Federal Reserve: More Than 4 Out Of 10 Americans Do Not Even Have Enough Money To Cover An Unexpected $400 Expense

The U.S. economy is not doing nearly as well as the mainstream media would have you believe.  A few days ago I wrote about a new study that discovered that nearly 51 million U.S. households “can’t afford basics like rent and food”, and just yesterday I discussed the fact that we are on pace for the worst year for retail store closings ever.  Now we have just gotten new numbers from the Federal Reserve which are absolutely staggering.  According to the Fed’s latest study, more than 4 out of every 10 Americans do not even have enough money to cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing the funds or selling something.  In essence, nearly half the country has no significant financial cushion whatsoever.  So what are all of those people going to do when the next economic crisis hits?

Sadly, living on the edge has become a daily reality for tens of millions of Americans.  The following is from a CNN article about the Fed’s new report…

Can you cover an unexpected $400 expense?

Four in ten Americans can’t, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Board. Those who don’t have the cash on hand say they’d have to cover it by borrowing or selling something.

According to the report, the exact figure is 41 percent.

41 percent of all U.S. adults cannot cover an unexpected $400 expense.

Let that number sink in for a moment.

I am sorry – if you can’t come up with $400 right now without borrowing it, you are broke.  And as of right now that is the financial condition of 41 percent of all Americans.

Amazingly, the Federal Reserve is actually trying to spin this report as good news

“This year’s survey finds that rising levels of employment are translating into improved financial conditions for many but not all Americans,” Fed Governor Lael Brainard said.

Really?

Fortunately, there are others that are seeing right through the spin and are telling it like it is

“The finding that four-in-ten adults couldn’t cover an unexpected $400 expense without selling something or borrowing money is troubling,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. “Nothing is more fundamental to achieving financial stability than having savings that can be drawn upon when the unexpected occurs.”

And that wasn’t the only bad news in the report.

Here are some more incredible facts from the report as summarized by Zero Hedge

  • One-third of those with varying income, or 10 percent of all adults, say they struggled to pay their bills at least once in the past year due to varying income
  • Over three-fourths of whites were at least doing okay financially in 2017 versus less than two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics.
  • Over a quarter of young adults ages 25 to 29, and slightly more than 1 in 10 in their 30s, live with their parents.
  • Over two-fifths of young adults in their late 20s provide financial assistance to their parents
  • Nearly 25 percent of young adults under age 30, and 10 percent of all adults, receive some form of financial support from someone living outside their home.
  • While 8 in 10 adults living in middle- and upper-income neighborhoods are satisfied with the overall quality of their community, only 6 in 10 living in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods are satisfied
  • Seven in 10 low-income renters spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent

And on top of all of that, here is one more really alarming number to chew on

Even without an unexpected expense, the report reveals, 22% of adults expected to forgo payment on some of their bills in the month of the survey. “One-third of those who are not able to pay all their bills say that their rent, mortgage, or utility bills will be left at least partially unpaid.”

When 22 percent of the people in your country cannot pay their bills this month, that is called a crisis.

Yes, we are hopeful for better things for the U.S. economy under President Trump.  But the current blind optimism that we are witnessing out there right now is simply absurd

A new poll shows an overwhelming number of Americans believe President Trump is playing a positive role in the current state of the economy.

The CBS survey reveals almost 70% of respondents think the president is –either mostly or somewhat– responsible for the current economic climate.

Additionally, around 65% of Americans believe the economy is doing well, compared to under 10% who think it’s doing ‘very poorly.’

Ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. economy has not had a full year of 3 percent GDP growth since the middle of the Bush administration.

This is the longest stretch of below 3 percent growth in all of U.S. history by a very wide margin.

So please don’t try to tell me that the U.S. economy is “doing well” until we can get back above that 3 percent number.

The sad truth is that we have been in a very long period of economic stagnation, and during this period wealth is being increasingly concentrated at the very top of the pyramid and the middle class is being systematically eviscerated.

Tens of millions of families are just barely scraping by from month to month, and when an unexpected emergency happens that is often enough to push a lot of families completely over the edge.

In fact, my good friend Daisy Luther recently wrote about how this actually happened to her own family…

Before my daughter’s illness, I was doing everything “right.”

  • I had enough money in my emergency fund to carry me through 3 lean months
  • I had numerous credit cards with zero balances
  • My only debt was my car
  • My kids are going to school without student loans
  • I opted out of health insurance because it was more financially practical to pay cash (and I still agree with that decision)

Everything was great.

Until it wasn’t.

I am sure that many of you can identify with Daisy.

Most of us have had a life-altering event cause serious financial stress at some point.  And close to half the country is completely unprepared for such an event.

For years, I have been strongly encouraging my readers to build up their emergency funds, because one thing that you can count on in life is that the unexpected will happen.  Having a good financial cushion is one of the best things that you can possibly do for yourself and your family financially, and if you haven’t gotten started on that yet, I would urge you to do so as soon as possible.

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

 

Nearly 51 Million Households In The United States ‘Can’t Afford Basics Like Rent And Food’

If the U.S. economy is performing well, then why can’t 51 million households in the United States “afford basics like rent and food”.  A stunning new report that was just put out by the United Way ALICE Project shows that the gap between the wealthy and the poor in this country is perhaps the biggest that it has been in any of our lifetimes.  In some of the wealthiest areas of the nation, homes are now selling for up to 100 million dollars, but meanwhile tens of millions of families are barely scraping by from month to month.  Many believe that this growing “inequality gap” is setting the stage for major societal problems.

In general, the U.S. economy seems to be performing better than expected so far in 2018, but the ranks of the poor and the working poor just continue to grow.  The following comes from CNN

Nearly 51 million households don’t earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone, according to a study released Thursday by the United Way ALICE Project. That’s 43% of households in the United States.

The figure includes the 16.1 million households living in poverty, as well as the 34.7 million families that the United Way has dubbed ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This group makes less than what’s needed “to survive in the modern economy.”

If 43 percent of all Americans cannot even afford “the basics”, what does that say about the true state of the U.S. economy?

Of course the biggest reason why so many American families are struggling is the lack of good jobs.

In America today, 66 percent of all jobs pay less than 20 dollars an hour.

66 percent.

Just let that sink in for a minute.

You cannot support a middle class family on 20 dollars an hour.  As a result, many Americans are working more than one job, and in many households both the mother and the father are working more than one job.

Housing costs account for the biggest item in most family budgets, and the fact that housing costs have just continued to soar is putting a huge amount of financial stress on hard working families.  Just today we learned that there is a tremendous rush to buy homes as mortgage rates rise rapidly

Today, according to the latest Freddie Mac mortgage rates report, after plateauing in recent weeks, mortgage rates reversed course and reached a new high last seen eight years ago as the 30-year fixed mortgage rate edged up to 4.61% matching the highest level since May 19, 2011.

But while the highest mortgage rates in 8 years are predictably crushing mortgage refinance activity, they appears to be having the opposite effect on home purchases, where there is a sheer scramble to buy, and sell, houses. As Bloomberg notes, citing brokerage Redfin, the average home across the US that sold last month went into contract after a median of 36 only days on the market – a record speed in data going back to 2010.

If you will remember, we witnessed a very similar pattern just before the subprime mortgage meltdown in 2008.

History is repeating itself, and we never seem to learn from our past mistakes.

Housing prices in some cities are absolutely obscene right now, and many working families find themselves completely priced out of the market.  That has some people asking one very simple question

Many San Francisco renters I met while reporting an article on affordable housing lotteries had responded to the region’s housing crisis by putting up with great discomfort: They crammed in with family; they split apartments with strangers. Some even lived out of their cars.

Why, lots of readers wanted to know, didn’t they simply move away instead?

Yes, some people are moving, and this is something that I plan to do an article about very soon.

But for most hard working families, moving across the country simply is not an option.  Moving out of state is very expensive, it can be very difficult to find a similar job in an entirely new area, and many families are very dependent on the social networks where they currently live…

People who struggle financially often have valuable social networks — family to help with child care, acquaintances who know of jobs. The prospect of dropping into, say, Oklahoma or Georgia would mean doing without the good income and the social support. Those intangible connections that keep people in places with bad economies also keep people in booming regions where the rent is too high.

In the end, moving is just not an option for a lot of people.

We need to structure our economic system so that it works for all Americans – not just a few.  Unfortunately, it is probably going to take another major crisis before people are ready for such a restructuring.

And such a crisis may not be that far away.  In fact, even Pope Francis is now warning about the dangers of derivatives

In a sweeping critique of global finance released by the Vatican on Thursday, the Holy See singled out derivatives including credit-default swaps for particular scorn. “A ticking time bomb,” the Vatican called them. The unusual rebuke — derivatives rarely reach the level of religious doctrine — is in keeping with Francis’s skeptical view of unbridled global capitalism.

“The market of CDS, in the wake of the economic crisis of 2007, was imposing enough to represent almost the equivalent of the GDP of the entire world. The spread of such a kind of contract without proper limits has encouraged the growth of a finance of chance, and of gambling on the failure of others, which is unacceptable from the ethical point of view,” the Vatican said in the document.

I have written about derivatives extensively in the past, and Pope Francis is 100 percent correct when he says that they are a ticking time bomb which could absolutely devastate the global financial system at any moment.

We don’t know exactly when it will happen, but we do know that such a crisis is coming at some point.

Sadly, most of the population is completely asleep, and they will be completely blindsided by the coming crisis when it does finally arrive.

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

41 Million Americans Are Living In Poverty This Christmas

Even though the stock market continues to set new record high after new record high, poverty is exploding all over America.  It is being reported that 41 million people are living in poverty at this moment, and 9 million of them do not receive a single penny of income from anyone.  Once you have been unemployed for long enough, you don’t qualify for unemployment payments any longer, and once you are on the street there is nowhere for other governments programs to send a check to.  I have previously discussed the rising epidemic of homelessness in our nation, but most people don’t want to think about that sort of a thing these days.  Even though New York City has the most homeless since the Great Depression, and even though homelessness in Los Angeles is at an all-time record high, most people want to pretend that everything is just fine.

Well, the truth is that everything is not just fine.

A reporter from the Guardian recently traveled with a special UN envoy to some of the most impoverished areas of the United States.  His report is extremely eye-opening, and I wanted to share a short excerpt from his story.  This portion of his article is about a 41-year-old woman named Ressy Finley who is desperately trying to stay alive on the mean streets of Skid Row in Los Angeles…

Ressy Finley, 41, was busy sterilizing the white bucket she uses to slop out in her tent in which she has lived on and off for more than a decade. She keeps her living area, a mass of worn mattresses and blankets and a few motley possessions, as clean as she can in a losing battle against rats and cockroaches. She also endures waves of bed bugs, and has large welts on her shoulder to prove it.

She receives no formal income, and what she makes on recycling bottles and cans is no way enough to afford the average rents of $1,400 a month for a tiny one-bedroom. A friend brings her food every couple of days, the rest of the time she relies on nearby missions.

She cried twice in the course of our short conversation, once when she recalled how her infant son was taken from her arms by social workers because of her drug habit (he is now 14; she has never seen him again). The second time was when she alluded to the sexual abuse that set her as a child on the path towards drugs and homelessness.

Los Angeles has declared a state of emergency because the number of homeless is rising so rapidly, and so have nine other cities along the west coast.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “As America Gives Thanks, Homelessness Continues To Set New Records In Major Cities All Over The Nation”.

The sad thing is that there are more than a million homes sitting empty in America right now.  As economic opportunities have dried up, many communities in the middle part of the nation are becoming “ghost towns”, and it is getting worse with each passing day

There are nearly 1.4 million vacant residential properties across the country — abandoned, not for sale, mostly unoccupied homes. With vacant properties comprising as much as 30% of residential properties, some neighborhoods are starting to feel like ghost towns.

Many believe that the answer to the decline of the middle class and the growth of poverty is even more socialism.

But if you want to see where that road leads, just look at what is happening in Venezuela.  People are eating cats and dogs, and just today there were a whole bunch of mainstream news articles about how children are literally starving to death.

No, the real answer is to do what made our economy so great in the first place.  Between 1872 and 1913, we didn’t have an income tax or a central bank, and it was the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history.

What we have today is not free market capitalism.  We have gone very far down the road toward government-controlled socialism, and it has created a giant mess.

If we want to have a healthy middle class again, we need to have a society that promotes entrepreneurs and the creation of small businesses.  Today we are literally choking the financial life out of entrepreneurs and small businesses, and when I am elected to Congress I am going to fight as hard as I can to change that.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

As America Gives Thanks, Homelessness Continues To Set New Records In Major Cities All Over The Nation

If the economy is doing just fine, then why is homelessness at levels not seen “since the Great Depression” in major cities all over the country?  If the U.S. economy was actually in good shape, we would expect that the number of people that are homeless would be going down or at least stabilizing.  Instead, we have a growing national crisis on our hands.  In fact, within the past two years “at least 10 cities or municipal regions in California, Oregon and Washington” have declared a state of emergency because the number of homeless is growing so rapidly.

Things are particularly bad in southern California, and this year the Midnight Mission will literally be feeding a small army of people that have nowhere to sleep at night…

Thanksgiving meals will be served to thousands of homeless and near-homeless individuals today on Skid Row and in Pasadena and Canoga Park amid calls for donations and volunteers for the rest of the year.

The Midnight Mission will serve Thanksgiving brunch to nearly 2,500 homeless and near-homeless men, women and children, according to Georgia Berkovich, its director of public affairs.

Overall, the Midnight Mission serves more than a million meals a year, and Berkovich says that homelessness hasn’t been this bad in southern California “since the Great Depression”

Berkovich said the group has been serving nearly 1 million meals a year each year since 2013.

“We haven’t seen numbers like this since the Great Depression,” she said.

And of course the official numbers confirm what Berkovich is claiming.  According to an article published earlier this year, the number of homeless people living in Los Angeles County has never been higher…

The number of homeless people in Los Angeles has jumped to a new record, as city officials grapple with a humanitarian crisis of proportions remarkable for a modern American metropolis.

Municipal leaders said that a recent count over several nights found 55,188 homeless people living in a survey region comprising most of Los Angeles County, up more than 25% from last year.

If the California economy is truly doing well, then why is this happening?

We see the same thing happening when we look at the east coast.  Just check out these numbers from New York City

In recent years the number of homeless people has grown. Whereas rents increased by 18% between 2005 and 2015, incomes rose by 5%. When Rudy Giuliani entered City Hall in 1994, 24,000 people lived in shelters. About 31,000 lived in them when Mike Bloomberg became mayor in 2002. When Bill de Blasio entered City Hall in 2014, 51,500 did. The number of homeless people now in shelters is around 63,000.

For New York, this is the highest that the homeless population has been since the Great Depression, and city leaders are trying to come up with a solution.

Meanwhile, things are so bad in Seattle that “400 unauthorized tent camps” have popped up…

Housing prices are soaring here thanks to the tech industry, but the boom comes with a consequence: A surge in homelessness marked by 400 unauthorized tent camps in parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. The liberal city is trying to figure out what to do.

Are you noticing a theme?

Homelessness is at epidemic levels all over the U.S., and this crisis is getting worse with each passing day.  Some communities are trying to care for their growing homeless populations, but others are simply trying to force them to go somewhere else.  They are doing this by essentially making it illegal to be homeless.  In some cities it is now a crime to engage in “public camping”, to “block a walkway” or to create any sort of “temporary structure for human habitation”.  These laws specifically target the homeless, and they are very cruel.

Many of us tend to picture the homeless as mostly lazy older men that don’t want to work and that instead want to drink or do drugs all day.

But the truth is that women and children make up a significant percentage of the homeless.  In fact, the number of homeless children in our country has increased by about 60 percent since the end of the last recession.

And there are thousands upon thousands of military veterans that are homeless.  For example, a 34-year-old man named Johnny that served in the Marine Corps recently used his last 20 dollars to buy fuel for a woman that had run out of gas and was stranded along I-95 in Miami

Pulled over on the side of I-95, McClure, 27, was approached by a homeless man named Johnny. She was apprehensive at first, but Johnny told her to get back into her car and to lock the doors while he walked to get her help. He went to a nearby gas station, used his last $20 fill a can and brought it back to fill up her car.

Grateful, but without a dollar to repay him, McClure promised she would come back with something.

In the weeks since, she’s returned to the spot along I-95 where Johnny stays with cash, snacks and Wawa gift cards. Each time she’s stopped by with her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, they’ve learned a bit more about Johnny’s story, and become humbled by his gratitude.

Deciding that they wanted to do even more for Johnny, they started a GoFundMe page for him and have since raised approximately $250,000.

So it looks like there is going to be a happy ending to Johnny’s story, but the truth is that more people are falling into homelessness with each passing day.

If things are this bad now, how much worse will they become as the economy really starts slowing down?  Already, we have shattered the all-time yearly record for retail store closings, and we still have more than a month to go.  The following is from a CNN article entitled “Is This The Last Black Friday?”

A record number of store closures — 6,735 — have already been announced this year. That’s more than triple the tally for 2016, according to Fung Global Retail and Technology, a retail think tank.

And there have been 620 bankruptcies in the sector so far this year, according to BankruptcyData.com, up 31% from the same period last year. Prominent names such as Toys R Us, Gymboree, Payless Shoes and RadioShack have all filed this year, and Sears Holdings (SHLD), which owns both the iconic Sears and Kmart chains, has warned there is “substantial doubt” it can remain in business.

Sadly, analysts are projecting that the number of store closings could be as high as 9,000 next year.

Yes, there are some areas of the country that are doing well right now, but there are many others that are not.

Let us always remember to have compassion on those that are struggling, because someday we may be the ones that end up needing some help.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos And Warren Buffett Have More Money Than The Poorest 50% Of The U.S. Population Combined

The problem is not that we have a few people that are rich – the problem is that we have so many that are poor.  As you will see below, three extremely wealthy individuals have as much money as the poorest half of the nation combined.  In a free market capitalist society, there are always going to be some that do better than others, and there is nothing wrong with that.  But in our society today, there are so few that are doing well.  At this point a majority of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and “one in five households have zero or negative net worth”

In the United States, the 400 richest individuals now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population and the three richest own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, while pervasive poverty means one in five households have zero or negative net worth.

Those are just several of the striking findings of Billionaire Bonanza 2017, a new report (pdf) published Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) that explores in detail the speed with which the U.S. is becoming “a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power.”

That means that if you have no debt and a single dime in your pockets, you have more wealth than one-fifth of the entire country.

Okay, so let’s talk about the three men that have more wealth than the poorest 50 percent of the U.S. population combined.  Those three men are Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, and Warren Buffett.  I don’t want to take anything away from what those three have accomplished, because we need more risk takers and entrepreneurs.

Sadly, the level of small business creation has fallen in every presidential administration going all the way back to George H.W. Bush, and the percentage of Americans that are self-employed is hovering near all-time record lows.

As a nation, we desperately need to return to a culture that encourages free market capitalist thinking.  We want young men and women to create, invent, innovate and start new ventures.  But instead, today our culture encourages young people to become dependent on the government and on the big corporations, and as a result the middle class is evaporating.

As I discussed above, at this point 20 percent of all U.S. households have “either zero or negative wealth”

The rise at the wealthiest end of society comes as one in five US households live in what the report’s authors call the “underwater nation”, with either zero or negative wealth. Inequality is even more stark among minorities. Three in 10 black households and 27% of Latino ones have zero or negative wealth, compared with 14% of white families.

In recent years, unprecedented intervention by global central banks has created an absolutely enormous stock market bubble, but the real economy has continued to struggle.

Just look at what is happening to Sears.  This week they announced that they lost between $525 million and $595 million during the 3rd quarter of 2017.

How in the world do you do that?

If they had their employees doing nothing all day but flushing one dollar bills down the toilet, I still don’t think that they could lose that much money in three months.

Sears is going to sell 140 stores in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, but many believe that this is simply delaying the inevitable.  In fact, one prominent analyst named Bill Dreher believes that Sears will never be profitable again

One Wall Street analyst is beginning to doubt whether Sears Holdings will ever be profitable again, as the 124-year-old retailer struggles for liquidity and same-store sales evaporate.

“Sears’ operational performance is clearly NOT improving, and we grow increasingly concerned whether the company will ever return to profitability,” wrote Susquehanna analyst Bill Dreher in a note to clients Wednesday. “Further highlighting the company’s weakened position is the reality that manufacturers are increasingly demanding tighter payment and/or withholding products.”

Once upon a time, Sears was the number one shopping destination for the middle class.

But like the middle class in America, the best days for Sears are now long gone.

If we want to restore our economy to greatness, we need a vibrant middle class.

And in order to have a vibrant middle class, we need to have a system that encourages entrepreneurs and small businesses.  Free markets work if you allow them to, but unfortunately today we are strangling our entrepreneurs and small businesses with rules, regulations, red tape and oppressive levels of taxation, and until we change our ways we are going to continue to get the same very poor results.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Hurricane Harvey Aftermath: 100,000 Homes Destroyed, A Million Vehicles Ruined And Bottled Water Being Sold For $99 A Case

It is now being estimated that the total amount of economic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 190 billion dollars.  It is a disaster unlike anything that we have ever seen before in all of U.S. history, and federal officials are already admitting that they are literally going to be dealing with the aftermath of this storm for “years”.  At this point, more than 100,000 homes have been destroyed, “up to one million vehicles” have been ruined, and many retailers have already been caught engaging in extreme price gouging.  But this could be just the beginning, because this storm has already rendered many areas along the Gulf coast “uninhabitable” for an extended period of time, and as you will see at the end of this article another hurricane may be arriving early next month.

What we just witnessed in Houston is being called “a 1,000-year-flood”, and many basic necessities are now in extremely short supply.  So of course it was inevitable that this would lead to price gouging, and this is reportedly even happening at some of the largest retail chains.  For example, at one Best Buy store cases of bottled water were being sold for 42 dollars

On Friday, a Twitter user shared a picture of cases of bottled water being sold at a Best Buy in Houston. One of the cases was being sold for $42 when it normally retailed for about $15.

A Best Buy spokesman later apologized, saying it was a ‘big mistake’.

But that water was quite cheap compared to prices in other parts of the city.  According to CNN, one convenience store in Houston was actually charging 20 dollars for a single gallon of gasoline and 99 dollars for a case of bottled water…

Texas officials say they’ve gotten hundreds of complaints about price gouging and scams in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

One convenience store in Houston reportedly charged $20 for a gallon of gas, $8.50 for a bottle of water and $99 for a case of water, according to the Texas Attorney General’s office.

The state has received 684 complaints in all, according to Kayleigh Lovvorn, a spokeswoman for the office.

It is inexcusable to take advantage of people during a crisis in this way.  So many are running low on food, water and other basic supplies, and to try to make a quick profit by engaging in price gouging just isn’t right.

In the end, many people are going to have to leave Houston and never look back.  To this day some parts of New Orleans still have not recovered from the devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused, and we are facing a similar scenario now with Houston.  According to AccuWeather president Joel Myers, it will be “weeks and possibly months” before people can even get back into certain parts of Houston…

Hurricane Harvey could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history with a potential price tag of $190 billion, according to a preliminary estimate from private weather firm AccuWeather.

This is equal to the combined cost of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and represents a 1% economic hit to the gross national product, AccuWeather said.

“Parts of Houston, the United States’ fourth largest city, will be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood,” said AccuWeather president Joel Myers.

I don’t think that the U.S. population as a whole really grasps what has just taken place.

Large stretches of the 4th-largest city in the United States have been destroyed.  Millions that were living comfortable middle class lives have now lost everything that they worked for.  Large numbers of people did not have flood insurance, and so they will be leaning on the federal government for assistance.  Many did have flood insurance, and a significant number of insurance companies may end up going bankrupt because of all the claims that will be suddenly pouring in.  Houston was one of the most important hubs for economic activity in our entire nation, and the economic damage from this crisis will literally stretch on for years.

But despite everything that has happened, many are being very bitter and very cruel on social media and on the comments sections of major news websites.  Apparently many on the left do not believe that compassion is appropriate because this storm hit a conservative state like Texas.  Not everything has to be politicized, and it has greatly disturbed me to see just how cold many hearts in this nation have become.

And what is truly frightening is that another hurricane is potentially heading toward the Gulf of Mexico.  It is still way too early to project exactly if it will make landfall or where, but it is being reported that Hurricane Irma has already become a category 3 storm

Hurricane Irma continued its rapid power grab Thursday, with wind speeds increasing by more than 55 mph since Wednesday to become a major Cat 3 storm.

In their 5 p.m. advisory, National Hurricane Center forecasters said sustained winds had climbed to 115 mph as the storm headed to the west, northwest at 12 mph. Irma remains in the far east Atlantic, just over 1,700 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Up and down changes in intensity are possible over the next few days, forecasters said, but the storm is expected to remain a major hurricane that could become a Cat 4 storm in four days.

I am proud of how the Trump administration is handling this crisis, and when I win my race for Congress I look forward to working with Trump to make sure that our nation is always prepared to handle this sort of event.

And please keep praying for Houston, because if another major hurricane were to hit that area it would be a nightmare beyond anything that any of us would ever want to imagine.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

It Is Becoming Illegal To Be Homeless In America As Houston, Dallas And Dozens Of Other Cities Pass Draconian Laws

Should we make homelessness against the law and simply throw all homeless people into prison so that we don’t have to deal with them?  Incredibly, this is actually starting to happen in dozens of major cities all across the United States.  It may be difficult to believe, but in many large urban areas today, if you are found guilty of “public camping” you can be taken directly to jail.  In some cities, activities such as “blocking a walkway” or creating any sort of “temporary structure for human habitation” are also considered to be serious crimes.  And there are some communities that have even made it illegal to feed the homeless without an official permit.  Unfortunately, as the U.S. economy continues to slow down the number of homeless people will continue to grow, and so this is a crisis that is only going to grow in size and scope.

Of course the goal of many of these laws is to get the homeless to go somewhere else.  But as these laws start to multiply all across the nation, pretty soon there won’t be too many places left where it is actually legal to be homeless.

One city that is being highly criticized for passing extremely draconian laws is Houston.  In that city it is actually illegal for the homeless to use any sort of material to shield themselves from the wind, the rain and the cold

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is taking a similar approach—his anti-encampment ordinance makes it illegal to use “fabric, metal, cardboard, or other materials as a tent or temporary structure for human habitation.” This ensures that the Houstonian homeless are vulnerable not just to the elements, but also to the constant threat of the police. Officials cite one of the most common justifications for crackdowns on the homeless: neighborhood safety (a more socially acceptable way of talking about the not-in-my-backyard mentality).

With all of the other problems that we are facing as a nation, it stuns me that there are politicians that would spend their time dreaming up such sick and twisted laws.

According to one news report, the homeless in Houston are now officially banned from doing all of the following things…

1. They can’t block a sidewalk, stand in a roadway median or block a building doorway. (AKA they can’t panhandle).

2. They also can’t do any of these things — blocking walkways — under state law that already existed.

3. They can’t sleep in tents, boxes or any other makeshift shelter on public property.

4. They also can’t have heating devices.

5. They can’t carry around belongings that take up space more than three feet long, three feet wide, three feet tall.

6. People can’t spontaneously feed more than five homeless people without a permit.

If I was a homeless person in Houston, I would definitely be looking to get out of there.

But where are they going to go?

Things are almost as bad in Dallas.  In fact, it is being reported that the police in Dallas “issued over 11,000 citations for sleeping in public from January 2012 to November 2015.”

When you break that number down, it comes to 323 citations per month.

Of course some people have tried to challenge these types of laws in court, but most of the challenges have been unsuccessful.  For example, just check out what recently happened in Denver

Three people who were contesting Denver’s urban-camping ban were found guilty on Wednesday, April 5, at the Lindsey-Flanigan courthouse. The defendants — Jerry Burton, Randy Russell and Terese Howard — were determined to have unlawfully camped on November 28, 2016, and to have interfered with police operations at one location. All three were sentenced with court-ordered probation for one year and between twenty and forty hours of community service.

The case challenged Denver’s unauthorized-camping ordinance, which has been divisive ever since Denver City Council approved it in 2012.

Since the courts are generally upholding these laws, this has just emboldened more communities to adopt anti-homelessness ordinances.  According to one report, dozens of major cities have now passed such laws…

City-wide bans on public camping (PDF) have increased by 69 percent throughout the United States. What used to be seen as an annoyance is now prohibited, forcing fines or jail time on those who certainly can’t afford it. The only nationwide nonprofit devoted to studying this, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, has been tracking these changes since 2006. Their findings? There are a scary number of laws passed that ironically make it costly to be homeless.

For example, in 33 of the 100 U.S. cities they studied, it’s illegal to publicly camp. In 18, it’s illegal to sleep in public. Panhandling is illegal in 27 cities.

In 39 cities, it’s illegal to live in vehicles.

As I have warned repeatedly, we are seeing hearts grow cold all around us.  Instead of doing everything that they can to try to help those in need, communities are trying to make them go some place else, and those that try to feed and help the homeless are being harshly penalized.

Sadly, all of this comes at a time when homelessness is on the rise all over America.  In a previous article I pointed out that in New York City the number of homeless people recently hit a brand new all-time high, and things have gotten so bad in Los Angeles that the L.A. City Council has formally requested that Governor Jerry Brown declare a state of emergency.

We tend to think of the homeless as bearded old men with drinking problems, but the truth is that many of the homeless are children.

In fact, the number of homeless children in the United States has risen by about 60 percent since the end of the last recession.

If this is how we are going to treat some of the most vulnerable members of our society while things are still relatively stable, how are we going to be treating one another when the economy completely collapses?

The Global Famine Begins: UN Announces That The Worst Food Crisis Since World War II Is Happening Right Now

Horse Famine - Public DomainWe always knew that this would start happening.  Earlier this month, I wrote about the severe economic problems that are plaguing South America, but up to this point I have neglected to discuss the horrific famines that are breaking out all over Africa.  Right now there is a desperate need for food in South Sudan, Somalia, northeast Nigeria, Eritrea and Kenya.  And Yemen, even though it is not technically part of Africa, is being affected by many of the same factors that are crippling nations all over eastern Africa.  The United Nations says that more than 20 million people could die from starvation and disease if nothing is done.  When I write about economic collapse, this is the kind of thing that I am talking about, and we are starting to see alarming conditions spread across the globe.  Many believe that we could never possibly face this kind of food crisis in the western world, but unfortunately wishful thinking will only get you so far.

The United Nations was formed in 1945, and the UN has just announced that what we are facing this year is “the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN”.  The following comes from a CNN article entitled “20 million at risk of starvation in world’s largest crisis since 1945, UN says“…

“We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN,” UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said Friday.

Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease.”

It would be hard to overstate the level of human suffering that we are witnessing in many parts of Africa at this moment.  In Somalia, the UN estimates that more than 6 million people are in desperate need of food aid

As Somalia inches closer to a calamitous famine, the prospect of utter devastation and colossal loss of human life is once again becoming an imminent reality. The humanitarian situation in Somalia is deteriorating by the day with up to 6.2 million people in need of urgent aid. People across Somalia have been forced to walk hundreds of miles in search of food, water and shelter- with women and children disproportionately affected. Over 300,000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished, with over 200,000 more children at risk of acute malnutrition.

In South Sudan, close to half the population is in dire need of assistance, and things have gotten so bad there that people will literally eat grass if they can find it

Across South Sudan more than one million children are believed to be acutely malnourished and UNICEF have said that if urgent aid does not reach them, many of them will die. “There is no food, we eat anything we can find,” one South Sudanese mother told ITV. “We will find grass, we will eat it. That’s just the way it us for us now.”

Over in Yemen, there are about seven million people in need of food help, and authorities are warning that if nothing is done “millions of children” could starve to death

“The numbers affected are absolutely extraordinary,” said Mark Kaye, Save the Children’s Yemen spokesperson.

“We keep on talking about a country that’s on the brink of famine, but for me these numbers highlight that we’re at the point of no return. If things are not done now we are going to be looking back on this and millions of children will have starved to death, and we’ll all have been aware of this for some time. That will shame us as an international community for years to come.

Eritrea was not specifically included in the recent UN alert, but it should have been.  Much of the country has been hit by a crippling drought, and approximately half of all children in Eritrea are stunted

But we cannot understand why Eritrea is not included in the appeal. Unicef has confirmed what we know from our friends and families inside the country. In a report in January, the agency said that the El Niño drought has hit half of all Eritrea’s regions. Acute malnutrition is widespread. As Unicef put it: “Malnutrition rates already exceeded emergency levels, with 22,700 children under five projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition in 2017 … Half of all children in Eritrea are stunted, and as a result, these children are even more vulnerable to malnutrition and disease outbreaks.

We have been warned that there would be famines in diverse places in these times.  But here in the western world we tend to be lulled into a false sense of security by our comfortable lives, not realizing that the massively inflated standard of living that we have been enjoying has been fueled by the largest mountain of debt in the history of the planet.

In Kenya, a national emergency has been declared due to drought and famine.  For those of you that are parents, what would you do if your children were crying out for food but you didn’t have anything to give them?  The following story from Kenya is beyond heartbreaking…

Emmanuel Ayapar is three years old and can no longer walk. The flesh on his legs, which dangle from his mother’s hip as she carries him around, is wasting away.

He seems listless and sad, tongue flicking repeatedly in and out of his mouth.

‘We do not have enough food,’ said Veronica, his 28-year-old mother. ‘We eat only once a day.’

The little boy is suffering from severe malnutrition and is at risk of starving to death. He weighs just 15lb – half the typical weight for a boy of his age.

I don’t even know what to say after that.

In the western world we can be so incredibly self-absorbed that we don’t even realize that children are literally starving to death on the other side of the planet.

Hopefully those of us that live in “wealthy” western countries will step up to the plate and aid those in need, and hopefully this crisis will also help us to understand that we need to prepare for the day when things get difficult in our own nations too.

War On The Homeless: Cities All Over America Are Passing Laws Making It Illegal To Feed And Shelter Those In Need

homeless-man-public-domainIf you want to be a “Good Samaritan” to the homeless in your community, you might want to check and see if it is legal first.  All over the country, cities are passing laws that make it illegal to feed and shelter the homeless.  For example, in this article you will read about a church in Maryland that was just fined $12,000 for simply allowing homeless people to sleep outside the church at night.  This backlash against homeless people comes at a time when homelessness in America is absolutely exploding.  In a previous article, I shared with my readers the fact that the number of homeless people in New York City has just set a brand new all-time high, and the homelessness crisis in California has become so severe that the L.A. City Council has formally asked Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.  Sadly, instead of opening up our hearts to the rapidly growing number of Americans without a home, way too many communities are trying to use the law to force them to go somewhere else.

For nearly two thousand years, churches have been at the forefront of helping the poor and disadvantaged, but now many communities are trying to stop this from happening.  Earlier today, I was absolutely stunned when I came across an article that talked about how a church in Dundalk, Maryland has been fined $12,000 for allowing the homeless to sleep outside the church at night…

“I showed up Wednesday morning to find a citation on the door that said we’re going to be fined $12,000 and have a court date because we have unhoused homeless people sleeping outside the church at night,” said Reverend Katie Grover with the Patapsco United Methodist Church.

Grover added that the men and women who sleep outside their doors do so because they have nowhere else to go and because they feel safe there.

“We feel we here as a church that it’s scriptural mandate that’s it an imperative to care for the least, the last, the lost, the poor, the hungry,” she said.

The authorities in Dundalk say that the church is running a “non-permitted rooming and boarding house”, and the severity of this fine is likely to put the church in significant financial difficulty if it is forced to pay it.  You can watch a local news report discussing this story on YouTube right here

Of course Dundalk is far from alone.  All across the U.S. laws have been passed that specifically target the homeless.  According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the following are some of the most typical ways that the homeless are targeted…

  • Carrying out sweeps (confiscating personal property including tents, bedding, papers, clothing, medications, etc.) in city areas where homeless people live.
  • Making panhandling illegal.
  • Making it illegal for groups to share food with homeless persons in public spaces.
  • Enforcing a “quality of life” ordinance relating to public activity and hygiene.

There are some people that have been feeding the hungry for decades that now find that their work has been suddenly made illegal.  For instance, down in Houston a Good Samaritan named Jay Hamberger is outraged that the help that he has been providing to the homeless for 27 years has now made him an outlaw

Jay Hamberger has been bringing food to Houston’s homeless for 27 years. He feels the city is infringing on his right to help others by requiring him to have prior permission to distribute food on public and private property.

“I’ve done it with impunity for 27 years now, and I’m the most law-abiding outlaw, because what I’m doing is illegal,” Hamberger said. “My understanding is that there’s no legal way to make this right with the city.”

This is just another example of how our society is being strangled to death by control freaks.

If I see someone that is desperately hungry and I want to give that person food, then I am going to do it no matter what the law says.

Unfortunately, as the homelessness crisis continues to escalate these types of laws are only going to increase.  Even in supposedly “tolerant” areas of the country we are seeing draconian measures being implemented.  For example, just check out the new ordinance that was just passed in Los Angeles

LA legislators passed an ordinance that would ban people from sleeping in cars and recreational vehicles (RVs) near homes, parks and schools. Advocates see the ordinance as the latest move to criminalize homeless people.

The Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of the ordinance on Wednesday. Banning people from sleeping near homes, schools and parks in their vehicles, would, if signed into law, only make it legal to sleep overnight in cars and RV’s in industrial or commercial districts from 9:00pm to 6:00am.

As millions of Americans have fallen out of the middle class in recent years, we have seen an explosion in the number of people living in cars, trucks and recreational vehicles.  This is something that I addressed in my recent article entitled “Living In A Van Down By The River – Time To Face The True State Of The Middle Class In America“.  During this time of the year many that live in their vehicles head for warmer climates, and cities like Los Angeles are responding to the influx of homeless people by trying to force them to go somewhere else.

And this “war on the homeless” has actually been ramping up for quite a while.  Just check out these numbers from the Washington Post

Cities have enacted a wave of crackdowns and new laws against panhandling, camping and other activities associated with homelessness. They say such efforts help preserve the renewed vitality, curbing crime, health problems and behaviors that bother residents and disrupt business.

Between 2011 and 2014, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty found that bans on sleeping in cars shot up 119 percent, citywide camping prohibitions jumped 60 percent, anti-loitering laws increased 35 percent and anti-begging laws increased 25 percent in a survey of 187 cities.

Homeless people do not have a permanent address, and there is always a temptation to try to force them to go somewhere else so that they become someone else’s problem.

But the truth is that we have a massive national crisis on our hands.  The number of homeless children in this country has increased by 60 percent since the end of the last recession, and the number of homeless people sleeping in shelters has risen to record levels in major cities on both the east and west coast.

And considering the fact that about two-thirds of the country is currently living paycheck to paycheck, how bad will things get once the next major recession strikes?

Poverty is growing all over the nation, and at the same time hearts all over America are growing very cold.

I truly fear for what this country is going to look like just a few years from now.

What It Feels Like To Be Homeless For The Holidays In America

child-sitting-in-door-and-crying-public-domainCould you imagine spending the holidays in a homeless shelter, in a tent city surrounded by drug addicts and prostitutes, or in a sleeping bag on the cold, hard streets of an urban jungle?  Unfortunately, that is what real life looks like for an increasing number of Americans.  Most of the time when we think of “homeless people”, the image that comes into our minds is one of a grizzled old man asking for some spare change, but the truth is that vast numbers of women and children in our country do not have anywhere to live.  In fact, Poverty USA has reported that last year a grand total 1.6 million U.S. children stayed either in a homeless shelter or in some other form of emergency housing.  And you never hear the mainstream media report this number, but the truth is that the number of homeless children in the United States has risen by 60 percent since the “end” of the last recession.   For the moment the wealthy are getting wealthier, but meanwhile things have just continued to get harder and harder for those that are struggling to survive in this economy.

In Wal-Mart parking lots and campgrounds all over America tonight, you will find formerly middle class families that are living in cars, trucks and recreational vehicles during this holiday season.  Most of them will never complain and will try to put on a happy face outwardly, but inside the worry and fear are eating them alive.

As the weather gets cold, many homeless Americans head for warmer climates, and this is one of the factors that is fueling the unprecedented homelessness crisis in Los Angeles.  The following comes from L.A. Weekly

By nearly every metric, Los Angeles has the worst homelessness crisis of any city in America. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are more people suffering from chronic homelessness in L.A. than anywhere in the country, and their number is growing at a faster clip than those in New York City.

One homeless man in Los Angeles has decided to do what he can to make the best of his circumstances.  He has transformed a depressingly bleak area underneath a freeway underpass into his own “personal paradise”

A homeless man who turned a freeway underpass into his personal paradise by furnishing it with a make-shift jacuzzi and four-poster bed has become a viral hit and unlikely tourist attraction.

Ceola Waddell Jr, 59, began living in the underpass in L.A.’s  110 freeway near Coliseum six months ago.

He has since foraged two porcelain toilets, discarded refrigerators, couches and two beds to transform the space into his personal refuge.

You can’t help but smile when you read what Mr. Waddell has done, but the truth is that the homelessness crisis in the state is rapidly getting way out of control.  In fact, Los Angeles is swamped by so many homeless people at this point that the L.A. City Council has asked California Governor Jerry Brown to officially declare a state of emergency.

On the east coast things are getting really, really bad as well.

You may find this hard to believe, but the number of homeless people in New York City has never been higher

The number of homeless people living in New York City has reached a record-high.

The Department of Homeless Services reported there were 60,252, up 200 in two weeks.

Now, some are saying the city’s current plan to combat homelessness isn’t working.

So why is this happening?

The stock market is at an all-time high and the mainstream media keeps telling us that things are getting better, and yet poverty just continues to rise.

Other than the very wealthy, the truth is that things are not getting any better for virtually everyone else.  In fact, it has been reported that over half of all New Yorkers “are teetering on the brink of homelessness”…

More than half of all New Yorkers are teetering on the brink of homelessness — without enough cash in the bank to cover them in the event of a disaster or lost job, a troubling new study has found.

Nearly 60 percent of all New Yorkers don’t have enough emergency savings to cover at least three months’ worth of household expenses like food, housing and rent, according to a recent report from the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development.

This is one of the reasons why I am always encouraging my readers to build up their emergency funds.  Sadly, the cold, hard reality of the matter is that most of the country is only a couple of paychecks away from losing everything.

To give you an idea of how deep the suffering can be this time of the year for those that have already lost it all, I want to share with you a story of a precious little dog named Ollie

When Ollie was found, his fur was matted and so long you couldn’t see his adorable little eyes. He was clearly in need of dire help.

A woman and her sister saw Ollie outside her apartment, shivering in the freezing cold. They brought him in and quickly called the Michigan Humane Society to help take care of the dog.

Once Ollie was brought in, it was discovered just how sick he is. Had he not been rescued, he would have suffered a very painful death alone in the streets.

Very few people could come across a hurting dog like Ollie without helping him out, but what about the countless numbers of our fellow Americans that no longer have a warm home and will spend the night shivering in the cold?

Look, the truth is that you don’t have to have a whole lot of resources in order to make a difference.  In Tennessee, there is a group of elderly women that refer to themselves as “the bag ladies” that are turning old plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless

It all starts with cutting plastic bags into strips, tying those strips together, and rolling them into a ball.

The Bag Ladies call it “plarn,” instead of yarn. They then crochet the “plarn” into mats.

It takes 600 bags to make an 18 square foot mat. So far, this year, they have used 52,000 bags to make 88 mats.

“This is not young ladies doing this. This is older ladies with the arthritis,” said Akin.

How marvelous is that?

A single act of kindness can make a world of difference.

In the months ahead, temperatures are only going to get colder and economic conditions are only going to get tougher for those that are already living in poverty.

I would encourage all of us to think about what we can do to make a difference for those that are deeply hurting this time of the year.