The Beginning Of The End
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221 Percent Increase In One Year? Why Are So Many People Renouncing American Citizenship?

American FlagThe number of Americans that renounced their citizenship was 221 percent higher in 2013 than it was in 2012.  That is a staggering figure, and it is symptomatic of a larger trend.  In recent years, a lot of really good people with very deep roots in this country have made the difficult decision to say goodbye to the United States permanently.  A few actually go to the trouble to renounce their citizenship, and that is mostly done for tax purposes.  But most willingly choose to leave America for other reasons.  Some were very serious when they said they would leave the U.S. if Barack Obama got a second term, some (such as Jesse Ventura) are dismayed at how our freedoms and liberties are eroding and are alarmed at the rise of the Big Brother police state, some are absolutely disgusted by the social and moral decay that is eating away at the foundations of our society, and there are yet others that consider “the grass to be greener” on the other side of the planet.  Personally, I have a number of friends that have made the very hard decision to relocate their families thousands of miles away because they see what is coming to America and they believe that there isn’t any hope of turning things around at this point.  I also have a lot of friends that are determined to stay in the United States no matter what.  When it comes to the future of America, almost everyone has a very strong opinion, and these are discussions that we need to start having.

Once upon a time, the United States was seen as “the land of opportunity” all over the globe and it seemed like everyone wanted to come here.

But now that is all changing.  As we have abandoned the principles that this country was founded upon, our economy has gone steadily downhill.

As I wrote about the other day, the middle class in America is slowly dying.  As millions of good paying jobs have been shipped out of the country, the competition for the remaining jobs has become quite intense.  At this point, there is even tremendous competition for minimum wage jobs.

Compared to exactly six years ago, 1,154,000 fewer Americans have jobs.  Meanwhile, our population has gotten significantly larger since then.  There simply are not enough jobs for everyone, and we continue to fall even farther behind.  In January, the economy only added 113,000 jobs and in December the economy only added 75,000 jobs.  Both of those figures are well below what we need just to keep up with population growth.

Looking ahead, things look even more troubling.

The number of “planned job cuts” in January was 12 percent higher than 12 months earlier, and it was actually 47 percent higher than in December.

The competition for jobs has also resulted in an extended period of declining incomes in the United States.

As I mention frequently, median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row, and the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row.

Those that read my articles regularly probably have those facts memorized by now.

In addition, a study that just came out has shown that the number of “low-wage breadwinners” in the United States is at an all-time high

A staggering number of American households are relying on low-wage jobs as their leading or sole source of income.

Meet the low-wage breadwinner. There were about 21 million of them in the United States in 2011, according to a forthcoming study by University of Massachusetts Boston economists Randy Albelda and Michael Carr.

Unlike other studies which often focus just on low-wage workers, the researchers looked at those who also live in low-income households. This way, they were able to strip out the teenager making $8 an hour flipping burgers but still living comfortably with his parents. Or the mom who works a part-time job in retail to supplement her husband’s otherwise ample salary.

For tens of millions of average American families, there simply is not enough money left at the end of each month.

That is why many of them turn to debt to try to make up the difference.  Consumer credit is increasing at an alarming pace once again, and when the next great economic shock arrives many of those families are going to be in for a tremendous amount of financial pain.

In this type of economic environment, it should not be a surprise that anger, frustration and desperation are rising to very dangerous levels.

It was desperation and a fear of losing everything that he had ever worked for that drove one 80-year-old man to become a methamphetamine courier.

It was intense anger and frustration that drove a 58-year-old military veteran to package up cat feces and send it to employers that had turned him down

Rather than simply grumble to himself or complain to others, a St. Louis man aggrieved by a company’s failure to hire him took another approach.

Jevons Brown packaged up cat feces and sent it through the mail.

Brown, 58, was sentenced Friday to two years of probation after pleading guilty in August to a misdemeanor charge of mailing injurious articles.

The plea says Brown, a veteran, became frustrated with his lack of employment opportunities and lashed out at employees of companies that failed to hire him.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

In the years ahead, we are going to see much, much worse.

And if you do lose everything, don’t expect anyone to care very much.  There is already a frightening lack of compassion for those that are down on their luck in the United States today.  For example, in Pensacola, Florida it is actually illegal for homeless people to use blankets or cardboard boxes to shield themselves from the cold…

So there I was with my wife and three kids, all of us huddled under blankets with the fireplace roaring, watching the temperature continue to drop from a comfortable 65 degrees down to 45. But outside it was 17 degrees and raining and sleeting, and if you were homeless, you had to consider that if you used a blanket to shield yourself from the elements, that you might be hauled off to jail for a violation of a local ordinance prohibiting using blankets, cardboard, or newspaper to cover yourself.

Once you lose everything, society just wants you to go away.

And this lack of compassion is going to get a whole lot worse during the very hard times that are coming.

So it is easy to understand why many Americans would want to get out of this country while they still can.

However, the truth is that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.

For instance, you may be dreaming of moving to a tropical paradise where you can enjoy the sand and the sun every single day.

In the past, many Americans considered Puerto Rico a good place to relocate to.  After all, it is a United States territory and if you only speak English you can still get around pretty well.

But you wouldn’t want to move down to Puerto Rico these days.  Right now it is in the middle of a full-blown economic collapse

Puerto Rico’s slow-motion economic crisis skidded to a new low last week when both Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s downgraded its debt to junk status, brushing aside a series of austerity measures taken by the new governor, including increasing taxes and rebalancing pensions. But that is only the latest in a sharp decline leading to widespread fears about Puerto Rico’s future. In the past eight years, Puerto Rico’s ticker tape of woes has stretched unabated: $70 billion in debt, a 15.4 percent unemployment rate, a soaring cost of living, pervasive crime, crumbling schools and a worrisome exodus of professionals and middle-class Puerto Ricans who have moved to places like Florida and Texas.

In fact, Puerto Rico is a preview of the kind of societal chaos that we could be seeing inside the United States in just a few years

Schools sit shuttered either because of disrepair or because of a dwindling number of students. In this typically convivial capital, communities have erected gates and bars to help thwart carjackers and home invaders. Illegal drugs, including high-level narcotrafficking, are one of the few growth industries.

Well, what about South America?

In recent years, South America has been an extremely popular destination for those wishing to leave the United States.

Unfortunately, many areas of South America are experiencing full-blown economic collapse right now as well.  As I wrote about recently, deteriorating economic conditions have resulted in widespread crime, looting, violence, blackouts, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks in Argentina and Venezuela.  The following is an excerpt from a recent interview with Fernando Aguirre who actually lives down in Argentina

Chris Martenson:  Okay. Bring us up to date. What is happening in Argentina right now with respect to its currency, the peso?

Fernando Aguirre:  Well, actually pretty recently, January 22, the peso lost 15% of its value. It has devalued quite a bit. It ended up losing 20% of its value that week, and it has been pretty crazy since then. Inflation has been rampant in some sectors, going up to 100% in food, grocery stores 20%, 30% in some cases. So it has been pretty complicated. Lots of stores don’t want to be selling stuff until they get updated prices. Suppliers holding on, waiting to see how things go, which is something that we are familiar with because that happened back in 2001 when everything went down as we know it did.

Chris Martenson:  So 100%, 20% inflation; are those yearly numbers?

Fernando Aguirre:  Those are our numbers in a matter of days. In just one day, for example, cement in Balcarce, one of the towns in Southern Argentina, went up 100% overnight, doubling in price. Grocery stores in Córdoba, even in Buenos Aires, people are talking about increase of prices of 20, 30% just these days. I actually have family in Argentina that are telling me that they go to a hardware store and they aren’t even able to buy stuff from there because stores want to hold on and see how prices unfold in the following days.

Well, what about Europe?

Isn’t Europe a lot more stable?

Unfortunately, that is not necessarily true.  In recent years we have seen rioting, civil unrest and Depression-like conditions in Ukraine, Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal.

And now you can add Bosnia to that list…

More than 150 people were wounded in Bosnia on Friday in the worst civil unrest in the country since the 1992-95 war as anger over the dire state of the economy and political inertia boiled over.

Angry protesters set fire to part of the presidential palace in Sarajevo in protests over unemployment and corruption, as well as government buildings in the capital Sarajevo, Tuzla and Zenica.

Just because you move out of the United States does not necessarily mean that you will avoid what is coming.

We are heading for a global economic collapse, and the pain is going to be felt to the farthest corners of the planet.

But of course there are many that will end up leaving the United States and will ultimately thrive.

So what do you think?

Is now a time for people to consider leaving the United States permanently?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

American Flag

If This Guy Is What The Future Of America Looks Like, We Are In BIG Trouble

Panic Button By John On FlickrShould taxpayer dollars be used to buy sushi and lobster for a young man whose future plans consist entirely of surfing and partying as much as he possibly can?  When I first saw the video that I am about to share with you, I was absolutely floored.  Recently, Fox News interviewed a self-described beach bum named Jason Greenslate who was very open about the fact that he has no problem sponging off of all the rest of us.  When he was asked if he ever had any interest in actually getting a job, his response was “not whatsoever”.  Instead, he says that his job is to “make sure the sun’s up and the girls are out” and he would rather spend his days partying.  Of course every American should be free to live their own lives as they see fit, but the problem is that Jason Greenslate is using food stamps to help support his lifestyle.  In fact, he took Fox News into the gourmet section of a local supermarket where he purchased sushi and lobster with his EBT card.  Sadly, he is just like millions of other young men in America today that seemingly have had the drive to succeed and to be independent totally sucked out of them.  But what is the future of America going to look like if we continue to produce millions upon millions of young men that have absolutely no desire to make a living, get married and start a family?

Posted below is video from the Fox News interview with Jason Greenslate.  If you are a taxpayer, this video should upset you greatly…

Of course the vast majority of those enrolled in the food stamp program are NOT like this.  As I wrote about the other day, the economic independence of middle class Americans is being systematically destroyed.  The percentage of self-employed Americans is at a record low and the percentage of Americans with a full-time job has dropped to a shockingly low level.

And the quality of our jobs continues to decline.  If you can believe it, 40 percent of all workers in the United States today actually make less than what a full-time minimum wage worker made back in 1968.

As a result of our ongoing economic problems, we have seen wave after wave of Americans forced to go on food stamps.  Between the year 2000 and the first inauguration of Barack Obama, the number of Americans on food stamps increased by 15 million.  Since Barack Obama has been in the White House, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 15 million more.

At this point we have a total of 47 million Americans on food stamps, and most of them definitely need the help.

But there are also those such as Jason Greenslate that are openly abusing the system and making it more difficult for those that actually need the help to get it.

Sadly, he is a product of the system that he was raised in.  There is a reason why so many young men are “checking out” and rejecting the traditional path of making a living, getting married and having a family.

In America today, the average American watches an average of 153 hours of television a month.  All of that “programming” has an extremely powerful impact on all of us.

The next time you watch a television show or a movie, take note of how young men are portrayed and watch what values are being promoted to them.  The truth is that they are not being taught to work hard, to be responsible or to want to be good fathers and good husbands.

It is easy to jump on Jason Greenslate, but the cold, hard reality of the matter is that there are millions of others out there just like him.  Consider the following numbers…

-In America today, 36 percent of all young adults in the 18 to 31 age bracket are currently living with their parents.

-Young men are nearly twice as likely to live with their parents as young women the same age are.

-In 2011, SAT scores for young men were the worst that they had been in 40 years.

-According to the New York Times, approximately 57 percent of all young people enrolled at U.S. colleges are women.  That means that only 43 percent are men.

-It is being projected that women will earn 60 percent of all Bachelor’s degrees from U.S. universities by the year 2016.

-Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.

-Between 1969 and 2009 the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 dropped by 27 percent after you account for inflation.

-As I mentioned in a previous article, the marriage rate in the United States has fallen to an all-time low…

The marriage rate has fluctuated in the past, with dips in the 1930s and 1960s, but it has been in steady decline since the 1970s. Now, researchers report that the marriage rate has dropped to a new low of 31.1, meaning there are about 31 marriages in the U.S. for every 1,000 unmarried women, researchers found. In 1950, that number was 90.2. In 1920, it was 92.3.

-Back in 1950, 78 percent of all households in the United States contained a married couple.  Today, that number has declined to 48 percent.

-Today, an all-time low 44.2 percent of all Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 are married.

 

-The U.S. family is rapidly breaking down.  100 years ago, 4.52 were living in the average U.S. household, but now the average U.S. household only consists of 2.59 people.

 

-At this point, approximately one out of every three children in America lives in a home without a father.

Instead of endeavoring to become a husband, a father and a productive member of society, Jason Greenslate wants to party on the “safety net” forever.

But if we continue to have millions upon millions more Americans jump on to the “safety net” eventually it will break.

Just this week, Fox News reported on another stunning abuse of the safety net.  Large numbers of illegal immigrants have learned that they can get across the border and get a free hotel room by claiming that they have a “credible fear” of the Mexican drug cartels…

A sudden influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico requesting asylum is overwhelming immigration agents in San Diego, forcing agencies to rent hotel rooms for some undocumented families and release others to cities around the U.S.

Documents obtained exclusively by Fox News show Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been paying for hotel rooms for dozens of recently arrived families to relieve overcrowding inside the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, Calif., processing centers. Some ICE employees are working overtime and others have been asked to volunteer to work weekend shifts. “Duties include intake, placements, transports and release of family groups and unaccompanied minors,” according to a memo obtained by Fox News.

The surge has raised suspicions about what is driving the influx, amid claims that illegal immigrants have learned they can attempt to get asylum by using a few key words — namely, by claiming they have a “credible fear” of drug cartels.

Yes, we definitely want to help the poor and those that truly need our assistance.  But at this point about half of all Americans get money from the government every month, and that number is climbing with each passing day.

Meanwhile, our economic system continues to get even closer to a meltdown.  On Tuesday I wrote about the stunning cluster of Hindenburg Omens that we have seen lately, and now another one has appeared.  On Wednesday we witnessed the 6th Hindenburg Omen that we have seen in the last 8 trading days.  The only similar clusters in recent history occurred just before the last financial crash and just before the end of the “dotcom boom”.

In addition, the level of margin debt continues to signal that big trouble is ahead.  We recently learned that margin debt hit a brand new all-time high of 384 billion dollars in April, and this is repeating a pattern that we saw just before the financial crash of 2008 and the busting of the dotcom bubble in 2000.

So what is going to happen when the next great financial crash arrives and millions upon millions more Americans are forced to turn to the government for assistance?

And what will happen when the government is forced to start cutting back on benefits because there isn’t enough money?

Sadly, our leaders do not understand that a crash is coming.  They keep insisting that everything is going to be just fine.

But remember, the last financial crash caught them entirely by surprise as well.  For example, one of the top contenders to be the next head of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, once made the following shocking admission about the last financial crisis…

“For my own part,” Ms. Yellen said, “I did not see and did not appreciate what the risks were with securitization, the credit ratings agencies, the shadow banking system, the S.I.V.’s — I didn’t see any of that coming until it happened.” Her startled interviewers noted that almost none of the officials who testified had offered a similar acknowledgment of an almost universal failure.

The blind are leading the blind, and none of them are going to see it coming.

But without a doubt the next great financial crash is rapidly approaching.

The system is failing, and people like Jason Greenslate are going to be in for a very rude awakening in the years ahead.

Now is the time to take responsibility, work hard and get prepared for the hard years that are coming.  Nobody else is going to do it for you, and when everything starts collapsing the government is NOT going to come riding to your rescue.

44 Facts About The Death Of The Middle Class That Every American Should Know

44What is America going to look like when the middle class is dead?  Once upon a time, the United States has the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the world.  When I was growing up, it seemed like almost everyone was “middle class” and it was very rare to hear of someone that was out of work.  Of course life wasn’t perfect, but most families owned a home, most families had more than one vehicle, and most families could afford nice vacations and save for retirement at the same time.  Sadly, things have dramatically changed in America since that time.  There just aren’t as many “middle class jobs” as there used to be.  In fact, just six years ago there were about six million more full-time jobs in our economy than there are right now.  Those jobs are being replaced by part-time jobs and temp jobs.  The number one employer in America today is Wal-Mart and the number two employer in America today is a temp agency (Kelly Services).  But you can’t support a family on those kinds of jobs.  We live at a time when incomes are going down but the cost of living just keeps going up.  As a result, the middle class in America is being absolutely shredded and the ranks of the poor are steadily growing.  The following are 44 facts about the death of the middle class that every American should know…

1. According to one recent survey, “four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives”.

2. The growth rate of real disposable personal income is the lowest that it has been in decades.

3. Median household income (adjusted for inflation) has fallen by 7.8 percent since the year 2000.

4. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

5. The home ownership rate in the United States is the lowest that it has been in 18 years.

6. It is more expensive to rent a home in America than ever before.  In fact, median asking rent for vacant rental units just hit a brand new all-time record high.

7. According to one recent survey, 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

8. The U.S. economy actually lost 240,000 full-time jobs last month, and the number of full-time workers in the United States is now about 6 million below the old record that was set back in 2007.

9. The largest employer in the United States right now is Wal-Mart.  The second largest employer in the United States right now is a temp agency (Kelly Services).

10. One out of every ten jobs in the United States is now filled through a temp agency.

11. According to the Social Security Administration, 40 percent of all workers in the United States make less than $20,000 a year.

12. The ratio of wages and salaries to GDP is near an all-time record low.

13. The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs.  60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

14. Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

15. At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

16. According to one study, between 1969 and 2009 the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 declined by 27 percent after you account for inflation.

17. In the year 2000, about 17 million Americans were employed in manufacturing.  Today, only about 12 million Americans are employed in manufacturing.

18. The United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.

19. The average number of hours worked per employed person per year has fallen by about 100 since the year 2000.

20. Back in the year 2000, more than 64 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  Today, only 58.7 percent of all working age Americans have a job.

21. When you total up all working age Americans that do not have a job, it comes to more than 100 million.

22. The average duration of unemployment in the United States is nearly three times as long as it was back in the year 2000.

23. The percentage of Americans that are self-employed has steadily declined over the past decade and is now at an all-time low.

24. Right now there are 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

25. In 1989, the debt to income ratio of the average American family was about 58 percent.  Today it is up to 154 percent.

26. Total U.S. household debt grew from just 1.4 trillion dollars in 1980 to a whopping 13.7 trillion dollars in 2007.  This played a huge role in the financial crisis of 2008, and the problem still has not been solved.

27. The total amount of student loan debt in the United States recently surpassed the one trillion dollar mark.

28. Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.

29. Back in the year 2000, the mortgage delinquency rate was about 2 percent.  Today, it is nearly 10 percent.

30. Consumer debt in the United States has risen by a whopping 1700% since 1971, and 46% of all Americans carry a credit card balance from month to month.

31. In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.

32. One study discovered that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt, and according to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies in the United States.

33. Each year, the average American must work 107 days just to make enough money to pay local, state and federal taxes.

34. Today, approximately 46.2 million Americans are living in poverty.

35. The number of Americans living in poverty has increased by more than 15 million since the year 2000.

36. Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

37. At this point, approximately 25 million American adults are living with their parents.

38. In the year 2000, there were only 17 million Americans on food stamps.  Today, there are more than 47 million Americans on food stamps.

39. Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, about one out of every 6.5 Americans is on food stamps.

40. Right now, the number of Americans on food stamps exceeds the entire population of the nation of Spain.

41. According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

42. At this point, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  This is the first time that has ever happened in our history.  That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

43. According to U.S. Census data, 57 percent of all American children live in a home that is either considered to be “poor” or “low income”.

44. In the year 2000, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages was approximately 21 percent.  Today, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages is approximately 35 percent.

And not only is the middle class being systematically destroyed right now, we are also destroying the bright economic future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have by accumulating gigantic mountains of debt in their names.  The following is from a recent article by Bill Bonner

Today, the U.S. lumbers into the future with total debt equal to about 350% of GDP. In Britain and Japan, the total is over 500%. Debt, remember, is the homage that the future pays to the past. It has to be carried, serviced… and paid. It has to be reckoned with… one way or another.

And the cost of carrying debt is going up! Over the last few weeks, interest rates have moved up by about 15% — an astounding increase for the sluggish debt market. How long will it be before long-term borrowing rates are back to “normal”?

At 5% interest, a debt that measures 3.5 times your revenue will cost about one-sixth of your income. Before taxes. After tax, you will have to work about one day a week to keep up with it (to say nothing of paying it off!).

That’s a heavy burden. It is especially disagreeable when someone else ran up the debt. Then you are a debt slave. That is the situation of young people today. They must face their parents’ debt. Even serfs in the Dark Ages had it better. They had to work only one day out of 10 for their lords and masters.

We were handed the keys to the greatest economic machine in the history of the planet and we wrecked it.

As young people realize that their futures have been destroyed, many of them are going to totally lose hope and give in to despair.

And desperate people do desperate things.  As our economy continues to crumble, we are going to see crime greatly increase as people do what they feel they need to do in order to survive.  In fact, we are already starting to see this happen.  Just this week, CNBC reported on the raging epidemic of copper theft that we are seeing all over the nation right now…

Copper is such a hot commodity that thieves are going after the metal anywhere they can find it: an electrical power station in Wichita, Kan., or half a dozen middle-class homes in Morris Township, N.J. Even on a Utah highway construction site, crooks managed to abscond with six miles of copper wire.

Those are just a handful of recent targets across the U.S. in the $1 billion business of copper theft.

“There’s no question the theft has gotten much, much worse,” said Mike Adelizzi, president of the American Supply Association, a nonprofit group representing distributors and suppliers in the plumbing, heating, cooling and industrial pipe industries.

The United States once had the greatest middle class in the history of the world, but now it it dying.

This is causing a tremendous amount of anger and frustration to build in this nation, and when the next major wave of the economic collapse strikes, a lot of that anger and frustration will likely be unleashed.

The American people don’t understand that these problems have taken decades to develop.  They just want someone to fix things.  They just want things to go back to the way that they used to be.

Unfortunately, the great economic storm that is coming is not going to be averted.

Get ready while you still can.  Time is running out.

How Has The U.S. Government Been Getting User Data From Major Internet Companies?

Prism****IMPORTANT UPDATE****  Apparently the big Internet companies are not as “innocent” in all of this as they originally led us to believe.  So this additional information changes some of the conclusions that I reached in my original article.  It appears that some of the biggest Internet companies have been cooperating with the government in this data collection effort at least to a certain extent.  The following is from an article in the New York Times that describes how the U.S. government has been getting user data from major Internet companies…

The companies that negotiated with the government include Google, which owns YouTube; Microsoft, which owns Hotmail and Skype; Yahoo; Facebook; AOL; Apple; and Paltalk, according to one of the people briefed on the discussions. The companies were legally required to share the data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. People briefed on the discussions spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are prohibited by law from discussing the content of FISA requests or even acknowledging their existence.

In at least two cases, at Google and Facebook, one of the plans discussed was to build separate, secure portals, like a digital version of the secure physical rooms that have long existed for classified information, in some instances on company servers. Through these online rooms, the government would request data, companies would deposit it and the government would retrieve it, people briefed on the discussions said.

****END OF UPDATE****

The U.S. government has been hacking in to the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple and has been taking their user data without their knowledge or consent.  According to the Washington Post, the information being stolen includes “audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs”.  This program is known as PRISM, and it was first revealed by the Washington Post on Thursday.  Since the story broke, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has admitted that PRISM exists and so has Barack Obama.  The Washington Post initially claimed that all of the Internet companies were willingly handing over their user data to the government.  Now we are learning that is NOT true.  In fact, all of the Internet companies named in the Washington Post story have denied knowing about PRISM or ever giving the federal government permission to directly access their servers.  So this means that the U.S. government has been stealing massive amounts of user data from the largest Internet companies in the world without their permission.  Of course this is highly illegal and it directly violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but you can bet that the Obama administration is going to do everything that it can to get the courts to “make it legal”.  Hopefully the revelation of this program will be enough to get the American people to realize that we are rapidly being transformed into a Big Brother police state that is descending into tyranny.

Barack Obama has described the systematic gathering of cell phone records and the Internet spying that the federal government has been doing as “modest encroachments” that we should all just accept as part of the price of living in a modern world, but if we allow the government to get away with this, where will it end?

Even if we had a total “Big Brother” society where the government watched everything that we did 24 hours a day, bad people would still do bad things.  There would still be terror attacks and great tragedies.  No matter how much the government intrudes into our lives, it can never guarantee us 100% safety.

Those that founded the United States understood this.  They did not want this country to be turned into a police state.  That is why they guaranteed us some very important protections in the Bill of Rights.  If the government wants to do a search, there are some very important procedures that must be followed first.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration appears to believe that the Constitution does not apply to user data on the Internet.  The NSA is apparently hacking into Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple and taking whatever they want without ever getting permission from those companies.

You can bet that there are some very, very angry executives at those companies right now that are trying to figure out how to respond to these revelations.

All of these companies have vehemently denied that they were involved.  At this point, there is no reason to doubt their very strong denials.

For example, the following is what 

Dear Google users—

You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CEO and Chief Legal Officer, we wanted you to have the facts.

First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.

Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period. Until this week’s reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received—an order that appears to have required them to hand over millions of users’ call records. We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.

Finally, this episode confirms what we have long believed—there needs to be a more transparent approach. Google has worked hard, within the confines of the current laws, to be open about the data requests we receive. We post this information on our Transparency Report whenever possible. We were the first company to do this. And, of course, we understand that the U.S. and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety—including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has issued a similar denial.  He insists that Facebook never even heard of PRISM until Thursday…

I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM:

Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn’t even heard of PRISM before yesterday.

When governments ask Facebook for data, we review each request carefully to make sure they always follow the correct processes and all applicable laws, and then only provide the information if is required by law. We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure.

We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. It’s the only way to protect everyone’s civil liberties and create the safe and free society we all want over the long term.

So how has the U.S. government been getting this user data if they do not have the cooperation of these large Internet companies?

They have been stealing it.

Is this the kind of society that we want to have?  Do we really want the government to be free to hack into the servers of Internet companies and take user data any time that it wants?

And guess what?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the NSA has also been gathering massive amounts of credit card data as well…

The National Security Agency’s monitoring of Americans includes customer records from the three major phone networks as well as emails and Web searches, and the agency also has cataloged credit-card transactions, said people familiar with the agency’s activities.

So if you ever bought something embarrassing with a credit card, there is a very good chance that the NSA knows about it.

If you don’t like where all of this is headed, then now is the time to stand up and say something about it.

Sadly, the truth is that most of our politicians see absolutely nothing wrong with our current system.  The following is what Barack Obama said in response to the recent revelations about the NSA

“You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society,” he said. “I think that on balance, we have established a policy and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable with.”

Do you feel comfortable with the fact that the NSA is hacking into major Internet companies and stealing their user data?

I know that I definitely am not.

I think that the journalist that originally broke the story about how the government is systematically gathering our phone records summed up what many of us are feeling right now pretty well

“There is a massive apparatus within the United States government that with complete secrecy has been building this enormous structure that has only one goal, and that is to destroy privacy and anonymity, not just in the United States but around the world,” charged Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for the British newspaper “The Guardian,” speaking on CNN. “That is not hyperbole. That is their objective.”

What do you think?

Is all of this government spying good for America or bad for America?

Please feel free to share your opinion by posting a comment below…

 

18 Signs That Massive Economic Problems Are Erupting All Over The Planet

Volcano Eruption - Mount RedoubtThis is no time to be complacent.  Massive economic problems are erupting all over the globe, but most people seem to believe that everything is going to be just fine.  In fact, a whole bunch of recent polls and surveys show that the American people are starting to feel much better about how the U.S. economy is performing.  Unfortunately, the false prosperity that we are currently enjoying is not going to last much longer.  Just look at what is happening in Europe.  The eurozone is now in the midst of the longest recession that it has ever experienced.  Just look at what is happening over in Asia.  Economic growth in India is the lowest that it has been in a decade and the Japanese financial system is beginning to spin wildly out of control.  One of the only places on the entire planet where serious economic problems have not already erupted is in the United States, and that is only because we have “kicked the can down the road” by recklessly printing money and by borrowing money at an unprecedented rate.  Unfortunately, the “sugar high” produced by those foolish measures is starting to wear off.  We are going to experience a massive amount of economic pain along with the rest of the world – it is just a matter of time.

But for the moment, there are a lot of skeptics out there.

For the moment, there are a lot of people that are declaring that the problems of the past have been fixed and that we are heading for incredibly bright economic times ahead.

Unfortunately, those people appear to be purposely ignoring the economic horror that is breaking out all over the globe.

The following are 18 signs that massive economic problems are erupting all over the planet…

#1 The eurozone is now in the midst of its longest recession ever.  Economic activity in the eurozone has declined for six quarters in a row.

#2 Italy’s economy has now been contracting for seven quarters in a row.

#3 Industrial production in Italy has fallen for 15 months in a row.  It has now fallen to its lowest level in about 25 years.

#4 The number of people that are considered to be “seriously deprived” in Italy has doubled over the past two years.

#5 Consumer confidence in France has just hit a new all-time low.

#6 The number of unemployed workers seeking a job in France has hit a brand new all-time record high.  Many unemployed workers in France are utterly frustrated at this point…

“I’ve sent CVs everywhere, I come to the unemployment agency every day, for 3 or 4 hours to look for work as a truck driver and there’s never anything,” said 42-year old Djamel Sami, who has been unemployed for a year, leaving a job agency in Paris.

#7 Unemployment in the eurozone as a whole has just hit a brand new all-time record high of 12.2 percent.

#8 Youth unemployment continues to soar to unprecedented heights in Europe.  The following is from an article that was recently posted on the website of the Guardian that detailed how bad things are getting in some of the worst countries…

In Greece, 62.5% of young people are out of work, in Spain it’s 56.4%, then Portugal with 42.5%, and then Italy with 40.5%.

#9 Youth unemployment is being partially blamed for the worst rioting that Sweden has seen in many years.  The following is how the Daily Mail described the riots…

Sweden is reeling after a third night of rioting in largely run-down immigrant areas of the capital Stockholm.

In the last 48 hours violence has spread to at least ten suburbs with mobs of youths torching hundreds of cars and clashing with police.

It is Sweden’s worst disorder in years and has shocked the country and provoked a debate on how Sweden is coping with youth unemployment and an influx of immigrants.

#10 An astounding 10 percent of all banking deposits were pulled out of banks in Cyprus during the month of April alone.

#11 Economic growth in India is the slowest that it has been in an entire decade.

#12 Suddenly Australia is experiencing some tremendous economic challenges.  The following quotes are from a recent Zero Hedge article

-“We’re seeing a much sharper contraction in the Australian economy than we’d anticipated four or five months ago”. Coffey MD, John Douglas. The engineering group has seen its shares, which traded above $4 in 2007, hit 10c last week.

-“By 10am, the Fitness First gym in the city is packed full of brokers who’ve had a gutful of sitting at their desk doing nothing – salary cuts are starting and next it will be jobs” Perth broker

-“Oh mate, the funding market is dead. You are now seeing a few deeply discounted rights issues for those that are reaching desperate levels ….. liquidity has completely disappeared” Perth broker

#13 The financial system in Japan is beginning to spin wildly out of control.  The Japanese stock market has now declined about 15 percent from the peak, and many believe that the yen will continue to get weaker and that interest rates in Japan will start to rise significantly.

#14 Global cash flow is declining at a rate not seen since the last recession.  This indicates that we could be headed for a global credit crunch.

#15 Real wages continue to decline in the United States.  Even though we are being told that the U.S. is experiencing an “economy recovery”, real weekly earnings have declined from $297.79 in 2010 to $295.49 in 2011 to $294.83 in 2012.  (The preceding calculation is based on 1982-1984 dollars)

#16 Wall Street is buzzing about the fact that “the Hindenburg Omen” appeared at the end of last week.  So exactly what is “the Hindenburg Omen”?  The following are the criteria that are used to determine whether it has appeared or not…

1. The daily number of NYSE new 52 Week Highs and the daily number of new 52 Week Lows must both be greater than 2.2 percent of total NYSE issues traded that day.

2. The smaller of these numbers is greater than or equal to 69 (68.772 is 2.2% of 3126). This is not a rule but more like a checksum. This condition is a function of the 2.2% of the total issues.

3. That the NYSE 10 Week moving average is rising.

4. That the McClellan Oscillator ( a market breadth indicator used to evaluate the rate of money entering or leaving the market and interpretively indicate overbought or oversold conditions of the market)is negative on that same day.

5. That new 52 Week Highs cannot be more than twice the new 52 Week Lows (however it is fine for new 52 Week Lows to be more than double new 52 Week Highs).

When the Hindenburg Omen makes an appearance, it supposedly means that the U.S. stock market is likely to experience a serious decline within the next 40 days.

#17 As I wrote about the other day, the SentimenTrader Smart/Dumb Money Index is now the lowest that it has been in more than two years.  That means that lots of “smart money” has been getting out of the market and lots of “dumb money” has been pouring in.

#18 Margin debt on the New York Stock Exchange has set a new all-time high.  The following is from a recent Market Oracle article

Margin debt—that’s the amount of money borrowed to purchase stocks—on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) reached its all-time high in April. Margin debt on the NYSE registered at $384.3 billion as the key stock indices hit new record-highs. (Source: New York Stock Exchange web site, last accessed May 29, 2013.) The highest margin debt ever reached prior to this was in July of 2007, when it stood just above $381.0 billion. At that time, just like today, the key stock indices were near their peaks and “buy now before it’s too late” was the prominent theme of the day

Whenever margin debt spikes like this, a stock market crash almost always follows.  If you doubt this, just check out the chart in this article.

Wall Street has had a good couple of years, but it has been a “false prosperity” that has been pumped up by reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve.  Just like all of the other stock market bubbles that we have seen in recent years, this one is going to burst too.  And as Marc Faber recently pointed out, this bubble has been particularly beneficial to the wealthy…

The Fed has been flooding the system with money. The problem is the money doesn’t flow into the system evenly. It doesn’t increase economic activity and asset prices in concert. Instead, it creates dangerous excesses in countries and asset classes. Money-printing fueled the colossal stock-market bubble of 1999-2000, when the Nasdaq more than doubled, becoming disconnected from economic reality. It fueled the housing bubble, which burst in 2008, and the commodities bubble. Now money is flowing into the high-end asset market – things like stocks, bonds, art, wine, jewelry, and luxury real estate.

Money-printing boosts the economy of the people closest to the money flow. But it doesn’t help the worker in Detroit, or the vast majority of the middle class. It leads to a widening wealth gap. The majority loses, and the minority wins.

The fact that the U.S. stock market has set new all-time record high after new all-time record high in recent months means very little.  At this point, the stock market has become completely divorced from economic reality.  When this current bubble bursts, the adjustment is going to be very painful.  Wall Street will likely whine and complain and ask for more bailouts, but they may find that authorities are not nearly as sympathetic this time.

Much of the rest of the world is already experiencing the next major wave of the economic collapse.  Reckless money printing by the Fed and reckless borrowing and spending by the federal government may have delayed the inevitable in the United States for a little while, but those measures have also made our long-term problems even worse.

There was one piece of advice that Ben Bernanke included in his commencement speech to students at Princeton recently that I thought was particularly ironic…

“Don’t be afraid to let the drama play out.”

Will he take his own advice when the next great financial crisis strikes the United States?

That seems very unlikely.

Unfortunately, things are not going to be so easy to fix this next time.

What happened back in 2008 was just a preview.

What is coming next is going to absolutely shock the world.

10 Amazing Charts That Demonstrate The Slow, Agonizing Death Of The American Worker

10 Amazing Charts That Demonstrate The Slow, Agonizing Death Of The American WorkerThe middle class American worker is in danger of becoming an endangered species.  The politicians are not telling you the truth, and the mainstream media is certainly not telling you the truth, but the reality is that there is nothing but bad news on the horizon for workers in the United States.  In the old days, when the big corporations that dominate our society did well, that also meant good things for American workers since those corporations would need more of us to work for them.  But in the emerging one world economic system that our economy is being merged into, those corporations have other choices now.  For instance, the big corporations can now choose to limit the number of “expensive” American workers that they employ by shipping millions of jobs to the other side of the world.  And from their perspective, it makes perfect sense.  They can make much bigger profits by hiring people on the other side of the planet to work for them for less than a dollar an hour.  If they can get good production out of those people, then why should they hire Americans for ten to twenty times as much, plus have to give those Americans health insurance and other benefits?  Another major factor in the slow, agonizing death of the American worker is technology.  We live during a period when technology is advancing at a pace that is almost unimaginable at the same time that it is steadily becoming cheaper and cheaper.  That means that it is going to become easier and easier for companies to replace workers with robots and computers.  As I have written about previously, it is being projected that our economy will lose millions of jobs to technology in the coming years.  Yes, some of us will still be needed to help build the robots and the computers, but not all of us will.  And of course the overall general weakness of the economy is not helping matters either.  The American people inherited the greatest economic machine in the history of the world, and we have wrecked it.  Decades of very foolish decisions have resulted in the period of steady economic decline that we are experiencing now.

America is simply not the economic powerhouse that it once was.  Back in 2001, the U.S. economy accounted for 31.8 percent of global GDP.  By 2011, the U.S. economy only accounted for 21.6 percent of global GDP.  That is a collapse any way that you want to look at it.

Today, American workers are living in an economy that is rapidly declining, and their jobs are steadily being stolen by robots, computers and foreign workers that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.  Politicians from both political parties refuse to do anything to stop the bleeding because they think that the status quo is working just great.

So don’t expect things to get better any time soon.

The following are 10 amazing charts that demonstrate the slow, agonizing death of the American worker…

#1 Wages And Salaries As A Percentage Of GDP

Wages And Salaries As A Percentage Of GDP

As you can see, wages as a percentage of GDP are hovering near an all-time record low.  That means that American workers are bringing home a smaller share of the economic pie than ever before.

#2 Average Annual Hours Worked Per Employed Person In The United States

Average Annual Hours Worked per Employed Person in the United States

We are an economy that is rapidly trading good paying full-time jobs for low paying part-time jobs.  The decline in average annual hours worked that we have witnessed represents the equivalent of losing millions of jobs.  There has been an explosion of “the working poor” in the United States, and this trend is probably only going to accelerate in the years to come.

#3 Manufacturing Employment

Manufacturing Employment

As you can see, there are less Americans working in manufacturing today than there was in 1950 even though the population of the country has more than doubled since then.  The United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001, and yet our politicians stand around and do nothing about it.

#4 Employment-Population Ratio

Employment-Population Ratio 2013

This is one of my favorite charts.  It shows that there has been absolutely no employment recovery at all since the end of the last recession.  The percentage of working age Americans that have a job has stayed under 59 percent for 44 months in a row.  How much worse will things get when the next major economic downturn strikes?

#5 Labor Force Participation Rate

Labor Force Participation Rate

This is how the Obama administration is getting the “unemployment rate” to magically go down.  They are pretending that millions upon millions of Americans simply do not want to work anymore.  As you will notice, the decline of the labor force participation rate has accelerated greatly since Barack Obama entered the White House.

#6 Duration Of Unemployment

Duration Of Unemployment

The average amount of time that it takes an unemployed worker to find a new job has declined slightly, but it is still far above normal historical levels.  It is a crying shame that it takes the average unemployed worker two-thirds of a year to find a new job, but this is the new economic reality that we are all living in.

#7 Delinquency Rate On Residential Mortgages

Delinquency Rate On Residential Mortgages

Since there are not enough jobs for all of us, and since our wages are not rising as rapidly as the cost of living is, a whole bunch of us are falling behind on our mortgages.  As you can see, the mortgage delinquency rate has only dropped slightly and is still way, way above typical levels.

#8 New Homes Sold

New Homes Sold

American workers also don’t have enough money to go out and buy new homes either.  Yes, new home sales have rebounded slightly this year, but we are nowhere near where we used to be.

#9 Consumer Credit

Consumer Credit

Millions of American families continue to resort to going into debt in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.  After a slight interruption during the last recession, consumer credit once again is growing at a frightening pace.

#10 Self-Employment At A Record Low

Self-Employed As A Share Of Non-Farm Employment

Since there aren’t enough jobs for everyone, why aren’t more Americans trying to start their own businesses?  Well, the reality of the matter is that the government has made it exceedingly difficult to start your own business today.  Taxes, rules, regulations and red tape are choking the life out of millions of small businesses in the United States.  As a result, the percentage of self-employed Americans is at a record low.

As all of these long-term trends continue, the middle class will continue to shrink, poverty in America will continue to explode and government dependence will continue to rise.

The numbers don’t lie.  Today, the number of Americans on Social Security Disability now exceeds the entire population of Greece, and the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.

We are in the midst of a horrifying economic collapse, and the next major wave of that collapse is rapidly approaching.

Are you ready?

America The Fallen: 24 Signs That Our Once Proud Cities Are Turning Into Poverty-Stricken Hellholes

Hellholes - Photo by LyzadangerWhat is happening to you America?  Once upon a time, the United States was a place where free enterprise thrived and the greatest cities that the world had ever seen sprouted up from coast to coast.  Good jobs were plentiful and a manufacturing boom helped fuel the rise of the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the planet.  Cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Baltimore were all teeming with economic activity and the rest of the globe looked on our economic miracle with a mixture of wonder and envy.  But now look at us.  Our once proud cities are being transformed into poverty-stricken hellholes.  Did you know that the city of Detroit once actually had the highest per-capita income in the United States?  Looking at Detroit today, it is hard to imagine that it was once one of the most prosperous cities in the world.  In fact, as you will read about later in this article, tourists now travel to Detroit from all over the globe just to see the ruins of Detroit.  Sadly, the exact same thing that is happening to Detroit is happening to cities all over America.  Detroit is just ahead of the curve.  We are in the midst of a long-term economic collapse that is eating away at us like cancer, and things are going to get a lot worse than this.  So if you still live in a prosperous area of the country, don’t laugh at what is happening to others.  What is happening to them will be coming to your area soon enough.

The following are 24 signs that our once proud cities are turning into poverty-stricken hellholes…

#1 According to the New York Times, there are now approximately 70,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit.

#2 At this point, approximately one-third of Detroit’s 140 square miles is either vacant or derelict.

#3 Back during the housing bubble, an acre of land in downtown Phoenix, Arizona sold for about $90 a square foot.  Today, an acre in downtown Phoenix sells for about $9 a square foot.

#4 The city of Chicago is so strapped for cash that it is planning to close 54 public schools.  It is being estimated that Chicago schools will run a budget deficit of about a billion dollars in 2013.

#5 The city of Baltimore is already facing unfunded liabilities of more than 3.2 billion dollars, but the city government continues to pile up more debt as if it was going out of style.

#6 Today, the murder rate in East St. Louis is 17 times higher than the national average.

#7 According to USA Today, the “share of jobs located in or near a downtown declined in 91 of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas” between 2000 and 2010.

#8 Between December 2000 and December 2010, 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in the state of Michigan were lost.

#9 There are more than 85,000 streetlights in Detroit, but thieves have stripped so much copper wiring out of the lights that more than half of them are not working.

#10 The unemployment rate in El Centro, California is 24.2 percent, and the unemployment rate in Yuma, Arizona is an astounding 25.6 percent.

#11 It has been estimated that there are more than 1,000 homeless people living in the massive network of flood tunnels under the city of Las Vegas.

#12 Violent crime in the city of Oakland increased by 23 percent during 2012.

#13 If you can believe it, more than 11,000 homes, cars and businesses were burglarized in Oakland during 2012.  That breaks down to approximately 33 burglaries a day.

#14 As I have written about previously, there are only about 200 police officers assigned to Chicago’s Gang Enforcement Unit to handle the estimated 100,000 gang members living in the city.

#15 The number of murders in Chicago last year was roughly equivalent to the number of murders in the entire country of Japan during 2012.

#16 The murder rate in Flint, Michigan is higher than the murder rate in Baghdad.

#17 If New Orleans was considered to be a separate nation, it would have the 2nd highest murder rate on the entire planet.

#18 According to the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center,  Mexican drug cartels were actively operating in 50 different U.S. cities in 2006.  By 2010, that number had skyrocketed to 1,286.

#19 Back in 2007, the number of New York City residents on food stamps was about 1 million.  It is now being projected that the number of New York City residents on food stamps will pass the 2 million mark this summer.

#20 The number of homeless people sleeping in the homeless shelters of New York City has increased by a whopping 19 percent over the past year.

#21 As I noted yesterday, approximately one out of every three children in the United States currently lives in a home without a father.

#22 In Miami, 45 percent of the children are living in poverty.

#23 In Cleveland, more than 50 percent of the children are living in poverty.

#24 According to a recently released report, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, the decline of the city of Detroit has become so famous that it has actually become a tourist attraction.  The following is a short excerpt from an article in the New York Times

But in Detroit, the tours go on, in an unofficial capacity. One afternoon at the ruins of the 3.5-million-square-foot Packard Plant, I ran into a family from Paris. The daughter said she read about the building in Lonely Planet; her father had a camcorder hanging around his neck. Another time, while conducting my own tour for a guest, a group of German college students drove up. When queried as to the appeal of Detroit, one of them gleefully exclaimed, “I came to see the end of the world!”

For much more on the shocking decline of one of America’s greatest cities, please see my previous article entitled “Bankrupt, Decaying And Nearly Dead: 24 Facts About The City Of Detroit That Will Shock You“.

So are there any areas of the country that are still thriving?

Well, yes, there are a few.  In particular, those areas that are sitting on top of energy resources tend to be doing quite well for now.

One example is Texas.  In recent years people have been absolutely flocking to the state.  There are lots of energy jobs, the cost of living is low and there is no state income tax.

But overall, things are really tough out there.  Over the past decade America has lost millions of good jobs to offshoring, advancements in technology and a declining economy.

Last year, the United States had a trade deficit with the rest of the world of more than half a trillion dollars.  Overall, the U.S. has run a trade deficit with the rest of the world of more than 8 trillion dollars since 1975.

All of that money could have gone to U.S. businesses and U.S. workers.  In turn, taxes would have been paid on all of that income which could have helped keep our cities great.

But instead, our politicians have stood idly by as we have lost tens of thousands of businesses and millions of jobs.  If you can believe it, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities have closed down permanently in the United States since 2001.

We have allowed our economic infrastructure to be absolutely gutted, and so we should not be surprised that our once proud cities are turning into poverty-stricken hellholes.

And this is just the beginning.  The next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching, and when it strikes unemployment in this country will eventually rise to a level that is more than double what it is now.

When that happens, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near our rotting, decaying cities.

Railroad In Milwaukee

100 Years Old And Still Killing Us: America Was Much Better Off Before The Income Tax

100 Years Old And Still Killing UsDid you know that the greatest period of economic growth in American history was during a time when there was absolutely no federal income tax?  Between the end of the Civil War and 1913, there was an explosion of economic activity in the United States unlike anything ever seen before or since.  Unfortunately, a federal income tax was instituted in 1913, and this year it turned 100 years old.  But there was no fanfare, was there?  There was no celebration because the federal income tax is universally hated.  Sadly, most Americans just assume that there is no other option to an income tax.  Most Americans just assume that it has always been with us and that it will always be with us.  This year, the American people will shell out approximately $4.22 trillion in state and federal income taxes.  That amount is equivalent to approximately 29.4 percent of all income that Americans will bring in this year, and that does not even take into account the dozens of other taxes that Americans pay each year.  At this point, the U.S. tax code is about 13 miles long, and those that are honest and pay their taxes every year are being absolutely shredded by this system.  But wouldn’t the federal government go broke if we didn’t have a federal income tax?  No, actually the truth is that the federal government did just fine before there was an income tax.  In fact, the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger since the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve were created by Congress back in 1913.  As I have written about previously, the Federal Reserve system was actually designed to trap the United States in a debt spiral from which it could never possibly escape, and the federal income tax was needed to greatly expand the size of the federal government and to soak the American people of the funds necessary to service that debt.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  America was once much better off before the income tax and the Federal Reserve were created, and we could easily go to such a system again.

What we desperately need to do is to teach the American people a little history lesson.  The truth is that the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was between the Civil War and 1913 when there was no federal income tax at all.  The following is from Wikipedia

The Gilded Age saw the greatest period of economic growth in American history. After the short-lived panic of 1873, the economy recovered with the advent of hard money policies and industrialization. From 1869 to 1879, the US economy grew at a rate of 6.8% for real GDP and 4.5% for real GDP per capita, despite the panic of 1873.  The economy repeated this period of growth in the 1880s, in which the wealth of the nation grew at an annual rate of 3.8%, while the GDP was also doubled.

Sadly, most Americans cannot even conceive of an economy like that.  Most Americans cannot even imagine having a nation without a massively bloated federal government and without an unelected central bank centrally planning our financial system.

But you know what?

It worked.  In fact, it worked fantastically well.

The period between the Civil War and 1913 propelled the United States to greatness.  Just check out all of the good things that Wikipedia says happened for the U.S. economy during those years…

The rapid economic development following the Civil War laid the groundwork for the modern U.S. industrial economy. By 1890, the USA leaped ahead of Britain for first place in manufacturing output.

An explosion of new discoveries and inventions took place, a process called the “Second Industrial Revolution.” Railroads greatly expanded the mileage and built stronger tracks and bridges that handled heavier cars and locomotives, carrying far more goods and people at lower rates. Refrigeration railroad cars came into use. The telephone, phonograph, typewriter and electric light were invented. By the dawn of the 20th century, cars had begun to replace horse-drawn carriages.

Parallel to these achievements was the development of the nation’s industrial infrastructure. Coal was found in abundance in the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania south to Kentucky. Oil was discovered in western Pennsylvania; it was mainly used for lubricants and for kerosene for lamps. Large iron ore mines opened in the Lake Superior region of the upper Midwest. Steel mills thrived in places where these coal and iron ore could be brought together to produce steel. Large copper and silver mines opened, followed by lead mines and cement factories.

In 1913 Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, a step in the process that became known as mass-production.

But if we didn’t have an income tax, how did we fund the government?  Well, we mostly did it with tariffs and excise taxes.  The following is from a recent article by Thomas R. Eddlem

Prior to ratification of the 16th (income tax) Amendment in February 1913, the federal government managed its few constitutional responsibilities without an income tax, except during the Civil War period. During peacetime, it did so largely — or even entirely — on import taxes called “tariffs.” Congress could afford to run the federal government on tariffs alone because federal responsibilities did not include welfare programs, agricultural subsidies, or social insurance programs like Social Security or Medicare. After the Civil War, tariff revenues sometimes suffered under a protectionist policy ushered in by the Republican Party that supplemented federal income via excises on alcohol, tobacco, and inheritances. But before the war, the need for tariff revenue to finance the federal government generally kept the tariff at reasonable levels. During wartime throughout early American history, the Founding Fathers were able to raise additional revenue employing a different method of direct taxation authorized by the U.S. Constitution prior to the 16th Amendment. These alternative taxing methods gave the young American nation embarrassing peacetime budget surpluses that several times came close to paying off the national debt.

So why didn’t we stick with that system?

Well, early in the 20th century the “progressives” and the social planners started to take control in Washington.

And one of the things that “progressives” and social planners love is an income tax.  In fact, the second plank of the Communist Manifesto is a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax”.

Of course they promised us that income tax rates would always remain low.  And at first they were quite low.  The following is from an article by Adam Young

The presidential election of 1912 was contested between three advocates of an income tax. The winner, Woodrow Wilson, after the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, called a special session of Congress in April 1913, which proceeded to pass an income tax of 1% on incomes above $3,000 and applied surcharges between 2% and 7% on income from $20,000 to $500,000.

But once the “progressives” and the social planners get their feet in the door, they always want more.

And we have seen how things have worked out.  Today, the American people are being taxed into oblivion.

In a previous article entitled “Show This To Anyone That Believes That Taxes Are Too Low“, I listed dozens of other taxes that the American people pay each year in addition to federal and state income taxes…

#1 Building Permit Taxes

#2 Capital Gains Taxes

#3 Cigarette Taxes

#4 Court Fines (indirect taxes)

#5 Dog License Taxes

#6 Drivers License Fees (another form of taxation)

#7 Federal Unemployment Taxes

#8 Fishing License Taxes

#9 Food License Taxes

#10 Gasoline Taxes

#11 Gift Taxes

#12 Hunting License Taxes

#13 Inheritance Taxes

#14 Inventory Taxes

#15 IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)

#16 IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)

#17 Liquor Taxes

#18 Luxury Taxes

#19 Marriage License Taxes

#20 Medicare Taxes

#21 Medicare Tax Surcharge On High Earning Americans Under Obamacare

#22 Obamacare Individual Mandate Excise Tax (if you don’t buy “qualifying” health insurance under Obamacare you will have to pay an additional tax)

#23 Obamacare Surtax On Investment Income (a new 3.8% surtax on investment income that goes into effect next year)

#24 Property Taxes

#25 Recreational Vehicle Taxes

#26 Toll Booth Taxes

#27 Sales Taxes

#28 Self-Employment Taxes

#29 School Taxes

#30 Septic Permit Taxes

#31 Service Charge Taxes

#32 Social Security Taxes

#33 State Unemployment Taxes (SUTA)

#34 Tanning Tax (a new Obamacare tax on tanning services)

#35 Telephone Federal Excise Taxes

#36 Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Taxes

#37 Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Taxes

#38 Telephone State And Local Taxes

#39 Tire Taxes

#40 Tolls (another form of taxation)

#41 Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)

#42 Utility Taxes

#43 Vehicle Registration Taxes

#44 Workers Compensation Taxes

Yet even with all of these taxes, our local governments, our state governments and our federal government are all absolutely drowning in debt.

In another previous article entitled “24 Outrageous Facts About Taxes In The United States That Will Blow Your Mind“, I listed a number of reasons why our federal income tax system has become a complete and utter abomination that can never be fixed…

1 – The U.S. tax code is now 3.8 million words long.  If you took all of William Shakespeare’s works and collected them together, the entire collection would only be about 900,000 words long.

2 – According to the National Taxpayers Union, U.S. taxpayers spend more than 7.6 billion hours complying with federal tax requirements.  Imagine what our society would look like if all that time was spent on more economically profitable activities.

3 – 75 years ago, the instructions for Form 1040 were two pages long.  Today, they are 189 pages long.

4 – There have been 4,428 changes to the tax code over the last decade.  It is incredibly costly to change tax software, tax manuals and tax instruction booklets for all of those changes.

5 – According to the National Taxpayers Union, the IRS currently has 1,999 different publications, forms, and instruction sheets that you can download from the IRS website.

6 – Our tax system has become so complicated that it is almost impossible to file your taxes correctly.  For example, back in 1998 Money Magazine had 46 different tax professionals complete a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All 46 of them came up with a different result.

7 – In 2009, PC World had five of the most popular tax preparation software websites prepare a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All five of them came up with a different result.

8 – The IRS spends $2.45 for every $100 that it collects in taxes.

9 – According to The Tax Foundation, the average American has to work until April 17th just to pay federal, state, and local taxes.  Back in 1900, “Tax Freedom Day” came on January 22nd.

10 – When the U.S. government first implemented a personal income tax back in 1913, the vast majority of the population paid a rate of just 1 percent, and the highest marginal tax rate was just 7 percent.

11 – Residents of New Jersey pay $1.64 in taxes for every $1.00 of federal spending that they get back.

12 – The United States is the only nation on the planet that tries to tax citizens on what they earn in foreign countries.

13 – According to Forbes, the 400 highest earning Americans pay an average federal income tax rate of just 18 percent.

14 – Warren Buffett had an effective tax rate of just 17.4 percent for 2010.

15 – The top 20 percent of all income earners in the United States pay approximately 86 percent of all federal income taxes.

16 – Sadly, as Bill Whittle has shown, you could take every single penny that every American earns above $250,000 and it would only fund about 38 percent of the federal budget.

17 – The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world (35 percent).  In Ireland, the corporate tax rate is only 12.5 percent.  This is causing thousands of corporations to move operations out of the United States and into other countries.

18 – Some tax havens are doing a booming business in setting up sham headquarters for U.S. corporations.  For example, the city of Zug, Switzerland only has a population of 26,000 people but it is the headquarters for 30,000 companies.

19 – In 1950, corporate taxes accounted for about 30 percent of all federal revenue.  In 2012, corporate taxes will account for less than 7 percent of all federal revenue.

The wealthy have become absolute masters at avoiding taxes, and the poor are not able to pay much.

So who always gets squeezed?

The middle class does.

No matter what our politicians promise us, the hammer is always brought down on the middle class.

And now, according to The Huffington Post, the IRS says that it can even read our old emails without a warrant to make sure that we are paying all of the taxes that we should be…

The IRS apparently interprets that authority very broadly, the documents show: as long as you’ve stored your email in a cloud service like Google Mail, and as long as those emails haven’t been deleted after a few months, the agency thinks it doesn’t need a warrant to read them.

The idea of IRS agents poking through your email account might sound at the very least creepy, and maybe unconstitutional. But the IRS does have a legal leg to stand on: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 allows government agencies to in many cases obtain emails older than 180 days without a warrant.

That’s why an internal 2009 IRS document claimed that “the government may obtain the contents of electronic communication that has been in storage for more than 180 days” without a warrant.

It should be noted that the IRS is claiming that it does not use emails “to target” specific taxpayers, but notice that they are not promising not to use old emails against taxpayers once they are officially being audited or investigated…

“Contrary to some suggestions, the IRS does not use emails to target taxpayers. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”

In any event, the truth is that we have one of the most complicated and one of the most intrusive tax systems in the history of the world.

Don’t the American people deserve better?

What do you think?

Should America go back to a system where there is no income tax and no Federal Reserve?

Please feel free to share what you think by leaving a comment below…

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