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Why Are Wal-Mart And Boeing Laying Off Workers If The U.S. Economy Is In Good Shape?

wal-mart-photo-by-mikemozartjeepersmediaThe stock market has been on quite a roll in recent weeks, but signs of trouble continue to plague the real economy.  Earlier this week, I talked about the “retail apocalypse” that is sweeping America.  Major retail chains such as Sears and Macy’s are closing stores and laying off workers, but I didn’t think that Wal-Mart would be feeling the pain as well.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening.  USA Today is reporting that approximately 1,000 jobs will be cut at Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas by the end of this month…

Walmart’s plan to lay off of hundreds of employees is the latest ripple in a wave of job cuts and store closures that are roiling the retail industry.

The world’s largest retailer is cutting roughly 1,000 jobs at its corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., later this month, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak about it.

The company is saying that these cuts are necessary because Wal-Mart is always “looking for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively“.  But something doesn’t smell right here.  You don’t get rid of 1,000 employees at your corporate headquarters if everything is just fine.

I have driven past Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville a number of times, and it is in a beautiful part of the country.  Bentonville and the surrounding areas had been booming, but it looks like times may be changing.

Meanwhile, there are signs of trouble out on the west coast as well.  The Los Angeles Times is reporting that there is going to be a new round of engineering job cuts at Boeing…

Boeing Co. has internally announced a new round of employee buyouts for engineers companywide, including in Southern California, and warned that layoff notices will follow later this month to engineers in Washington state, where the company has a large presence.

Management did not cite a target for the number of projected job cuts.

The news comes after company Vice Chairman Ray Conner and the new chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, or BCA, Kevin McAllister, warned in December of the need to aim for further cuts in 2017.

And according to Boeing spokesperson Doug Alder, similar job cut announcements are coming for other classes of workers as well.

So why is Boeing getting rid of so many employees?

Well, the truth is that Boeing’s business is way down.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Business has been tough. In 2016, deliveries fell by 14 jets from a year ago, to 748. Net orders dropped 13% from an already rotten level in 2015, to just 668, down 53% from 2014. And the lowest level since 2010!

When the economy is doing well, air traffic tends to rise, and when the economy is doing poorly it tends to go down.

Needless to say, the fact that Boeing is doing so poorly does not bode well for the future.

In addition to Wal-Mart, another major retailer that is letting people go is Petco

Petco is cutting 180 positions with about 50 at its San Diego headquarters, the pet supply retailer confirmed Wednesday.

The company made the cuts across its workforce and include both existing and open positions.

Petco has about 650 workers at its headquarters in Rancho Bernardo. It employs 27,000 in the U.S.

My wife and I have three cats, and even though Petco tends to be a bit overpriced we have always appreciated the work that they do.

Unfortunately, when the economy gets tough spending on pets tends to be one of the first things to get cut back, and this current trouble at Petco could be a sign that rough sledding is ahead for the entire economy.

Of course your personal perspective on these things is likely to be very heavily influenced by your immediate surroundings.  Those that live in wealthy enclaves of major cities such as San Francisco, New York City or Washington D.C. may be wondering how anyone could possibly be talking about economic trouble right now.

But if you live in economically depressed areas of Appalachia or the upper Midwest, it may seem like the last economic recession never even ended.

There have been pockets of economic prosperity in recent years, and this has resulted in some people becoming exceedingly wealthy.  Meanwhile, things have just continued to become even tougher for millions of other families as the cost of living always seems to grow faster than their paychecks do.

If you are in the top one percent of all income earners, maybe to you it seems like things have never been better.  But most of the country is living paycheck to paycheck and is just struggling to survive from month to month.  The following comes from CNN

The rich are money-making machines. Today, the top mega wealthy — the top 1% — earn an average of $1.3 million a year. It’s more than three times as much as the 1980s, when the rich “only” made $428,000, on average, according to economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

Meanwhile, the bottom 50% of the American population earned an average of $16,000 in pre-tax income in 1980. That hasn’t changed in over three decades.

The workers being laid off at the companies discussed above are real people with real hopes and real dreams.  Perhaps many of them will be able to land other employment fairly soon, but the truth is that the job market is really tough in many areas of the country right now.

Finding a good job that will allow you to pay the bills and support your family is not easy.  You may find that out the hard way if you end up losing your current job during the economic troubles that will come in 2017.

Earlier today, I came across an excellent article by Gail Tverberg that detailed a whole bunch of reasons why a significant economic downturn appears to be imminent in 2017.  If you would like to read it, you can find it here.  She points to many of the same things that I have been pointing to for a very long time.

Even though economic conditions were fairly stable throughout 2016, our long-term problems just continued to get even worse.  So the truth is that we are more primed for a major crisis today than we have been at any point since the last recession.

My hope is that things will not be nearly as bad in 2017 as Gail Tverberg and others are projecting that they could be, but the warning signs are definitely there, and it isn’t going to take much to push the U.S. economy off the rails.

It’s A Retail Apocalypse: Sears, Macy’s And The Limited Are All Closing Stores

retail-apocalypse-public-domainIt has only been two weeks since Christmas, and already we are witnessing a stunning bloodbath of store closings.  Macy’s shocked the retail industry by announcing that they will be closing about 100 stores.  The downward spiral of Sears hit another landmark when it was announced that another 150 Sears and Kmart stores would be shutting down.  And we have just learned that The Limited is immediately closing all stores nationwide.  If the U.S. economy is doing just fine, then why are we experiencing such a retail apocalypse?  All over America, vast shopping malls that were once buzzing with eager consumers now resemble mausoleums.  We have never seen anything quite like this in our entire history, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.

Not too long ago I walked into a Macy’s, and it was eerily quiet.  I stumbled around the men’s department looking for something to buy, but I was deeply disappointed in what was being offered.  After some time had passed, an employee finally noticed me and came over to help, but they didn’t have anything that I was looking for.

And it is a sad thing, because over the past several years when I have gone into Macy’s looking to spend money, most of the time I have come out of there without spending a penny.  Macy’s has made some very bad decisions recently, and I am hoping that they can still turn things around.  But for the moment, they are closing stores and cutting jobs.  The following comes from the New York Times

Struggling with sagging sales over another crucial holiday shopping season, Macy’s announced on Wednesday that it was eliminating more than 10,000 jobs as part of a continuing plan to cut costs and close 100 stores.

Macy’s, the country’s largest department store chain, said sales at its stores had fallen 2.1 percent in November and December compared with the same period in 2015. Terry J. Lundgren, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement that while the trend was “consistent with the lower end of our guidance, we had anticipated sales would be stronger.”

Another legendary retailer that really does not have any hope left is Sears.  Every year they just keep closing even more stores, and because they are losing so much money they don’t have anything to invest in the stores that remain.  As a result, the state of many Sears locations is downright embarrassing at this point

But the retailer, famous for selling everything from shoes to vacuum cleaners to whole houses, is facing its biggest crisis ever. It’s closing hundreds of stores. Others are in shambles, with leaking ceilings and broken escalators. In some, employees hang bedsheets to shield shoppers from sections that stand empty.

Since the early portion of 2013, sales are down an astounding 37 percent for the company.  Sears is currently more than 1.6 billion dollars in debt, and they are losing more than a billion dollars a year.

They keep closing stores in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding, but it hasn’t worked.

In 2010, Sears had 3,555 stores.

Last year, Sears had 1,503 stores, and now a whole bunch more are being shut down.

But everyone can see where this is going.  As I have stated repeatedly, Sears is going to zero, and many of the experts completely agree with me

“They are going out of business,” said Van Conway, an expert in bankruptcy and debt restructuring and CEO of Van Conway & Partners. “This snowball is 90% of the way to the bottom of the hill.”

Of course Sears is still surviving for the moment, and that is more than can be said for The Limited.

Back in the old days, it seemed like every mall had one of their stores.  I remember passing it on my way to Orange Julius and Herman’s World of Sporting Goods.

But now they are shutting down every single location and will be online only

American malls just got emptier.

The Limited, a once-popular women’s clothing brand that offers casual attire and workwear, no longer has any storefronts.

On Saturday, a message on the store’s website read, “We’re sad to say that all The Limited stores nationwide have officially closed their doors. But this isn’t goodbye.” The website will still be up and running and will continue to ship nationwide, the company said.

In addition to Macy’s, Sears and The Limited, other huge names in the retail industry have also fallen on hard times and have had to shut stores over the past 12 months.  The following comes from the Washington Post

The retail environment has proved challenging for a variety of stores: Sports Authority went out of business in 2016, shuttering more than 460 locations in U.S. malls and strip malls. PacSun, Aeropostale and American Apparel each have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past year and are aiming to reorganize and revive their businesses.

So why is this happening?

Without a doubt, our shopping habits have changed.  And in the online world, many of these retailers are being absolutely crushed by competition from Amazon and other tech companies that developed online infrastructure before they did.  I know that my wife and I actually prefer to shop online for many things when possible, and I anticipate that the share of retailing done online will only continue to grow in this country.

But let us also not underestimate the impact that the stagnating economy is having on ordinary consumers.  Thanks to the last eight years, approximately two-thirds of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.  More than a third of all Americans have a debt that is at least 180 days past due, and the rate of homeownership has been hovering near the lowest level that we have seen in about 50 years.  As you read this article, more than 95 million Americans are not in the labor force, and that number has grown by 18 percent under Barack Obama.  Homelessness in New York City and other major cities is at a record high, and as a nation we have accumulated the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world.

Let us hope that things can be turned around, but if current trends continue the retail apocalypse is just going to go from bad to worse, and we will continue to see lots of headlines about more stores closing down.

Why Are So Many Among The Elite Building Luxury Bunkers In Preparation For An Imminent ‘Apocalypse’?

earthship-photo-by-felix-mullerDo they know something that the rest of us do not?  There are tens of millions of ordinary Americans that are feeling really good about the future now that Donald Trump has won the election, but meanwhile the elite are feverishly constructing luxury bunkers at a pace unlike anything we have ever seen before.  So why are so many among the elite preparing for an imminent “apocalypse” when tens of millions of other Americans are anticipating a new era of peace and prosperity?  Are they smarter than most of the rest of us, or are they simply being paranoid?

Without a doubt, something is going on among the elite.  Earlier today, WND published an article that discussed the fact that wealthy people “are quietly moving away from major cities” all over the globe because of concerns about security…

Widespread media reports as well as independent investigations from groups such as New World Wealth suggest wealthy people around the globe are quietly moving away from major cities because of fears of social instability. Increasing crime, terrorism and rising racial tensions have all been identified as factors driving the exodus. Even the Daily Beast reported the introduction of large numbers of Muslim refugees into Europe has made once prosperous areas fraught with danger, in the opinion of some security experts.

And just a few weeks ago a Hollywood Reporter article entitled “Panic, Anxiety Spark Rush to Build Luxury Bunkers for L.A.’s Superrich” talked about how “Oscar winners, sports stars and Bill Gates are building lavish bunkers” because of their anxiety about what is coming next.  The following is a short excerpt from that article…

Given the increased frequency of terrorist bombings and mass shootings and an under-lying sense of havoc fed by divisive election politics, it’s no surprise that home security is going over the top and hitting luxurious new heights. Or, rather, new lows, as the average depth of a new breed of safe haven that occupies thousands of square feet is 10 feet under or more. Those who can afford to pull out all the stops for so-called self-preservation are doing so — in a fashion that goes way beyond the submerged corrugated metal units adopted by reality show “preppers” — to prepare for anything from nuclear bombings to drastic climate-change events. Gary Lynch, GM at Rising S Bunkers, a Texas-based company that specializes in underground bunkers and services scores of Los Angeles residences, says that sales at the most upscale end of the market — mainly to actors, pro athletes and politicians (who require signed NDAs) — have increased 700 percent this year compared with 2015, and overall sales have risen 150 percent. “Any time there is a turbulent political landscape, we see a spike in our sales. Given this election is as turbulent as it is, we are gearing up for an even bigger spike,” says marketing director Brad Roberson of sales of bunkers that start at $39,000 and can run $8.35 million or more (FYI, a 12-stall horse shelter is $98,500).

This is all very odd, because among the general population interest in “prepping” has hit a multi-year low.  In fact, sales of emergency food and supplies are way down at the moment across the entire industry.

So once again the question must be asked – do the elite know something that the rest of us do not?

If they don’t, why are they spending so much time, effort and money on such extraordinary preparations?

For instance, down in Texas one group of investors is constructing “a $300 million luxury community replete with underground homes”

An investor group is planning for a doomsday scenario by building a $300 million luxury community replete with underground homes. There will also be air-lock blast doors designed for people worried about a dirty bomb or other disaster and off-grid energy and water production.

The development, called Trident Lakes, is northeast of Dallas.

Residents will enjoy an equestrian center, 18-hole golf course, polo fields, zip lines and gun ranges. Retail shops, restaurants and a row of helipads are also in the works. For those looking to “get away,” they’ll also be able to enjoy three white sand beaches and a neighborhood spa.

Most of us could hardly even imagine such luxury, and this is yet another example of the growing gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us in this country.

If you do happen to be one of the ultra-wealthy, perhaps you may be interested in purchasing one of the extremely expensive U-shaped “Earthships” that one company has been constructing for the elite…

Billionaires are buying up “indestructible” alien boltholes to seek sanctuary in during alien Armageddon or more-likely nuclear war and disaster.

The US company creating the $1.5million “Earthship” eco-structures says humans “must evolve” and insists they “will soon be a necessity” for our species “to survive on this planet.”

The bizarre U-shaped hideaways, which can reportedly survive in any climate, can be deployed to any part of the world and are self-sufficient enough to survive in isolation – during a killer virus outbreak or a radiation catastrophe.

I have to admit that I felt a twinge of jealousy when I first learned about these “Earthships”.  They are completely self-sufficient, they are environmentally-friendly, and they sound like they are quite comfortable.  The following is what one reporter discovered when she visited a community of these “Earthships”…

In addition to the cord-cutting power and self-sustaining water supply, each abode contains its own greenhouse. I could forage for figs, bananas, pineapple, broccoli, rosemary and chives in my fluffy socks. Or if the zombies weren’t looking, I could dash over to my neighbor’s place for supper. The Phoenix, a three-bedroom that sleeps six, dedicates one-third of its space to food production. Its tropical jungle supports parakeets and cockatiels (not for consumption) and a garden bursting with fruits and vegetables, including grapes, artichokes, lemons, melons, kale, squash, hot peppers and mushrooms that cling to a log. Chickens cluck around the back yard, which features a sunken den with a grill for coop-to-kebob meals. An indoor fishpond once contained a robust stock of tilapia before a group of guests threw a fish fry. Now, the littlest survivors swim laps with koi. For the dairy course, the staff is considering resident goats.

It sounds wonderful.

But once again, why go to all of this effort if a new era of peace and prosperity for humanity is right around the corner?

I really like what Carl Gallups had to say about this.  Carl is the author of Be Thou Prepared, and this is what he told WND about the preparations that the elite are making…

“I think that the rich and elite are becoming increasingly aware of the dangerous and potentially unstable world in which we now reside,” he warned. “Massive instances of civil unrest, even in America, are becoming a very real possibility. Internal terror attacks, swelling illegal alien populations, an influx of Islamic refugees, increasing racial discord, ambushing police officers, the rule of law continually being trampled by the political elite and an almost complete collapse of trust in the mainstream media – all of this has led to widespread cynicism and distrust among the population as a whole.”

Gallups noted “the rich usually have deeper connections to reliable information and prediction sources, and most of them have the means to take immediate action.”

I believe that Carl Gallups is right on the money.

Normally I am extremely hard on the elite, but in this case I believe that they are showing much more wisdom than the general population.

So many people are crying “peace and safety” right now, and yet we are right in the middle of what I have labeled “the danger zone“.

Our world is becoming more unstable with each passing day, but there is so much apathy among the American people at the moment.

I just don’t understand it.

The self-destructive behavior that we are engaging in as a nation is a recipe for national suicide, and the warning signs are all around us, but because disaster has not struck yet most people seem to believe that the warnings that they have been hearing are not true.

Meanwhile, the elite are preparing extremely hard for an imminent “apocalypse”, and I have a feeling that they are going to end up looking like the smart ones once it is all said and done.

The End Of America?: 13 Catastrophic Events Which Could Soon Lead To An American Apocalypse

Apocalyptic - Public DomainIs the strongest and most powerful nation on the planet headed for an apocalypse which will bring it to its knees?  We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and apocalyptic themes have become very common in books, movies, television shows and video games.  It is almost as if there is an unconscious understanding on a societal level that something very big and very bad is coming, even if the vast majority of the population cannot specifically identify what that is going to be.  Last week, the Global Challenges Foundation released a new report entitled “Global Catastrophic Risks 2016” in which they discussed various apocalyptic events that they believe could wipe out more than 10 percent of the population of our planet, and they warned that these types of events “are more likely than we intuitively think”

Sebastian Farquhar, director at the Global Priorities Project, told the Press Association: “There are some things that are on the horizon, things that probably won’t happen in any one year but could happen, which could completely reshape our world and do so in a really devastating and disastrous way.

“History teaches us that many of these things are more likely than we intuitively think. Many of these risks are changing and growing as technologies change and grow and reshape our world. But there are also things we can do about the risks.”

According to this new report, we are five times more likely to die from the various apocalyptic catastrophes that they analyzed than we are from a car accident.

In this article, I want to discuss some of the most important threats that they analyzed, in addition to adding some of my own to the list.  But first I want to mention that I do not believe that the Global Challenges Foundation is correct to identify climate change as one of the most significant catastrophic threats that humanity is facing.  Our climate has always been changing, and I do believe that we will see wild climate shifts in the years ahead.  However, human activity plays an exceedingly small role in all of this, and there is not very much that we can do to prevent what is going to happen either.  Most of the climate change that we are going to see in our future is going to be as a result of other catastrophes in this list, so I have not included it as a separate item.

With that being said, let’s quickly examine some of the potential threats identified by the Global Challenges Foundation…

Supervolcanoes

In various locations around the globe, there are gigantic supervolcanoes which could dramatically change the course of human history in a single moment by erupting.  In the United States, the Yellowstone supervolcano is becoming increasingly active, and a full-blown eruption could potentially be up to 2,000 times more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helens back in 1980.  As I mentioned the other day, major metropolitan areas such as Salt Lake City and Denver would be essentially destroyed, food production in this country would be virtually wiped out, and a “volcanic winter” would cool global temperatures by up to 20 degrees for up to several years.

Asteroids And Comets

This is something that the Obama administration is actually quite concerned about.  During his tenure, NASA has established a “Planetary Defense Coordination Office” that is in charge of tracking giant space rocks, and NASA is working to develop a method to destroy incoming asteroids using nuclear weapons.

Scientists admit that they only know about a small fraction of the near-Earth objects that are actually out there, and we get hit “by surprise” all the time.  If we were to get hit at just the right place by a very large object, like say just off the east coast of the United States, the consequences would almost be too horrible for words.

Today, 39 percent of all Americans live in counties that directly border a shoreline, and most of those people are along the east coast.  According to the University of California at Santa Cruz website, if a huge asteroid did slam into the Atlantic Ocean, it could potentially produce a 400 foot high tsunami that would sweep inland for many, many miles and kill millions upon millions of Americans in the process.

Natural Pandemics

The flu pandemic of 1918 killed approximately 50,000,000 people worldwide, and scientists assure us that it will happen again one day.

Yes, we have come a long way in fighting disease, but as we learned during the recent Ebola outbreak, a really nasty virus can grip the entire world with fear in a very short period of time.

Engineered Pandemics

This is probably even a bigger threat than natural pandemics, because now we have the technology to genetically alter naturally occurring diseases and make them even stronger.

Whether it is on purpose or by accident, it is only a matter of time before a genetically-modified superbug gets released into the general population, and when that day arrives it may make all previous pandemics look like a Sunday picnic.

Artificial Intelligence

Could someday entities that we have created turn on us and start killing us?

Some might refer to this as “the Terminator scenario”, and it is becoming more realistic with each passing day as our technological capabilities continue to increase at an exponential rate.

Geoengineering

The human race now has the capability to purposely modify the weather, and this means that we also have the capability to do a tremendous amount of damage.

Have you ever looked up and noticed long white trails criss-crossing the sky?  This is being done on purpose, and when they spray chemicals into our atmosphere it could have some very severe long-term consequences that the authorities may not be anticipating.

Nuclear War

Back during the Cold War, most Americans would have probably named this as the number one catastrophic threat facing America, but these days most people tend to believe that “the Cold War” is over.

So nobody has really objected while the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal has been reduced by about 95 percent, and Barack Obama insists that he would like to reduce it even further.

Meanwhile, both the Russians and the Chinese are rapidly modernizing their nuclear forces, and they both have developed hypersonic glide vehicles that can defeat any missile defense system that the U.S. can put up.

Our relationship with Russia has already gone down the tubes, and our relationship with China is rapidly deteriorating.  In fact, China just rejected a request for the USS John C. Stennis to make a routine port call at Hong Kong.  Most Americans assume that a war with either one of them is impossible, but the truth is that we may find ourselves in a conflict with both of them at the same time eventually.

The catastrophic threats above were ones that were mentioned in the report from the Global Challenges Foundation.  Below are some additional items that I would like to add to the list…

Islamic Terror

It isn’t just ISIS that we need to be concerned about.  Islamic terror is exploding all over the planet, and according to Wikipedia there have already been 95 such attacks globally so far in 2016.

Up until now, they have been killing us with guns and bombs, but what happens when they inevitably get their hands on chemical, biological or nuclear weapons?

Terror attacks using weapons of mass destruction could literally turn our society completely upside down virtually overnight, and it is only a matter of time until this starts happening.

Power Grid Failure

Someday you may wake up and discover that the power grid has totally failed.  Just try to imagine a world without any lights, cell phones, computers, televisions, ATMs, heating and cooling systems, credit card readers, gas pumps, cash registers, refrigerators or hospital equipment.  A massive electromagnetic pulse, either from the sun or as the result of a nuclear blast, could instantly plunge society back into the 1800s.

The EMP Commission spent years studying this, and they told Congress back in 20o8 that up to 90 percent of the U.S. population could be dead within one year of such an event due to starvation, disease and the breakdown of society.  So this is a threat that people better start taking seriously.

Cyberwar

World War III will not be fought like previous wars, and the Internet is one area where we are particularly vulnerable.  The Chinese, the Russians and the North Koreans have all been working very hard to develop their cyberwarfare capabilities, and I was recently told by someone that has deep connections inside the U.S. intelligence community that our power grid could be taken down with just the push of a button.  That is how easy it would be.

With each passing year, we are all becoming more and more dependent on the Internet.  So what would our lives be like if it was suddenly gone?

That is something to think about.

Economic Collapse

If you want to watch society melt down right in front of your eyes, just take away all of the goodies.  On The Economic Collapse Blog I have written more than a million words about the coming economic problems in this country.  We got a very small taste of what is approaching in 2008 and 2009, and yet most people do not seem to have taken that warning seriously.  Since that time, our long-term economic and financial problems have grown far more dire, and now the early chapters of a new economic crisis are unfolding right in front of our eyes, and yet still most people don’t seem to be alarmed.

If you want to see how devastating an economic collapse can be on a nation, just pick up a history book and start reading about the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Unfortunately, what we are heading for is going to be a whole lot worse than that.

Civil Unrest & Martial Law

As the economy collapses and other things on this list start happening, people are going to be absolutely freaking out.  A whole host of polls and surveys have shown that anger and frustration have been building up to unprecedented levels in this country, and at some point there is going to be a huge explosion.

Desperate people do desperate things, and we got small previews of what is coming in Ferguson and in Baltimore.  Violent crime rates are already rising in our major cities, and many among the elite are getting out while the getting is good.  In fact, 3,000 millionaires left the city of Chicago last year alone.

Of course whenever civil unrest erupts, the government responds by trying to regain control, and eventually things are going to get so bad in this nation that we will start to see martial law imposed in various areas.  We saw a little bit of this in Ferguson and in Baltimore, but that was nothing compared to what we will eventually experience.

Catastrophic Earthquakes

A historic earthquake along the New Madrid fault seismic zone, the Cascadia Subduction zone or any of the major faults in California could affect millions of lives, cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, and literally change the geography of our continent.

Personally, I believe that those of us that are fortunate enough to live long enough will witness historic earthquakes in all of those areas, and scientists assure us that all three zones are way overdue for major seismic events.

Even if just one of the catastrophic events that I have discussed above were to take place, it would completely change society.

Unfortunately, I believe that we are entering an era of history in which a “perfect storm” that consists of a confluence of these catastrophic events will shake this nation to the core.

So what do you think?

Do you agree or disagree?

Please feel free to add your voice to the discussion by posting a comment below…

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

The Financial Apocalypse Accelerates As Middle East Stocks Crash To Begin The Week

Apocalyptic - Public DomainIt looks like it is going to be another chaotic week for global financial markets.  On Sunday, news that Iran plans to dramatically ramp up oil production sent stocks plunging all across the Middle East.  Stocks in Kuwait were down 3.1 percent, stocks in Saudi Arabia plummeted 5.4 percent, and stocks in Qatar experienced a mammoth 7 percent decline.  And of course all of this comes in the context of a much larger long-term decline for Middle Eastern stocks.  At this point, Saudi Arabian stocks are down more than 50 percent from their 2014 highs.  Needless to say, a lot of very wealthy people in Saudi Arabia are getting very nervous.  Could you imagine waking up someday and realizing that more than half of your fortune had been wiped out?  Things aren’t that bad in the U.S. quite yet, but it looks like another rough week could be ahead.  The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are all down at least 12 percent from their 52-week highs, and the Russell 2000 is already in bear market territory.  Hopefully this week will not be as bad as last week, but events are starting to move very rapidly now.

Much of the chaos around the globe is being driven by the price of oil.  At the end of last week the price of oil dipped below 30 dollars a barrel, and now Iran has announced plans “to add 1 million barrels to its daily crude production”

Iran could get more than five times as much cash from oil sales by year-end as the lifting of economic sanctions frees the OPEC member to boost crude exports and attract foreign investment needed to rebuild its energy industry.

The Persian Gulf nation will be able to access all of its revenue from crude sales after the U.S. and five other global powers removed sanctions on Saturday in return for Iran’s curbing its nuclear program. The fifth-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had been receiving only $700 million of each month’s oil earnings under an interim agreement, with the rest blocked in foreign bank accounts. Iran is striving to add 1 million barrels to its daily crude production and exports this year amid a global supply glut that has pushed prices 22 percent lower this month.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what this is going to do to the price of oil.

The price of oil has already fallen more than 20 percent so far in 2016, and overall it has declined by more than 70 percent since late 2014.

When the price of oil first started to fall, a lot of people out there were proclaiming that it would be really good for the U.S. economy.  But I said just the opposite.  And of course since that time we have seen an endless parade of debt downgrades, bankruptcies and job losses.  130,000 good paying energy jobs were lost in the United States in 2015 alone because of this collapse, and things just continue to get even worse.  At this point, some are even calling for the federal government to intervene.  For example, the following is an excerpt from a CNN article that was just posted entitled “Is it time to bail out the U.S. oil industry?“…

America’s once-booming oil industry is suddenly in deep financial trouble.

The epic crash in oil prices has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs, caused dozens of bankruptcies and spooked global financial markets.

The fallout is already being felt in oil-rich states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, where home foreclosure rates are spiking and economic growth is slowing.

Now there are calls in at least some corners for the federal government to come to the rescue.

Is it just me, or is all of this really starting to sound a lot like 2008?

And of course it isn’t just the U.S. that is facing troubles.  The global financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is rapidly accelerating, and chaos is erupting all over the planet.  The following summary of what we have been seeing in recent days comes from Doug Noland

The world has changed significantly – perhaps profoundly – over recent weeks. The Shanghai Composite has dropped 17.4% over the past month (Shenzhen down 21%). Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 8.2% over the past month, with Hang Seng Financials sinking 11.9%. WTI crude is down 26% since December 15th. Over this period, the GSCI Commodities Index sank 12.2%. The Mexican peso has declined almost 7% in a month, the Russian ruble 10% and the South African rand 12%. A Friday headline from the Financial Times: “Emerging market stocks retreat to lowest since 09.”

Trouble at the “Periphery” has definitely taken a troubling turn for the worse. Hope that things were on an uptrend has confronted the reality that things are rapidly getting much worse. This week saw the Shanghai Composite sink 9.0%. Major equities indexes were hit 8.0% in Russia and 5.0% in Brazil (Petrobras down 9%). Financial stocks and levered corporations have been under pressure round the globe. The Russian ruble sank 4.0% this week, increasing y-t-d losses versus the dollar to 7.1%. The Mexican peso declined another 1.8% this week. The Polish zloty slid 2.8% on an S&P downgrade (“Tumbles Most Since 2011”). The South African rand declined 3.0% (down 7.9% y-t-d). The yen added 0.2% this week, increasing 2016 gains to 3.0%. With the yen up almost 4% versus the dollar over the past month, so-called yen “carry trades” are turning increasingly problematic.

Closer to home, the crisis in Puerto Rico continues to spiral out of control.  The following is an excerpt from a letter that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent to Congress on Friday

Although there are many ways this crisis could escalate further, it is clear that Puerto Rico is already in the midst of an economic collapse

Puerto Rico is already in default. It is shifting funds from one creditor to pay another and has stopped payment altogether on several of its debts. As predicted, creditors are filing lawsuits. The Government Development Bank, which provides critical banking and fiscal services to the central government, only avoided depleting its liquidity by halting lending activity and sweeping in additional deposits from other Puerto Rico governmental entities. A large debt payment of $400 million is due on May 1, and a broader set of payments are due at the end of June.

It isn’t Michael Snyder from The Economic Collapse Blog that is saying that Puerto Rico is “in the midst of an economic collapse”.

That is the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury that is saying it.

Those that have been eagerly anticipating a financial apocalypse are going to get what they have been waiting for.

Right now we are about halfway through January, and this is the worst start to a year for stocks ever.  The Dow is down a total of 1,437 points since the beginning of 2016, and more than 15 trillion dollars of stock market wealth has been wiped out globally since last June.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people out there that are in denial.

There are a lot of people that still believe that this is just a temporary bump in the road and that things will return to “normal” very soon.

They don’t understand that this is just the beginning.  What we have seen so far is just the warm up act, and much, much worse is yet to come.

Superyacht Getaway Subs And Luxury Bomb Shelters: The Elite Are The Most Paranoid Preppers Of All

Superyachts - Public DomainWhen it comes to “prepping”, many among the elite take things to an entirely different level.  As you will see below, the elite are willing to pay big money for cutting edge home security measures, luxury bomb shelters and superyacht getaway submarines. Some of the things that the elite are demanding for their own protection go beyond even what we would see in a James Bond film, and serving the prepping needs of the elite has become a multi-billion dollar business.  Meanwhile, the media outlets that the elite own continue to mock the rest of us for getting prepared.  All the time we see headlines like this one that appeared in a major American news source: “Preppers: Meet the paranoid Americans awaiting the apocalypse“.  Well, if we are paranoid for setting aside some extra food and supplies for the future, what does that make the people that you will read about in this article?

The elite live in a world that is completely different from the world that you and I live in.  In wealthy enclaves of major global cities such as London, elitists are willing to shell out massive amounts of money to ensure that everyone else is kept out.  The following comes from an article that was just published a few hours ago by the London Evening Standard entitled “The paranoid world of London’s super-rich: DNA-laced security mist and superyacht getaway submarines“…

Business is booming because billionaires are a paranoid bunch. Take one who recently moved to Mayfair. ‘He wanted everything, from protection from cyber hacking through to physical intrusion and kidnapping,’ says Bond Gunning. ‘We ended up installing fingerprint-activated locks for family members and programmable keys for staff that limit the time they are allowed into the property and the rooms they are able to enter and exit.

‘Inside and outside we installed 24-hour monitored CCTV cameras that are so hi-tech they can tell the difference between a dog, cat and a person. In the garden there are thermal-imaging cameras that can detect heat sources in the undergrowth. One thing intruders can’t hide is the heat of their bodies.

‘Should an intruder evade the cameras or ignore the warnings they automatically broadcast, the property itself is protected by bulletproof glass and alarm sensors in all rooms. There is a bullet, gas and bombproof panic or safe room, with its own food and water, medical supplies and communications, and an impregnable supply of fresh air. Just in case the family cannot make it there in time, key rooms are sealed by reinforced shutters.’

But for many elitists, those kinds of extreme security measures are simply not enough.  That is why sales of “luxury doomsday shelters” are absolutely soaring.  If “the end of the world” arrives unexpectedly, high net worth individuals want to know that there will be somewhere for them and their families to go.  The following is an excerpt from an article about one such facility located in Indiana

As we roll down US Highway 41 in Terre Haute, Indiana , my guide insists I give him my iPhone. Then he tosses me a satin blindfold. The terms of our trip were clear—I wasn’t to know where we were going or how we got there.That’s because we’re on our way to the undisclosed location of an underground bunker designed to survive the end of the world, whatever form that apocalypse takes.

When I remove my blindfold, I am standing in a grassy clearing looking at a boxy concrete structure that serves as the entrance to a Cold War–era government communications facility gutted and reborn as Vivos Indiana. This is the Ritz Carlton of doomsday shelters, a hideout where residents can wait out a nuclear winter or a zombie apocalypse in luxury and style while the rest of humanity melts and disintegrates. The living area has 12-and-a-half-foot ceilings, sumptuous black leather couches, wall art featuring cheerful Parisian street scenes, towering faux ferns, and plush carpets. Faith Hill croons from a large-screen TV set in front of three rows of comfy beige reclining chairs. The cupboards are stocked with 60 varieties of freeze-dried and canned foodstuffs; an evening meal might include spaghetti aglio e olio topped with skillet fried steak chunks, a fresh tomato-and-zucchini salad fresh from the hydroponic garden, and decadent turtle brownies. An eight-by-nine bedroom is designed for four people (there are larger units for six) and comes with double-queen bunks clothed in 600-thread-count ivory sheets and duvet covers worthy of a four-star hotel, a comparison highlighted on the Vivos website.

That sounds lovely.

But normal people like us cannot afford something like that.  It will only be the elite that will be able to afford to hole up in underground bunkers while the world above descends into madness.

Other elitists will be taking off in their superyachts and heading out into the open ocean when things really start falling to pieces.  And if their superyachts are threatened, some of them even have “getaway subs”.  Here is more from the Evening Standard

The ultimate vehicle of choice is no longer an armoured limousine or a private jet. They’re so Noughties. If you want bragging rights these days, you need your own submarine, which floats out of a sub-sea compartment in your superyacht. ‘It’s a toy, but if the worst happened, it could also be an escape route,’ says one prominent London tycoon with a weakness for Monaco-berthed superyachts — provided they have military-grade radar jammers and missile and torpedo defences.

So exactly why are so many among the elite so concerned about their own security these days?

Why are so many of them going to such extraordinary lengths to prepare for worst case scenarios?

Do they know something that the rest of us do not?

In a previous article, I included a quote from an article in the Mirror that was published earlier this year entitled “Panicked super rich buying boltholes with private airstrips to escape if poor rise up“…

Robert Johnson, president of the Institute of New Economic Thinking, told people at the World Economic Forum in Davos that many hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes.

He said: “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway.”

The next time that someone criticizes you for prepping, just point out what the elite are doing.

Clearly, many of them are deeply concerned that something may be coming.

So are you preparing?

If so, what are you preparing for?

Please feel free to join the discussion by posting a comment below…

Retail Apocalypse: Why Are Major Retail Chains All Over America Collapsing?

Why Are Major Retail Chains All Over America Collapsing? -  Photo by Gars129If the economy is improving, then why are many of the largest retail chains in America closing hundreds of stores?  When I was growing up, Sears, J.C. Penney, Best Buy and RadioShack were all considered to be unstoppable retail powerhouses.  But now it is being projected that all of them will close hundreds of stores before the end of 2013.  Even Wal-Mart is running into problems.  A recent internal Wal-Mart memo that was leaked to Bloomberg described February sales as a “total disaster”.  So why is this happening?  Why are major retail chains all over America collapsing?  Is the “retail apocalypse” upon us?  Well, the truth is that this is just another sign that the U.S. economy is falling apart right in front of our eyes.  Incomes are declining, taxes are going up, government dependence is at an all-time high, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the percentage of the U.S. labor force that is employed has been steadily falling since 2006.  The top 10% of all income earners in the U.S. are still doing very well, but most U.S. consumers are either flat broke or are drowning in debt.  The large disposable incomes that the big retail chains have depended upon in the past simply are not there anymore.  So retail chains all over the United States are now closing up unprofitable stores.  This is especially true in low income areas.

When you step back and take a look at the bigger picture, the rapid decline of some of our largest retail chains really is stunning.

It is happening already in some areas, but soon half empty malls and boarded up storefronts will litter the landscapes of cities all over America.

Just check out some of these store closing numbers for 2013.  These numbers are from a recent Yahoo Finance article

Best Buy

Forecast store closings: 200 to 250

Sears Holding Corp.

Forecast store closings: Kmart 175 to 225, Sears 100 to 125

J.C. Penney

Forecast store closings: 300 to 350

Office Depot

Forecast store closings: 125 to 150

Barnes & Noble

Forecast store closings: 190 to 240, per company comments

Gamestop

Forecast store closings: 500 to 600

OfficeMax

Forecast store closings: 150 to 175

RadioShack

Forecast store closings: 450 to 550

The RadioShack in a nearby town just closed up where I live.  This is all happening so fast that it is hard to believe.

But the truth is that those store closings are not the entire story.  When you dig deeper you find a lot more retailers that are in trouble.

For example, Blockbuster recently announced that this year they will be closing about 300 stores and eliminating about 3,000 jobs.

Toy manufacturer Hasbro recently announced that they will be reducing the size of their workforce by about 10 percent.

Even Wal-Mart is going through a tough stretch right now.  According to documents that were leaked to Bloomberg, Wal-Mart is having an absolutely disastrous February…

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had the worst sales start to a month in seven years as payroll-tax increases hit shoppers already battling a slow economy, according to internal e-mails obtained by Bloomberg News.

“In case you haven’t seen a sales report these days, February MTD sales are a total disaster,” Jerry Murray, Wal- Mart’s vice president of finance and logistics, said in a Feb. 12 e-mail to other executives, referring to month-to-date sales. “The worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”

So what in the world is going on here?

The mainstream media continues to proclaim that we are experiencing a robust “economic recovery”, but at the same time there are a whole host of indications that things are continually getting worse.

Even global cell phone sales actually declined slightly in 2012.  That was the first time that has happened since the last recession.

Perhaps it is time that we faced the truth.  The middle class is shrinking, incomes are declining and there are not nearly as many jobs as there used to be.

Mort Zuckerman pointed this out in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal

The U.S. labor market, which peaked in November 2007 when there were 139,143,000 jobs, now encompasses only 132,705,000 workers, a drop of 6.4 million jobs from the peak. The only work that has increased is part-time, and that is because it allows employers to reduce costs through a diminished benefit package or none at all.

So how can the mainstream media be talking about how “good” things are if we still have 6.4 million fewer jobs than we had back in November 2007?

And sadly, things may soon be getting a lot worse.  If Congress does not do anything about the “sequester”, millions of federal workers may shortly be facing some very painful furloughs according to CNN

Federal workers could start facing furloughs as early as April, according to federal agencies trying to prepare for the worst.

Unless Congress steps in, some $85 billion in massive spending reductions will hit the federal government, doling out furloughs to much of the nation’s 2.1 million federal workforce, experts say.

If you still live in an area of the country where the stores and the restaurants are booming, you should be very thankful because that is not the reality for most of the country.

I often write about the stunning economic decline of major cities such as Detroit, but there are huge sections of rural America that are in even worse shape than Detroit in many ways.

For example, many Indian reservations all over America have been shamefully neglected by the federal government and have become hotbeds for crime, drugs and poverty.

Business Insider recently profiled the Wind River Indian reservation in western Wyoming.  The following is a brief excerpt from that outstanding article

The Wind River Indian Reservation is not an easy place to get to, but I had to see it for myself.

Thirty-five-hundred square miles of prairie and mountains in western Wyoming, the reservation is home to bitter ancestral enemies: the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.

Even among reservations, it’s renowned for brutal crime, widespread drug use, and legal dumping of toxic waste.

You can see some amazing photos of the Wind River Indian reservation right here.

It is hard to believe that there are places like that in America, but the truth is that conditions like that are spreading to more U.S. communities with each passing day.

We are a nation that is in an advanced state of decline.  But as long as the financial markets are okay, our leaders don’t seem too concerned about the suffering that everyone else is going through.

In fact, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan essentially admitted as much during a recent interview with CNBC.  The following is how a Zero Hedge article summarized that interview…

Starting at around 1:50, Greenspan states the odds of sequester occurring are very high – in fact, the playdough-faced ex-Chair-head notes, “I find it very difficult to find a scenario in which [the sequester] doesn’t happen” But when asked how this will affect the economy, Awkward Alan is unusually clearly spoken – “the issue is how does it affect the stock market.”

While not so many of our leaders have taken the path to direct truthiness, Greenspan somewhat shocks a Botox’d and babbling Bartiromo when he admits “the stock market is the key player in the game of economic growth.”

Bartiromo shifts uncomfortably in her seat, strokes her imaginary beard and stares blankly as Greenspan explains that while the sequester will have a real effect on the real economy, “if the stock market can hold up through this, then the effect will be rather minor.”

Do you see?

As long as the stock market is moving higher they think that everything is just fine and dandy.

And the Obama administration?

They continue to pursue the same policies that got us into this mess.

Their idea of “economic reform” is to threaten to sue businesses that do not hire ex-convicts.

And of course now that Obama has been re-elected he is putting a tremendous amount of effort into “stimulating the economy”.

For example, he spent this weekend golfing in Florida, and the Obamas recently spent about 20 million taxpayer dollars vacationing in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is getting worse with each passing day.

If you doubt that economic conditions are getting worse, please read this article: “Show This To Anyone That Believes That ‘Things Are Getting Better’ In America“.

When you look at the cold, hard numbers, it is undeniable what is happening to America.

And our leaders are not doing anything to fix our problems.  In fact, most of the time they are just making things worse.

So buckle up and get prepared.  We are in for very bumpy ride, and this is only just the beginning.

Store Closed Until Further Notice - Photo by Gryllida

America On Fire: Why Is The Number Of Wildfires In The United States Increasing?

As America watches large sections of Colorado literally burn to the ground, many are wondering why all of this is happening.  There have always been wildfires, but what we are experiencing now seems very unusual.  So is the number of wildfires in the United States increasing?  As you will see later in this article, the answer is yes.  2011 was a record setting year for wildfires and this wildfire season is off to a very frightening start.  Right now the eyes of the nation are focused on the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado.  It doubled in size overnight and it has consumed more than 300 homes so far.  It is threatening the city of Colorado Springs, and at this point more than 35,000 people have been forced to evacuate – including the U.S. Air Force Academy.  On Twitter and Facebook residents are describing what they are seeing as “the apocalypse” and as “the end of the world”.  But this is just the beginning of the wildfire season.  We haven’t even gotten to July and August yet.

The Waldo Canyon fire is rapidly becoming one of the most expensive and destructive wildfires in Colorado history.  The historic Flying W Ranch has already been burned totally to the ground by this fire.  Local authorities are struggling to find the words to describe how nightmarish this fire is.  The following are a couple of quotes from a CNN article….

Richard Brown, the Colorado Springs fire chief, described it as a “firestorm of epic proportions.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper surveyed the Waldo Canyon Fire, telling reporters it was a difficult sight to see.

“There were people’s homes burned to the ground. It was surreal,” he said late Tuesday night. “There’s no question, it’s serious. It’s as serious as it gets.”

But this is not the only wildfire that is raging in Colorado.  Right now there are 10 wildfires burning in the state.  Overall, there are 33 large wildfires currently burning in twelve U.S. states.

If you will remember, New Mexico just experienced one of the worst wildfires that it has ever seen.  Conditions throughout most of the western United States are ideal for wildfires right now.  As USA Today reports, much of the western half of the country is under a “red flag warning” right now….

Throughout the interior West, firefighters have toiled for days in searing, record-setting heat against fires fueled by prolonged drought. Most, if not all, of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana were under red flag warnings, meaning extreme fire danger.

But wait, didn’t this kind of thing happen last year too?

Yes it did.

In fact, 2011 was one of the worst years ever for wildfires in America.  The following is a short excerpt from an EarthSky article….

Thousands of wildfires raged across the United States last year, 2011, burning a record amount of land, especially in the southern U.S. In fact, 2011 the third-most-active fire season since 1960 (when this record-keeping began) with respect to acres burned, according to preliminary data released from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in late December 2011. The NIFC will be releasing an official summary report detailing the 2011 wildfire season later in 2012, but for now you can read some of the details in the State of the Climate Wildfires 2011 report from NOAA.

During 2011, a total of 73,484 wildfires burned an estimated 8,706,852 acres (35,235 square kilometers) of land across the United States. Wildfire activity during 2011 was exceptionally high and was only exceeded in the historical record by wildfire activity during the years 2006 and 2007.

We have seen highly unusual wildfire activity throughout America in recent years.  In the article quoted above you can find a chart which shows that wildfire activity in the United States has been far above normal during the past decade.

Wildfire records have only been kept since 1960.  The 6 worst years on record for wildfires in the U.S. have all happened since the year 2000.  The following is from an Earth Island Journal article that I found….

In the United States, where some of the most accurate wildfire statistics are kept, the six worst fire seasons in the past 50 years have occurred since 2000. In Texas, nearly 4 million acres were burned in 2011, double the previous record. This included the Bastrop Fire last September that destroyed 1,600 homes and became the most destructive fire in Texas history. In Arizona more than one million acres were burned in 2011, a new record. The Wallow Fire, which destroyed nearly a half million acres, was the largest fire in Arizona history. The Pagami Creek Fire in northern Minnesota became the third largest fire in state history when it burned 100,000 acres in September 2011, most of this in an unprecedented 16-mile run on a single day.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that the number of wildfires in the United States is increasing and wildfires are becoming more powerful and doing more damage.

So what is causing all of this?

The truth is that this is happening because we are seeing exceptionally dry conditions throughout the western half of the United States.  In fact, according to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. interior west is now the driest that it has been in 500 years.

The eastern half of the country also gets very hot during the summer, but they don’t have as many wildfires because they get a lot more rain.

Many areas in the western half of the country have been experiencing drought conditions for quite a few years, and there seems to be no end in sight for the drought.

If you go check out the U.S. drought monitor, you will see that almost the entire southwest United States is experiencing some level of drought right now.

So what will July and August bring?

It is kind of frightening to think about that.

Earlier this year I wrote an article that postulated that we could actually see dust bowl conditions return to the middle of the United States.  Many readers were skeptical of that article.

But as much of the western United States continues to experience bone dry conditions and continues to be ravaged by wildfires, perhaps more people will understand how bad things are really getting in the interior west.

Just because we have made great technological advances as a society does not mean that we know how to tame nature.  We can attempt to contain the massive wildfires that are popping up all over the place and we can attempt to deal with the drought, but in the end we cannot stop what is happening.

So do you live in any of the areas that are being affected by these wildfires?

Do you have an opinion about why so much of America is on fire?

Please feel free to post a comment with your opinion below….

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