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The Debt Ceiling Deadline Has Passed, And Now The Biggest Test Of Donald Trump’s Presidency Begins…

Trump First Weekly Address - Public DomainOn Wednesday, the temporary suspension of the debt ceiling ended, and so now the federal government is not going to be able to go into any more debt until the debt ceiling is raised.  For the moment, the Trump administration can implement “emergency measures” to stay under the debt limit, but it won’t be too long before we get to a major crisis point because the federal government is quickly running out of cash.  Already, the U.S. Treasury has less cash on hand than Apple or Google, and that cash balance is going to keep on dropping until the debt ceiling is finally lifted.

You may remember that the debt ceiling became a major issue a couple of times during the Obama years.  Last time around, Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress agreed to a horrendous deal which suspended the debt ceiling until several months after the 2016 election

Since President Barack Obama signed the “Bipartisan Budget Act” on Nov. 2, 2015 there had been no legal limit on the amount of money the federal government could borrow until now. That law included a section entitled “Temporary Extension of Public Debt Limit.” It said that the law imposing a limit on the federal debt “shall not apply for the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on March 15, 2017.”

During the 16 and a half months between the signing of that deal and today, the U.S. national debt rose by a whopping $1,414,397,000,000.

But now the U.S. national debt will not be allowed to rise by another penny until the debt ceiling is raised or suspended once again.

The Trump administration is pushing hard to get the debt ceiling raised, and this is a complete reversal from how Donald Trump felt about the debt ceiling back in 2013.  The following comes from the L.A. Times

Trump sided with hard-liners in 2013, publicly opposing an increase. “I cannot believe the Republicans are extending the debt ceiling — I am a Republican & I am embarrassed!” he tweeted then.

Trump was actually right about the debt ceiling in 2013, and he is wrong now.

We simply cannot afford to keep adding trillions of dollars to the national debt.  What we are doing to future generations of Americans is beyond criminal, because we are literally destroying their future just so that we can enjoy an inflated standard of living that we do not deserve today.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has already begun to implement “extraordinary measures” to keep us under the debt ceiling.  The first step that was taken was the suspension of the sale of SLGS securities

“Today,” Mnuchin wrote, “Treasury is announcing that it will suspend the sale of State and Local Government Series (SLGS) securities. SLGS are special-purpose Treasury securities issued to states and municipalities to assist them in conforming to certain tax rules. These securities count against the debt limit. The suspension of SLGS sales will commence on March 15, 2017, and continue until the debt limit is either raised or suspended. As in the past, it is likely Treasury will utilize additional extraordinary measures.”

The federal government will be able to keep going for a little while by implementing such “extraordinary measures”, but the Treasury cash balance is going to continue to dwindle and at some point a major squeeze is going to happen.

As things get tighter and tighter, the Trump administration will become increasingly desperate to get the debt ceiling raised.  As I wrote about yesterday, the key for Trump is going to be finding 218 votes in the House of Representatives that will be willing to go along with him.

You would think that since Republicans control the House that this should be easy, but the truth is that there are a lot of conservative Republicans that are not inclined to agree to a debt ceiling increase without substantial accompanying budget cuts.

The proposed budget that Trump released this week is getting a lot of criticism from the left for cuts to social programs, but the truth is that it actually doesn’t reduce the deficit at all

President Trump’s “skinny” budget blueprint for 2018 features a proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending and an equal number of spending cuts from the smallest part of the federal budget.

That means his changes won’t add to next year’s projected $487 billion deficit. But they won’t reduce it, either.

And remember, that “$487 billion” figure is just for show.  During the Obama years the U.S. national debt increased by an average of well over a trillion dollars a year, and that is almost certainly going to continue for years to come as long as the debt ceiling is raised.

Republicans are supposed to be the party of fiscal responsibility.

So now is their big test.

If they raise the debt ceiling and continue adding more than a trillion dollars a year to the national debt, they will lose all credibility with conservative voters on fiscal issues.

But if they try to force the federal government to start living within its means that is going to severely harm the economy in the short-term.

Donald Trump is going to have to try to figure out a way to navigate this crisis.  He has already promised that he will not touch Social Security and Medicare, and those are the two biggest drivers of our budget deficits.  In fact, it is being projected that entitlement spending and interest on the debt will eat up every single penny that the federal government takes in within 20 years.

So if Trump won’t touch the big entitlement programs, where will he possibly find enough cuts to satisfy the fiscal conservatives in Congress?

Without them, Trump does not have enough votes to raise the debt ceiling.

In addition, many of the conservatives in Congress absolutely hate the new Republican health care plan, and they hope to use this debt ceiling crisis as leverage to change the bill.

If Trump can’t work out something with conservatives, perhaps he could turn to the Democrats.  But most Democrats are extremely resistant to work with him on anything after all that has been said and done, and so for Trump to get a deal with them he would have to make extreme concessions.

This represents the biggest political test for the Trump presidency so far, and if we get down the road a couple of months and nothing gets done, this debt ceiling crisis could spark the kind of financial crisis that I describe in my novel entitled “The Beginning Of The End“.

Barack Obama pushed things right to the brink a couple of times, but he was savvy enough politically to never let things go over the edge.

Now it is Trump’s turn, and somehow he has got to find a way to get the debt ceiling raised without making extremely deep compromises that would gut the rest of his agenda.

And he had better get to work on this quickly, because time is running out and the clock is ticking…

Economy In Decline: Apple Reports Massive Revenue Decline As iPhone Sales Plummet Dramatically

Apple iPhone And Apple Computer - Public DomainCorporate revenues in the United States have been falling for quite some time, but now some of the biggest companies in the entire nation are reporting extremely disappointing results.  On Tuesday, Apple shocked the financial world by reporting that revenue for the first quarter had fallen 7.4 billion dollars compared to the same quarter last year.  That is an astounding plunge, and it represents the very first year-over-year quarterly sales decline that Apple has experienced since 2003.  Analysts were anticipating some sort of drop, but nothing like this.  And of course last week we learned that Google and Microsoft also missed revenue and earnings projections for the first quarter of 2016.  The economic crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is really starting to take hold, and even our largest tech companies are now feeling the pain.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to Apple.  No matter what else has been going on with the U.S. economy, Apple has always been unshakeable.  Even during the last recession we never saw a year-over-year decline like this

Apple today announced financial results for the second fiscal quarter (first calendar quarter) of 2016. For the quarter, Apple posted revenue of $50.6 billion and net quarterly profit of $10.5 billion, or $1.90 per diluted share, compared to revenue of $58 billion and net quarterly profit of $13.6 billion, or $2.33 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. As expected, the year-over-year decline in quarterly revenue was the first for Apple since 2003.

I think that this announcement by Apple is waking a lot of people up.  The global economic slowdown is real, and we can see this in iPhone sales.  During the first quarter, Apple sold 16 percent fewer iPhones than it did during the same quarter in 2015.  This is the very first year-over-year quarterly sales decline for the iPhone ever.  Here are some of the specific sales figures from the Apple announcement…

Apple sold 51.1 million iPhones during the quarter, down from 61.2 million a year earlier, while Mac sales were 4.03 million units, down from from 4.56 million units in the year-ago quarter. iPad sales were also down once again, falling to 10.25 million from 12.6 million.

Once these numbers hit the wires, shares of Apple immediately began to plummet during after-hours trading.  In fact, USA Today is reporting that Apple has already lost 43 billion dollars in market value since the annoucement…

Shares of Apple are getting hit roughly 8% in after-hours trading, tumbling to $96.67. They closed in regular trading at $104.35, or down 0.7%, putting them down 0.9% for the year. The downward move in after-hours trading means the company shed $43 billion in market value based on after-hours trading.

Wow.

Meanwhile, shares of Twitter are crashing in after-hours trading after the social media giant also announced very disappointing results.  The stock has now dripped below 16 dollars a share, and the company continues to lose tremendous amounts of money

For all its other travails, Twitter is unprofitable. It narrowed its loss but still recorded a loss of $79.7 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with a loss of $162.4 million, or 25 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Of course it isn’t just the tech giants that are troubled these days.

On Tuesday we learned that same-store sales for Chipotle declined by a whopping 29.7 percent during the first quarter, and appliance manufacturer Whirlpool has seen sales fall all over the planet

Whirlpool, the world’s biggest appliance manufacturer, has become the poster child for the deep challenges facing multinational companies these days.

– Latin American sales plunged 22%.

– Revenue fell 8% in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

– Asia sales dipped 2%.

When is it finally going to sink in for most people?  The global economy is slowing down significantly, and the next global economic crisis is already here.

Of course the oil companies are feeling more pain than anyone else.  According to CNN, the crash in the price of oil has cost the 40 largest publicly-traded U.S. oil producers 67 billion dollars

American oil companies are drowning in a sea of red ink.

The crash in crude oil prices caused a stunning $67 billion in combined losses by 40 publicly-traded U.S. oil producers last year, according Energy Information Administration research. And the bleeding is expected to continue at least early this year for many.

The losses surpassed $1 billion each from struggling oil companies like EOG Resources (EOG), Devon Energy (DVN) and Linn Energy (LINE) as well as SandRidge Energy (SD), the shale oil driller that recently admitted it’s exploring a bankruptcy filing.

That is an astounding amount of money.

These days we throw around terms like “millions” and “billions” so much that they almost lose their meaning.

But this is real money that we are talking about here.

In recent days, Barack Obama has been running around boasting that he saved the world economy from another Great Depression.  But that isn’t true at all.  Instead, our “leaders” have simply set the stage for a larger and more painful crisis.  I like the way that Doug Casey recently put it

You’ve got to remember that all of these governments and central banks all around the world have driven interest rates not just to zero, but to negative levels in some cases… and they are simultaneously printing up trillions of currency units. And even while they are desperately doing that the economy is falling apart in lots of different ways.

…They’ve created a super-bubble in bonds, a bubble in stocks, and meanwhile commodities have collapsed and are below production costs in many cases.

…The economy is going to be very, very bad… It’s the next stage of what I call the Greater Depression. 

Whether you want to call it a “Great Depression”, a “Greater Depression” or “The Greatest Depression”, the truth is that we are heading into a period of time that will be unlike anything any of us have ever experienced before.

The greatest debt bubble in the history of the planet is starting to implode, and this time the central bankers and the politicians are not going to be able to put the pieces back together again.

But just like in 2008, the vast majority of the population will not recognize the warning signs until it is way too late.

*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.*

12 Signs That An Imminent Global Financial Crash Has Become Even More Likely

Time Spinning Skyline - Public DomainDid you see what just happened?  The devaluation of the yuan by China triggered the largest one day drop for that currency in the modern era.  This caused other global currencies to crash relative to the U.S. dollar, the price of oil hit a six year low, and stock markets all over the world were rattled.  The Dow fell 212 points on Tuesday, and Apple stock plummeted another 5 percent.  As we hurtle toward the absolutely critical months of September and October, the unraveling of the global financial system is beginning to accelerate.  At this point, it is not going to take very much to push us into a full-blown worldwide financial crisis.  The following are 12 signs that indicate that a global financial crash has become even more likely after the events of the past few days…

#1 The devaluation of the yuan on Tuesday took virtually the entire planet by surprise (and not in a good way).  The following comes from Reuters

China’s 2 percent devaluation of the yuan on Tuesday pushed the U.S. dollar higher and hit Wall Street and other global equity markets as it raised fears of a new round of currency wars and fed worries about slowing Chinese economic growth.

#2 One of the big reasons why China devalued the yuan was to try to boost exports.  China’s exports declined 8.3 percent in July, and global trade overall is falling at a pace that we haven’t seen since the last recession.

#3 Now that the Chinese have devalued their currency, other nations that rely on exports are indicating that they might do the same thing.  If you scan the big financial news sites, it seems like the term “currency war” is now being bandied about quite a bit.

#4 This is the very first time that the 50 day moving average for the Dow has moved below the 200 day moving average in the last four years. This is known as a “death cross”, and it is a very troubling sign.  We are just about at the point where all of the most common technical signals that investors typically use to make investment decisions will be screaming “sell”.

#5 The price of oil just closed at a brand new six year low.  When the price of oil started to decline back in late 2014, a whole lot of people were proclaiming that this would be a good thing for the U.S. economy.  Now we can see just how wrong they were.

At this point, the price of oil has already fallen to a level that is going to be absolutely nightmarish for the global economy if it stays here.  Just consider what Jeff Gundlach had to say about this in December…

And back in December 2014, “Bond King” Jeff Gundlach had a serious warning for the world if oil prices got to $40 a barrel.

“I hope it does not go to $40,” Gundlach said in a presentation, “because then something is very, very wrong with the world, not just the economy. The geopolitical consequences could be — to put it bluntly — terrifying.”

#6 This week we learned that OPEC has been pumping more oil than we thought, and it is being projected that this could cause the price of oil to plunge into the 30s

Increased pumping by OPEC as Chinese demand appears to be slackening could drive oil to the lowest prices since the peak of the financial crisis.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures skidded through the year’s lows and looked set to break into the $30s-per-barrel range after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries admitted to more pumping and China devalued its currency, sending ripples through global markets.

#7 In a recent article, I explained that the collapse in commodity prices that we are witnessing right now is eerily similar to what we witnessed just before the stock market crash of 2008.  On Tuesday, things got even worse for commodities as the price of copper closed at a brand new six year low.

#8 The South American debt crisis of 2015 continues to intensify.  Brazil’s government bonds have been downgraded to just one level above junk status, and the approval rating of Brazil’s president has fallen into the single digits.

#9 Just before the financial crisis of 2008, a surging U.S. dollar put an extraordinary amount of stress on emerging markets.  Now that is happening again.  Emerging market stocks just hit a brand new four year low on Tuesday thanks to the stunt that China just pulled.

#10 Things are not so great in the United States either.  The ratio of wholesale inventories to sales in the United States just hit the highest level since the last recession.  What that means is that there is a whole lot of stuff sitting in warehouses out there that is waiting to be sold in an economy that is rapidly slowing down.

#11 Speaking of slowing down, the growth of consumer spending in the United States has just plummeted to multi-year lows.

#12 Deep inside, most of us can feel what is coming.  According to Gallup, the number of Americans that believe that the economy is getting worse is almost 50 percent higher than the number of Americans that believe that the economy is getting better.

Things are lining up perfectly for a global financial crisis and a major recession beginning in the fall and winter of 2015.

But just because things look like they will happen a certain way does not necessarily mean that they will.  All it takes is a single “event” of some sort to change everything.

So what do you believe will happen in the months ahead?

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

Crashing: Apple, Twitter, Oil, Commodities, Greek Stocks, Chinese Stocks

Crash - Public DomainThe month of August sure has started off with a bang.  Tech stocks are crashing, oil is crashing, industrial commodities are crashing, Greek stocks crashed the moment that the Greek stock market reopened for trading, and Chinese stocks continue to crash.  At this point we have not seen a broad crash of U.S. stocks yet, but it is important to note that the Dow is already down more than 700 points from the peak in May.  If it continues to slide like it has in recent days, it won’t be too long before we will officially reach “correction” territory.  Just a few days ago, I described August as a “pivotal month“, and so far that is indeed turning out to be the case.

A full-blown financial crisis has not erupted yet, but we are well on the way.  In this article, I want to look at a few of the “crashes” that are already happening…

Apple

This is more of a “correction” than a “crash”, but it is very noteworthy because it is happening to one of the most important U.S. stocks of all.  The price of Apple stock has already broken through the 200 day moving average, and at this point it is down nearly 11 percent from the peak

Shares of Apple are down 10.9% from their highest point in a year — which places the stock squarely in what’s considered to be a correction. The unofficial definition of a correction is a 10% or greater drop from a recent high. Shares of Apple hit a 52-week (and all-time) high on $134.54 on April 28.

Twitter

If you want to see a real crash, just look at what is happening to Twitter.  The stock was down close to 6 percent on Monday, and overall it has fallen 58 percent since early last year.  The price of Twitter stock has never been lower than it is right now, and many investors are very apprehensive about what comes next…

Twitter shares hit a record low on Monday, closing down nearly 6% to $29.27.

That is 58% below their peak in January 2014.

Shares have fallen to their lowest point since the company went public in November 2014 weighed down by negative comments on growth from company executives that rattled investors. Its previous low was $30.50 in May 2014 as concerns over slowing user growth began to take a toll.

Of course there are tech companies that are in far worse shape than Twitter.  For example, just consider what is happening to Yelp.  Shares of Yelp recently plummeted 25 percent in a single day, and they are down about 70 percent over the past year.

Greece

The Greek government was quite eager to reopen their stock market this week.

Perhaps they should have waited longer.

On Monday, we witnessed the greatest stock bloodbath in Greek history.  The following comes from Reuters

Greece’s stock market closed with heavy losses on Monday after a five-week shutdown brought on by fears that the country was about to be dumped from the euro zone.

Bank shares plummeted 30 percent before loss limits kicked in to stop investors selling any more. The main Athens stock index .ATG ended down 16.2 percent, recovering slightly after plunging nearly 23 percent at the open.

It was the worst daily performance since at least 1985 when modern records began, including a 15 percent fall when Wall Street crashed in 1987.

Puerto Rico

Things also continue to unravel for “America’s Greece”.  On Monday, a U.S. commonwealth territory defaulted on debt for the first time ever

Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank announced Monday that it was only able to make a partial payment on its Public Finance Corporation (PFC) debt service due over the weekend.

In response to the non-payment of the full service, Moody’s said it viewed the situation as a default.

“Due to the lack of appropriated funds for this fiscal year the entirety of the PFC payment was not made today (the first business day after the Saturday deadline),” GDB President Melba Acosta-Febo said in a statement. This was a decision that reflects the serious concerns about the Commonwealth’s liquidity in combination with the balance of obligations to our creditors and the equally important obligations to the people of Puerto Rico to ensure the essential services they deserve are maintained.”

China

As I noted the other day, the Shanghai Composite Index declined 13.4 percent during the month of July.  It was the worst month for stocks in China since October 2009.

On Monday, Chinese stocks were down another 1.11 percent.  Since closing at 5,166.35 on June 12th, the Shanghai Composite Index has fallen precipitously.  As I write this, it is sitting at just 3622.86.

Oil

In the months prior to the financial crisis of 2008, the price of oil crashed hard.

Now it is happening again.

In July, the price of oil plunged 21 percent.  That was the worst monthly decline that we have seen since October 2008.

And on Monday, the oil crash continued.  The following comes from Business Insider

On Monday in New York, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell more than 4% and slipped below $45 per barrel, a level it hasn’t touched since March.

Brent crude oil, the international benchmark that joined WTI in a bear market last week, dropped more than 4%, below $50 per barrel for the first time since January.

Commodities

In recent weeks, I have been writing over and over about industrial commodities.  This is yet another striking similarity to the last financial crisis.  In 2008, they started crashing before stocks did, and now it is happening again

We see the Bloomberg Commodities index now at a 13-year low. Copper is down 28 percent for the year, tin is down 30 percent, and nickel is down 44 percent.

This is a giant red flag that indicates that we are plunging into a deflationary cycle.  When global economic activity slows down, so does demand for industrial commodities.  I don’t understand why more people can’t see this.

I have been warning that a deflationary downturn was coming for a very long time, and so have others.  For instance, just consider the following excerpt from a recent article by Nicole Foss

Our consistent theme here at the Automatic Earth since its inception has been that we are facing a very powerful deflationary depression, following on from the bursting of an epic financial bubble. What we have witnessed in our three decades of expansion and inflation is nothing short of a monetary supernova, and that period has been the just culmination of a much larger upward trend going back many decades at least. We have lived through a credit hyper-expansion for the record books, with an unprecedented generation of excess claims to underlying real wealth. In doing so we have created the largest financial departure from reality in human history.

Bubbles are not new – humanity has experienced them periodically going all the way back to antiquity – but the novel aspect of this one, apart from its scale, is its occurrence at a point when we have reached or are reaching so many limits on a global scale. The retrenchment we are about to experience as this bubble bursts is also set to be unprecedented, given that the scale of a bust is predictably proportionate to the scale of the excesses during the boom that precedes it. We have built an incredibly complex economic system, but despite its robust appearance it is over-extended, brittle and fragile after decades of fueling its continued expansion by feeding on its own substance.

Things continue to line up in textbook fashion for a major financial crisis during the fall and winter.

I hope that you are prepared for what comes next.

33 Strange Facts About America That Most Americans Would Be Shocked To Learn

33 SignDid you know that about one-fourth of the entire global prison population is in the United States?  Did you know that Apple has more money than the U.S. Treasury?  Did you know that if you have no debt and also have 10 dollars in your wallet that you are wealthier than 25 percent of all Americans?  Did you know that by the time an American child reaches the age of 18, that child will have seen approximately 40,000 murders on television?  There are some things that are great about the United States, and there are definitely some things that are not so great.  Once upon a time we were the most loved and most respected nation on the entire planet, but those days are long gone.  We have wrecked our economy, we have lost our values and we have fumbled away our future.  But if you look close enough, you can still see many of the things that once made this country a shining beacon to the rest of the world.  This article includes some weird facts, some fun facts, but also some very troubling facts.  It has been said that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and hopefully as people enjoy reading the fun facts in this article they will also take note of the more serious facts.  If we are ever going to change course as a nation, we need to come to grips with just how far we have fallen.  The following are 33 strange facts about America that most Americans would be shocked to learn…

#1 The amount of cement that China used from 2011 to 2013 was greater than the total amount of cement that the United States used during the entire 20th century.

#2 In more than half of all U.S. states, the highest paid public employee in the state is a football coach.

#3 It costs the U.S. government 1.8 cents to mint a penny and 9.4 cents to mint a nickel.

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

#5 In 2014, police in the United States killed 1,100 people.  During that same year, police in Canada killed 14 people, police in China killed 12 people and police in Germany didn’t kill anyone at all.

#6 The state of Alaska is 429 times larger than the state of Rhode Island is.  But Rhode Island has a significantly larger population than Alaska does.

#7 Alaska has a longer coastline than all of the other 49 U.S. states put together.

#8 The city of Juneau, Alaska is about 3,000 square miles in size.  It is actually larger than the entire state of Delaware.

#9 When LBJ’s “War on Poverty” began, less than 10 percent of all U.S. children were growing up in single parent households.  Today, that number has skyrocketed to 33 percent.

#10 In 1950, less than 5 percent of all babies in America were born to unmarried parents.  Today, that number is over 40 percent.

#11 The poverty rate for households that are led by a married couple is 6.8 percent.  For households that are led by a female single parent, the poverty rate is 37.1 percent.

#12 In 2013, women earned 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees that were awarded that year in the United States.

#13 According to the CDC, 34.6 percent of all men in the U.S. are obese at this point.

#14 The average supermarket in the United States wastes about 3,000 pounds of food each year.

#15 Right now, more than 200 million people around the planet are officially considered to be unemployed.  Meanwhile, approximately 20 percent of the garbage that goes into our landfills is food.

#16 There is a city in Bangladesh called Dhaka where workers are paid just one dollar for every 1,000 bricks that they carry.  Meanwhile, the “inactivity rate” for men in their prime working years in the United States is hovering near record high levels.

#17 According to one recent survey, 81 percent of Russians now have a negative view of the United States.  That is much higher than at the end of the Cold War era.

#18 Montana has three times as many cows as it does people.

#19 The grizzly bear is the official state animal of California.  But no grizzly bears have been seen there since 1922.

#20 One recent survey discovered that “a steady job” is the number one thing that American women are looking for in a husband, and another survey discovered that 75 percent of women would have a serious problem dating an unemployed man.

#21 According to a study conducted by economist Carl Benedikt Frey and engineer Michael Osborne, 47 percent of the jobs in the United States could soon be lost to computers, robots and other forms of technology.

#22 The only place in the United States where coffee is grown commercially is in Hawaii.

#23 The original name of the city of Atlanta was “Terminus“.

#24 The state with the most millionaires per capita is Maryland.

#25 There are more than 4 million adult websites on the Internet, and they get more traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.

#26 86 percent of men include “having children” in their definition of success.  For women, that number is only 73 percent.

#27 One survey of 50-year-old men in the U.S. found that only 12 percent of them said that they were “very happy”.

#28 The United States has 845 motor vehicles for every 1,000 people.  Japan only has 593 for every 1,000 people, and Germany only has 540 for every 1,000 people.

#29 The average American spends more than 10 hours a day using an electronic device.

#30 48 percent of all Americans do not have any emergency supplies in their homes whatsoever.

#31 There are three towns in the United States that have the name “Santa Claus“.

#32 There is actually a town in Michigan called “Hell“.

#33 There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.  If they were stretched out in a single line, they could go around the planet more than twice.

 

What In The World Is Happening To The Nasdaq?

NASDAQ MarketSite TV studio - Photo by Luis Villa del CampoAll of a sudden, the Nasdaq is absolutely tanking.  On Monday, it fell more than 1 percent after dropping 3.6 percent on Thursday and Friday combined.  At this point, the Nasdaq is off to the worst start to a year that we have seen since 2008, and we all remember what happened back then.  So why is this happening?  In recent years, the Nasdaq has been ground zero for “dotcom bubble 2.0”.  The hottest stocks in the entire world are on the Nasdaq – we are talking about stocks like Yahoo, Netflix, Apple, Tesla, Google and Facebook.  Those stocks have gone to absolutely incredible heights, but now they are starting to fall.  Some are blaming insider selling, and without a doubt the “smart money” is starting to flee the stock market.  Just check out this chart.  Others are blaming low expectations for first-quarter earnings or the tapering of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve.  But whatever is causing this decline, it is starting to get alarming.  The Nasdaq just experienced its largest three day fall since November 2011.

No stock can resist gravity forever.  What goes up must eventually come down.  This is especially true for stock prices that become grotesquely distorted.

On Wall Street, a price to earnings ratio of 20 to 25 is usually considered fairly normal.  In recent years, the price to earnings ratios for many of these “hot tech stocks” have gone way, way beyond that.  For example, posted below is a screen capture from Bloomberg TV that was featured in a recent Zero Hedge article

Zero Hedge

There is no way in the world that such valuations are justified.

We have been living in another dotcom bubble, and it was inevitable that it was going to burst at some point.

The following is how one financial industry insider described the carnage that we have seen on the Nasdaq over the past few days…

Gary Kaltbaum, president of money-management firm Kaltbaum Capital Management, describes the carnage of once high-flying “growth” names in the Nasdaq composite, that have come crashing down to earth: “The best we can describe what we have been recently seeing in ‘growth-land’ is a 50-car pileup,” Kaltbaum told clients in a morning research note. “Call them what you want … risk areas, growth stocks, froth areas … they are melting away.

And of course it isn’t just the Nasdaq that has been seeing declines over the past few days.  On Monday, some of the biggest names on the Dow also fell precipitiously

Visa, Goldman Sachs and Boeing are among the biggest drags on the Dow Monday, falling 2.1%, 2.9% and 1.4% respectively. Weakness in these stocks is especially problematic since the Dow gives greatest weight to the stocks with the highest per-share prices. And at $203.41, $158.56 and $125.59 respectively, Visa, Goldman and Boeing are the stocks that really matter to the measure.

And the trouble in these stocks isn’t just today. So far this year, Visa is down 8.7%, Goldman is off 10.5% and Boeing is down 8.0%.

This recent decline has many analysts groping for answers.

Some believe that it is simply a “rotation” as investors leave growth stocks that have become overvalued and move into safer, more traditional stocks.

Others are pointing their fingers at the Federal Reserve

Peter Boockvar, chief market strategist at Lindsey Group, believes it’s all about the Fed. “I’m still amazed at the complacency with the Fed taper, and a lot of people still don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s a coincidence that the high-fliers are getting popped when the Fed is half way done with QE. We’ve got tightening smack in front of your face with the taper.”

In fact, some believe that the really big stock market decline will happen later this year when the Fed starts to wrap up quantitative easing completely

Once the Fed begins to truly reduce its massive bond buying program later this year, markets could see a quarter of their value wiped off the books, a private equity pro told CNBC on Friday.

Jay Jordan, founder of the Jordan Company, issued the dire warning during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” saying a 25 percent drop could extend to all asset classes. He blames the monetary policies of former Fed chair Ben Bernanke for artificially inflating asset prices through super-low interest rates.

Yet others point to the fact that we are now moving into earnings season, and it is being projected that corporate earnings will come in at very poor levels.  In fact, it is being estimated that overall earnings for companies in the S&P 500 for the first quarter will be down 1.2 percent.

So what should we expect to see next?

Whether it happens this month or not, at some point a massive stock market correction is coming.  In recent years, the financial markets have become completely and totally divorced from economic reality, and that is a state of affairs that cannot last indefinitely.

Many have compared the current state of affairs to 2008, but to me what is happening right now is eerily reminiscent of 2007.  The Dow soared to record heights quite a few times that year, but there were constant rumblings of economic trouble in the background.  Stocks began to drop steadily late in the year, and 2008 ultimately turned out to be an utter bloodbath.

I believe that what is happening right now is setting the stage for another financial bloodbath.  I truly believe that we will look back on this two year time period and regard it as a major “turning point” for America.

And as I have written about previously, we are in far worse shape as a nation than we were back in 2008.  We have far more debt, the “too big to fail banks” have a much larger share of the banking industry, the derivatives bubble has gotten completely and totally out of control, and our overall economy is far weaker than it was back then.

In other words, we are now even more vulnerable.  When the next great financial crisis strikes us, it is going to be absolutely crippling.

Now is not the time to get complacent.

Now is the time to get prepared, because time is running out.

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

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

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

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

****END OF UPDATE****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example, the following is what 

Dear Google users—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have been stealing it.

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

And guess what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know that I definitely am not.

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

 

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