40 Percent Of U.S. Workers Make Less Than What A Full-Time Minimum Wage Worker Made In 1968

1968 Shelby GT350 - Photo by Ben CossitorAre American workers paid enough?  That is a topic that is endlessly debated all across this great land of ours.  Unfortunately, what pretty much everyone can agree on is that American workers are not making as much as they used to after you account for inflation.  Back in 1968, the minimum wage in the United States was $1.60 an hour.  That sounds very small, but after you account for inflation a very different picture emerges.  Using the inflation calculator that the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides, $1.60 in 1968 is equivalent to $10.74 today.  And of course the official government inflation numbers have been heavily manipulated to make inflation look much lower than it actually is, so the number for today should actually be substantially higher than $10.74, but for purposes of this article we will use $10.74.  If you were to work a full-time job at $10.74 an hour for a full year (with two weeks off for vacation), you would make about $21,480 for the year.  That isn’t a lot of money, but according to the Social Security Administration, 40.28% of all workers make less than $20,000 a year in America today.  So that means that more than 40 percent of all U.S. workers actually make less than what a full-time minimum wage worker made back in 1968.  That is how far we have fallen.

The other day I wrote an article which discussed the transition that we are witnessing in our economy right now.  Good paying full-time jobs are disappearing, and they are being replaced by low paying part-time jobs.  So far this year, 76.7 percent of the jobs that have been “created” in the U.S. economy have been part-time jobs.

That would be depressing enough, but what makes it worse is that wages for many of these low paying jobs have actually been declining over the past decade even as the cost of living keeps going up.  The following is from a recent USA Today article

In the years between 2002 and 2012, real median wages dropped by at least 5% in five of the top 10 low-wage jobs, including food preparers and housekeepers.

So where have the good jobs gone?

Well, there are three long-term trends that are absolutely crushing American workers right now.

First of all, thanks to our very foolish politicians American workers have been merged into a global labor pool where they must directly compete for jobs with workers on the other side of the planet that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.  This has resulted in millions upon millions of good jobs leaving this country.  Big corporations can pad their profits by taking a job from an American worker making $15 an hour with benefits and giving it to a worker on the other side of the globe that is willing to work for less than a dollar an hour with no benefits.  Our politicians could do something about this, but they refuse to do so.  Most of them are absolutely married to the idea of a one world economic system that will unite the globe.  Unfortunately, the U.S. economy is going to continue to lose tens of thousands of businesses and millions upon millions of jobs to this one world economic system.

Secondly, big corporations are replacing as many expensive workers with machines, computers and robots as they possibly can.  As technology continues to advance at a blistering pace, the need for workers (especially low-skilled workers) will continue to decrease.  Unfortunately, the jobs that are being lost to technology are not coming back any time soon.

Thirdly, the overall U.S. economy has been steadily declining for more than a decade.  If you doubt this, just read this article.  As our economy continues to get weaker, the lack of jobs is going to become a bigger and bigger problem.

And as our economy systematically loses good jobs, more Americans are forced to become dependent on the government.

Back in 1979, there was about one American on food stamps for every manufacturing job.  Today, there are about four Americans on food stamps for every manufacturing job.

When I first found that statistic I was absolutely stunned.  How in the world can anyone out there deny that the U.S. economy is collapsing?

But as I mentioned above, it isn’t just that the number of jobs is not what it should be.  The quality of our jobs is declining as well.  For example, one study found that between 1969 and 2009 the wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 declined by 27 percent after you account for inflation.

That is a pretty stunning decline.  And it has only accelerated in recent years.  Median household income (adjusted for inflation) has fallen by 7.8 percent since the year 2000, and the ratio of wages and salaries to GDP in the United States is near an all-time record low.

Most Americans are finding that their bills just keep going up but their paychecks are not.  This is causing the middle class to wither away, and most families are just trying to survive from month to month at this point.  In fact, according to one recent survey 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

So where do we go from here?

To some people the answer is simple.  They say that we should substantially raise the minimum wage.  And yes, that would definitely make life a bit better for lots of low paid workers out there, but it would also have some very negative side effects.  A substantially higher minimum wage would mean higher prices at retail stores and restaurants, and it would also greatly increase the incentive that corporations have to replace American workers with foreign workers or with technology.  We already have rampant unemployment in this country, and right now there are more than 100 million working age Americans that do not have a job.  We certainly don’t want to make that worse.

So raising the minimum wage would not solve our problems.  It would just redistribute our problems.

What we really need to do is to return to the principles that once made this country great.  In early America, we protected our markets with high tariffs.  Access to the U.S. market was a privilege.  Foreign domination was kept out, and our economy thrived.

It is definitely not “conservative” and it should not be “liberal” to stand by and watch millions upon millions of our good jobs get shipped over to communist China.  We need more “economic patriots” in America today, but unfortunately they appear to be a minority at this point.

And once upon a time the U.S. economy was actually a free market system where rules, regulations and red tape were kept to a minimum.  Our nation blossomed under such a system.  Sadly, today we have become a nation that literally has millions of laws, rules and regulations.  The control freaks seem to run everything.  In fact, the Obama administration recently forced one small-time magician out in Missouri to submit a 32 page disaster plan for the little rabbit that he uses in his magic shows for kids.  That is a very humorous example, but it is a perfect illustration of how absurd our system has become.

Another thing we could do to turn this around would be to get rid of the IRS and the income tax.  Did you know that the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was during a time when there was absolutely no income tax?  If you doubt this, just read this article.

And of course probably the most important thing that we could do for our economy would be to get rid of the Federal Reserve.  The Fed is a massive Ponzi scheme and it has played a primary role in creating almost every single financial bubble in the post-World War II era.  Right now we are living in the greatest bond bubble in the history of the planet, and when that Fed-created bubble bursts the pain is going to be absolutely excruciating.  In addition, the value of our currency has declined by over 96 percent and the size of the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger since the Fed was created.  The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of our economic problems, and we desperately need to shut it down.

Unfortunately, our politicians are not even willing to consider these solutions, and most Americans are way too busy watching Toddlers & Tiaras, Honey Boo Boo and other mindless television programs to be bothered with the real problems that our country is facing.

So needless to say, the great economic storm that is coming is not going to be averted.  Most of the country is still asleep, and most people are going to get absolutely blindsided by the economic nightmare that is rapidly approaching.

The 2 Billion Dollar Loss By JP Morgan Is Just A Preview Of The Coming Collapse Of The Derivatives Market

When news broke of a 2 billion dollar trading loss by JP Morgan, much of the financial world was absolutely stunned.  But the truth is that this is just the beginning.  This is just a very small preview of what is going to happen when we see the collapse of the worldwide derivatives market.  When most Americans think of Wall Street, they think of a bunch of stuffy bankers trading stocks and bonds.  But over the past couple of decades it has evolved into much more than that.  Today, Wall Street is the biggest casino in the entire world.  When the “too big to fail” banks make good bets, they can make a lot of money.  When they make bad bets, they can lose a lot of money, and that is exactly what just happened to JP Morgan.  Their Chief Investment Office made a series of trades which turned out horribly, and it resulted in a loss of over 2 billion dollars over the past 40 days.  But 2 billion dollars is small potatoes compared to the vast size of the global derivatives market.  It has been estimated that the the notional value of all the derivatives in the world is somewhere between 600 trillion dollars and 1.5 quadrillion dollars.  Nobody really knows the real amount, but when this derivatives bubble finally bursts there is not going to be nearly enough money on the entire planet to fix things.

Sadly, a lot of mainstream news reports are not even using the word “derivatives” when they discuss what just happened at JP Morgan.  This morning I listened carefully as one reporter described the 2 billion dollar loss as simply a “bad bet”.

And perhaps that is easier for the American people to understand.  JP Morgan made a series of really bad bets and during a conference call last night CEO Jamie Dimon admitted that the strategy was “flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed and poorly monitored”.

The funny thing is that JP Morgan is considered to be much more “risk averse” than most other major Wall Street financial institutions are.

So if this kind of stuff is happening at JP Morgan, then what in the world is going on at some of these other places?

That is a really good question.

For those interested in the technical details of the 2 billion dollar loss, an article posted on CNBC described exactly how this loss happened….

The failed hedge likely involved a bet on the flattening of a credit derivative curve, part of the CDX family of investment grade credit indices, said two sources with knowledge of the industry, but not directly involved in the matter. JPMorgan was then caught by sharp moves at the long end of the bet, they said. The CDX index gives traders exposure to credit risk across a range of assets, and gets its value from a basket of individual credit derivatives.

In essence, JP Morgan made a series of bets which turned out very, very badly.  This loss was so huge that it even caused members of Congress to take note.  The following is from a statement that U.S. Senator Carl Levin issued a few hours after this news first broke….

“The enormous loss JPMorgan announced today is just the latest evidence that what banks call ‘hedges’ are often risky bets that so-called ‘too big to fail’ banks have no business making.”

Unfortunately, the losses from this trade may not be over yet.  In fact, if things go very, very badly the losses could end up being much larger as a recent Zero Hedge article detailed….

Simple: because it knew with 100% certainty that if things turn out very, very badly, that the taxpayer, via the Fed, would come to its rescue. Luckily, things turned out only 80% bad. Although it is not over yet: if credit spreads soar, assuming at $200 million DV01, and a 100 bps move, JPM could suffer a $20 billion loss when all is said and done. But hey: at least “net” is not “gross” and we know, just know, that the SEC will get involved and make sure something like this never happens again.

And yes, the SEC has announced an “investigation” into this 2 billion dollar loss.  But we all know that the SEC is basically useless.  In recent years SEC employees have become known more for watching pornography in their Washington D.C. offices than for regulating Wall Street.

But what has become abundantly clear is that Wall Street is completely incapable of policing itself.  This point was underscored in a recent commentary by Henry Blodget of Business Insider….

Wall Street can’t be trusted to manage—or even correctly assess—its own risks.

This is in part because, time and again, Wall Street has demonstrated that it doesn’t even KNOW what risks it is taking.

In short, Wall Street bankers are just a bunch of kids playing with dynamite.

There are two reasons for this, neither of which boil down to “stupidity.”

  • The first reason is that the gambling instruments the banks now use are mind-bogglingly complicated. Warren Buffett once described derivatives as “weapons of mass destruction.” And those weapons have gotten a lot more complex in the past few years.
  • The second reason is that Wall Street’s incentive structure is fundamentally flawed: Bankers get all of the upside for winning bets, and someone else—the government or shareholders—covers the downside.

The second reason is particularly insidious. The worst thing that can happen to a trader who blows a huge bet and demolishes his firm—literally the worst thing—is that he will get fired. Then he will immediately go get a job at a hedge fund and make more than he was making before he blew up the firm.

We never learned one of the basic lessons that we should have learned from the financial crisis of 2008.

Wall Street bankers take huge risks because the risk/reward ratio is all messed up.

If the bankers make huge bets and they win, then they win big.

If the bankers make huge bets and they lose, then the federal government uses taxpayer money to clean up the mess.

Under those kind of conditions, why not bet the farm?

Sadly, most Americans do not even know what derivatives are.

Most Americans have no idea that we are rapidly approaching a horrific derivatives crisis that is going to make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

According to the Comptroller of the Currency, the “too big to fail” banks have exposure to derivatives that is absolutely mind blowing.  Just check out the following numbers from an official U.S. government report….

JPMorgan Chase – $70.1 Trillion

Citibank – $52.1 Trillion

Bank of America – $50.1 Trillion

Goldman Sachs – $44.2 Trillion

So a 2 billion dollar loss for JP Morgan is nothing compared to their total exposure of over 70 trillion dollars.

Overall, the 9 largest U.S. banks have a total of more than 200 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  That is approximately 3 times the size of the entire global economy.

It is hard for the average person on the street to begin to comprehend how immense this derivatives bubble is.

So let’s not make too much out of this 2 billion dollar loss by JP Morgan.

This is just chicken feed.

This is just a preview of coming attractions.

Soon enough the real problems with derivatives will begin, and when that happens it will shake the entire global financial system to the core.

Let Them Eat Cake: 10 Examples Of How The Elite Are Savagely Mocking The Poor

There is absolutely nothing wrong with working hard and making a lot of money, but there is something wrong with being completely arrogant and smug about it.  Today, many among the elite are savagely mocking the poor, and that is a huge mistake.  You shouldn’t kick people when they are down.  There are tens of millions of Americans that are deeply frustrated about losing their homes, losing their jobs or barely being able to survive in this economy.  These frustrations have been one of the primary reasons for the rise of the Tea Party movement and the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  What these movements have in common is that people in both movements are sick and tired of the status quo and they want something to be done about our broken system.  There are huge numbers of families out there right now that have just about reached the end of their ropes.  Instead of showing compassion, many of the ultra-wealthy have decided that it is funny to mock the poor and those that are suffering.  So how are all of these protesters going to respond to the “let them eat cake” attitude of the Wall Street elite?  The protesters are being told that nothing that they can do will change anything and that they should be grateful for what Wall Street and the ultra-wealthy have done for them.  They are essentially being told that they should just shut up and go home.  So will we see these protest movements become discouraged and die down, or will the patronizing attitudes of so many among the elite just inflame them even further?

Right now, there really are two different “Americas”.  In one America, the stock market is surging, corporate profits are soaring and BMW is operating factories at 110% of capacity just to keep up with demand.

In the other America, unemployment is rampant, millions of families are being kicked out of their homes and more than 45 million Americans are on food stamps.

There is more economic frustration in this country today than there has been at any other time since the Great Depression.  We are watching pressure build to very dangerous levels.

It is important to note that I certainly do not agree at all with the solutions being put forward by the organizers of the Occupy Wall Street protests.  As I have written about previously, collectivism is one of our biggest problems, and more collectivism is not going to solve anything.

But it is definitely understandable that people are incredibly upset about this economy and that they want to protest.  Most Americans realize that something is fundamentally wrong with our economic system.

Unfortunately, most of them do not understand how we have gotten to this point or what it is going to take to fix things.  That is one of the reasons why I write about economic issues so much.  We desperately need to educate America.

But what is undeniable is that there is a growing rage in this country that protest movements such as the Occupy Wall Street are giving a voice to.

Our system is badly broken.  The people out there protesting in the streets may not understand much, but they do understand that something needs to change.

The Wall Street elite should be taking these protests as a signal that they need to get their house in order.  The status quo just is not going to cut it.  But instead of taking leadership and calling for significant change, many among the elite are openly mocking the protesters.

The incredible arrogance displayed by so many on Wall Street and by so many in Washington D.C. is absolutely appalling.

The following are 10 examples of how the elite are openly mocking the poor in America today….

#1 According to an article in The New York Times, poor families that lost their homes to foreclosure were openly mocked during a Halloween party thrown by the law firm of Steven J. Baum.  This particular law firm represents many of the largest mortgage lenders in the United States….

The firm, which is located near Buffalo, is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. Steven J. Baum is, in fact, the largest such firm in New York; it represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

Photos from this Halloween party are posted on The New York Times website.  To say that they are appalling would be a huge understatement.  The following is how The New York Times described one of the photos….

In one, two Baum employees are dressed like homeless people. One is holding a bottle of liquor. The other has a sign around her neck that reads: “3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served.” My source said that “I was never served” is meant to mock “the typical excuse” of the homeowner trying to evade a foreclosure proceeding.

#2 To many on Wall Street, the OWS protests are one big joke.  In fact, Wall Street executives have been spotted sipping champagne while watching the Occupy Wall Street protests from their balconies.

#3 In response to the Occupy Chicago protests, signs were put up in the windows of the building where the Chicago Board of Trade is located that spelled out this sentence: “We Are The 1%“.

#4 Many columnists for major financial publications have had no fear of mocking the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  For example, Doug Hirschhorn recently wrote the following for Forbes….

As your Occupation of Wall Street continues, you may want to grasp a few things. First, it is not going to change anything in the short term and probably not much in the long-term either.

I hate to be the bearer of that news, but money makes the world go round and “Wall Street” is all about money. Second, the top traders, banks and hedge funds are still going to out earn and generate substantial profits from speculating on the disconnects in the prices of things generated from all the moving parts in the global economy and it has nothing to do with why you lost your house or job or can’t find a job. If anything the successful ones are helping you, your pensions funds, retirement savings and the economy in general. If Wall Street stops. The world stops. Period.

#5 Instead of attempting a balanced report on the Occupy Wall Street protests, Erin Burnett of CNN openly made fun of them during a recent broadcast.  After being a stalwart on CNBC for so many years, Burnett has very close ties to Wall Street and apparently she does not like anyone criticizing her friends.  You can see video of Burnett mocking the Occupy Wall Street movement right here.

#6 Barack Obama continues to mock the poor by telling them to cut back on vacations and little luxuries like going out to eat while at the same time sending his own family out on incredibly expensive vacations.  The following is one example I noted in an article earlier this year….

Barack Obama recently made the following statement to American families that are struggling to survive in this economy: “If you’re a family trying to cut back, you might skip going out to dinner, or you might put off a vacation.” A few days after making that statement Obama sent his wife and children off on yet another vacation, this time to a luxury ski hotel in Vail, Colorado.

Later on in that same article I mentioned another outrageously expensive vacation taken by the Obamas that was paid for by our taxes….

Back in August, Michelle Obama took her daughter Sasha and 40 of her friends for a vacation in Spain.

So what was the bill to the taxpayers for that little jaunt across the pond?

It is estimated that vacation alone cost U.S. taxpayers $375,000.

During a time when so many millions of American families are deeply, deeply suffering it is truly appalling that the residents of the White House would be so insensitive.

#7 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain recently declared that anyone that is unemployed or poor in America should only blame themselves….

“Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”

#8 Sometimes our politicians are so insensitive that it is almost hard to believe.  In an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News while she was still the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi stated that we need poor people to have less children because it costs the government so much money to take care of them….

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?

PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.

#9 Warren Buffett has some interesting observations on class warfare.  He is one of the few wealthy Americans that is willing to say what everyone else is thinking.  Back in 2006, Buffett was quoted as saying the following in an article in The New York Times….

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Buffett was not taking pride in the fact that the elite have won, but there are many others among the elite that are very proud of what they have done and they are not afraid to look down on the poor.

The level of income inequality that we have in the United States today is absolutely amazing.  According to data from a few years ago, the average household income for the top 0.01% of all Americans was $27,342,212.  According to that same data, for the bottom 90% of all Americans the average household income was just $31,244.

#10 Every single day, our “representatives” in Washington D.C. are living the high life at our expense.  It is amazing that out of the entire population of the United States, we continue to overwhelming elect rich people to Congress.  As I noted in a recent article, more than half of all the members of Congress are millionaires, and the median wealth of a U.S. Senator in 2009 was 2.38 million dollars.

Without a doubt, the wealthy rule over us all and they intend to maintain control and perpetuate the system which has rewarded them so handsomely.

When necessary, they are not afraid to call in the police to bust some skulls.  Sadly, we are already seeing some brutally violent confrontations between law enforcement authorities and Occupy Wall Street protesters in many areas of the country.  The other day, I wrote about the horrific violence that took place in Oakland recently….

Unfortunately, the authorities are not just going to sit by and watch these protests happen.  In fact, they are already clamping down hard in many areas of the nation.  For example, police in Oakland recently used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the Occupy protest in that city.  When police opened fire, the streets of Oakland literally became a war zone for a few minutes.  You can see shocking videos of the violence here, here and here.

Power and wealth have become incredibly concentrated in the United States today.  As one scientific study demonstrated recently, the elite control almost the entire global economy.  In fact, the University of Zurich study discovered that there are just 147 gigantic corporations at the core of it all.

It is not a good thing that such a very small group of people completely dominates all the rest of us.

Once again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with working hard, making great contributions to society and becoming very wealthy.

However, what we have today is a fundamentally broken system that funnels most of the wealth and most of the power into the hands of the ultra-wealthy and the gigantic corporations that they own.

It would be great if the American people could come together and work to make some positive changes to our system.

But right now, it appears that strife, discord and hatred are going to continue to rapidly grow in this country.  We have become a very divided nation and we are watching anger and frustration grow to very dangerous levels.

All of this is a recipe for mass chaos.  Our country is marching toward a date with disaster and right now we show no signs of changing course.

Please pray for America.

We definitely need it.

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