The Beginning Of The End
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Happy Thanksgiving! Are You Better Off Today Than You Were Four Years Ago?

As you gather around the table with your family this Thanksgiving, ask yourself this question: are you better off today than you were four years ago?  Unfortunately, most Americans are not.  Both political parties have controlled the White House during the last four years - Barack Obama has been in office for nearly two years and before him it was George W. Bush - and yet no matter what politicians we send to Washington D.C. things just seem to keep getting worse.  We buy more than we produce, we spend more than we bring in, we have 18 times as many "problem banks" as we did 4 years ago, the number of Americans on food stamps continues to set a new all-time record every month and we are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world.  But at least the majority of Americans are still prosperous enough to enjoy a happy Thanksgiving inside a warm, comfortable home.  Unfortunately, if things keep going the way they are going, we are going to experience a national economic nightmare that nobody will be thankful for.

If you watch the economic statistics from week to week and month to month, it will seem like sometimes they are getting worse and sometimes they are getting better.  However, once you take a longer-term view of things, exactly what is happening to us starts to come clearly into focus.  The truth is that the United States is in the midst of a long-term economic collapse, and many economic statistics just keep getting worse every single year.

The following are 11 statistics that reveal just how far the U.S. economy has fallen over the past four years....

#1 In November 2006, the "official" U.S. unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.  Today, the "official" U.S. unemployment rate has been at 9.5 percent or greater for more than a year.

#2 At Thanksgiving back in 2006, 26 million Americans were on food stamps.  Today, there are over 42 million Americans on food stamps and that number is climbing rapidly.

#3 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States fell from $51,726 in 2008 to $50,221 in 2009.  Median household income declined the year before that too.  Meanwhile, prices have continued to rise throughout that period.

#4 At the end of the third quarter in 2006, 47 banks were on the FDIC "problem list".  At the end of the third quarter in 2010, 860 banks were on the FDIC "problem list".

#5 California home builders began construction on 1,811 homes during the month of August, which was down 77% from August 2006.

#6 In 2006, new home sales in the United States were near record highs.  In 2010, new home sales in the United States are at record lows as the following graph from Calculated Risk demonstrates....

#7 A recent survey of last year's college graduates found that 80 percent moved right back home with their parents after graduation.  That was up substantially from 63 percent in 2006.

#8 According to one analysis, the United States has lost a total of 10.5 million jobs since 2007.

#9 In 2006, the Social Security program took in somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 billion more dollars than it paid out.  Of course the U.S. government spent all that money instead of setting it aside.  So now more U.S. retirees than ever are ready to start drawing on Social Security and a "tipping point" is rapidly coming.  Social Security will pay out more in benefits in 2010 than it receives in payroll taxes.  This was not supposed to happen until at least 2015, and the years ahead look very, very grim....

#10 The U.S. government's debt ceiling has been raised six times since the beginning of 2006.

#11 In 2006, the U.S. national debt was getting close to 9 trillion dollars.  Today, the U.S. national debt is well past 13 trillion dollars and is rapidly closing in on 14 trillion dollars.

So is there much hope for an economic turnaround any time soon?

No, not really.

Even the Federal Reserve, usually one of the biggest cheerleaders for the U.S. economy, is not very optimistic right now.  In fact, the Fed has just announced that they are projecting that unemployment will still be at about 8 percent when the next presidential election arrives in 2012.

Actually, if the official unemployment rate was to get that low by then that would really be something to celebrate.  Many economists fear that unemployment will be even higher than it is now by then.

Several years ago, a very foolish politician (Dick Cheney) famously said that "deficits don't matter".  That is kind of like saying that credit card balances don't matter.  For decades, politicians from both political parties have been running up staggering amounts of government debt as if it would never catch up with us.  For decades, Americans have been addicted to debt and have been buying more than they produce.  We have enjoyed living beyond our means for so long that most of us simply have no idea that there are any consequences for doing so.

Living on debt is fun on the way up, but on the way down the pain can be excruciating.  We are about to experience that on a national level, and it is going to be an absolute nightmare.

Did any of you actually believe that we were just going to go on living way, way, way beyond our means indefinitely?

America has piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and unfortunately we are all going to pay the price for that.

So enjoy your turkey while you can.  In future years we may have a lot less to be thankful for.

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  • Hojo Wu

    I grew up poor, and spent most of my life feeling inadequate. I was picked on and made fun of the clothes I wore as a kid to middleschool. I eventually went to college and now I am doing better. And I was happy to see the economy tank because the people I grew up resenting would finally feel my pain. The people I resented were the middle class and richer people who never seemed to have a care in the world growing up. Wearing name brand clothes and having their parents buy them everything. While my father almost lost the crappy run down home on multiple occasions. F all of you. Time to feel the pain.

  • Ivan

    **** no I’m not better off.

    It’s never been so worse in the 21 years of my business.

    Thanks, Masters of the Universe at GS, BOC, CITI, Washington D.C., The Fed, etc.

    Maters, you can go to HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Gary2

    The line at the food pantry was very long. There are a lot of folks who have little food and no money.

    We need to heavily tax the rich and spread the wealth. This would solve the entire financial mess. Pass the employee free choice act to service jobs can unionize and force greedy companies like walmart to double their wages. This would help to prevent this financial mess from happening again.

  • Gato

    I think your right! How can we just keep printing money out of thin air and expect other countries to take it seriously? if we are being bled for all our gold and silver what measure of worth do we rely on? Our Liberal Policies?

  • http://brunolem.wordpress.com Brunolem

    The US is getting old and its population is numb.

    To treat both patients, the Fed is injecting steroids into the economy and Congress is stuffing citizens with painkillers.

    Similarities with Ancient Rome, circa 200 – 300 AD, are amazing.

    It makes me wonder why so many pundits are searching for similarities with Japan, 20 years ago, when there are none, and forget about Rome…

    Probably because it is more reassuring to foresee a future “a la Japan”, rather than one “a la Rome”!

    The West in general, and the US in particular, are not in one of those down economic cycles, they are going into decline.

    The economic collapse is not the problem, it is a symptom of a much deeper crisis.

    While the “doctors” are busy trying to cure the symptoms, the disease spreads…

    Click on my name to visit my blog.

  • whoisbiggles

    Happy thanksgiving – yes I am much better off than I was 4 years ago – but then I don’t live in Amerika.

  • mondobeyondo

    Ummm… well…

    1) I bought some sweet potatoes at the local grocery store. But they’re not for baking. I’m gonna plant them in the garden a couple months from now. With a little luck, I’ll have more sweet potatoes this time next year.

    2) Yams. See above post.

    3) Russet potatoes. See above post.

    4) Turkey. Well, I got one for about 25 cents a pound, if you count the store’s discount card. Not bad I guess. The geese were approximately $58.00 apiece. Leaving those to the folks not on food stamps.

    5) Potatoes. 57 cents for a 10 pound sack. Mashed potatoes and gravy are nice, but generally, I’m not a big fan of potatoes. Reminds me of Grandma’s stories of the Depression, when literally everything they ate had potatoes of some sort in it.

    6) Stuffing. What’s that?!

    7) Ham. Again, what’s that?!

    But nevertheless, whether you’re in a warm home or standing in line at the Salvation Army food kitchen, my one wish is…
    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
    There’s lots to be thankful for!

  • http://thecivillibertarian.blogspot.com/ Frankenstein Government

    Hojo Wu…

    In 2007, I met a man who was raised in a tin shack with dirt floors in Michuacan, Mx. No running water, no bathrooms. One set of clothes and if they wanted food, they stole it. He emigrated here, became legal, and worked his rear off. He is now living the American dream and he is proud to state that. A trucking company, a nice house, motorcycle, a wife and kids.

    America is about opportunity. It isn’t about hating people and acting like a victim. It’s about staring destitution in the eye and having the will to get better. So I am not gonna return the hate rant you so freely engage in. Live with that poison if you have to. Instead, I am going to say a prayer for you that you might find a little kindness.

  • Bruce

    Of course the welfare Queen Gary had the normal liberal line tax the rich. Gary you know what you are liberal gullible childish easy to fool slow to understand what is really going on. But under Obozo they are spreading the wealth to the 3rd world. We are all going to be equal soon with China. THey will advance their people well do better and ours well do worst because they spread the wealth. Billy Bob Clinton passed NAFTA and GATT. So taxing the rich Gary they will just move to new country were Welfare queens like you don’t live.

  • Johnson

    Meanwhile:
    ——

    Two years after the onset of the financial crisis, the stock market is recovering and Wall Street’s moneyed elite are breathing easier again. And this means in some cases they are spending again — at times cautiously, but sometimes with a familiar swagger.

    http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/signs-of-swagger-wallets-out-wall-st-dares-to-celebrate/

  • William

    I come from the days when only the income of one parent was sufficient for the household. Today, it takes two incomes per family to survive, in most cases. Income, inflation adjusted, has been stagnant for over 30 years.
    This national nightmare really started about 30 years ago. Somehow, the notion that taxes were BAD became dominant. We wanted it all, but did not want to pay for it. I watched Reagan’s tax cut, supply side garbage take the last Carter deficit of about a billion dollars to hundreds of billions. The endgame was begun when the Smirking Chimp and war criminal Bush cut taxes, erasing the four straight balanced, or surplus, budgets of the last four Clinton years. Worse off??? Not in just the past four years, but the last 30 years. We did it to ourselves.

  • RunVampRun

    Financially I am not better off than I was four years ago. My business (very small mom & pop operation) has taken numerous hits and many of my contracts have either been cancelled or reduced. Unsure what is coming around the corner or how long I can continue operating our business (11 years this January)?
    However, emotionally speaking I am in a better situation than I was four years ago! I have never been one to try to keep up with the “Jones” and have always lived a lower impact lifestyle. Watching our economy crumble has done nothing but reassure me that the values I hold dearest are pretty much on the spot! I am glad I am AWAKE and that my little tribe (family) has a safe shelter to dwell in and enough food put back to help us get through some of these darkening times.

  • zack

    Members of my family are in the process of losing their house; they fell prey to the siren call of cheap credit offered by the housing bubble. We are certainly not doing as well as Warren Buffet, who received nearly $7 billion in TARP bailout funds personally. I’m so glad that Uncle Warren is going to have a real Thanksgiving feast, while so many other Americans will be celebrating their holiday at McDonalds. /sarcasm

    We help Americans find jobs and prosperity in Asia. Visit http://www.pathtoasia.com/jobs/ for details.

  • http://www.suburban-self-reliance.com Jerry

    Am I doing better now than I was four years ago?

    Hell Yeah I am!

    I saw Great Depression # II coming, from the usual multiple sources I use for open-source intelligence.

    I pulled out all my retirement investments, took the tax hit, and paid off the house, at around that time. My wife has been unemployed for over a year, but regardless, I have already been able to retire early (a side benefit is getting into EVEN BETTER physical shape!).

    I also shifted my investing into tangibles: Stored food, ammunition, tools, vehicles, etc.

    Why is anyone even buying silver at these prices, when the MACD indicator is practically off the charts for silver (in other words, extremely overbought, from a mathematical standpoint)?

    How about investing in ammunition (or groceries for that matter, since the price is only going up from here? Canned food stores longer than people think, based on the latest research by BYU, the US Gov’t, etc)? Prices have dropped down to where they were over a decade ago.

    Also, for Hojo Wu: RIGHT ON MAN!!! I grew up (more like existed) in CA’s foster care system as a kid, in one of the most asocial areas there: The East Bay Area (still one continuous ghetto).

  • Miss Elainne

    cozy warm home…must be nice. It’s starting to get cold here in the mountains. I’m unemployed, no heat, at risk for foreclosure, etc. Everyone is at risk for this, it’s just that many of the muddleclass can’t face it yet. For a lot of us, it’s not cutting back on that bi-weekly latte that’s going to help, it’s cutting back on having electricity. Don’t judge the poor until you’ve been here.

  • Miss Elainne

    cozy warm home…must be nice. It’s starting to get cold here in the mountains. I’m unemployed, no heat, at risk for foreclosure, etc. Everyone is at risk for this, it’s just that many of the muddleclass can’t face it yet. For a lot of us, it’s not cutting back on that bi-weekly latte that’s going to help, it’s cutting back on having electricity. Don’t judge the poor until you’ve been here (Bruce).

  • Grekko

    Alot of people want to heavily tax the rich. This is not the answer to our woes. Think about how many poor and middle class people are going to supply you with a job. Zero! It is the fault of government, plain and simplre. At least there are some new ones in govt that aren’t corrupted yet. Everyone that held office, except for a handfull, should have been thrown out in the streets. Because of them, it costs manufacturing companies at least $3 for regulations and taxes as it does for every $1 in wages. Do we have to wonder why jobs keep leaving the country to places without these taxes and regulations?

  • nohomehere

    Happy Thanksgiving to every American and don’t forget the pumpkin pie!

  • Jeremiah

    I’d like to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving, whatever your circumstances. I am an apt. dweller who lives alone. I am grateful that I listened to my inner voice and did not succomb to the siren of “must buy a house at any cost”. I came close. At the last moment, I backed away and have not regretted it. I am not rich by any means, but eek by, which is ok. I was asked the other day if I am considered homeless because I don’t have a home – a mortgage. I said I don’t think so. I have a roof over my head, which I am thankful for and food to eat. I am just not included in statistics about homeownership. Folks like me are invisible, like the homeless. (And no, I am not a senior or disabled.) I had pizza today rather than bother with cooking a turkey. Works for me. Unless you have the Norman Rockwell thing going that looks like a tv commercial with family, today is another day like any other.

    I’d like to give a shout-out to the author of this blog – fantastic! I look forward to reading your submissions. I would also like to give a nod to Ross Perot, wherever he is. Why? Because he had the courage to tell us what would happen if NAFTA were invoked. We did not have the courage to listen. We dismissed him. Whatever his faults, he was right on the money about the sound that would be made as jobs left the country, never to return. Just my two cents worth.

  • Hojo Wu

    @Frankenstein government. My poison is a product of the the materialistic society. I have experienced nothing but a struggle, and only now have experienced good fortune. It’s time for others to experience true hard times.

  • Jeremiah

    Hojo Wu;

    Why is it time for others to experience true hard times just because you have? How is wishing ill will on other people going to change the fact that you were bullied when you were young or the fact that you grew up poor? Your jealousy of other people has eaten you alive. I have an acquaintance who shares your perspective and I asked them the same thing. I told them the same thing I am telling you: you are wishing harm upon innocent individuals and it will not help you to tear others down. Jealousy is a sin and leads to other sins. We don’t come to this earth with a promise of a golden spoon. Most of us, me included, experience just the opposite. (I personally have experienced bullying, abuse in every form and poverty.) It is whether you choose to marinate in your resentment or rise above it that counts (make lemonade out of lemons). What is the bottom line for you? That everyone be brought low so you can rise above them and prove to yourself that you are as good as them? You always were and you don’t realize that. Riches can end tomorrow; even yours. What you have inside will sustain you. Please reconsider your position.

  • http://www.danielrevelationbiblestudies.com Robert Stout

    Another great article!!! All your information is concise and very factual!!! Enjoy reading your article every day!!! But when is the American people going to wake up!!! It used to be the people ran the government, now, its the government runs the people!!! Something is seriously wrong with this picture!!! Our forefathers would turn over in their graves if they knew just how far the American people have allowed our government to control every move they make!!! WAKE-UP, before its too late!!!

  • Hojo Wu

    @jeremiah

    I do not disagree with anything you say, however I do get pleasure from seeing those who thought they were better than me suffer. Is it right? No, but I do not lie to myself. It is how I feel.

    Growing up I never thought I was better than anyone else. I still do not, but there are people out there who have gone thru life thinking they were better than others. And life has a funny way of balancing itself out. Everyone has their day.

  • Ouida Gabriel

    Hojo Wu,

    I understand where you are coming from as I have been there. I believe I am a deeply committed Christian but I struggle with having feelings of justice towards those who have brought me harm. Some people let things roll off their shoulders while some people let it turn their hearts to stone. I think I am a kind person but there are a few people in this world that when harm has come their way I have not felt sorrow for them. They deserved it and then some.

    Ouida Gabriel

  • El Pollo de Oro

    La Domanda: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

    La Mia Risposta: HELL NO!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m a small business owner, and business ain’t what it used to be.

    But I’ll tell you who is much better off than they were four years ago: the top 2%. They are doing better than ever, while the dying middle-class become the neo-poor and it becomes increasingly obvious that the former USA is now a Third World horror movie called The Banana Republic of America (BRA).

    There’s nothing wrong with prosperity per se. Hell, I want the nerdy computer geek who’s developing some new software program in his parents’ basement to get filthy, stinking rich so that he/she can create some jobs, buy things and pump money into the economy. I love to see people who aren’t rich become rich. See, that’s called UPWARD MOBILITY, which is what the USA had back when it was still the USA and had yet to become the BRA. But what we have now, thanks to the globalist horrors that Ross Perot warned us against in 1992 and 1993, is DOWNWARD mobility for most Americans. This is now a Third World banana republic, where a tiny ruling class minority will be fabulously wealthy while the vast majority of people barely survive.

    Benvenuti al terzo mondo. Benvenuti a La Repubblica Banana di America. Che dio ci aiuti.

  • sharonsj

    We didn’t live in a tin shack, but my family was lower middle class. My father was a salesman and my mother a homemaker. We didn’t have much, but I never went hungry and I wasn’t envious because the entire neighborhood was the same way.

    Now we have extreme consumerism that no one can afford. But so many people are broke that old-fashioned values are coming back.

    That said, I have no problem with making the rich pay their fair share–which they haven’t for some time. The government gives out corporate welfare while the average American sinks under debt. I read that the oil companies make billions in profits but pay no taxes. We spend billions on foreign wars that do not make us safer, and the government ignores war profiteering.

    Perhaps if the government put the people first, instead of big business, we’d have the social programs to help poorer Americans.

  • Gary2

    Poor people provide jobs every time they purchase things. Business does not hire because of tax breaks but because of increased demand for their products or services.

    So yes-we need to heavily tax the rich and the big corporations who are now having record profits.

    The gross inequality of wealth and income is the major (90%) of the reason we are in the economic mess we are in.

    Are people really so dense they do not get this?? (Bruce I am thinking of you).

  • Leo Strauss

    Peace progress, and prosperity are destructive to oligarchy which requires violence and mayhem, including terrorism and war, in doses large enough to send world civilization back to the stone age. This implies genocide on a scale far beyond Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Today’s world population is about 6.25 billion, and barely subsists on the basis of realized technological and industrial progress. But under hunting and gathering conditions (food, guns, & gold), the demographic carrying capacity of the earth would be reduced to 25-50 million. So when you promote the dismantling of the homogeneous state (big government) through nihilist revolution you are in fact endorsing genocide of something approaching 6 billion.

  • Tom

    Republicans dont just hate hispanics and gays, they hate the middle class. The top 2% get a free ride at our expense.

  • abby

    My husband was squeezed out of his job last month from cuts the currant administration forced. I have a part time job I can barely hang onto because I was hit by a truck and his auto-insurance isn’t going to pay my medical bills and the pain makes it difficult to get through the working day. But at least one of us has a job and a $5 pizza on table is better then nothing. Dang, $5 is a real splurge now.

  • Kevin

    The developed world joined in trade agreements with nations where the standard of living did not even include electricity and running water. The delta in labor compensation between the developed world and the newly developing world guaranteed a flight of manufacturing to the latter. That flight of industry was also a flight of wealth reaching 50 billion in USD per month; month after month. That wealth was loaned back to the “developed” nations and for a period of time replaced the former wealth creating enployment that was continiously fleeing. Various nations increased their currency supply without inflation due to the very low cost of goods made in the third world. Both private and public debt swelled and all was good until the increasing debt could no longer be serviced. The economy then contracts and because it was based on debt. More debt is both the short term solution and the long term problem. We’re not facing a recession or depression but rather a global realignment of power. In the end the developed world drops and the developing world rises.

  • Handog

    I have lost most everything in the past three years. Its stunning to think that you can work hard for twenty something years and see it vanish so quickly. Oh, about a year into being underemployed I caught my wife hooking up with an old flame online. A sign of the times I suppose; Sell your soul for a feeling of financial security.

    I’m thankful for our multi-millionaire “public servants” and their terrific foreign and domestic policies.

  • Exiled due to poverty

    Thanks for this great blog! I have enjoyed some of the commentary. I can hardly stand to think about my life four years ago, though modest, so much better. I was employed, had insurance and a car, etc. Due to unemployment, health trouble which led to disability, I have had little choice (as a single older woman with poor health) than to leave the USA, which I consider my home even though I have nothing but contempt for we have allowed the government to turn into, to live in South America where I was born, as I can just barely get by with my few American bucks which may vanish at any moment. I can live in a decent place, eat and that’s about it. I have had to leave my son and grandchildren, my sister, my friends, everything I love, including so many resources one takes for granted such as public libraries to live in the Third World, where women are devalued, crime is high, hygiene is poor, ecological consciousness is almost zero, and even here, I don’t know if I can afford medical insurance, which is cheap comparatively, or dental care. Thank God for the internet and for blogs such as these. I made an attempt recently to go back and try for part-time work which failed and out of fear of homelessness and an inablility to continue hauling groceries on city buses, using a cart to do laundry, etc. decided I would have to face the music. This is not to say there is nothing to enjoy here, but I do not have a lot of respect for people who have cities with major intersections with no traffic lights, and will definitely run you down if you don’t get out of there way, who have terrible noise pollution, and much more.
    After working hard as a single mother all my life, I never thought that I would see the day I would be an unwilling exile, although many foresee class warfare in the USA, and much worse. For those of you on food stamps and unemployment, thank god you live in a country that has them. This country does not.

  • http://www.dyslexiaa2z.com/learning_difficulties/dyscalculia/dyscalculia.html Dyscalculia Daisy

    The Irish bailout, like the Greece bailout and the looming Portugal bailout, isn’t about saving the Irish people, it’s about preserving the privately-owned banking system that acts like a parasite on those same people. Soon there’ll be a Spanish bailout, perhaps French, German & UK bailouts too – when are people everywhere going to stand up and refuse to put up with this nonsense?

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