Did you know that 89 percent of all minimum wage workers in the United States are not teens? At this point, the average age of a minimum wage worker in this country is 36, and 56 percent of them are women. Millions upon millions of Americans are working as hard as they can (often that means two or three jobs), and yet despite all of their hard work they still find themselves mired in poverty. One of the big reasons for this is that we have created two classes of workers in the United States. “Full-time workers” are entitled to an array of benefits and protections by law that “part-time workers” do not get. And thanks to perverse incentives contained in Obamacare and other ridiculous laws, we have motivated employers to move as many workers from the “full-time” category to the “part-time” category as possible. It may be hard to believe, but right now only 44 percent of all U.S. adults are employed for 30 or more hours each week. But to get any kind of a job at all is a real challenge in many parts of the country today. As you read this article, there are more than 100 million working age Americans that are not employed in any capacity. And according to John Williams of shadowstats.com, if the federal government was actually using honest numbers the unemployment rate would be sitting at 23 percent. That is not an “employment recovery” – that is a national crisis.
The following infographic comes from the Economic Policy Institute. I certainly do not agree with a lot of the things that the Economic Policy Institute stands for, but I think that these numbers do accurately reflect what “part-time America” looks like today…
So what is the solution to this problem?
Most Democrats believe that raising the minimum wage would fix this. But as Zero Hedge has pointed out, it isn’t quite that simple…
Last week, we noted that Democratic lawmakers in the US are pushing for what they call “$12 by ’20” which, as the name implies, is an effort to raise the minimum wage to $12/hour over the course of the next five years. Republicans argue that if Democrats got their wish and the pay floor were increased by nearly 70%, it would do more harm than good for low-income Americans as the number of jobs that would be lost as a result of employers cutting back in the face of dramatically higher labor costs would offset the benefit that accrues to the workers who are lucky enough to keep their jobs.
Yes, raising the minimum wage would make life better for many minimum wage workers in America. But a large number of them would also lose their jobs completely, and a lot of small businesses would deeply suffer financially.
Ideally, what we would love to see happen is for the U.S. economy to be producing so many good jobs that the only people that are looking for entry-level part-time jobs would be teens, people just starting out in the workforce, etc. Back when I was a teen, I remember walking into a McDonald’s and getting hired on the spot because they were in dire need of workers. Sadly, those days are long, long gone.
Over the past several decades, millions of good paying American jobs have been shipped overseas, and millions more have been lost to advancing technology. And as I wrote about the other day, Barack Obama is deeply betraying American workers by working on a global economic treaty that would destroy millions more good paying jobs.
Thanks to the foolishness of our politicians, there is now intense competition even for minimum wage jobs at this point.
We keep hearing about an “employment recovery”, but it is a giant lie. Posted below is a chart of the civilian employment to population ratio. As you can see, the percentage of the working age population that is actually employed is much, much lower than it used to be…
In recent months, we have seen the employment-population ratio move slightly higher. But can this be called “an employment recovery”? Of course not. We are still way, way below the level that we were at just prior to the last recession, and now the next recession is just about upon us.
Meanwhile, the quality of our jobs continues to decline as more Americans are being pushed into “part-time work” with each passing year.
Since February of 2008, the size of the U.S. population has grown by 16.8 million people. But during that same time frame, the number of full-time jobs in this country has actually decreased.
And at this point, the majority of American workers simply do not make enough money to support a middle class family. The following income numbers come directly from the Social Security Administration…
-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.
-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.
-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.
Are you starting to see why I am so fired up about all of this?
We have developed a business culture in this country which does not care about workers. In business schools all over America, future executives are taught that a corporation only has one goal – to maximize wealth for the shareholders. Taking care of those that are part of your team is treated as an afterthought at best.
As corporations have gotten bigger, they have shown less and less concern for those that work for them. These days, employees are generally regarded as “expensive liabilities” that are to be discarded the moment that their usefulness has come to an end. And news of layoffs is often rewarded by Wall Street by a surge in the stock prices of the companies making those layoffs.
In the old days, more businesses in America were family-owned, and employees were often regarded as almost “part of the family”. Unfortunately, those days have disappeared forever.
Now, employees are treated like scum by many big companies, and if they don’t like how they are being treated they are told that they can leave. For example, just consider what was going on at a security company down in Florida…
Jose Molero worked as a site inspector for the company, which provides security for neighborhoods and companies across the country, for more than a year.
Molero says when he went to the Kensington Golf and Country Club guardhouse, he found wooden paddles on a desk, some with staff names on them and one reading “for staff discipline.”
He says there was also what is called a “Wall of Shame,” where the supervisor points out and posts reports that contain grammatical errors.
When Molero complained about these things to his district manager, he was told that if anyone was offended “maybe they shouldn’t work here”…
Molero contacted his operations manager, who told him to speak with the district manager. He says the district manager sent him an email response that said, “if that hurts their feelings then maybe they shouldn’t work here.”
Do you have a similar horror story to share?
Most of us do.
The U.S. economy is absolutely dominated by cold, heartless corporations that have no interest in listening to the little guy. If they could find a way to do it, many of them would operate with no low-level employees at all. And as technology continues to advance, they will replace as many of us as they can with robots, drones, machines and computers.
I’ll be honest with you – the future for workers in America looks really bleak. The competition for any jobs that can’t be shipped overseas or replaced by technology is going to become even more heated. This means that the middle class is going to get even smaller, the number of Americans dependent on the government is going to continue to explode, and the disparity between the wealthy and the poor is going to become even greater.
So what is the solution to this giant mess? Please feel free to tell us what you think by posting a comment below…
If you believe that ignorance is bliss, you might not want to read this article. I am going to dispel the notion that there has been any sort of “economic recovery”, and I am going to show that we are much worse off than we were just prior to the last economic crisis. If you go back to 2007, people were feeling really good about things. Houses were being flipped like crazy, the stock market was booming and unemployment was relatively low. But then the financial crisis of 2008 struck, and for a while it felt like the world was coming to an end. Of course it didn’t come to an end – it was just the first wave of our problems. The waves that come next are going to be the ones that really wipe us out. Unfortunately, because we have experienced a few years of relative stability, many Americans have become convinced that Barack Obama, Janet Yellen and the rest of the folks in Washington D.C. have fixed whatever problems caused the last crisis. Even though all of the numbers are screaming otherwise, there are millions upon millions of people out there that truly believe that everything is going to be okay somehow. We never seem to learn from the past, and when this next economic downturn strikes it is going to do an astonishing amount of damage because we are already in a significantly weakened state from the last one.
For each of the charts that I am about to share with you, I want you to focus on the last shaded gray bar on each chart which represents the last recession. As you will see, our economic problems are significantly worse than they were just before the financial crisis of 2008. That means that we are far less equipped to handle a major economic crisis than we were the last time.
#1 The National Debt
Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was a bit above 9 trillion dollars. Since that time, it has nearly doubled. So does that make us better off or worse off? The answer, of course, is obvious. And even though Barack Obama promises that “deficits are under control”, more than a trillion dollars was added to the national debt in fiscal year 2014. What we are doing to future generations by burdening them with so much debt is beyond criminal. And so what does Barack Obama want to do now? He wants to ramp up government spending and increase the debt even faster. This is something that I covered in my previous article entitled “Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt“.
#2 Total Debt
Over the past 40 years, the total amount of debt in the United States has skyrocketed to astronomical heights. We have become a “buy now, pay later” society with devastating consequences. Back in 1975, our total debt level was sitting at about 2.5 trillion dollars. Just prior to the last recession, it was sitting at about 50 trillion dollars, and today we are rapidly closing in on 60 trillion dollars.
#3 The Velocity Of Money
When an economy is healthy, money tends to change hands and circulate through the system quite rapidly. So it makes sense that the velocity of money fell dramatically during the last recession. But why has it kept going down since then?
#4 The Homeownership Rate
Were you aware that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to a 20 year low? Traditionally, owning a home has been a sign that you belong to the middle class. And the last recession was really rough on the middle class, so it makes sense that the rate of homeownership declined during that time frame. But why has it continued to steadily decline ever since?
#5 The Employment Rate
Barack Obama loves to tell us how the unemployment rate is “going down”. But as I will explain later in this article, this decline is primarily based on accounting tricks. Posted below is a chart of the civilian employment-population ratio. Just prior to the last recession, approximately 63 percent of the working age population of the United States was employed. During the recession, this ratio fell to below 59 percent and it stayed there for several years. Just recently it has peeked back above 59 percent, but we are still very, very far from where we used to be, and now the next economic downturn is rapidly approaching.
#6 The Labor Force Participation Rate
So how can Obama get away with saying that the unemployment rate has gone down dramatically? Well, each month the government takes thousands upon thousands of long-term unemployed workers and decides that they have been unemployed for so long that they no longer qualify as “part of the labor force”. As a result, the “labor force participation rate” has fallen substantially since the end of the last recession…
#7 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Working Years
If things are “getting better”, then why are so many men in their prime working years doing nothing at all? Just prior to the last recession, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years was about 9 percent. Today it is just about 12 percent.
#8 Real Median Household Income
Not only is a smaller percentage of Americans employed today than compared to just prior to the last recession, the quality of our jobs has gone down as well. This is one of the factors which has resulted in a stunning decline of real median household income.
I have shared these next numbers before, but they bear repeating. In America today, most Americans do not make enough to support a middle class lifestyle on a single salary. The following figures come directly from the Social Security Administration…
-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.
-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.
-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.
We all know people that are working part-time jobs because that is all that they can find in this economy. As the quality of our jobs continues to deteriorate, the numbers above are going to become even more dismal.
Even as our incomes have stagnated, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily. For example, the cost of food and beverages has gone up nearly 50 percent just since the year 2000.
#10 Government Dependence
As the middle class shrinks and the number of Americans that cannot independently take care of themselves soars, dependence on the government is reaching unprecedented heights. For instance, the federal government is now spending about twice as much on food stamps as it was just prior to the last recession. How in the world can anyone dare to call this an “economic recovery”?
So you tell me – are things “getting better” or are they getting worse?
To me, it is crystal clear that we are in much worse condition than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.
On Friday, we learned that the official “unemployment rate” has fallen to 5.5 percent. Since an unemployment rate of 5 percent is considered to be “full employment” by many economists, many in the mainstream media took this as a sign that the U.S. economy has almost fully “recovered” since the last recession. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, some Federal Reserve officials believe that “the U.S. economy is already at full employment“. But how can this possibly be? It certainly does not square with reality. Personally, I know people that have been struggling with unemployment for years and that still cannot find a decent job. And I get emails from readers all the time that are heartbroken because they are suffering through extended periods of unemployment. So what in the world is going on? How can the government be telling us that we are nearly at “full employment” when so many people can’t find work? Could it be possible that the government numbers are misleading?
It is my contention that the official “unemployment rate” has become so politicized and so manipulated that it is essentially meaningless at this point. The following are 10 reasons why…
#1 Since February 2008, the size of the U.S. population has grown by 16.8 million people, but the number of full-time jobs has actually decreasedby 140,000.
#2 The percentage of working age Americans that have a job right now is still about the same as it was during the depths of the last recession. Posted below is a chart that shows how the employment-population ratio has changed since the beginning of the decade. Does this look like a full-blown “employment recovery” to you?…
#3 The primary reason for the decline in the official “unemployment rate” is the fact that the government now considers millions upon millions of long-term unemployed workers to “no longer be in the labor force”. Just check out the following numbers…
The number of Americans participating in the labor force has been on a decline for the past few years. Nearly 33 percent of the Americans above age 16 are not part of the workforce, the highest number since 1978. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report issued recently has found 92,898,000 Americans above age 16 not a part of the labor force of the country as on February 2015.
When President Obama took over the office in January 2009, nearly 80,529,000 Americans were not a part of the labor force. The number has increase by nearly 12 million over the last few years.
#4 Over the past couple of years, the labor force participation rate in this country has been hovering near mutli-decade lows…
The labor force participation rate hovered between 62.9 percent and 62.7 percent in the eleven months from April 2014 through February, and has been 62.9 percent or lower in 13 of the 17 months since October 2013.
Prior to that, the last time the rate was below 63 percent was 37 years ago, in March 1978 when it was 62.8 percent, the same rate it was in February.
#5 When you add the number of “officially unemployed” Americans (8.7 million) to the number of Americans “not in the labor force” (92.9 million), you get a grand total of 101.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now. Does that sound like “full employment” to you?
#6 The quality of our jobs continues to decline. Right now, only 44 percent of U.S. adults are employed for 30 or more hours each week.
#7 Millions upon millions of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs because that is all they can find, and wages for American workers are at depressingly low levels. The following numbers come directly from the Social Security Administration…
-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.
-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.
-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.
#8 The average duration of unemployment for an unemployed worker is still about twice as long as it was just prior to the last recession.
#9 Most Americans feel as though the Obama administration has done little to nothing to help the middle class. Just consider the following poll numbers…
Seventy-two percent of respondents said government policies have done little or nothing to help the middle class, and 65 percent said they have done nothing to help the poor. Sixty-eight percent said the policies have done nothing to help small businesses.
Meanwhile, 45 percent said the policies have done a “great deal” to help large banks and financial institutions, 38 percent say they have helped large corporations, and 36 percent say they have helped the wealthy.
#10 If the unemployment rate was calculated honestly, we would all be talking about the horrific “unemployment crisis” that we were currently enduring. According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, the real unemployment rate in the United States right now is above 23 percent.
Our politicians and the mainstream media are attempting to convince us that everything is just fine.
But what they are telling us simply does not match the cold, hard reality on the streets.
And since the talking heads on television are proclaiming that we are nearly at “full employment”, that just makes millions upon millions of Americans that can’t seem to find work no matter how hard they try feel even worse than they already do.
If jobs are “easy to get”, then those that are chronically unemployment must have “something wrong” with them. That is the message that we are being given. If the mainstream media says that unemployment has gone way down, then anyone that is still unemployed must be really “lazy”, right?
When you are unemployed for an extended period of time, it can really suck the life right out of you. It can be really tempting to believe that you are viewed as a failure by your family and friends. And for the government to lie to us like this just makes things even harder.
If you are unemployed and can’t find a job right now, I want you to understand that you are caught in the midst of a long-term downward economic spiral which is going to get a lot worse.
When the government tells you that we are in a “recovery”, they are lying to you.
And when the government tells you that things are about to get a lot better, they are lying to you.
Everyone has times in their lives when they get knocked down.
The key is to always get back up and to never, ever stop fighting.
Yes, we are facing some really hard economic times. But that does not mean that your life is over. Never give up, and never give in to fear. Just do what you can with what you have today, and tomorrow get up and fight with everything that you have got.
The truth is that the best chapters of your life could be just around the corner.
Just don’t sit back and wait for the government to save you. If you are waiting for the government to save you, then you are going to be deeply disappointed.
Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of Gallup, says that the percentage of Americans that are employed full-time has been hovering near record lows since the end of the last recession. But most Americans don’t realize this because the official unemployment numbers are extremely misleading. In fact, Clifton says that the official 5.6 percent unemployment rate is a “big lie”. Gallup regularly tracks the percentage of U.S. adults that are employed for 30 or more hours per week, and it is currently at 44.2 percent. It has been hovering between 42 percent and 45 percent since the end of 2009. This is extremely low. As I discussed the other day, there are 8.69 million Americans that are considered to be “officially unemployed” at this point. But there are another 92.90 million Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force”. Millions upon millions of those Americans would work if they could. Overall, there are 101 million U.S. adults that do not have a job right now. But you won’t hear that number being discussed by the mainstream media, because it would make Barack Obama look really bad.
Most Americans just assume that the economic numbers that we are being given accurately reflect reality. That is why it is so refreshing to have men like Jim Clifton step forward and tell the truth. His recent article entitled “The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment” is making headlines all over America. The following is an extended excerpt from that article…
There’s another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you’re an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 — maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn — you’re not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
Yet another figure of importance that doesn’t get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find — in other words, you are severely underemployed — the government doesn’t count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
There’s no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.
And it’s a lie that has consequences, because the great American dream is to have a good job, and in recent years, America has failed to deliver that dream more than it has at any time in recent memory. A good job is an individual’s primary identity, their very self-worth, their dignity — it establishes the relationship they have with their friends, community and country. When we fail to deliver a good job that fits a citizen’s talents, training and experience, we are failing the great American dream.
Gallup defines a good job as 30+ hours per week for an organization that provides a regular paycheck. Right now, the U.S. is delivering at a staggeringly low rate of 44%, which is the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population, 18 years and older.
And Gallup is being extremely generous.
I certainly would not define a 30 hour a week job at minimum wage as a “good job”, but Gallup does.
So the truth is that the percentage of U.S. adults that do have “good jobs” is actually far lower than 44 percent.
In the video that I have posted below, there is much more from Clifton about our current employment crisis…
Pretty strong stuff.
But Clifton also understands that there is danger in speaking out like this.
For example, just check out what he told CNBC during one recent interview…
“I think that the number that comes out of BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] and the Department of Labor is very, very accurate. I need to make that very, very clear so that I don’t suddenly disappear. I need to make it home tonight.”
So why are there so few good jobs for Americans?
Well, for one thing, our control freak politicians have absolutely murdered job creation in the United States.
Traditionally, small businesses have been the primary engine of job growth for the U.S. economy. But for each of the past six years, the number of new businesses being created has been lower than the number of businesses that have died.
Prior to 2008, we had never seen this happen before in all of U.S. history.
A confluence of factors are coming together to create a perfect storm that is going to be extremely bitter for American workers.
Spending our wealth is not a path to prosperity. We have got to create wealth in order to be a prosperous nation.
But instead, we continue to buy far, far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us. We just learned that the trade deficit increased to 46.6 billion dollars in December, and the total trade deficit for the year was more than half a trillion dollars.
This is complete and utter insanity, but at this point the trade deficit is not even a political issue for either major political party anymore.
And the really bad news is that this is about as good as things are going to get for the U.S. economy. The next major economic downturn is right around the corner, and our employment crisis is going to get much, much worse once that strikes.
Already, layoffs in January were 17.6 percent higher than they were in January a year ago and businesses all over the country are shutting down following a very disappointing holiday season.
In addition, the Baltic Dry Index has dropped to stunningly low levels. In fact, it is already lower than it was at any point during the last recession. The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Mac Slavo…
The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is used by economists and stock traders alike as a leading economic indicator because it predicts future economic activity. The index tracks in US dollars and measures global supply and demand for commodity shipments among bulk carriers including raw materials like lumber, coal, metallic ores, and grains. What makes this particular measurement so distinct from others, according to economic Howard Simmons, is that the BDI “is totally devoid of speculative content” because “people don’t book freighters unless they have cargo to move.”
On Thursday, the Baltic Dry Index was sitting at 564, That is not too far above the record low level of 554 that was established in July 1986.
So don’t be fooled by all the happy talk from the mainstream media and from politicians like Barack Obama.
They are lying to you, and their lies will soon be evident for all the world to see.
The gravy train is over for oil workers. All over North America, people that felt very secure about their jobs just a few weeks ago are now getting pink slips. There are even some people that I know personally that this has happened to. The economy is really starting to bleed oil patch jobs, and as long as the price of oil stays down at this level the job losses are going to continue. But this is what happens when a “boom” turns into a “bust”. Since 2003, drilling and extraction jobs in the United States have doubled. And these jobs typically pay very well. It is not uncommon for oil patch workers to make well over $100,000 a year, and these are precisely the types of jobs that we cannot afford to be losing. The middle class is struggling mightily as it is. And just like we witnessed in 2008, oil industry layoffs usually come before a downturn in employment for the overall economy. So if you think that it is tough to find a good job in America right now, you definitely will not like what comes next.
At one time, I encouraged those that were desperate for employment to check out states like North Dakota and Texas that were experiencing an oil boom. Unfortunately, the tremendous expansion that we witnessed is now reversing…
In states like North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas, which have reaped the benefits of a domestic oil boom, the retrenchment is beginning.
“Drilling budgets are being slashed across the board,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents more than 500 companies working in the state’s Bakken oil patch.
Smaller budgets and less extraction activity means less jobs.
Often, the loss of a job in this industry can come without any warning whatsoever. Just check out the following example from a recent Bloomberg article…
The first thing oilfield geophysicist Emmanuel Osakwe noticed when he arrived back at work before 8 a.m. last month after a short vacation was all the darkened offices.
By that time of morning, the West Houston building of his oilfield services company was usually bustling with workers. A couple hours later, after a surprise call from Human Resources, Osakwe was adding to the emptiness: one of thousands of energy industry workers getting their pink slips as crude prices have plunged to less than $50 a barrel.
These jobs are not easy to replace. If oil industry veterans go down to the local Wal-Mart to get jobs, they will end up making only a very small fraction of what they once did. Every one of these jobs that gets lost is really going to hurt.
And at this point, the job losses in the oil industry are threatening to become an avalanche. The following are 12 signs that the economy is really starting to bleed oil patch jobs…
#1 It is being projected that the U.S. oil rig count will decline by 15 percent in the first quarter of 2015 alone. And when there are less rigs operating, less workers are needed so people get fired.
#3 Oilfield services provider Baker Hughes has announced that it plans to lay off 7,000 workers.
#4 Schlumberger, a big player in the energy industry, has announced plans to get rid of 9,000 workers.
#5 Suncor Energy is eliminating 1,000 workers from their oil projects up in Canada.
#6 Halliburton’s energy industry operations have slowed down dramatically, so they gave pink slips to 1,000 workers last month.
#7 Diamondback Energy just slashed their capital expenditure budget 40 percent to just $450 million.
#8 Elevation Resources plans to cut their capital expenditure budget from $227 million to $100 million.
#9 Concho Resources says that it plans to reduce the number of rigs that it is operating from 35 to 25.
#10 Tullow Oil has reduced their exploration budget from approximately a billion dollars to about 200 million dollars.
#11 Henry Resources President Danny Campbell has announced that his company is reducing activity “by up to 40 percent“.
#12 The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is projecting that 140,000 jobs related to the energy industry will be lost in the state of Texas alone during 2015.
And of course it isn’t just workers that are going to suffer.
Some states are extremely dependent on oil revenues. Just take the state of Alaska for instance. According to one recent news report, 90 percent of the budget of Alaska comes from oil revenue…
But oil is also a revenue source in more than two dozen states, especially for about a third of them. In Alaska, where up to 90 percent of the budget is funded by oil, new Gov. Bill Walker has ordered agency heads to start identifying spending cuts.
Sadly, it looks like oil is not going to rebound any time soon.
China, the biggest user of oil in the world, just reported that economic growth expanded at the slowest pace in 24 years. And concerns about oversupply drove the price of U.S. crude down another couple of dollars on Monday…
Oil declined about 5 percent on Tuesday after the International Monetary Fund cut its 2015 global economic forecast on lower fuel demand and key producer Iran hinted prices could drop to $25 a barrel without supportive OPEC action.
U.S. crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI, settled 4.7 percent lower at $46.39 a barrel, near its intraday bottom of $46.23.
There is only one other time in history when we have seen an oil price crash of this magnitude.
That was in 2008, just before the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Many believe that we are now on the verge of the next great financial crisis.
Should the federal government be spending billions of dollars to pump up Wal-Mart’s profits? I know that question sounds really bizarre, but unfortunately this is essentially what is happening. Because Wal-Mart does not pay them enough money, hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart employees enroll in Medicaid, food stamps and other social welfare programs. Even though Wal-Mart makes enormous profits, they refuse to properly take care of their employees so the federal government has to do it. And of course this is not just a Wal-Mart problem. There are hundreds of other major corporations doing exactly the same thing. And they will keep on doing it as long as they can because relying on the federal government to take care of their employees allows them to make much larger profits. This gives these companies an enormous competitive advantage and it distorts the marketplace. If you love the free enterprise system, you should be aghast at this. Our big corporations have become the biggest “welfare queens” of all, and Wal-Mart is near the top of that list.
Does your local Wal-Mart store seem like it needs help from the federal government?
Of course not.
Wal-Marts all over the nation were absolutely packed this holiday season, but according to a recent Bloomberg article, the average amount of welfare that Wal-Mart employees receive from the government each year breaks down to about $420,000 per store…
Wal-Mart’s low wages have led to full-time employees seeking public assistance. These are not the 47 percent, lazy, unmotivated bums. Rather, these are people working physical, often difficult jobs. They receive $2.66 billion in government help each year (including $1 billion in healthcare assistance). That works out to about $5,815 per worker. And about $420,000 per store.
Does that make you angry?
Today, Wal-Mart employs approximately 1.2 million people in the United States, and it makes a yearly profit of about 17 billion dollars.
So why does it need 2.6 billion dollars of help from the U.S. government?
The size of Wal-Mart is sometimes difficult to visualize. To put it into some context, consider the following: 100 million U.S. shoppers patronize Wal-Mart stores every week. Wal-Mart has twice the number employees of the U.S. Postal Service, a larger global computer network than the Pentagon, and the world’s largest fleet of trucks. Americans spend about $36 million dollars per hour at the stores. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other company in the world, capturing one of every four dollars spent on food in the U.S. The average American family of four spends over $4,000 a year there. Each week, it has 200 million customers at more than 10,400 stores in 27 countries. If the company were an independent country, it would be the 25th largest economy in the world.
Wal-Mart does well enough to be able to pay their workers a livable wage.
And yet they refuse to do it.
Shame on them.
Meanwhile, the six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the poorest one-third of all Americans combined.
Come now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasures for the last days. Indeed the wages that you kept back by fraud from the laborers who harvested your fields are crying, and the cries of those who harvested have entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived in pleasure on the earth and have been wayward. You have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter.
But we continue to reward this behavior, don’t we?
100 million of us continue to visit Wal-Mart every single week, and we continue to fill up our shopping carts with cheap products that are made outside this country.
The truth is that we cannot consume our way to prosperity. When we consume far more wealth than we produce, we pile up debt and we become poorer as a nation.
And as a country we have become exceedingly cold-hearted toward our workers. If you truly love free markets and capitalism, you should be encouraging big companies to pay their workers properly. Instead, we are moving closer and closer to the slave labor model employed by China and other communist nations with each passing day. Sadly, I am becoming increasingly convinced that many prominent “pro-business” voices in America today are actually closet communists. They seem to want everything to be made in China and for American workers to be paid just like Chinese workers.
How is the middle class supposed to survive in such an environment?
And for any “pro-business” people that want to defend Wal-Mart, do you actually like paying suffocating taxes to support all of the people that are being forced on to the safety net?
What is our society going to look like as millions more Americans become dependent on the federal government each year? Government dependence is already at an all-time record high. How much worse do things have to get before we admit that we have a real problem?
One company caught in the industry downturn is Hercules Offshore Inc. The Houston-based firm is laying off 324 employees, roughly 15% of its workforce, because oil companies aren’t renewing contracts for its offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico while crude prices are depressed.
“It’s been breathtaking,” said Jim Noe, executive vice president of Hercules, which was founded in 2004. “We’ve never seen this glut of supply and dislocation in oil markets. So we’re not surprised to see a significant decline in demand for our services.”
These are jobs that we cannot afford to lose.
Since the end of the last recession, the energy industry has been the leading creator of good paying jobs in America.
But now as the U.S. energy boom goes bust, it might lead the way in job losses.
In order to have a middle class, we have got to have middle class jobs.
Unfortunately, those kinds of jobs are disappearing and the entire U.S. economy is moving toward the Wal-Mart model.
In the end, we will all pay a great price for such foolishness.
Are much lower oil prices good news for the U.S. economy? Only if you like collapsing capital expenditures, rising unemployment and a potential financial implosion on Wall Street. Yes, lower gasoline prices are good news for the middle class. I certainly would rather pay two dollars for a gallon of gas than four dollars. But in order to have money to fill up your vehicle you have got to have an income first. And since the last recession, the energy sector has been the number one creator of good jobs in the U.S. economy by far. Barack Obama loves to stand up and take credit for the fact that the employment picture in this country has been improving slightly, but without the energy industry boom, unemployment would be through the roof. And now that the “energy boom” is rapidly becoming an “energy bust”, what will happen to the struggling U.S. economy as we head into 2015?
At the start of this article I mentioned that much lower oil prices would result in “collapsing capital expenditures”.
If you do not know what a “capital expenditure” is, the following is a definition that comes from Investopedia…
“Funds used by a company to acquire or upgrade physical assets such as property, industrial buildings or equipment. This type of outlay is made by companies to maintain or increase the scope of their operations. These expenditures can include everything from repairing a roof to building a brand new factory.”
Needless to say, this kind of spending is very good for an economy. It builds infrastructure, it creates jobs and it is an investment in the future.
In recent years, energy companies have been pouring massive amounts of money into capital expenditures. In fact, the energy sector currently accounts for about a third of all capital expenditures in the United States according to Deutsche Bank…
US private investment spending is usually ~15% of US GDP or $2.8trn now. This investment consists of $1.6trn spent annually on equipment and software, $700bn on non-residential construction and a bit over $500bn on residential. Equipment and software is 35% technology and communications, 25-30% is industrial equipment for energy, utilities and agriculture, 15% is transportation equipment, with remaining 20-25% related to other industries or intangibles. Non-residential construction is 20% oil and gas producing structures and 30% is energy related in total. We estimate global investment spending is 20% of S&P EPS or 12% from US. The Energy sector is responsible for a third of S&P 500 capex.
These companies make these investments because they believe that there are big profits to be made.
Unfortunately, when the price of oil crashes those investments become unprofitable and capital expenditures start getting slashed almost immediately.
For example, the budget for 2015 at ConocoPhillips has already been reduced by 20 percent…
ConocoPhillips is one of the bigger shale players. And its decision to slash its budget for next year by 20% is raising eyebrows. The company said the new target reflects lower spending on major projects as well as “unconventional plays.” Despite the expectation that others will follow, it doesn’t mean U.S. shale oil production is dead. Just don’t expect a surge in spending like in recent years.
And Reuters is reporting that the number of new well permits for the industry as a whole plunged by an astounding 40 percent during the month of November…
Plunging oil prices sparked a drop of almost 40 percent in new well permits issued across the United States in November, in a sudden pause in the growth of the U.S. shale oil and gas boom that started around 2007.
Data provided exclusively to Reuters on Tuesday by industry data firm Drilling Info Inc showed 4,520 new well permits were approved last month, down from 7,227 in October.
If the price of oil stays this low or continues dropping, this is just the beginning.
Meanwhile, the flow of good jobs that this industry has been producing is also likely to start drying up.
According to a new study, investments in oil and gas exploration and production generate substantial economic gains, as well as other benefits such as increased energy independence. The Perryman Group estimates that the industry as a whole generates an economic stimulus of almost $1.2 trillion in gross product each year, as well as more than 9.3 million permanent jobs across the nation.
The ripple effects are everywhere. If you think about the role of oil in your life, it is not only the primary source of many of our fuels, but is also critical to our lubricants, chemicals, synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and many other items we come into contact with every day. The industry supports almost 1.3 million jobs in manufacturing alone and is responsible for almost $1.2 trillion in annual gross domestic product. If you think about the law, accounting, and engineering firms that serve the industry, the pipe, drilling equipment, and other manufactured goods that it requires, and the large payrolls and their effects on consumer spending, you will begin to get a picture of the enormity of the industry.
And these are good paying jobs. They aren’t eight dollar part-time jobs down at your local big box retailer. These are jobs that comfortably support middle class families. These are precisely the kinds of jobs that we cannot afford to lose.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable economic difference between areas of the country where energy is being produced and where energy is not being produced.
Since December 2007, a total of 1.36 million jobs have been gained in shale oil states.
Meanwhile, a total of 424,000 jobs have been lost in non-shale oil states.
So what happens now that the shale oil boom is turning into a bust?
That is a very good question.
Even more ominous is what an oil price collapse could mean for our financial system.
Based on recent stress tests of subprime borrowers in the energy sector in the US produced by Deutsche Bank, should the price of US crude fall by a further 20pc to $60 per barrel, it could result in up to a 30pc default rate among B and CCC rated high-yield US borrowers in the industry. West Texas Intermediate crude is currently trading at multi-year lows of around $75 per barrel, down from $107 per barrel in June.
“A shock of that magnitude could be sufficient to trigger a broader high-yield market default cycle, if materialized,” warn Deutsche strategists Oleg Melentyev and Daniel Sorid in their report.
If the price of oil stays at this level or continues to go down, it is inevitable that we will start to see some of these junk bonds go bad.
In fact, one Motley Fool article recently stated that one industry analyst believes that up to 40 percent of all energy junk bonds could eventually go into default…
The junk bonds, or noninvestment-rated bonds, of energy companies are also beginning to see heavy selling as investors start to worry that drillers could one day default on these bonds. Those defaults could get so bad, according to one analyst, that up to 40% of all energy junk bonds go into default over the next few years if oil prices don’t recover.
In addition, plunging oil prices could end up absolutely destroying the banks that are holding enormous amounts of energy derivatives. This is something that I recently covered in this article and this article.
As you read this, there are five “too big to fail” banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives. Of course only a small fraction of that total exposure is made up of energy derivatives, but a small fraction of 40 trillion dollars is still a massive amount of money.
These derivatives trades are largely unregulated, and even Forbes admits that they are likely to be at the heart of the coming financial collapse…
No one understands the derivative risk positions of the Too Big To Fail Banks, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. There is presently no way to measure the risks involved in the leverage, quantity of collateral, or stability of counter-parties for these major institutions. To me personally they are big black holes capable of potential wrack and ruin. Without access to confidential internal data about these risky derivative positions the regulators cannot react in a timely and measured fashion to block the threat to financial stability, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study.
So do we have any hope?
Yes, if oil prices start going back up, much of what you just read about can be averted.
Unfortunately, that does not seem likely any time soon. Even though U.S. energy companies are cutting back on capital expenditures, most of them are still actually projecting an increase in production for 2015. Here is one example from Bloomberg…
Continental, the biggest holder of drilling rights in the Bakken, last month said 2015 output will grow between 23 percent and 29 percent even after shelving plans to allocate more money to exploration.
Higher levels of production will just drive the price of oil even lower.
At this point, Morgan Stanley is saying that the price of oil could plummet as low as $43 a barrel next year.
If that happens, it would be absolutely catastrophic to the most important industry in the United States.
In turn, that would be absolutely catastrophic for the economy as a whole.
So don’t let anyone tell you that much lower oil prices are “good” for the economy.
The Social Security Administration has just released wage statistics for 2013, and the numbers are startling. Last year, 50 percent of all American workers made less than $28,031, and 39 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000. If you worked a full-time job at $10 an hour all year long with two weeks off, you would make $20,000. So the fact that 39 percent of all workers made less than that amount is rather telling. This is more evidence of the declining quality of the jobs in this country. In many homes in America today, both parents are working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet. Our paychecks are stagnant while the cost of living just continues to soar. And the jobs that are being added to the economy pay a lot less than the jobs lost in the last recession. In fact, it has been estimated that the jobs that have been created since the last recession pay an average of 23 percent less than the jobs that were lost. We are witnessing the slow-motion destruction of the middle class, and very few of our leaders seem to care.
The “average” yearly wage in America last year was just $43,041. But after accounting for inflation, that was actually worse than the year before…
American paychecks shrank last year, just-released data show, further eroding the public’s purchasing power, which is so vital to economic growth.
Average pay for 2013 was $43,041 — down $79 from the previous year when measured in 2013 dollars. Worse, average pay fell $508 below the 2007 level, my analysis of the new Social Security Administration data shows.
Flat or declining average pay is a major reason so many Americans feel that the Great Recession never ended for them. A severe job shortage compounds that misery not just for workers but also for businesses trying to profit from selling goods and services.
Average pay declined in 59 of the 60 levels of worker pay the government reports each October.
And please keep in mind that “average pay” is really skewed by the millionaires and billionaires at the top end of the spectrum.
Median pay in 2013 was just $28,031.02. That means that 50 percent of American workers made less than that number, and 50 percent of American workers made more than that number.
Here are some more numbers from the report that the Social Security Administration just released…
-39 percent of American workers made less than $20,000 last year.
-52 percent of American workers made less than $30,000 last year.
-63 percent of American workers made less than $40,000 last year.
-72 percent of American workers made less than $50,000 last year.
I don’t know about you, but those numbers are deeply troubling to me.
It has been estimated that it takes approximately $50,000 a year to support a middle class lifestyle for a family of four, and so the fact that 72 percent of all workers make less than that amount shows how difficult it is for families that try to get by with just a single breadwinner.
The way that our economy is structured now, both parents usually have to work as hard as they can just to pay the bills.
But there was one group of Americans that did see their incomes actually increase last year.
Those making over 50 million dollars had their pay increase by an average of $12.8 million in 2013.
For everyone else, the news was not good.
And of course this is a trend that has been going on for a long time.
Posted below is a chart that comes from the Federal Reserve. It shows how real median household income in the United States has declined since the year 2000…
Meanwhile, the cost of living has continued to rise at a steady pace.
Needless to say, this is putting a tremendous squeeze on the middle class. With each passing day, more Americans are losing their spots in the middle class and this has pushed government dependence to an all-time high. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans now live in a home that receives money from the government each month. This is completely and totally unsustainable, but our long-term economic problems just keep getting worse.
Our politicians have stood by as millions upon millions of good paying jobs have been shipped out of the country. Millions of other middle class jobs have been lost to technology. This has resulted in intense competition for the middle class jobs that remain.
And at this point we are even losing lots of lower paying retail jobs. For example, it is being reported that Sears plans to close 110 more stores and lay off more than 6,000 workers. Sears says that the report “isn’t accurate”, but it isn’t denying that stores will be closed either…
In an email to USA Today, Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said the store count and closures “isn’t accurate,” but did not provide store closures or layoff numbers.
“As we stated in our (second quarter earnings report), we disclosed that we would be closing unprofitable stores as leases expire and in some cases will accelerate closings when it is economically prudent. And that we would consider closing additional stores during the remainder of the year,” Riefs said. “Make no mistake, we believe the store will continue to play an integral role in our transformation, however, if a store is not generating a profit, it is straightforward that the store should be considered for closure.”
No matter how many stores Sears does end up closing over the next few months, the truth is that our economy is a complete and total mess at this point.
Our politicians and the mainstream media are trying to put a happy face on everything, but the cold, hard numbers prove that we are not anywhere close to where we were prior to the last recession.
Because it is so difficult to find a good job in America today, I often recommend to people that they should consider starting their own businesses.
But thanks to the bureaucratic control freaks in the Obama administration and in our state governments, small business ownership in America today is at an all-time low. It is almost as if they don’t want the “little guy” to win. Every avenue of prosperity for the middle class is under assault, and there does not appear to be much hope that this will change any time soon.
And the truly frightening thing is that this is about as good as things are going to get for the middle class. We are rapidly approaching the next major wave of our long-term economic decline, but that is a topic for a future article.
Most people that discuss the “economic collapse” focus on what is coming in the future. And without a doubt, we are on the verge of some incredibly hard times. But what often gets neglected is the immense permanent damage that has been done to the U.S. economy by the long-term economic collapse that we are already experiencing. In this article I am going to share with you 12 economic charts that show that we are in much, much worse shape than we were five or ten years ago. The long-term problems that are eating away at the foundations of our economy like cancer have not been fixed. In fact, many of them continue to get even worse year after year. But because unprecedented levels of government debt and reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve have bought us a very short window of relative stability, most Americans don’t seem too concerned about our long-term problems. They seem to have faith that our “leaders” will be able to find a way to muddle through whatever challenges are ahead. Hopefully this article will be a wake up call. The last major wave of the economic collapse did a colossal amount of damage to our economic foundations, and now the next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.
The mainstream media is constantly telling us about the “employment recovery” that is happening in the United States, but the truth is that it is just an illusion. As the chart below demonstrates, just prior to the last recession about 63 percent of all working age Americans had a job. During the last wave of the economic collapse, that number dropped to below 59 percent and stayed there for a very long time. In the past few months we have finally seen the employment-population ratio tick back up to 59 percent, but we are still far, far below where we used to be. To call the tiny little bump at the end of this chart a “recovery” is really an insult to our intelligence…
#2 The Labor Force Participation Rate
The percentage of Americans that are either employed or currently looking for a job started to fall during the last recession and it has not stopped falling since then. The labor force participation rate has now fallen to a 36 year low, and this is a sign of a very, very sick economy…
#3 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Years
Some blame the decline in the labor force participation rate on the aging of our population. But it isn’t just elderly people that are dropping out of the labor force. In fact, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years (25 to 54) continues to rise and is now at the highest level that has ever been recorded…
#4 Manufacturing Employees
Once upon a time in America, anyone that was reliable and willing to work hard could easily find a manufacturing job somewhere. But we have stood by and allowed millions upon millions of good paying manufacturing jobs to be shipped out of the country, and now many of our formerly great manufacturing cities have been transformed into ghost towns. Over the past few years, there has been a slight “recovery”, but we are still well below where we were at just previous to the last recession…
#5 Our Current Account Balance
As a nation, we buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us. In other words, we perpetually consume far more wealth than we produce. This is a recipe for national economic suicide. Our current account balance soared to obscene levels just prior to the last recession, and now we have almost gotten back to those levels…
#6 Existing Home Sales
Our economy has never fully recovered from the housing crash of 2007-2008. As you can see from the chart below, the number of existing home sales is still far below the level that we hit back in 2006. At this point we are just getting back to the level we were at in 2000, but our population today is far larger than it was back then…
#7 New Home Sales
Things are even more dramatic when you look at new home sales. This is an industry that have been absolutely emasculated. The number of new home sales in the United States is just a little more than half of what it was back in 2000, and it isn’t even worth comparing to what we experienced during the peak of 2006.
#8 The Monetary Base
In a desperate attempt to get the economy going again, the Federal Reserve has been wildly printing money. It has been so reckless that it is hard to put it into words. When I look at this chart, the phrase “Weimar Republic” comes to mind…
#9 Food Inflation
Thankfully, much of the money that the Federal Reserve has been injecting into the system has not made it into the real economy. But enough of it has gotten into the system to force food prices significantly higher. For example, my wife went to the store today and paid just a shade under 10 bucks for just four pieces of chicken. And as you can see from the chart below, food prices have been steadily going up in America for a very long time…
#10 The Velocity Of Money
One of the reasons why we have not seen even more inflation is because the velocity of money is extraordinarily low. In general, when an economy is healthy money tends to flow through the system rapidly. People are buying and selling and money changes hands frequently. But when an economy is sick, money tends to stagnate. And that is exactly what is happening in the United States right now. In fact, at this point the velocity of the M2 money stock has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded…
#11 The National Debt
As our economic fundamentals have deteriorated, our politicians have attempted to prop up our standard of living by borrowing from the future. The U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during the Obama years, and it increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2014 alone. Despite assurances that “the deficit is under control”, the federal government borrows about a trillion dollars a year to fund new spending in addition to borrowing about 7 trillion dollars to pay off old debt that is coming due. What we are doing to future generations of Americans is absolutely criminal, and it is just a matter of time before this Ponzi scheme totally collapses…
#12 Total Debt
Of course it is not just the federal government that is gorging on debt. When you add up all forms of debt in our society (government, business, consumer, etc.) it comes to a grand total of more than 57 trillion dollars. This total has more than doubled since the year 2000…
If you know anyone that believes that we are in good economic shape, just show them these charts.
The numbers do not lie. Our economy is sick and it is getting sicker by the day.
And of course the next major financial crisis could strike at any time. U.S. stocks just experienced their worst week in three years, and if cases of Ebola start popping up around the country the fear that would cause could collapse our economy all by itself.
The debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is not real. We are living on the fumes of our past, and every single day our long-term problems get even worse.
Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what is coming.
Sadly, most Americans will continue to deny the truth until it is far too late.