Food Riots 2011

The stunningly violent food riots in Tunisia and Algeria show just how quickly things can change.  Just a few months ago, these two northern Africa nations were considered to be very stable, very peaceful and without any major problems.  But now protesters are openly squaring off with police in the streets.  Many of the protesters are throwing “fire bombs” or are shooting fireworks at the authorities, and the police are responding with a tremendous amount of violence themselves.  In Algeria, several protesters have been killed by police and several others have actually set themselves on fire to protest the economic conditions.  In Tunisia, more than 100 people have been killed and the president of that country actually had to flee for his life.  But on a global scale, food shortages have not even gotten that bad yet.  Yes, food prices are starting to go up and food supplies are a little bit tighter right now, but much worse times than these are coming.  So what in the world are the cities of the world going to look like when we have a very serious food shortage?

Just as we saw during the food riots of 2008, when people get to the point where they can’t even feed themselves anymore, they tend to lose it.  In the video posted below, you can really feel the desperation of these young Algerians as they riot in the streets….

This next video is of the food riots in Tunisia.  You will not want to let any young children watch this video.  In fact, if watching police beat and smash protesters laying on the ground upsets you, then you might not want to watch this video either.  The massive food riots that have erupted in Tunisia have left many city streets looking like war zones and at this point it is being reported that the violence has left over 100 people dead.  The president of Tunisia has left the country because of the rioting, and an interim president has been sworn in.  It is hoped that this will help restore order.  This video is absolutely stunning….

You see, the truth is that it is not just in the United States that people are becoming angry at government.  All over the world, frustration is boiling over.  But unlike the United States, where food is still very plentiful, in many areas of the world it is the deteriorating economic conditions that are sparking many of these riots.

According to the FAO, the global price of food hit a new record high in December.  For most Americans and Europeans, a rise in the price of food is just an inconvenience.  But in many areas of the world, even a relatively small rise in the price of food can mean that the survival of millions is suddenly threatened.

Global authorities are concerned that these food riots might start spreading – especially if the extremely harsh weather all over the globe continues to damage crops.

In fact, there are some signs that economic unrest is already beginning to spread….

*In the nation of Jordan, peaceful demonstrations were held in several locations around the country on Friday to protest rising food prices.

*In Libya, protests about the late completion of government subsidized housing entered their third day on Sunday.  Reportedly, hundreds of uncompleted units have been taken over by protesters and so far the police are not taking action to evict them.  There is also growing concern that the food riots in neighboring Tunisia will soon pour over into Libya.

*Economic protests also been reported recently in Mozambique, Morocco and Chile.

Sadly, the desperate economic conditions that are sparking these food riots did not develop overnight.  Rather, they have been building for decades.  The truth is that the new “global economy” is designed to funnel more and more of the wealth of the world into the hands of the wealthiest 0.001% of the global population.  Everyone else is left to fight with one another to divide up a pie that is increasingly shrinking.

Just consider the following five facts….

#1 Approximately 1 billion people throughout the world go to bed hungry every single night.

#2 Approximately 28 percent of all children in developing countries are considered to be underweight or have had their growth stunted as a result of malnutrition.

#3 Every 3.6 seconds someone starves to death and three-quarters of them are children under the age of 5.

#4 “Least developed countries” spent 9 billion dollars on food imports in 2002.  By 2008, that number had risen to 23 billion dollars.

#5 A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research discovered that the bottom half of the world population owns approximately 1 percent of all global wealth.

So if things are this bad already, what kind of food riots are we going to see if all of this weird weather continues and global harvests are much lower than anticipated in 2011?

Most Americans have a really hard time even imagining such a thing, but the truth is that we are just one really bad harvest away from mass starvation in many areas of the world.

We are not going to see mass starvation in the United States in 2011, but we could see food prices start to go up significantly.  Keep in mind that more than 43 million Americans are already on food stamps.  The incredible abundance of food that we have been enjoying for so many decades is not guaranteed to last indefinitely.

Dennis Conley, an agricultural economist at the University of Nebraska, recently told MSNBC that food reserves in the United States are already disturbingly low….

“I haven’t seen numbers this low that I can remember in the last 20 or 30 years.”

So yes, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned.

The world really is on the verge of a major food crisis, and if global harvests are not significantly better than most analysts are currently projecting, then we are likely to see a lot more food riots around the globe before 2011 is over.

Instead Of Using This Period Of Economic Stability To Party We Should Be Using It To Prepare

The fact that the official U.S. government unemployment rate has dipped slightly is good news.  However, it is not the “economic turning point” that Barack Obama and others are proclaiming it to be.  Rather, what we are in right now is “the calm before the storm”.  The massive amount of government spending that the U.S. government has done over the past few years and the massive quantities of new dollars that the Federal Reserve has been pumping into the system has bought us all just a little bit of time.  Instead of using this brief period of economic stability to party, we should all be using it to prepare for the very hard economic times that are coming.  Please do not get fooled when the short-term economic numbers go up or down a little bit.  When evaluating the state of the U.S. economy, the key is to look at the long-term trends.  The truth is that when you take a longer-term view, it becomes undeniable that the United States is in the midst of a long-term economic decline from which there is no escape.

But how are most Americans responding to the “good news” that the U.S. economy has stabilized for the moment?  Many Americans are running right back out and are spending like it is 1999.  Many Americans are viewing the slight improvement in some of the economic numbers as a sign that “happy times are here again” and they are behaving just as they did right before the financial crisis of 2008.

Many of us have family or friends that are taking expensive trips, making huge purchases and partying as if the good times are never going to end.

But is this wise?

The fact that the official government unemployment rate declined to 9.4% in December has got a lot of people excited, including Barack Obama….

“The pace of hiring is beginning to pick up.”

So is the fact that the unemployment rate declined slightly good news?

Yes, it is good news.

However, there are also a whole lot of reasons not to be so excited about this one piece of unemployment data….

*A big part of the reason why the unemployment figure was down in December was because the government considered 260,000 Americans to have dropped out of the labor force.

*Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that unemployment is likely to stay very high for four or five more years.

*The 103,000 jobs that were added in December was actually far below the 140,000 to 178,000 jobs that economists were expecting.

*Gallup numbers tell an entirely different story when it comes to unemployment.  According to Gallup, the unemployment rate actually rose to 9.6% at the end of December.  This was a significant increase from 9.3% in mid-December and 8.8% at the end of November.

*Not only that, but Gallup also says that the underemployment rate is moving up dramatically.  According to Gallup, the underemployment rate in the United States increased to 19.0% during December, which was up substantially from 18.5% in mid-December and 17.2% at the end of November.

*The percentage of Americans participating in the labor force is now the lowest it has been since the early 1980s.  In December, the Labor Force Participation Rate fell to 64.3%.   Over the last twenty years, the Labor Force Participation Rate has usually been around 66 or 67 percent.  So do less Americans want jobs today?  Of course not.  What has happened is that millions of Americans have become so discouraged about the lack of jobs that they aren’t even actively searching anymore.

*The number of Americans working part-time for “economic reasons” continues to hover around all-time highs.

*According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Americans that have been out of work for more than 26 weeks actually increased in December.  In November, there were 6.328 Americans in that category, and in December there were 6.441 million Americans in that category.

So, as you can see, there are a whole lot of reasons not to get too excited about the employment numbers.

But has the economic situation in the United States somewhat stabilized in the short-term?

Yes, but this is not going to last forever.

When you look at the longer-term economic trends they just keep getting worse and worse and worse….

#1 Every single month the U.S. government goes into even more debt.  The U.S. government is now over 14 trillion dollars in debt and this debt in increasing by about 4 billion dollars every single day.

#2 Even single month state and local governments across the United States go into even more debt.  As I have written about previously, our infrastructure is literally crumbling and falling apart from coast to coast but our state and local governments can’t do anything about it because they are drowning in a sea of red ink.

#3 Every single month we are getting poorer as a nation.  Every month we consume massive amounts of foreign oil and cheap, foreign-made plastic trinkets and we send the rest of the world hundreds of billions of dollars of our money.  Unfortunately, very few of our politicians ever even mention this obscene transfer of wealth.

#4 Every single month we send large numbers of our factories and our jobs overseas.  Over the past decade, over 42,000 factories in the United States have shut down permanently and millions of good jobs have been outsourced and offshored.  Those jobs and those factories are never coming back and America is rapidly becoming a “post-industrial” nation.

#5 Every single month the United States continues to lose not only factory jobs, but also many other types of good paying “middle class jobs”.  In fact, since the year 2000, we have lost 10% of our middle class jobs.  In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.  Meanwhile, our population continues to grow larger.

#6 Almost every single month the cost of basics such as food, gasoline and health care goes up faster than our incomes do.  Inflation is a brutal “hidden tax” which is destroying the standard of living of middle class Americans.

#7 Confidence in the U.S. dollar and U.S. Treasury bonds is starting to rapidly decline.  When global confidence in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. Treasury bonds is totally gone, the entire world financial system will be thrown into total chaos and the U.S. economic system will fall like a house of cards.

#8 We are being constantly looted and pillaged by those at the top of the food chain.  Every single month the ultra-wealthy and the international banking elite drain even more money out of the system and transfer it to “offshore” banks.  At this point, a third of all the wealth in the world is held in “offshore” banks.

Right now we are still able to enjoy relatively good times because the rest of the world continues to loan the U.S. government massive amounts of cheap money and because the Federal Reserve has so far gotten away with printing gigantic piles of new money out of thin air.

But this “can” cannot be kicked down the road forever.  At some point, the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world is going to completely burst and the fallout is going to be nightmarish.

So what should we all be doing?

What we shouldn’t be doing is partying as if the good times are going to last indefinitely.

What we need to be doing is starting to prepare.

So what are some things that we all can do to prepare for hard economic times?  Well, the following are just a few of the columns I have authored in the past about prepping….

*What To Do

*Disaster Plan

*20 Things You Will Need To Survive When The Economy Collapses And The Next Great Depression Begins

Use this brief time of economic stability to prepare – once the economy falls apart it will be too late.

Hopefully some of the readers of this column will be willing to share some of their best preparation tips.  If you have got some tips and ideas that you would like to share with the rest of us, please feel free to post a comment below….

Almost Everything Is A Crime In America Now: 14 Of The Most Ridiculous Things That Americans Are Being Arrested For

Doesn’t it seem like almost everything is becoming a crime in America now?  Americans are being arrested and charged with crimes for doing things like leaving dog poop on the ground, opening up Christmas presents early, not recycling properly, farting in class and having brown lawns.  But is it healthy for our society for the police to be involved in such silly things?  Every single day the United States inches closer to becoming a totalitarian society.  While there are some that would welcome this shift, the truth is that throughout history the societies that have experienced the greatest economic prosperity have all had at least a certain level of freedom.  Business thrives when people feel free to live and work.  When a government tightens the grip too much many people just start shutting down.  Just look at places like North Korea.  Even though the rest of the world is sending them huge amounts of food starvation is still quite common in that totalitarian regime.  That is why it is so disturbing that it seems like almost everything has become a crime in America now.  As we continue to criminalize relatively normal behavior our slide toward becoming a totalitarian state will only accelerate.

We are throwing anyone and everyone in prison these days.  It is getting absolutely ridiculous.  Today, the United States leads the world in the number of prisoners and in the percentage of the population in prison.  The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but approximately 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of the end of 2009 a total of 7,225,800 people were either on probation, in prison or on parole in America.

That is a sign of a very, very sick society.  Either we have a massive crime problem or the “control grid” that our leaders have erected for us is wildly out of control.

Or both.

But how in the world are we supposed to have a healthy economy if our entire nation is being turned into one gigantic prison?

Sadly, it is not just hardcore criminals that are being rounded up and abused by authorities these days.  The following are 14 of the most ridiculous things that Americans are being arrested for….

#1 A Michigan man has been charged with a felony and could face up to 5 years in prison for reading his wife’s email.

#2 A 49-year-old Queens woman had bruises all over her body after she was handcuffed, arrested and brutally beaten by NYPD officers.  So what was her offense?  The officers thought that her little dog had left some poop that she didn’t clean up.

#3 A 56-year-old woman who was once a rape victim refused to let airport security officials feel her breasts so she was thrown to the floor, put in handcuffs and arrested.

#4 In Milwaukee, one man was recently fined $500 for swearing on a public bus.

#5 Several years ago a 12-year-old boy in South Carolina was actually arrested by police for opening up a Christmas present early against his family’s wishes.

#6 In some areas of the country, it is now a crime to not recycle properly.  For example, the city of Cleveland has announced plans to sort through trash cans to ensure that people are actually recycling according to city guidelines.

#7 A 12-year-old girl from Queens was arrested earlier this year and taken out of her school in handcuffs for writing “Lex was here. 2/1/10″ and “I love my friends Abby and Faith” on her desk.

#8 Back in 2008, a 13-year-old boy in Florida was actually arrested by police for farting in class.

#9 The feds recently raided an Amish farmer at 5 AM in the morning because they claimed that he was was engaged in the interstate sale of raw milk in violation of federal law.

#10 A few years ago a 10-year-old girl was arrested and charged with a felony for bringing a small steak knife to school.  It turns out that all she wanted to do was to cut up her lunch so that she could eat it.

#11 On June 18th, two Christians decided that they would peacefully pass out copies of the gospel of John on a public sidewalk outside a public Islamic festival in Dearborn, Michigan and within three minutes 8 policemen surrounded them and placed them under arrest.

#12 A U.S. District Court judge slapped a 5oo dollar fine on Massachusetts fisherman Robert J. Eldridge for untangling a giant whale from his nets and setting it free.  So what was his crime?  Well, according to the court, Eldridge was supposed to call state authorities and wait for them do it.

#13 Once upon a time, a food fight in the cafeteria may have gotten you a detention.  Now it may get you locked up.  About a year ago, 25 students between the ages of 11 and 15 at a school in Chicago were taken into custody by police for being involved in a huge food fight in the school cafeteria.

#14 A few years ago a 70 year old grandmother was actually put in handcuffs and hauled off to jail for having a brown lawn.

Why in the world would anyone approve of the police arresting ordinary Americans for such things?

It seems like ever since 9/11 the whole country has gotten “security fever”.

Suddenly we need to “get tough” on everyone.

Yes, crime is making a comeback, but once upon a time the police in this country were able to handle crime quite well and be courteous and helpful to ordinary citizens at the same time.

But today it seems like nearly every single encounter with police ends up being negative.

It does not have to be that way.

The rest of the world sees what is going on in this country and many of them are deciding that they simply do not want to spend their tourist dollars here anymore.  That is not a good thing for our economy.

As the government continues to get even bigger and exerts even more control over our lives, many of our own people are getting sick of it and are moving abroad.

America used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

That is no longer true.

Now we get thrown to the floor, handcuffed, beaten and arrested for things that we did not even know were crimes.

If America continues to move in this direction it is going to ruin our economy, our reputation in the world and our national spirit.

Unfortunately, history has shown us that once a free nation starts to lose that freedom it is hard to reverse that slide.  Perhaps we will be different.  Perhaps the American people will stand up and demand that we restore the principles of liberty and freedom that this country was founded on.

Do you think that will happen?  Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion….

Has The Financial Collapse Of Europe Now Become Inevitable?

What in the world is happening over in Europe?  Well, it is actually quite simple.  We are witnessing the slow motion collapse of the euro and of the European financial system.  At this point, many analysts are convinced that a full-blown financial implosion in Europe has become inevitable.  Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and Belgium are all drowning in an ocean of unsustainable debt.  Meanwhile, Germany and the few other “healthy” members of the EU continue to try to keep all of the balls in the air by bailing everyone out.  But can Germany keep bailing the rest of the EU out indefinitely?  Are the German people going to continue to be willing to hand out gigantic sacks of cash to fix the problems of other EU nations?  The Irish were just bailed out, but their problems are far from over.  There are rumors that Greece will soon need another bailout.  Spain, Portugal, Italy and France have all entered crisis territory.  At the same time, there are a whole host of nations in eastern Europe that are also on the verge of financial collapse.  So is there any hope that a major sovereign debt crisis can be averted at this point?

One would like to think that there is always hope, but each month things just seem to keep getting worse.  Confidence in European government debt continues to plummet.  The yield on 10-year Irish bonds is up to 8.97%.  The yield on 10-year Greek bonds is up to an astounding 12.01%.  The cost of insuring French debt hit a new record high on December 20th.

Bond ratings all over Europe are being slashed or are being threatened with being slashed.  For example, Moody’s Investors Service recently cut Ireland’s bond rating by five levels.  Now there is talk that Spain, Belgium and even France could soon all have their debt significantly downgraded as well.

But if the borrowing costs for these troubled nations keep going up, that is just going to add to their financial problems and swell their budget deficits.  In turn, larger budget deficits will cause investors to lose even more confidence.

So how far are we away from a major crisis point?

Professor Willem Buiter, the chief economist at Citibank, is warning that quite a few EU nations could financially collapse in the next few months if they are not quickly bailed out….

“The market is not going to wait until March for the EU authorities to get their act together. We could have several sovereign states and banks going under. They are being far too casual.”

Many analysts are even calling for some of these troubled nations to stop using the euro for a while so that they can recover.  In fact, Andrew Bosomworth, the head of portfolio management for Pimco in Europe says that Greece, Ireland and Portugal must all quit the euro at least for a little while if they expect to survive….

“Greece, Ireland and Portugal cannot get back on their feet without either their own currency or large transfer payments.”

Sadly, most Americans don’t realize just how bad the situation in Europe is becoming.  This is truly a historic crisis that is unfolding.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared earlier this year that this is the biggest financial crisis that the EU has ever faced….

“The current crisis facing the euro is the biggest test Europe has faced for decades, even since the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957.”

So what is the answer?

Well, many are speculating that the EU could actually break up over this whole thing, but another possibility is that we could eventually see much greater integration.

In fact, for the first time the idea that “euro bonds” could be issued is gaining some traction.  This would spread the risk of European government debt throughout the European Union.  At this point, Andrew Bosomworth says that things have gotten so bad that it now seems inevitable that we will soon see the creation of euro bonds….

“Whether now or later, there is no way around a euro bond.”

So just how bad are things going to get in Europe? Well, earlier this year Anthony Fry, the senior managing director at Evercore Partners had the following to say about the emerging bond crisis in Europe….

“I don’t want to scare anyone but I am considering investing in barbed wire and guns, things are not looking good and rates are heading higher.”

So why should Americans care about all this?

Well, what is happening to these troubled European states is eventually going to happen to us.

If rates on U.S. government debt eventually hit 8 or 12 percent it will literally be financial armageddon in this country.  The U.S. government has piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and if we continue piling up debt at the pace that we are, then it will only be a matter of time before the IMF is demanding that we implement our own “austerity measures”.

As I have written about previously, there are already numerous indications that confidence in U.S. Treasuries is dying.  If that happens, we could literally see interest costs on the national debt double or even triple.

But it is not just the U.S. government that is in trouble.  A bloodbath in the municipal bond market has already started.  Hundreds of state and local governments across the United States are on the verge of bankruptcy.

So don’t laugh at what is going on in Ireland or Greece.  The next victims could be financially troubled states such as California and Illinois.

In the history of global finance, we have never faced a sovereign debt crisis like we are seeing now.  All over the globe governments are being suffocated by absolutely crushing debt loads.  Once a couple of dominoes fall, it is going to be really hard to keep the rest of the dominoes from falling.

This is the biggest crisis that the euro has ever faced.  At some point Germany will either be unwilling or unable to continuing rescuing the rest of the EU countries from the unsustainable mountains of debt that they have accumulated.  When that moment arrives, it is going to throw world financial markets into turmoil.

But this is what happens when we allow long-term debt bubbles to be created.  Eventually they always burst.

So keep your eye on the euro, because if a financial collapse does happen in Europe it is going to have a dramatic impact on the United States as well.

Municipal Bond Market Crash 2011: Are Dozens Of State And Local Governments About To Default On Their Debts?

In the United States, it is not just the federal government that has a horrific debt problem.  Today, state and local governments across America are collectively deeper in debt than they ever have been before.  In fact, state and local government debt is now sitting at an all-time high of 22 percent of U.S. GDP.  Once upon a time, municipal bonds (used to fund such things as roads, sewer systems and government buildings) were viewed as incredibly safe investments.  They were considered to have virtually no risk.  But now all of that has changed.  Many analysts are now openly speaking of the possibility of a municipal bond market crash in 2011.  The truth is that dozens upon dozens of city and county governments are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.  Even the debt of some of our biggest state governments, such as Illinois and California, is essentially considered to be “junk” at this point.  There are literally hundreds of governmental financial implosions happening in slow motion from coast to coast, and up to this point not a lot of people in the mainstream media have been talking about it.

Fortunately, a recent report on 60 Minutes has brought these issues to light.  If you have not seen it yet, do yourself a favor and click on the video below and spend a few minutes watching it.  It is absolutely stunning.

In the piece, one of the people that 60 Minutes interviewed was Meredith Whitney – one of the most respected financial analysts in the United States.  According to Whitney, the municipal bond crisis that we are facing is a massive threat to our financial system….

“It has tentacles as wide as anything I’ve seen. I think next to housing this is the single most important issue in the United States and certainly the largest threat to the U.S. economy.”

State and local governments across the United States are facing a complete and total financial nightmare.  The 60 Minutes report posted below does a pretty good job of describing the problem but it doesn’t even pretend to come up with any solutions….

Unlike the federal government, state and local governments cannot just ask the Federal Reserve to print up endless amounts of cash.  If state and local governments want to spend more than they bring in, they must borrow it from investors.

If the municipal bond market crashes, and investors around the world are no longer willing to hand over gigantic sacks of cash to state and local governments in the United States, then the game is over.  Either state and local governments will have to raise taxes or they will have to start spending within their means.

Most Americans have no idea what this would mean.  For decade after decade, state and local governments throughout the nation have been living way, way, way above their means.  If the debt cycle gets cut off, it is going to mean that many local communities around the nation will start degenerating into rotting hellholes nearly overnight.

We are already seeing this happen in places such as Detroit, Michigan and Camden, New Jersey but if the municipal bond market totally collapses we are quickly going to have dozens of Detroits and Camdens from coast to coast.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the state and local governments that are in some of the biggest trouble….

California

California is facing a 19 billion dollar budget deficit next year, and incoming governor Jerry Brown is scrambling to find billions more to cut from the California state budget.  At this point, investors are becoming increasingly wary about loaning any more money to the state.  The following quote from Brown about the desperate condition of California state finances is not going to do much to inspire confidence in California’s financial situation around the globe….

“We’ve been living in fantasy land. It is much worse than I thought. I’m shocked.”

Unfortunately, the economic situation in California continues to degenerate.  For example, 24.3 percent of the residents of El Centro, California are now unemployed.  In fact, the number of people unemployed in the state of California is approximately equivalent to the populations of Nevada, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

The housing market in the state is also a major drag on the economy there. For instance, the average home in Merced, California has declined in value by 63 percent over the past four years.

The state of California is swamped with so much debt that there literally appears to be no way out.

Arizona

The state government of Arizona is so incredibly starved for cash that it actually sold off the state capitol building, the state supreme court building and the legislative chambers.  Now they are leasing those buildings back from the investors that they sold them to.

Arizona also recently announced that it has decided to stop paying for many types of organ transplants for people enrolled in its Medicaid program.

Illinois

Illinois is widely regarded to be in the worst financial condition of all the U.S. states.  At this point, Illinois has approximately $5 billion in outstanding bills that have not been paid.

According to 60 Minutes,  the state of Illinois is six months behind on bill payments.  60 Minutes correspondent Steve Croft asked Illinois state Comptroller Dan Hynes how many people and organizations are waiting to be paid by the state, and this is how Hynes responded….

“It’s fair to say that there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people waiting to be paid by the state.”

The University of Illinois alone is owed 400 million dollars.  There are approximately two thousand not-for-profit organizations that are collectively owed a billion dollars by the Illinois state government.

New Jersey

The New Jersey state budget has been slashed by 26 percent, a billion dollars have been cut from education and thousands of teachers have been laid off.

But even with all of those cuts, New Jersey is still facing a $10 billion budget deficit next year, and the state has $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $65 billion in unfunded health care liabilities that it is somehow going to have to address in the future.

Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has come up with a new way to save money.  He wants to cut 20 percent of Detroit off from essential social services such as road repairs, police patrols, functioning street lights and garbage collection.

Miami

One Miami commissioner declared earlier this year that bankruptcy may be the city’s only financial hope.

Philadelphia, Baltimore and Sacramento

Major cities such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Sacramento have instituted “rolling brownouts” in which various city fire stations are shut down on a rotating basis.

Camden

The second most dangerous city in the United States – Camden, New Jersey – is about to lay off about half its police in a desperate attempt to save money.

Oakland

Oakland, California Police Chief Anthony Batts has announced that due to severe budget cuts there are a number of crimes that his department will simply not be able to respond to any longer.  The crimes that the Oakland police will no longer be responding to include grand theft, burglary, car wrecks, identity theft and vandalism.

Nassau County, New York

In New York, the country of Nassau (one of the wealthiest counties in the state) has a budget deficit that is approaching 350 million dollars.

America used to be viewed as the land of great economic progress, but that is no longer the case.  Sadly, all over the United States there are signs that we are actually going backwards as a country.

All over the nation, asphalt roads are actually being ground up and are being replaced with gravel because it is cheaper to maintain.  The state of South Dakota has transformed over 100 miles of asphalt road into gravel over the past year, and 38 out of the 83 counties in the state of Michigan have transformed at least some of their asphalt roads into gravel roads.

Just think about that – we are actually going back to gravel roads.

What’s next?

But this is what is going to happen all over America if dozens of state and local governments start defaulting and the municipal bond market crashes.

In fact, don’t look now, but there are signs that a “bloodbath” in the municipal bond market has already begun.  The months of November and December have been incredibly rocky for municipal bonds.

The days when U.S. states and cities could borrow seemingly endless amounts of incredibly cheap money are officially over.

So where are state and local governments going to get the money that they need?

Well, they are going to come and try to get it from you of course.  Over the past two years, 36 of the 50 U.S. states have jacked up taxes or fees.

Many local governments are trying to raise funds any way that they can.  For example, from now on if you are caught jaywalking in Los Angeles you will be slapped with a $191 fine.

This kind of thing is happening all over America.  Police departments are being turned into revenue raising operations.  Police are so busy writing tickets that they barely have any time to investigate actual crimes anymore.

But it simply is not going to be enough.  State and local governments across the U.S. are facing financial holes of legendary proportions.

The 60 Minutes report above stated that the combined unfunded pension and health care liabilities of the 50 states is $1 trillion.  Unfortunately, that is an estimate that is probably way too conservative.  In fact, two prominent university professors have calculated that the combined unfunded pension liability for all 50 U.S. states is approximately 3.2 trillion dollars.

So if the municipal bond market does crash will the federal government step in and bail everyone out?

Well, this upcoming spring the $160 billion in federal “stimulus money” runs out.  At that point there will likely be a huge cry for even more “stimulus money” for state and local governments.

Unfortunately, as I wrote about yesterday, the federal government is also flat broke and swimming in an ocean of endless red ink.  Congress could potentially step in and try to bail all the state and local governments out, but in the end it is the American people who are going to have to pay the bill.

We are on the verge of a horrific economic collapse which is going to change life in this country as we know it forever.  All of this debt is absolutely going to swamp us.  Our politicians can keep trying to kick the can down the road for as long as they can, but eventually the financial nightmare that so many of us have been dreading is going to overtake us.

Government Waste: 20 Of The Craziest Things That The U.S. Government Is Spending Money On

You are not going to believe some of the things that the U.S. government is spending money on.  According to a shocking new report, U.S. taxpayer money is being spent to study World of Warcraft, to study how Americans find love on the Internet, and to study the behavior of male prostitutes in Vietnam.  Not only that, but money from the federal government is also being used to renovate a pizzeria in Iowa and to help a library in Tennessee host video game parties.  These are just some of the examples in a new report on government waste from Senator Tom Coburn entitled “Wastebook 2010“.  Even as tens of millions of American families find themselves suffering through the worst economic downturn in modern history, the U.S. government continues to spend money on some of the craziest and most frivolous things imaginable.  Every single year articles are written and news stories are done about the horrific government waste that is taking place and yet every single year it just keeps getting worse.  So just what in the world is going on here?

It almost seems as though Congress actually enjoys inventing new ways to waste U.S. taxpayer money.  It seems nearly inconceivable that anyone could keep a straight face while trying to justify spending money on many of the things in the list below.

At a time when the U.S. national debt is closing in on 14 trillion dollars, government waste just seems more out of control than ever.  The following are 20 of the craziest things that the U.S. government is spending money on….

#1 A total of $3 million has been granted to researchers at the University of California at Irvine so that they can play video games such as World of Warcraft.  The goal of this “video game research” is reportedly to study how “emerging forms of communication, including multiplayer computer games and online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life can help organizations collaborate and compete more effectively in the global marketplace.”

#2 The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the University of New Hampshire $700,000 this year to study methane gas emissions from dairy cows.

#3 $615,000 was given to the University of California at Santa Cruz to digitize photos, T-shirts and concert tickets belonging to the Grateful Dead.

#4 A professor at Stanford University received $239,100 to study how Americans use the Internet to find love.  So far one of the key findings of this “research” is that the Internet is a safer and more discreet way to find same-sex partners.

#5 The National Science Foundation spent $216,000 to study whether or not politicians “gain or lose support by taking ambiguous positions.”

#6 The National Institutes of Health spent approximately $442,340 to study the behavior of male prostitutes in Vietnam.

#7 Approximately $1 million of U.S. taxpayer money was used to create poetry for the Little Rock, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Chicago zoos.  The goal of the “poetry” is to help raise awareness on environmental issues.

#8 The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spent $175 million during 2010 to maintain hundreds of buildings that it does not even use.  This includes a pink, octagonal monkey house in the city of Dayton, Ohio.

#9 $1.8 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars went for a “museum of neon signs” in Las Vegas, Nevada.

#10 $35 million was reportedly paid out by Medicare to 118 “phantom” medical clinics that never even existed.  Apparently these “phantom” medical clinics were established by a network of criminal gangs as a way to defraud the U.S. government.

#11 The Conservation Commission of Monkton, Vermont got $150,000 from the federal government to construct a “critter crossing”.  Thanks to U.S. government money, the lives of “thousands” of migrating salamanders are now being saved.

#12 In California, one park received $440,000 in federal funds to perform “green energy upgrades” on a building that has not been used for a decade.

#13 $440,955 was spent this past year on an office for former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert that he rarely even visits.

#14 One Tennessee library was given $5,000 in federal funds to host a series of video game parties.

#15 The U.S. Census Bureau spent $2.5 million on a television commercial during the Super Bowl that was so poorly produced that virtually nobody understood what is was trying to say.

#16 A professor at Dartmouth University received $137,530 to create a “recession-themed” video game entitled “Layoff”.

#17 The National Science Foundation gave the Minnesota Zoo over $600,000 so that they could develop an online video game called “Wolfquest”.

#18 A pizzeria in Iowa was given $60,000 to renovate the pizzeria’s facade and give it a more “inviting feel”.

#19 The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave one enterprising group of farmers $30,000 to develop a tourist-friendly database of farms that host guests for overnight “haycations”.  This one sounds like something that Dwight Schrute would have dreamed up.

#20 Almost unbelievably, the National Institutes of Health was given $800,000 in “stimulus funds” to study the impact of a “genital-washing program” on men in South Africa.

In light of all this, is it any wonder why the approval rating of Congress recently hit another new record low?

According to the most recent Gallup poll, only 13 percent of Americans approve of the job that Congress is doing.

Just think about that – only 13 percent!

Our politicians seem very confused about why there is so much anger in the country today.  Well, there are certainly a lot of reasons for it, including the fact that the U.S. economy is on the verge of collapse, but it certainly doesn’t help that our government is basically flushing our tax dollars down the toilet and spending them on some of the most wasteful things imaginable.

It would be bad enough if the federal government was swimming in money, but the truth is that all of this waste is being committed at a time when the U.S. government is nearing bankruptcy.

Over the last 30 years, the U.S. national debt has gotten 13 times larger.  We have accumulated the largest debt in the history of the world and there is no end in sight.

In fact, we are rapidly running out of people to borrow money from.  According to the Wall Street Journal, in order to repay maturing bonds and finance the exploding budget deficit, the U.S. government will have to borrow 4.2 trillion dollars in 2011.

Eventually the rest of the world is going to lose confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to repay all of this debt.  Once confidence in U.S. Treasuries is totally gone, and there are already signs this is starting to happen, the game will be over and the U.S. financial system will collapse.

But the U.S. Congress just continues to act like it is “business as usual” and the wasteful spending just continues to get worse.  Someday historians will look back and think that we must have been a nation full of idiots and morons.

For decades our politicians have been spending us into oblivion, yet we keep sending the vast majority of them back to Washington D.C. every time an election rolls around and the mainstream media keeps assuring us that our “respected leaders” know exactly what they are doing and that everything is going to be okay somehow.

It is almost as if some sort of collective insanity has overtaken most Americans.  The path we are on inevitably leads to national bankruptcy and the destruction of our financial system, but only a small percentage of the population seems to care.

Well, in the end we will reap what we have sown.  Unfortunately, the economic pain that is coming is going to be devastating for all of us – including those of us who are awake and are trying desperately to change things.

The Federal Reserve Bans A Local Oklahoma Bank From Displaying Crosses, Bible Verses And Christmas Buttons

What in the world are they thinking over at the Federal Reserve?  The privately-owned central bank that runs the U.S. economy is now forcing local banks to remove every shred of Christian faith from their establishments.  When Federal Reserve examiners recently visited a local bank in Perkins, Oklahoma they demanded that the bank take down a “Bible verse of the day” and crosses that were displayed on the teller’s counter.  In addition, the agents from the Federal Reserve forced all bank personnel to remove buttons that said “Merry Christmas, God With Us”.  The bank was also ordered to remove a “Bible verse of the day” from the bank’s website.  According to Federal Reserve officials, all visible expressions of Christian faith by bank officials are now banned in all banks across the United States.

Now, before people start screaming “separation of church and state”, please keep in mind that the “state” is not involved here.  The local bank in Perkins is a privately-owned financial institution.  The owners of that bank should be able to express themselves however they want.

In addition, it is important to note that it was not an agency of the federal government or a federal court that ordered this private local bank to remove all traces of Christianity.

The truth is that the Federal Reserve is not part of the U.S. government.  In fact, the Federal Reserve is about as “federal” as Federal Express is.

You doubt this?

Well, perhaps you will believe what the Federal Reserve is publicly saying about itself.

In defending itself against a Bloomberg request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Reserve objected by declaring that it was “not an agency” of the U.S. government and therefore it was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

In the video posted below, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan makes it very clear that the Federal Reserve is above the law and need not answer to anyone in the federal government….

So where in the world does the Federal Reserve get the idea that they have the authority to tell a private bank that they cannot display a Bible verse of the day and that their employees cannot wear Christmas buttons?

No matter what you think about the faith of the owners of the local bank in Perkins, the truth is that we should all be concerned about the kind of precedent that this sets for free speech.

According to Federal Reserve officials, any visible expression of Christianity by a private bank may cause someone from another religion to be offended and feel as though they may be discriminated against by that bank.  Therefore any expression of Christianity is “an appearance of discrimination” and thus must be banned.

Okay, so if any expression of Christianity is “an appearance of discrimination”, will federal officials soon use all of the federal “anti-discrimination laws” already on the books to ban all expressions of Christianity in all private businesses throughout the United States?

Once again, it is absolutely crucial to note that the local bank in Perkins is not a government building.  Federal Reserve agents are telling private business owners how they can express themselves as they run their privately-owned business on private property.

The following is a local news report about this very disturbing incident….

Does anyone still believe that we have “freedom of speech” in the United States?

It is almost as if all forms of Christian expression are now regarded as something horribly dirty by our public officials.

Even if you are an atheist, this should deeply concern you as well.  When freedom of speech is taken from some of us, it is only a matter of time until it is taken from the rest of us as well.

And since when does the Federal Reserve have any authority to tell any private citizen what they can or cannot say?

This is just another example of how the Federal Reserve has gotten completely and totally out of control.  The Fed has become an unaccountable monster that is just running around doing just about anything that it wants to do.

It is for some very good reasons that many members of Congress are starting to publicly speak out against the Federal Reserve.  Just recently it came out that the Federal Reserve has been handing out gigantic piles of nearly interest-free cash to their friends at the largest banks, financial institutions and corporations all over the globe.  The American people have completely lost control over the financial system, and as long as the Federal Reserve remains in control that is going to continue to be the case.

But now, not only is the Federal Reserve at the core of the rapidly developing financial nightmare that is enveloping this nation, they are also attempting to tell private bank owners what they can and cannot say inside their own private businesses.

No matter what your faith is or even if you have no faith, you should be objecting to this.  If the Federal Reserve is allowed to get away with this, it will be just a matter of time before U.S. government agencies come along and start ordering all private businesses to remove all traces of Christianity because they are “discriminatory” and they might offend someone.

The freedoms and liberties that previous generations fought and died to defend are being stripped away from us.  If you plan to say something about it before they are all gone, now would be a good time to start.

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