany have been pushing for a “temporary Greek exit” since at least 2012

This weekend’s events in Europe have clarified who is really running the show across the ‘union’. Hans-Werner Sinn, Chairman of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, vehemnt euroskeptic, and head of the so-called ‘five wise men’ advising the German government and specifically Angela Merkel, confirmed his call from 2012 for a “temporary grexit from the euro.” The right wing economist previously explained “Greece and Portugal have to become 30-40% less expensive to be competitive again. This is being attempted through excessive austerity measures within the euro zone, but it won’t work. It will drive these countries to the brink of civil war before it succeeds. Temporary exits would very quickly stabilize these countries, create new jobs and free the population from the yoke of the euro.”

The Germans absolutely hate having to open up their wallets for someone else’s mess.  And they know that if they endlessly bail out Greece that it won’t end there.  Eventually, much of the rest of the continent will come to them for bailouts too.  I think that Nigel Farage nailed it when he summed up what Germany is thinking this way…

“The German thinking is: ‘Let’s get rid of this mess,'” Farage said. Expressing what he thought Germany was thinking about other troubled peripheral euro zone economies, he added: “‘let’s send a message to Italy, France, Spain and Portugal that actually, if you’re members of this club, you got to abide by our rules.'”

But I believe that Germany is greatly, greatly underestimating the damage that a “Grexit” is going to do to Greece and to the rest of the members of the EU.

In Greece, the banking system is already on the verge of total collapse.  We are being told that capital controls will remain in place “for at least six months”, and now Greek politicians are even talking about “a possible forced ‘bail-in’ of depositors”

Capital controls will stay in place at Greek banks for at least six months, senior officials in Athens warned yesterday, as the government fights to keep lenders afloat.

Leaders of the four main banks and finance ministry officials will meet tomorrow to discuss how to save the banking system from collapse after a run on deposits.

Options under consideration include a consolidation of four main banks down to two, creation of a “bad bank” to house toxic loans, and a possible forced “bail-in” of depositors.

Hmmm – I seem to recall someone warning about this exact scenario nearly two months ago: “Are They About To Confiscate Money From Bank Accounts In Greece Just Like They Did In Cyprus?

The economic depression in Greece is about to accelerate.  But things are also going to get hairy for the rest of the continent as well.  As I have warned about so many times, the euro is going to plunge like a rock, European stocks are going to crater, European bond yields are going to soar, and eventually we are actually going to see “too big to fail” banks all over Europe start to fail.

This is the big flaw in the German plan.  They truly believe that they can remove the “cancer” of Greece without causing any lasting damage to the rest of the eurozone.

Sadly, they are dead wrong.

Greece Votes NO – Let The Chaos Begin…

No - Public DomainThe result of the referendum in Greece is a great victory for freedom, but it is also threatens to unleash unprecedented economic chaos all across Europe.  With almost all of the votes counted, it is being reported that approximately 61 percent of Greeks have voted “no” and only about 39 percent of Greeks have voted “yes”.  This is a much larger margin of victory for the “no” side than almost everyone was anticipating, and it represents a stunning rejection of European austerity.  Massive celebrations have erupted on the streets of Athens and other major Greek cities, but the euphoria may not last long.  Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is promising that Greece will be able to stay in the euro, but that gives EU bureaucrats and the IMF a tremendous amount of power, because at this point the Greek government is flat broke.  Without more money from the EU and the IMF, the Greek government will not be able to pay its bills and virtually all Greek banks will inevitably collapse.  Meanwhile, the rest of Europe is about to experience a tremendous amount of pain as financial markets respond to the results of this referendum.  The euro is already plummeting, and most analysts expect European bond yields to soar and European stocks to drop substantially when trading opens on Monday morning.

Personally, I love the fact that the Greek people decided not to buckle under the pressure being imposed on them by the EU and the IMF.  But amidst all of the celebration, the cold, hard reality of the matter is that your options are extremely limited when you are out of money.

How is the Greek government going to pay its bills without any money?

How are the insolvent Greek banks going to operate without any money?

How is the Greek economy going to function without any money?

Now that the Greek people have overwhelmingly rejected the demands of the creditors, it will be very interesting to see what the EU and the IMF do.  Prior to the referendum, European leaders were insisting that a “no” vote would put an end to negotiations and would force Greece to leave the euro.

Now that the results are in, are they going to change their tune?  Because the ball is definitely in their court

“This does two things: it legitimises the stance of the Greek government and it leaves the ball in Europe’s court,” ANZ Bank analysts said in a note.

Europe either folds or Greece goes bankrupt; over to you Merkel.”

So would they actually let Greece go bankrupt?

It is going to be fascinating to watch what happens over the next few days.  Right now, Greek banks are on life support.  If the European Central Bank decides to pull the plug, they would essentially destroy the entire Greek banking system.  The only thing that can keep Greek banks alive and kicking is more intervention from the ECB.  The following comes from the New York Times

Now that Greek voters have said no to the economic demands of its international creditors, the fate of the country’s struggling banks is in the hands of the European Central Bank.

Greece’s banks, closed since last Monday because they are perilously low on cash, have been kept alive in recent weeks by emergency loans from the European Central Bank. On Monday, the central bank’s policy makers plan to convene to determine how much longer they are willing to prop up the Greek banks, now that the country has essentially said no to the unpopular dictates of the other eurozone countries.

Of much greater concern to the rest of the world is how financial markets are going to respond to all of this.  As I write this article, things already appear to be unraveling.  The following comes from CNBC

Germany’s Dax is indicated sharply lower from Friday’s close at around 4 percent, while the euro was down 2 percent against the yen as the news emerged. U.S. stocks are expected to open around 1 percent lower Monday, according to recent stock futures data.

What could be most important for those worried about contagion from the Greek crisis is how Portuguese, Spanish and Italian government bonds perform in Monday morning trade.

If these peripheral euro zone countries, often lumped in with Greece, suffer a sharp spike in yields, this could cause alarm about whether Greece leaving the currency might cause further contagion to other weaker euro zone economies.

This could potentially become a “trigger event” that unleashes a wave of financial panic all over Europe.  And once financial panic begins, it is very difficult to end.

If the EU and the IMF want to avoid a crisis, they could just give in to the new Greek government.  But that would be politically risky for certain high profile European leaders.  For instance, Angela Merkel would face a huge backlash back home if she conceded to the new Greek government now.  And other German leaders are already calling the referendum result a “disaster”

German politicians branded the result a ‘disaster’, with the country’s economy minister Sigmar Gabriel Sigmar accusing Tsipras of ‘tearing down the last bridges on which Greece and Europe could have moved towards a compromise’.

He added: ‘Tsipras and his government are leading the Greek people on a path of bitter abandonment and hopelessness.’

And the president of the European Parliament, a German, told a German radio station over the weekend that a “no” vote would almost certainly mean that the Greeks will be forced out of the euro

If after the referendum, the majority is a ‘no,’ they will have to introduce another currency because the euro will no longer be available for a means of payment,” Martin Schulz, European Parliament president, said on German radio.

That is pretty strong language, eh?

Here is yet another quote from Schulz

Without new money, salaries won’t be paid, the health system will stop functioning, the power network and public transport will break down, and they won’t be able to import vital goods because nobody can pay,” he said.

So at this point it is all up to the EU and the IMF, and in particular the focus will be on the Germans.

What will they decide to do?

Will they give in, or will they force the Greeks to leave the euro?

If the Greeks do transition from the euro to a new currency, it will be a process that takes months (if not longer).  You just can’t change ATMs, computer systems, cash registers, etc. overnight.  So a move to the drachma  would not be as simple as many are suggesting…

British firms like De La Rue, which prints 150 currencies worldwide, are believed to have been contacted with a view to providing such services.

It’s done in great secrecy to prevent currency speculation. The other big problem is the logistical challenges of switching a currency. All ATMs, computers and other machinery of commerce that bears the euro symbol will have to be adjusted. It could, and would, take months.

And if Greece does leave, it will be a massive shock for global financial markets.  Faith in the European project will be shattered, the euro will drop like a rock, bond yields all over the continent will rise to unsustainable levels and major banks all over Europe will fail.

I think that the following quote from Romano Prodi sums things up quite well

Romano Prodi, former chief of the European Commission and Italy’s ex-premier, said it is the EU’s own survival that is now at stake as the botched handling of the Greek crisis escalates into a catastrophe. “If the EU cannot resolve a small problem the size of Greece, what is the point of Europe?

Meanwhile, we should all keep in mind that a financial crisis has already erupted over in Asia as well.  Chinese stocks have lost 30 percent of their value in just the last three weeks.  In fact, the amount of “paper wealth” wiped out in China over the past three weeks is approximately equivalent to “10 times Greece’s gross domestic product”

A dizzying three-week plunge in Chinese equities has wiped out $2.36 trillion in market value — equivalent to about 10 times Greece’s gross domestic product last year.

The great financial collapse of 2015 is well underway, and it should be a very interesting week for global markets.

But no matter what happens this week, we all need to keep in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

A “perfect storm” is on the way, and we all need to get prepared for it while we still can.

Why The Puerto Rico Debt Crisis Is Such A Huge Threat To The U.S. Financial System

Puerto Rico Map On A Globe - Photo by TUBSThe debt crisis in Puerto Rico could potentially cost financial institutions in the United States tens of billions of dollars in losses.  This week, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla publicly announced that Puerto Rico’s  73 billion dollar debt is “not payable,” and a special adviser that was recently appointed to help straighten out the island’s finances said that it is “insolvent” and will totally run out of cash very shortly.  At this point, Puerto Rico’s debt is approximately 15 times larger than the per capita median debt of the 50 U.S. states.  Yes, the Greek debt crisis is larger, as Greece currently owes about $350 billion to the rest of the planet.  But only about $14 billion of that total is owed to U.S. financial institutions.  But with Puerto Rico, things are very different.  Just about the entire 73 billion dollar debt is owed to U.S. financial institutions, and this could potentially cause massive problems for some extremely leveraged Wall Street firms.

There is a reason why Puerto Rico is called “America’s Greece”.  In Puerto Rico today, more than 40 percent of the population is living in poverty, the unemployment rate is over 12 percent, and the economy of the small island nation has continually been in recession since 2006.

Yet all this time Puerto Rico has continued to pile up even more debt.  Finally, it has gotten to the point where all of this debt is simply unpayable

Steven Rhodes, the retired U.S. bankruptcy judge who oversaw Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and has now been retained by Puerto Rico to help solve its problems, gave a blunt assessment on Monday.

Puerto Rico “urgently needs our help,” Rhodes said. “It can no longer pay its debts, it will soon run out of cash to operate, its residents and businesses will suffer,” he added.

This is why I hammer on the danger of U.S. government debt so often.  As we see with the examples of Greece and Puerto Rico, eventually a day of reckoning always arrives.  And when the day of reckoning arrives, power shifts into the hands of those that you owe the money too.

It would be hard to understate just how severe the debt crisis in Puerto Rico has become.  Former IMF economist Anne Krueger has gone so far as to say that it is “really dire”

The situation is dire, and I mean really dire,” said former IMF economist Anne Krueger, co-author of the report commissioned by the U.S. territory, which recommended debt restructuring, tax hikes and spending cuts. “The needed measures may face political resistance but failure to address the issues would affect even more the people of Puerto Rico.”

So who is going to get left holding the bag?

As I mentioned at the top of this article, major U.S. financial institutions are very heavily exposed.  Income from Puerto Rican bonds is exempt from state and federal taxation, and so that made them very attractive to many U.S. investors.  According to USA Today, there are 180 mutual funds that have “at least 5% of their portfolios in Puerto Rican bonds”…

The inability of the U.S. territory to repay its debt, combined with the financial crisis in Greece, would have far-reaching implications for financial markets and unsuspecting American investors. Morningstar, an investment research firm based in Chicago, estimated in 2013 that 180 mutual funds in the United States and elsewhere have at least 5% of their portfolios in Puerto Rican bonds.

It is important to keep in mind that many of these financial institutions are very highly leveraged.  So just a “couple of percentage points” could mean the different between life and death for some of these firms.

And unlike what is happening with Greece, the private financial institutions that hold Puerto Rican bonds are not likely to be very eager to “negotiate”.  In fact, the largest holder of Puerto Rican debt has already stated that it is very much against any kind of restructuring

U.S. fund manager OppenheimerFunds, the largest holder of Puerto Rico debt among U.S. municipal bond funds, warned the island it stands ready to defend the terms of bonds it holds, a day after the governor said he wanted to restructure debt and postpone bond payments.

What Oppenheimer is essentially saying is that it does not plan to give Puerto Rico any slack at all.  Here is more from the article that I just quoted above

OppenheimerFunds, with about $4.5 billion exposure to Puerto Rico according to Morningstar, said it believed the island could repay bondholders while providing essential services to citizens and growing the economy. It said it stood ready “to defend the previously agreed to terms in each and every bond indenture.”

“We are disheartened that Governor Padilla, in a public forum, has called for negotiations with other creditors, representing and including the millions of individual Americans that hold Puerto Rico municipal bonds,” a spokesman for Oppenheimer said in a statement.

But Puerto Rico simply does not have the money to meet all of their debt obligations.

So somebody is not going to get paid at some point.

When that happens, those that insure Puerto Rican bonds are also going to take tremendous losses.  The following comes from a recent piece by Stephen Flood

Now, bondholders are at risk as are the funds which hold Puerto Rican bonds and, more importantly, those who insure them in the derivatives market.

Dave Kranzler, from Investment Research Dynamics has warned that there are signs that the Puerto Rico situation may not remain a local crisis for much longer.

He points out that share prices of MBIA, the bond insurers, have been plummeting. MBIA are valued at $3.9 billion whereas their exposure to Puerto Rican debt is around $4.5 billion. Kranzler reckons their exposure could even be multiples of that figure. A default could wipe them out.

He also points out that the firm’s largest shareholders are Warburg Pincus, the firm to which Timothy Geithner went after his stint as Treasury Secretary, when he helped paper over the chasms opening up in the financial system.

Did you notice the word “derivatives” in that quote?

Hmmm – who has been writing endless articles warning about the danger of derivatives for years?

Who has been warning that “this gigantic time bomb is going to go off and absolutely cripple the entire global financial system“?

When Puerto Rico defaults, bond insurers are going to be expected to step up and make huge debt service payments to investors.

But this just might bankrupt some of these big bond insurers.  In fact, we have already started to see the stock prices of some of these bond insurers begin to plummet.  The following comes from the Wall Street Journal

Bond insurers MBIA Inc. and Ambac Financial Group Inc. are down again Tuesday as concerns over Puerto Rico’s ability to repay its debt multiply.

Investors fear that both firms face the potential for steep losses on their promises to backstop billions of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion of debt.

MBIA’s stock closed down 23% Monday, and fell more than 10% before rebounding Tuesday. By late afternoon, the stock was down 6%. Ambac’s stock fell 12% Monday and was off 14% Tuesday.

Of course Puerto Rico is just the tip of the iceberg of the coming debt crisis in the western hemisphere, just like Greece is just the tip of the iceberg of the coming debt crisis in Europe.

So stay tuned, because the second half of 2015 has now begun, and the remainder of this calendar year promises to be extremely “interesting”.

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