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The Price Of Ground Beef Has DOUBLED Since The Last Financial Crisis

Burger And Fries - Photo by Ewan MunroSince the depths of the last recession, the price of ground beef in the United States has doubled.  Has your paycheck doubled since then?  Even though the Federal Reserve insists that we are in a “low inflation” environment, the government’s own numbers show that the price of ground beef has been on an unprecedented run over the past six years.  In early 2009, the average price of a pound of ground beef was hovering near 2 dollars.  In February, it hit a brand new all-time record high of $4.238 per pound.  Even just 12 months ago, the price of ground beef was sitting at $3.555 per pound.  So we are talking about a huge increase.  And this hits American families where they really live.  Each year, the average American consumes approximately 270 pounds of meat.  The only nation in the world that eats more meat than we do is Luxembourg.  If the paychecks of American workers were going up fast enough to deal with this increase, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  But of course that is not happening.  In an article just last week, I showed that real median household income is a couple thousand dollars lower now than it was during the depths of the last recession.  The middle class is being squeezed, and we are rapidly getting to the point where burgers are going to be considered a “luxury” item.

The following chart was posted by the Economic Policy Journal on Wednesday, and it incorporates the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  When I first saw it, I was rather stunned.  I knew that the price of ground beef had become rather outrageous in my local grocery stores, but I had no idea just how much damage had been done over the past six years…

Beef Price - Economic Policy Journal

The biggest reason why the price of ground beef has been going up is the fact that the U.S. cattle herd has been shrinking.  It shrunk seven years in a row, and on January 1st, 2014 it was the smallest that it had been since 1951.

The good news is that the decline appears to have stopped, at least for the moment.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the size of the U.S. cattle herd actually increased by 1 percent last year…

The U.S. cattle herd expanded in 2014 for the first time in eight years, offering hope to consumers that beef prices could start to subside after soaring to a series of records.

The nation’s cattle supply increased 1% in the year through Jan. 1 to 89.8 million head, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Agriculture Department, reversing a steady decline fueled by prolonged drought in the southern U.S. Great Plains and industry consolidation that encouraged many ranchers to thin herds.

But an increase of 1 percent is just barely going to keep up with the official population growth rate.  If you factor in illegal immigration, we are still losing ground.

And if we have another major drought in cattle country this summer, the cattle herd is going to start shrinking again.

In addition, the price of food overall has been steadily rising for years.  Here is a chart that I shared the other day

Presentation Food Inflation

It boggles the mind that the Federal Reserve can claim that we are in a “low inflation” environment.  Anyone that goes grocery shopping feels the pain of these rising prices every time that they go to the store.

In the list that I put together yesterday, I included the following statistic…

Almost half of all Americans (47 percent) do not put a single penny out of their paychecks into savings.

One of the primary reasons why so many Americans are not saving any money is because many families simply cannot save any money.  Their paychecks are stagnant while the cost of living just keeps going up and up.

There simply are not enough “good jobs” out there anymore.  Our economy continues to bleed middle class jobs and the competition for the jobs that remain is quite intense.

Do you know what the two most common occupations in America today are?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they are “retail sales clerk” and “cashier”.

And of course neither of those “occupations” pays even close to what is required to support a middle class family.

On average, a retail sales clerk makes $24,020 a year, and a cashier makes $20,670 a year.

Because the quality of our jobs has declined so much, there are millions of American families today in which both the mother and the father are working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet each month.

But don’t worry, the Federal Reserve says that we are nearly at “full employment“, and Barack Obama says that everything is going to be just fine.

Actually, the truth is that things are about to get a lot worse.  At this point, we are even getting pessimistic numbers out of the Federal Reserve.  Just this week we learned that the Fed is now projecting that economic growth for the first quarter of 2015 will be barely above zero

From almost 2.5% GDP growth expectations in February, The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model has now collapsed its estimates of Q1 GDP growth to just 0.2%plunging from +1.4% just 2 weeks ago. The reality of plunging capex and no decoupling is starting to rear its ugly head in the hard data and as the sun warms things up, weather will start to lose its ability to sway sentiment.

We are at a turning point.  The bubble of false stability that we have been living in is rapidly coming to an end, and when people start to realize that another great economic crisis is coming there is going to be a lot of panic.

And as far as food prices go, they are just going to keep taking a bigger chunk out of all of our wallets.

As high as prices are already, the truth is that your food dollars are never going to go farther than they do right now.

So let us hope for the best, but let us also get prepared for the worst.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What this means is that the middle class is shrinking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half The Country Makes Less Than $27,520 A Year And 15 Other Signs The Middle Class Is Dying

Depressed - Photo by Sander van der WelIf you make more than $27,520 a year at your job, you are doing better than half the country is.  But you don’t have to take my word for it, you can check out the latest wage statistics from the Social Security administration right here.  But of course $27,520 a year will not allow you to live “the American Dream” in this day and age.  After taxes, that breaks down to a good bit less than $2,000 a month.  You can’t realistically pay a mortgage, make a car payment, afford health insurance and provide food, clothing and everything else your family needs for that much money.  That is one of the reasons why both parents are working in most families today.  In fact, sometimes both parents are working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.  Over the years, the cost of living has risen steadily but our paychecks have not.  This has resulted in a steady erosion of the middle class.  Once upon a time, most American families could afford a nice home, a couple of cars and a nice vacation every year.  When I was growing up, it seemed like almost everyone was middle class.  But now “the American Dream” is out of reach for more Americans than ever, and the middle class is dying right in front of our eyes.

One of the things that was great about America in the post-World War II era was that we developed a large, thriving middle class.  Until recent times, it always seemed like there were plenty of good jobs for people that were willing to be responsible and work hard.  That was one of the big reasons why people wanted to come here from all over the world.  They wanted to have a chance to live “the American Dream” too.

But now the American Dream is becoming a mirage for most people.  No matter how hard they try, they just can’t seem to achieve it.

And here are some hard numbers to back that assertion up.  The following are 15 more signs that the middle class is dying…

#1 According to a brand new CNN poll, 59 percent of Americans believe that it has become impossible for most people to achieve the American Dream…

The American Dream is impossible to achieve in this country.

So say nearly 6 in 10 people who responded to CNNMoney’s American Dream Poll, conducted by ORC International. They feel the dream — however they define it — is out of reach.

Young adults, age 18 to 34, are most likely to feel the dream is unattainable, with 63% saying it’s impossible. This age group has suffered in the wake of the Great Recession, finding it hard to get good jobs.

#2 More Americans than ever believe that homeownership is not a key to long-term wealth and prosperity…

The great American Dream is dying. Even though many Americans still desire to own a home, they are losing faith in homeownership as a key to prosperity.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans, or 64%, believe they are less likely to build wealth by buying a home today than they were 20 or 30 years ago, according to a survey sponsored by non-profit MacArthur Foundation. And nearly 43% said buying a home is no longer a good long-term investment.

#3 Overall, the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row, and it has now dropped to the lowest level in 19 years.

#4 52 percent of Americans cannot even afford the house that they are living in right now…

“Over half of Americans (52%) have had to make at least one major sacrifice in order to cover their rent or mortgage over the last three years, according to the “How Housing Matters Survey,” which was commissioned by the nonprofit John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and carried out by Hart Research Associates. These sacrifices include getting a second job, deferring saving for retirement, cutting back on health care, running up credit card debt, or even moving to a less safe neighborhood or one with worse schools.”

#5 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 36 percent of Americans under the age of 35 own a home.  That is the lowest level that has ever been measured.

#6 Right now, approximately one out of every six men in the United States that are in their prime working years (25 to 54) do not have a job.

#7 The labor force participation rate for Americans from the age of 25 to the age of 29 has fallen to an all-time record low.

#8 The number of working age Americans that are not employed has increased by 27 million since the year 2000.

#9 According to the government’s own numbers, about 20 percent of the families in the entire country do not have a single member that is employed at this point.

#10 This may sound crazy, but 25 percent of all American adults do not even have a single penny saved up for retirement.

#11 As I noted in one recent article, total consumer credit in the United States has increased by 22 percent over the past three years, and 56 percent of all Americans have “subprime credit” at this point.

#12 Major retailers are shutting down stores at the fastest pace that we have seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

#13 It is hard to believe, but more than one out of every five children in the United States is living in poverty in 2014.

#14 According to one recent report, there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity right now.

#15 Overall, the U.S. poverty rate is up more than 30 percent since 1966.  It looks like LBJ’s war on poverty didn’t work out too well after all.

Sadly, it does not appear that there is much hope on the horizon for the middle class.  More good jobs are being shipped out of the country and are being lost to technology every single day, and our politicians seem convinced that “business as usual” is the right course of action for our nation.

Unless something dramatic happens, it is going to become increasingly difficult to eke out a middle class existence as a “worker bee” in American society.  The truth is that most big companies these days do not have any loyalty to their workers and really do not care what ends up happening to them.

To thrive in this kind of environment, new and different thinking is required.  The paradigm of “go to college, get a job, stay loyal and retire after 30 years” has been shattered.  The business world is more unstable now than it has been during any point in the post-World War II era, and we are all going to have to adjust.

So what advice would you give to people that are struggling out there right now?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

The Meat Crisis Is Here: Price Of Shrimp Up 61% – 7 Million Pigs Dead – Beef At All-Time High

California Drought 2014As the price of meat continues to skyrocket, will it soon be considered a “luxury item” for most American families?  This week we learned that the price of meat in the United States rose at the fastest pace in more than 10 years last month.  Leading the way is the price of shrimp.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of shrimp has jumped an astounding 61 percent compared to a year ago.  The price of pork is also moving upward aggressively thanks to a disease which has already killed about 10 percent of all of the pigs in the entire country.  And the endless drought in the western half of the country has caused the size of the U.S. cattle herd to shrink to a 63 year low and has pushed the price of beef to an all-time high.  This is really bad news if you like to eat meat.  The truth is that the coming “meat crisis” is already here, and it looks like it is going to get a lot worse in the months ahead.

A devastating bacterial disease called “early mortality syndrome” is crippling the shrimping industry all over Asia right now.  According to Bloomberg, this has pushed the price of shrimp up 61 percent over the past 12 months…

In March, shrimp prices jumped 61 percent from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The climb is mainly due to a bacterial disease known as early mortality syndrome. While the ailment has no effect on humans, it’s wreaking havoc on young shrimp farmed in Southeast Asia, shrinking supplies.

This disease has an extremely high mortality rate.  In fact, according to the article that I just quoted, it kills approximately nine out of every ten shrimp that it infects…

Cases of early mortality syndrome, which destroys the digestive systems of young shrimp, were first reported in China in 2009, said Donald Lightner, a professor of animal and comparative biomedical sciences at University of Arizona in Tucson.

The disease, which kills about 90 percent of the shrimp it infects, traveled from China to Vietnam to Malaysia and then to Thailand, he said. Cases also were reported in Mexico last year, Lightner said.

A different disease is driving up the price of pork in the United States.  It is known as the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, and in less than a year it has spread to 30 states and has killed approximately 7 million pigs.

The price of bacon is already up 13.1 percent over the past year, but this is just the beginning.

It is being projected that U.S. pork production could be down by as much as 10 percent this year, and Americans could end up paying up to 20 percent more for pork by the end of 2014.

The price of beef has also moved to unprecedented heights.  Thanks to the crippling drought that never seems to end in the western half of the nation, the size of the U.S. cattle herd has been declining for seven years in a row, and it is now the smallest that is has been since 1951.

Over the past year, the price of ground chuck beef is up 5.9 percent.  It would have been worse, but ranchers have been slaughtering lots of cattle in order to thin their herds in a desperate attempt to get through this drought.  If this drought does not end soon, the price of beef is going to go much, much higher.

As prices for shrimp, pork and beef have risen, many consumers have been eating more chicken.  But the price of chicken is rising rapidly as well.

In fact, the price of chicken breast is up 12.4 percent over the past 12 months.

Unfortunately, this could just be the very beginning of this meat crisis.  As I wrote about recently, some scientists are warning that we could potentially be facing “a century-long megadrought“.

And right now, there are no signs that the drought out west is letting up.  Just check out the map posted below.  It comes from the U.S. Drought Monitor, and it shows how the drought in California has significantly intensified since the beginning of the year…

California Drought 2014

And considering how much the rest of the nation relies on the agricultural production coming out of California, it is very alarming to see that the drought is getting even worse.

Right now, things are so bone dry in most of the state that it is easy for wildfires to get out of control.  In fact, Governor Jerry Brown has just declared a state of emergency in San Diego County because of the vicious wildfires that are raging there…

Officials ordered another round of evacuations early Thursday north of San Diego as gusty winds and near 100-degree temperatures offer little relief from at least nine fires that have consumed a 14-square mile area of Southern California.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for San Diego County, which frees up special resources and funding for the firefight.

The fires, coming earlier than normal in the wildfire season, are being fed by brush and trees left brittle by prolonged drought. They are also being whipped by a Santa Ana wind system that reverses the normal flow of wind from the Pacific Ocean and creates tinderbox fire conditions.

For the first time in its 14-year-history, the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website that tracks drought, designated the entire state of California as in a severe (or worse) drought.

If you do not live out west, you may have no idea how very serious this all really is.

For years, I have been warning about the potential for dust bowl conditions to return to the western half of the country.

Now it is actually starting to happen.

And we already have tens of millions of people in this country that are struggling to feed themselves.  If you doubt this, please see my previous article entitled “Epidemic Of Hunger: New Report Says 49 Million Americans Are Dealing With Food Insecurity“.

So what happens if drought, diseases and plagues continue to cause food production in this country to plummet?

Those that have studied these things tell us that there is a clear correlation between food prices and civil unrest.  For example, the following is a short excerpt from a recent Scientific American article

Since the beginning of 2014, riots have occurred in countries including Thailand and Venezuela. Although they’re different cultures on different continents, these mass protests movements may all have one commonality; increasing food prices may have contributed to their occurrence. The cost of food has been steadily increasing in both Thailand and Venezuela; last month demonstrators in Caracas took to the streets marching with empty pots to protest food shortages. According to Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam and fellow researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), events such as these may be anticipated by a mathematical model that examines rising food costs.

The events of 2014 aren’t without precedent; the price of food has provoked (and placated) throughout history, beginning in Imperial Rome when Augustus introduced grain subsidies. In recent years, the Middle East has been particularly affected by the cost of grain. Centuries after Egypt developed bread as we recognize it, the nation experienced a bread intifada – the country rioted for two days in January 1977 following Anwar Sadat’s decision to drastically decrease food subsidies. More recently, under the rule of Hosni Mubarak, the price of grain rose 30 percent between 2010 and 2011. Then, on January 25, 2011 a new revolution began in Egypt.

Could rapidly rising food prices cause civil unrest in the United States eventually?

It won’t happen today, and it won’t happen tomorrow, but some day it might.

Meanwhile, you might want to start carving out a significantly larger portion of the family budget for food for the foreseeable future.

27 Facts That Prove That The Family In America Is In The Worst Shape Ever

Family - Photo by Eric WardThe family is one of the fundamental building blocks of society.  If you do not have strong families, you are not going to have a strong society.  Unfortunately, the state of the family in America continues to deteriorate.  The marriage rate has fallen to an all-time low, we lead the world in divorce, and about a third of all children live in a home without a father.  Our young people have been taught that getting married and having a family is not a priority, and many of those that would like to get married and have children are not able to get the kinds of jobs that they need to support a family.  The statistics that you are about to see should absolutely shock you.  American families have never been this weak, and this is an incredibly troubling sign for the future of our nation.  What will future generations of Americans be like if they do not have stable homes to grow up in?  Will they be even more messed up than we are right now?  That is a frightening thought.  The following are 27 facts that prove that the family in America is in the worst shape ever…

#1 The marriage rate in the United States has fallen to an all-time low.  Right now it is sitting at a yearly rate of 6.8 marriages per 1000 people.

#2 Today, an all-time low 44.2 percent of Americans in the 25 to 34 year old age bracket are married.

#3 According to the Pew Research Center, only 51 percent of all adults in the United States are currently married.  Back in 1960, 72 percent of all adults in the United States were married.

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

#5 100 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.

#6 The United States has the highest percentage of one person households on the entire planet.

#7 In the United States today, more than half of all couples “move in together” before they get married.

#8 The divorce rate for couples that live together first is significantly higher than for those that do not.

#9 For women under the age of 30 in the United States, more than half of all babies are being born out of wedlock.

#10 In 1970, the average woman had her first child when she was 21.4 years old.  Now the average woman has her first child when she is 25.6 years old.

#11 According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 69.3 births per 1,000 women in the 15 to 44 year old age bracket in 2007. Now the rate has fallen to 63.2 births per 1,000 women.

#12 The birth rate for American women in the 20 to 24 year old age bracket has fallen to 85.3 births per 1,000 women.  That is a new all-time record low.

#13 The United States has the highest divorce rate in the entire world.

#14 At this point, approximately one out of every three children in the United States lives in a home without a father.

#15 Without a father around, many single mothers in this country are really struggling to survive.  Sadly, approximately 42 percent of all single mothers in the United States are on food stamps.

#16 It is being projected that approximately 50 percent of all U.S. children will be on food stamps at some point before they reach the age of 18.

#17 Today, 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.

#18 The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the entire world.  In fact, the United States has a teen pregnancy rate that is more than twice as high as Canada, more than three times as high as France and more than seven times as high as Japan.

#19 In the United States today, approximately 47 percent of all high school students have had sex.

#20 Approximately one out of every four teen girls in the United States has at least one sexually transmitted disease.

#21 According to one survey, 24 percent of all U.S. teens that have at least one sexually transmitted disease say that they still have unprotected sex.

#22 Instead of being raised by parents, an increasing number of children in America are being raised by movies, television and video games.  For example, the average young American will spend 10,000 hours playing video games before the age of 21.

#23 Americans are tied with the British for the highest average number of hours spent watching television each week.

#24 There are more than 3 million reports of child abuse in the United States every single year.

#25 The United States actually has the highest child abuse death rate in the developed world.

#26 Approximately 20 percent of all child sexual abuse victims in the United States are under the age of 8.

#27 It is estimated that one out of every four girls will be sexually abused before they become adults.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that is not going to be fixed overnight.  Getting the “right politicians” into office will not solve our problems and neither will spending a bunch of money.

The change that we need is a change of the heart.  We need to change how we treat one another and we need to get our priorities straight.

Our families are really messed up, and this is hurting our kids the most.  There is no way that this country is going to have any hope for a bright future unless our families start getting stronger.

Or could it be possible that I am overreacting?

What do you think?

Please feel free to share your thoughts about the state of the family in America by posting a comment below…

36 Hard Questions About The U.S. Economy That The Mainstream Media Should Be Asking

Thinking QuestionsIf the economy is improving, then why aren’t things getting better for most average Americans?  They tell us that the unemployment rate is going down, but the percentage of Americans that are actually working is exactly the same it was three years ago.  They tell us that American families are in better financial shape now, but real disposable income is falling rapidly.  They tell us that inflation is low, but every time we go shopping at the grocery store the prices just seem to keep going up.  They tell us that the economic crisis is over, and yet poverty and government dependence continue to explode to unprecedented heights.  There seems to be a disconnect between what the government and the media are telling us and what is actually true.  With each passing day the debt of the federal government grows larger, the financial world become even more unstable and more American families fall out of the middle class.  The same long-term economic trends that have been eating away at our economy like cancer for decades continue to ruthlessly attack the foundations of our economic system.  We are rapidly speeding toward an economic cataclysm, and yet the government and most of the media make it sound like happy days are here again.  The American people deserve better than this.  The American people deserve the truth.  The following are 36 hard questions about the U.S. economy that the mainstream media should be asking…

#1 If the percentage of working age Americans that have a job is exactly the same as it was three years ago, then why is the government telling us that the “unemployment rate” has gone down significantly during that time?

#2 Why are some U.S. companies allowed to exploit disabled workers by paying them as little as 22 cents an hour?

#3 Why are some private prisons allowed to pay their prisoners just a dollar a day to do jobs that other Americans could be doing?

#4 Why is real disposable income in the United States falling at the fastest rate that we have seen since 2008?

#5 Why do 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year?

#6 Why are wages as a percentage of GDP at an all-time low?

#7 Why are 76 percent of all Americans living paycheck to paycheck?

#8 Why are so many large corporations issuing negative earnings guidance for this quarter?  Does this indicate that the economy is about to experience a significant downturn?

#9 Why is job growth at small businesses at about half the level it was at when the year started?

#10 Why are central banks selling off record amounts of U.S. debt right now?

#11 Why did U.S. mortgage bonds just suffer their biggest quarterly decline in nearly 20 years?

#12 Why did we just witness the largest weekly increase in mortgage rates in 26 years?

#13 Why has the number of mortgage applications fallen by 29 percent over the last eight weeks?

#14 Why has the number of mortgage applications fallen to the lowest level in 19 months?

#15 If the U.S. economy is recovering, why is the mortgage delinquency rate in the United States still nearly 10 percent?

#16 Why did the student loan delinquency rate in the United States just hit a brand new all-time high?

#17 Why is the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars of municipal bonds being postponed?

#18 What are the central banks of the world going to do when the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble starts to burst?

#19 Why is Barack Obama secretly negotiating a new international free trade agreement that will impose very strict Internet copyright rules on all of us, ban all “Buy American” laws, give Wall Street banks much more freedom to trade risky derivatives and force even more domestic manufacturing offshore?

#20 Why don’t our politicians seem to care that the United States has run a trade deficit of more than 8 trillion dollars with the rest of the world since 1975?

#21 Why doesn’t the mainstream media talk about how rapidly the U.S. economy is declining relative to the rest of the planet?  According to the World Bank, U.S. GDP accounted for 31.8 percent of all global economic activity in 2001.  That number dropped to 21.6 percent in 2011.

#22 Why is the percentage of self-employed Americans at a record low?

#23 What are we going to do if dust bowl conditions continue to return to the western half of the United States?  If the drought continues to get even worse, what will that do to our agriculture?

#24 Why is the IRS spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on kazoos, stove top hats, bathtub toy boats and plush animals?

#25 Why did the NIH spend $253,800 “to study ways to educate Boston’s male prostitutes on safe-sex practices”?

#26 Why do some of the largest charities in America spend less than 5 percent of the money that they bring in on actual charitable work?

#27 Now that EU finance ministers have approved a plan that will allow Cyprus-style wealth confiscation as part of all future bank bailouts in Europe, is it only a matter of time before we see something similar in the United States?

#28 Why does approximately one out of every three children in the United States live in a home without a father?

#29 Why are more than a million public school students in the United States homeless?

#30 Why are so many cities all over the United States passing laws that make it illegal to feed the homeless?

#31 Why is government dependence in the U.S. at an all-time high if the economy is getting better?  Back in 1960, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages was approximately 10 percent.  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.

#32 Why does the number of Americans on food stamps exceed the entire population of the nation of Spain?

#33 The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 32 million to 47 million while Barack Obama has been occupying the White House.  So why is Obama paying recruiters to go out and get even more Americans to join the program?

#34 Today, there are 56 million Americans collecting Social Security benefits.  In 2035, there will be 91 million Americans collecting Social Security benefits.  Where in the world will we get the money for that?

#35 Why has the value of the U.S. dollar fallen by over 95 percent since the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913?

#36 Why has the size of the U.S. national debt gotten more than 5000 times larger since the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913?

Soaring Mortgage Rates Are Going To Make It Far More Difficult To Buy Or Sell A House

Home For SaleDid you actually think that mortgage rates were going to stay at all-time lows forever?  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was able to grossly distort the market for a while by buying up massive amounts of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities, but there was no way in the world that the market was going to stay that distorted forever.  It simply does not make sense to give American families 30 year mortgages at a fixed interest rate of less than four percent when the real rate of inflation is somewhere around eight to ten percent and the mortgage delinquency rate in the United States is 9.72 percent.  If we actually did have “free markets” and they were behaving rationally, mortgage rates would be far, far higher.  Well, now that the Fed has indicated that they are going to be starting to “taper” QE at some point, bond yields have skyrocketed and this is rapidly pushing up mortgage rates.  According to Freddie Mac, we just witnessed the largest weekly increase in mortgage rates in 26 years.  Sadly, this is only just the beginning.  Unless the Federal Reserve intervenes, mortgage rates are going to continue to try to revert to normal.

When mortgage rates go up, so do monthly payments.  All of a sudden, families that could afford the monthly payments on a $300,000 mortgage are no longer able to do so.  This is why when mortgage rates rise, it tends to push housing prices down.

If rates continue to go up, it is going to become increasingly difficult to sell your house.  Less people will be able to afford the monthly payments as rates rise.  Many families will have to end up reducing their selling prices.

And right now we are watching rates rise at a rate that we have not seen since the 1980s.  According to Freddie Mac, the average rate of interest on a 30 year fixed-rate mortgage jumped by more than half a percentage point just last week…

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from 3.93 percent last week to 4.46 percent this week; the highest it has been since the week of July 28, 2011. This represents the largest weekly increase for the 30-year fixed since the week ended April 17, 1987.

A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent.

The monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.

Currently, the 30 year rate is sitting at 4.46 percent.

The monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1512.93.

If the 30 year rate rises to 7 percent, the monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage would be $1995.91.

Does 7 percent sound crazy to you?

It shouldn’t.

As the chart posted below demonstrates, a 7 percent mortgage was considered “normal” a decade ago…

30 Year Mortgage Rate

As you can see, mortgage rates have nowhere to go but up.

And as they go up, they are going to absolutely crush any semblance of a “housing recovery”.

Meanwhile, Americans continue to get poorer.

This week we learned that real per capita disposable income plunged at an annualized rate of 9.21 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

That is absolutely astounding.  We haven’t seen anything like that since the darkest days of the last recession.

If Americans do not have money to spend, that is going to hurt every industry – including housing.

And already we are seeing pain in the housing market.  For example, the number of mortgage applications has fallen by 29 percent over the last eight weeks.

And rising rates are also causing a lot of families to turn to adjustable rate mortgages.

Remember those?

They played a major role in the last housing crash, and according to CNBC they are now making a comeback…

After hovering around record lows for the past few years, mortgage rates are rising dramatically. That has consumers not only shopping more but also considering adjustable rate mortgages, which offer lower rates and lower monthly payments.

These ARMs, many requiring interest payments only, were popular during the latest housing boom but quickly fell out of favor when safer, fixed-rate loan rates fell to record lows.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that the tiny little “mini-bubble” that we have seen in housing this year is rapidly coming to an end.

It also means that it is going to become far more difficult to buy or sell a house.  Monthly payments are going to go up substantially, and many homeowners are going to find that they are not going to be able to sell their homes for what they had anticipated.

If you are already in the process of buying a house, hopefully you locked in a really good rate while you could.  Those record low mortgage rates sure were nice, and we will probably never see them again.

Now we are headed for a very painful “adjustment” thanks to Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve.  They should never have distorted the housing market so much, and now we are all going to suffer the consequences.

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