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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why is this happening?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How marvelous is that?

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

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

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

We Might As Well Face It – America Is Addicted To Debt

Debt Tree - Public DomainCorporations, individuals and the federal government continue to rack up debt at a rate that is far faster than the overall rate of economic growth.  We are literally drowning in red ink from sea to shining sea, and yet we just can’t help ourselves.  Consumer credit has doubled since the year 2000.  Student loan debt has doubled over the course of the past decade.  Business debt has doubled since 2006.  And of course the debt of the federal government has doubled since 2007.  Anyone that believes that this is “sustainable” in any way, shape or form is crazy.  We have accumulated the greatest mountain of debt that the world has ever seen, and yet despite all of the warnings we just continue to race forward into financial oblivion.  There is no possible way that this is going to end well.

Just the other day, a financial story that USA Today posted really got my attention.  It contained charts and graphs that showed that business debt in the U.S. had doubled since 2006.  I knew that things were bad, but I didn’t know that they were this bad.  Back in 2006, just prior to the last major economic downturn, U.S. nonfinancial companies had a total of about 2.6 trillion dollars of debt.  Now, that total has skyrocketed to 5.8 trillion

Companies are sitting on a record $1.82 trillion in cash. That might sound impressive until you hear companies owe three times more – $5.8 trillion, according to a new report from Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services.

Debt levels are soaring at U.S. non-financial companies so quickly – total debt outstanding rose $650 billion in 2014, which is six times faster than the $100 billion in added cash.

So are we in better condition to handle an economic crisis than we were the last time, or are we in worse shape?

Let’s look at another category of debt.  According to new data that just came out, the total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. is up to a staggering 1.2 trillion dollars.  That total has more than doubled over the past decade…

New data released by The Associated Press shows student loan debt is over $1.2 trillion, which is more than double the amount of a decade ago.

Students are facing an average of $35,000 in debt, that’s the highest of any graduating class in U.S. history. A senior at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Jon Cheek, knows the struggle first hand.

“It’s been a pretty big concern, I work while I go to school. I applied for a bunch of scholarships and done everything I can to try and keep it low,” said Cheek.

And of course it isn’t just student loan debt.  American consumers have had a love affair with debt that stretches back for decades.  As the chart below demonstrates, overall consumer credit has more than doubled since the year 2000…

consumer credit outstanding

If our paychecks were increasing at this same pace, that would be one thing.  But they aren’t.  In fact, real median household income is actually lower today than it was just prior to the last economic crisis.

So American households should actually be cutting back on debt.  But instead, they are just piling on more debt, and the financial predators are becoming even more creative.  In a previous article,  I discussed how many auto loans are now being stretched out for seven years.  At this point, the number of auto loans that exceed 72 months is at an all-time high

The average new car loan has reached a record 67 months, reports Experian, the Ireland-based information-services company. The percentage of loans with terms of 73 to 84 months also reached a new high of 29.5% in the first quarter of 2015, up from 24.9% a year earlier.

Long-term used-vehicle loans also broke records with loan terms of 73 to 84 months reaching 16% in the first quarter 2015, up from 12.94% — also the highest on record.

When will we learn?

The crash of 2008 should have been a wake up call.

We should have acknowledged our mistakes and we should have started doing things very differently.

But instead, we just kept on making the exact same mistakes.  In fact, our long-term financial problems have continued to accelerate since the last recession.  Just look at what has happened to our national debt.  Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was sitting at approximately 9 trillion dollars.  Today, it is over 18 trillion dollars…

National Debt

Our debt has grown so large that we will never be able to get out from under it.  This is something that I covered in my recent article entitled “It Is Mathematically Impossible To Pay Off All Of Our Debt“.  Because of our recklessness, our children, our grandchildren and all future generations of Americans are consigned to a lifetime of debt slavery.  What we have done to them is beyond criminal.  If we lived in a just society, a whole bunch of people would be going to prison for the rest of their lives over this.

During fiscal year 2014, the debt of the federal government increased by more than a trillion dollars.  But in addition to that, the federal government has more than seven trillion dollars of debt that must be “rolled over” every year.  In other words, the government must issue more than seven trillion dollars of new debt just to pay off old debts that are coming due.

As long as the rest of the world continues to lend us enormous mountains of money at ridiculously low interest rates, we can continue to keep our heads above the water.  But this can change at any time.  And once it does, interest rates will rise.  If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was to return to the long-term average, we would very quickly find ourselves spending more than a trillion dollars a year just on interest on the national debt.

The debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying now is not real.  It is a false prosperity that has been purchased by selling future generations into debt slavery.  We have mortgaged the future to make our own lives better.

We are addicts.  We are addicted to debt, and no matter how many warnings we receive, we just can’t help ourselves.

Shame on you America.

The Financial Markets Freak Out When The Fed Hints That It May Slow Down The Injections

Panic Button By John On FlickrU.S. financial markets are exhibiting the classic behavior patterns of an addict.  Just a hint that the Fed may start slowing down the flow of the “juice” was all that it took to cause the financial markets to throw an epic temper tantrum on Wednesday.  In fact, one CNN article stated that the markets “freaked out” when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed would eventually start tapering the bond buying program if the economy improves.  And please note that Bernanke did not announce that the money printing would actually slow down any time soon.  He just said that it may be “appropriate to moderate the pace of purchases later this year” if the economy is looking good.  For now, the Fed is going to continue wildly printing money and injecting it into the financial markets.  So nothing has actually changed yet.  But just the suggestion that this round of quantitative easing would eventually end if the economy improves was enough to severely rattle Wall Street on Wednesday.  U.S. financial markets have become completely and totally addicted to easy money, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen when the Fed takes the “smack” away.  When that day comes, will the largest bond bubble in the history of the world burst?  Will interest rates rise dramatically?  Will it throw the U.S. economy into another deep recession?

Judging by what happened on Wednesday, the end of Fed bond buying is not going to go well.  Just check out the carnage that we witnessed…

-The Dow dropped by 206 points on Wednesday.

-The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries shot up substantially, and it is now the highest that it has been since March 2012.

-On Wednesday we witnessed the largest percentage rise in the yield on 5 year U.S. Treasury bonds ever.  It is now the highest that it has been in nearly two years.

-It was announced that mortgage rates are the highest that they have been in more than a year.

-We also learned that the MBS mortgage refinance applications index has fallen by 38 percent over the past six weeks.

If the markets react like this when the Fed doesn’t even do anything, what are they going to do when the Fed actually starts cutting back the monetary injections?

Posted below is an excerpt from the statement that the Fed released on Wednesday.  Please note that the Fed is saying that the current quantitative easing program is going to continue at the same pace for right now…

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee decided to continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.

The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. The Committee will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. The Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will continue to take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases as well as the extent of progress toward its economic objectives.

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored. In determining how long to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy, the Committee will also consider other information, including additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.

So why doesn’t the Federal Reserve just stop these emergency measures right now?

After all, we are supposed to be in the midst of an “economic recovery”, right?

What is Bernanke afraid of?

That is a question that Rick Santelli of CNBC asked on Wednesday.  If you have not seen his epic rant yet, you should definitely check it out…

On days like this, it is easy to see who has the most influence over the U.S. economy.  The financial world literally hangs on every word that comes out of the mouth of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.  The same cannot be said about Barack Obama or anyone else.

The central planners over at the Federal Reserve are at the very heart of what is wrong with our economy and our financial system.  If you doubt this, please see this article: “11 Reasons Why The Federal Reserve Should Be Abolished“.  Bernanke knows that the actions that the Fed has taken in recent years have grossly distorted our financial system, and he is concerned about what is going to happen when the Fed starts removing those emergency measures.

Unfortunately, we can’t send the U.S. financial system off to rehab at a clinic somewhere.  The entire world is going to watch as our financial markets go through withdrawal.

The Fed has purposely inflated a massive financial bubble, and now it is trying to figure out what to do about it.  Can the Fed fix this mess without it totally blowing up?

Unfortunately, most severe addictions never end well.  In a recent article, Charles Hugh Smith described the predicament that the Fed is currently facing quite eloquently…

One of the enduring analogies of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing (QE) program is that the stock market is now addicted to this constant injection of free money. The aptness of this analogy has never been more apparent than now, as the market plummets on the mere rumor that the Fed will cut back its monthly injection of financial smack. (The analogy typically refers to crack cocaine, due to the state of delusional euphoria QE induces in the stock market. But the zombified state of the heroin addict is arguably the more accurate analogy of the U.S. stock market.)

You know the key self-delusion of all addiction: “I can stop any time I want.” This eerily echoes the language of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who routinely declares he can stop QE any time he chooses.

But Ben, the pusher of QE money, knows his addict–the stock market–will die if the smack is cut back too abruptly. Like all pushers, Ben has his own delusion: that he can actually control the addiction he has nurtured.

You’re dreaming, Ben–your pushing QE has backed you into a corner. The addict (the stock market) is now so dependent and fragile that the slightest decrease in QE smack will send it to the emergency room, and quite possibly the morgue.

We are rapidly approaching a turning point.  We have a massively inflated stock market bubble, a massively inflated bond bubble, and a financial system that is absolutely addicted to easy money.

The Fed is desperately hoping that it can find a way to engineer some sort of a soft landing.

The Fed is desperately hoping to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis of 2008.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke insists that he knows how to handle things this time.

Do you believe him?

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