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12 Signs That The Economy Is Really Starting To Bleed Oil Patch Jobs

Oil Rig Texas - Public DomainThe 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.

#2 Last week, 55 more oil rigs shut down.  That was the largest single week decline in the United States in 24 years.

#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.

I hope that you are getting ready.

The 2.6 Billion Dollar Welfare Payment That The U.S. Government Gives To Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart 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?

It should.

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?

Wal-Mart is a colossal money-making behemoth.  Just consider the following numbers

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.

This reminds me of something that I read in the fifth chapter of James the other day…

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.

We refuse to support American workers and American businesses, and this is a recipe for utter disaster.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “National Economic Suicide: The U.S. Trade Deficit With China Just Hit A New Record High“.

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.

At this point, the U.S. middle class is well on the way to being destroyed.  As I have written about previously, 40 percent of all American workers now make less than what a minimum wage worker made back in 1968 after you account for inflation.

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?

Unfortunately, it looks like our problems are only going to accelerate in 2015.  Thanks to the stunning decline in the price of oil, we are starting to lose good paying jobs in the energy industry

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.


Anyone That Believes That Collapsing Oil Prices Are Good For The Economy Is Crazy

Oil - Public DomainAre 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 the Perryman Group, the energy sector currently supports 9.3 million permanent jobs in this country

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.

The last time the price of oil declined by more than 40 dollars in less than six months, there was a financial meltdown on Wall Street and we experienced the deepest recession that we have seen since the days of the Great Depression.

And now many fear that this collapse in the price of oil could trigger another financial panic.

According to Citigroup, the energy sector now accounts for 17 percent of the high yield bond market.

J.P. Morgan says that it is actually 18 percent.

In any event, the reality of the matter is that the health of these “junk bonds” is absolutely critical to our financial system.  And according to Deutsche Bank, if these bonds start defaulting it could “trigger a broader high-yield market default cycle”

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.

That would be a total nightmare for Wall Street.

And of course bond defaults would only be part of the equation.  As I wrote about the other day, a crash in junk bonds is almost always followed by a significant stock market correction.

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.

That is just a bunch of nonsense.

50 Percent Of American Workers Make Less Than 28,031 Dollars A Year

Real Median Household Income 2014The 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…

Real Median Household Income 2014

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.

12 Charts That Show The Permanent Damage That Has Been Done To The U.S. Economy

12 - Public DomainMost 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.

#1 Employment

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…

Employment Population Ratio 2014

#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…

Labor Force Participation Rate 2014

#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…

Inactivity Rate Men 2014

#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…

Manufacturing Employees 2014

#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…

Current Account Balance 2014

#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…

Existing Home Sales 2014

#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.

New Home Sales 2014

#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…

Monetary Base 2014

#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…

Food Inflation 2014

#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…

Velocity Of Money 2014

#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…

National Debt 2014

#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…

Total Debt 2014

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.

This Is About As Good As Things Are Going To Get For The Middle Class – And It’s Not That Good

Depressed - Public DomainThe U.S. economy has had six full years to bounce back since the financial collapse of 2008, and it simply has not happened.  Median household income has declined substantially since then, total household wealth for middle class families is way down, the percentage of the population that is employed is still about where it was at the end of the last recession, and the number of Americans that are dependent on the government has absolutely exploded.  Even those that claim that the economy is “recovering” admit that we are not even close to where we used to be economically.  Many hope that someday we will eventually get back to that level, but the truth is that this is about as good as things are ever going to get for the middle class.  And we should enjoy this period of relative stability while we still can, because when the next great financial crisis strikes things are going to fall apart very rapidly.

The U.S. Census Bureau has just released some brand new numbers, and they are quite sobering.  For example, after accounting for inflation median household income in the United States has declined a total of 8 percent from where it was back in 2007.

That means that middle class families have significantly less purchasing power than they did just prior to the last major financial crisis.

And one research firm is projecting that it is going to take until 2019 for median household income to return to the level that we witnessed in 2007…

For everybody wondering why the economic recovery feels like a recession, here’s the answer: We’re still at least five years away from regaining everything lost during the 2007-2009 downturn.

Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight predicts that real median household income — perhaps the best proxy for middle-class living standards — won’t reach the prior peak from 2007 until 2019. Since the numbers are adjusted for inflation, that means the typical family will wait 12 years until their purchasing power is as strong as it was before the recession. That would be the longest period of stagnation, by far, since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Of course that projection assumes that the economy will continue to “recover”, which is a very questionable assumption at best.

Meanwhile, total household wealth has been declining for middle class families as well.

According to the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.

That is a pretty substantial drop.  But you never hear our politicians (especially the Democrats) bring up numbers like that because they want us to feel good about things.

So why is all of this happening?

The biggest reason why the middle class is struggling so much is the lack of good jobs.

As the chart posted below demonstrates, the percentage of the working age population that is actually employed is still way, way below where it was prior to the last recession…

Employment Population Ratio

The “employment recovery” (the tiny little bump at the end of the chart) has been so miniscule that it is hardly even worth mentioning.

At the moment, we still have 1.4 million fewer full-time jobs than we did in 2008 even though more than 100,000 people are added to the U.S. population each month.

And a lot of the workers that have lost jobs since the start of the last recession have never been able to find a new one.

According to a brand new survey conducted by Rutgers University, more than 20 percent of all workers that have been laid off in the past five years still have not found a new job.

Meanwhile, the control freak bureaucrats that run this country continue to kill off small businesses.

In recent years we have seen large numbers of small businesses fail, and at this point the rate of small business ownership in the United States is at an all-time low.

As a result of everything that you have just read, the middle class is shrinking and dependence on the government is soaring.

Today, there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity, and Americans received more than 2 trillion dollars in benefits from the federal government last year alone.

For many more statistics just like this, please see my previous article entitled “30 stats to show to anyone that does not believe the middle class is being destroyed“.

Without a doubt, things are not that good for the middle class in America these days.

Unfortunately, the next great wave of financial trouble is rapidly approaching, and once it strikes things are going to get substantially worse for the middle class.

Yes, the stock market set record high after record high this summer.  But what we have observed is classic bubble behavior.  So many of the exact same patterns that occurred just prior to previous stock market crashes are happening once again.

And it is interesting to note that September 22nd has marked important market peaks at various times throughout history…

For traders, September 22 is one of those days with a notorious history. UBS’s Art Cashin notes that September 22 marked various market highs in 1873, 1929, 1980, and even as recent as 2008.

Could the coming months be the beginning of the next major stock market decline?

Small-cap stocks are already starting to show signs of real weakness.  In fact, the Russell 2000 just hit a “death cross” for the first time in more than 2 years

The Russell 2000 has been diverging from the broader market over the last several weeks, and now technicians point out it has flashed a bearish signal. For the first time in more than two years, the small-cap index has hit a so-called death cross.

A death cross occurs when a nearer-term 50-day moving average falls below a longer-term, 200-day moving average. Technicians argue that a death cross can be a bearish sign.

None of us knows what the market is going to do tomorrow, but a lot of the “smart money” is getting out of the market right now while the getting is good.

So where is the “smart money” putting their assets?

In a previous article, I discussed how sales of gold bars to wealthy clients is way up so far this year.

And CNBC has just reported that the ultra-wealthy “are holding mountains of cash” right now…

Billionaires are holding mountains of cash, offering the latest sign that the ultra-wealthy are nervous about putting more money into today’s markets.

According to the new Billionaire Census from Wealth-X and UBS, the world’s billionaires are holding an average of $600 million in cash each—greater than the gross domestic product of Dominica.

Why are they doing this?

Are they concerned about the potential of a market crash?

And if we do see another market crash like we witnessed back in 2008, what is that going to mean for the rest of us?

2008 certainly did not destroy our economy.

But it did cause an immense amount of damage that we have never recovered from.

Now the next wave is approaching, and most people don’t even see it coming.

Small Business Ownership In America Is At An All-Time Low

Small Business - Public DomainAccording to the Federal Reserve, the percentage of American families that own a small business is at the lowest level that has ever been recorded.  In a report that was just released entitled “Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2010 to 2013: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances“, the Federal Reserve revealed that small business ownership in America “fell substantially” between 2010 and 2013.  Even in the midst of this so-called “economic recovery”, small business ownership in America has now fallen to an all-time low.  If the economy truly was healthy, this would not be happening.  And it isn’t as if Americans are flooding the labor market either.  As I detailed yesterday, the labor force participation rate in this country is at a 36 year low.  That would not be happening if the economy was actually healthy either.  The truth is that the middle class in America is dying, and this new report from the Federal Reserve is more evidence of this very harsh reality.

In order to build wealth, middle class Americans either need to have their own businesses or they need good jobs.  Sadly, the percentage of Americans that own a business continues to decline steadily.  In the report that I mentioned above, the Federal Reserve says that the proportion of U.S. families that have an ownership interest in a small business fell from 13.3 percent in 2010 to a brand new all-time low of 11.7 percent in 2013.

This is one of the factors that is increasing the gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us in this country.  And of course another of the major factors is the steady decline in good paying jobs.

The U.S. Competitiveness Project at Harvard Business School is chaired by professors Michael E. Porter and Jan W. Rivkin.  It just released a new report entitled “An Economy Doing Half Its Job”, and it addressed the fact that the middle class is deeply struggling even though many large U.S. corporations have been thriving.  The following is an excerpt from an article in the Boston Globe about this report…

In a statement, Porter added: “Shortsighted executives may be satisfied with an American economy where firms operating here are winning without lifting US living standards. But leaders with longer perspectives understand that companies can’t thrive for long while their workers and their communities struggle.”

Unfortunately, this is not likely to change any time soon.  In fact, that same report discovered that Harvard Business School alumni foresee “falling pay and fewer openings for full-time jobs” for American workers in the years ahead…

U.S. workers face a dim future, with stagnant or falling pay and fewer openings for full-time jobs.

That’s the picture that emerges from a survey of Harvard Business School alumni.

More than 40 percent of the respondents foresee lower pay and benefits for workers. Roughly half favor outsourcing work over hiring staffers. A growing share prefer part-time employees. Nearly half would rather invest in new technology than hire or retain workers.

The Obama administration continues to tell us that the unemployment rate is “going down” and that the economy is recovering, but that does not match the reality of what most Americans are experiencing on a day to day basis.

As David Stockman recently so aptly put it, outside of health and education the U.S. economy has not produced a single job since mid-2000 even though our population has grown greatly since that time…

In a few deft seconds, a “no jobs” nobody who apparently doesn’t actually have one himself,  essentially explained the contents of the chart below to his silenced CNBC hosts. Over the course of 170 “jobs Fridays” since mid-2000, the latter have apparently never noticed the single most stunning fact embedded in the monthly BLS report. Namely, that outside of health and education there has not been one net new job created in the American economy since July 2000! Yes, not a single new job—as in none, nein, nichts, nada, zip!

In addition, most of the new jobs that are being “added to the economy” each month are part-time jobs.  Right now, we still have 1.4 million fewer full-time jobs than we did in 2008 even though more than 100,000 people are added to the population each month.

What this means is that the middle class is shrinking.

We are witnessing an increasing concentration of wealth among the ultra-wealthy, and most of the rest of us are getting poorer.  As a recent CNN article detailed, the Federal Reserve has also discovered that the gap between the rich and the poor in America is larger than the Fed has ever recorded before…

In its Study of Consumer Finances, released every three years, the Fed found that the wealthiest 3% of American households controlled 54.4% of the nation’s wealth in 2013, a slight increase from its last survey in 2010. It’s also substantially higher from the 44.8% they held in 1989, showing how quickly the income divide has been growing over the past decade or so.

At the same time, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 24.7% in 2013. That’s compared to 33.2% in 1989.

How close does the share of wealth for the bottom 90 percent have to go before we admit that we have a major problem on our hands?

Is there anyone out there that would be okay with it hitting zero percent?

One of the big reasons why the wealthy have been doing so well is because the stock market has been soaring.  The money printing policies of the Federal Reserve have sent stock prices to unprecedented heights.  This has overwhelmingly benefited the extremely wealthy

According to recent data from the Federal Reserve, America has the lowest level of stock ownership in 18 years. Yet stock ownership for the wealthy is at a new high—and that has accounted for most of their good fortune compared to the rest of America.

In fact, the Fed says that the wealthiest top 10 percent of all Americans now own 81 percent of all stocks…

Stock ownership is even more concentrated when it comes to share of total stock holdings. In 2010, the latest period available, the top 10 percent of Americans by net worth held 81 percent of all directly held or indirectly held stocks, according to Edward N. Wolff, an economics professor at New York University who specializes in inequality and Federal Reserve data.

Wolff said that share—which has not been released yet for 2013—has probably gone even higher than 81 percent since 2010.

Since the last financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has been very good to the elite.

But most of the rest of us have had a really hard time.

Until more Americans start getting good jobs and building small businesses, things are not going to turn around for the middle class.

But the policies being pursued by our politicians continue to kill good jobs and continue to kill small businesses, so I wouldn’t expect significant changes any time soon.

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