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Are They About To Confiscate Money From Bank Accounts In Greece Just Like They Did In Cyprus?

Euros - Public DomainDo you remember what happened when Cyprus decided to defy the EU?  In the end, the entire banking system of the nation collapsed and money was confiscated from private bank accounts.  Well, the nation of Greece is now approaching a similar endgame.  At this point, the Greek government has not received any money from the EU or the IMF since August 2014.  As you can imagine, that means that Greek government accounts are just about bone dry.  The new Greek government continues to insist that it will never “violate its anti-austerity mandate”, but the screws are tightening.  Right now the unemployment rate in Greece is over 25 percent and the banking system is on the verge of collapse.  It isn’t going to take much to set off a panic, and when it does happen there are already rumors that the EU plans to confiscate money from private bank accounts just like they did in Cyprus.

Throughout this entire multi-year crisis, things have never been this dire for the Greek government.  In fact, Greece came thisclose to defaulting on a loan payment to the IMF back on May 12th.  And with essentially no money remaining at all, the Greek government is supposed to make several large payments in the weeks ahead

Athens barely made its latest payment (May 12) to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and it managed to do so only when the government discovered that it could use a reserve account it wasn’t aware of, according to the Greek media.

Kathimerini, a Greek daily newspaper, reports that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wrote to the IMF’s Christine Lagarde warning that Greece would not be able to make that May payment, worth €762 million ($871 million, £554.2 million).

Pension and civil-servant pay packets are due at the end of the month, and based on this news Athens may struggle to pay them. Even if it does manage that, on June 5 the country owes another €305 million to the IMF.

In the two weeks following June 5 there are another three payments, bringing the June total to the IMF to over €1.5 billion.

The Germans and the other financial hawks in the EU are counting on these looming payment deadlines to force Greece into a deal.

Meanwhile, Greek banks also find themselves in very hot water.  Many of them are almost totally out of collateral, and without outside intervention some of them could start collapsing within weeks.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Greek banks are running short on the collateral they need to stay alive, a crisis that could help force Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s hand after weeks of brinkmanship with creditors.

As deposits flee the financial system, lenders use collateral parked at the Greek central bank to tap more and more emergency liquidity every week. In a worst-case scenario, that lifeline will be maxed out within three weeks, pushing banks toward insolvency, some economists say.

“The point where collateral is exhausted is likely to be near,” JPMorgan Chase Bank analysts Malcolm Barr and David Mackie wrote in a note to clients May 15. “Pressures on central government cash flow, pressures on the banking system, and the political timetable are all converging on late May-early June.”

If no agreement is reached, by this time next month Greece could be plunging into a Cyprus-style crisis or worse.

And if that does happen, there are already rumblings that a “Cyprus-style solution” will be imposed.  Just consider what James Turk recently told King World News

The troika of the EU, ECB and IMF have not yet pulled the plug on the Greek banks, but the following quote in the Financial Times from this weekend should be a warning to anyone who still has money on deposit in that country: “The idea of a “Cyprus-like” presentation to Greek authorities has gained traction among some eurozone finance ministers, according to one official involved in the talks.”

The ECB is up to its eyeballs swimming in unpayable Greek debt that it holds. The ECB is not going to take a loss on this Greek paper on its books. Because Greece does not have the financial capacity to repay what is now about €112 billion of credit exposure to Greece on the ECB’s books, the ECB has only two alternatives.

It can push the €112 billion of Greek debt it holds to the national central banks of the Eurozone and on to the backs of the taxpayers in those countries, which it politically untenable. Or it can confiscate depositor money in Greek banks, like it did in Cyprus and as the FT has now reported.

Needless to say, such a move would be likely to set off financial panic all over Europe.

Could we actually see such a thing?

Well, let’s recall that back in April we already saw the Greek government forcibly grab “idle” cash from the bank accounts of regional governments and pension funds.  The following is from a Bloomberg report about that event…

Running out of other options, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras ordered local governments and central government entities to move their cash balances to the central bank for investment in short-term state debt.

The decree to confiscate reserves held in commercial banks and transfer them to the Bank of Greece could raise as much as 2 billion euros ($2.15 billion), according to two people familiar with the decision. The money is needed to pay salaries and pensions at the end of the month, the people said.

“It is a politically and institutionally unacceptable decision,” Giorgos Patoulis, mayor of the city of Marousi and president of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece, said in a statement on Monday.“No government to date has dared to touch the money of municipalities.”

Grabbing cash from the bank accounts of private citizens is just one step farther.

And what happened in Cyprus just a couple of years ago is still fresh in the minds of most Greeks.  That is why so many of them have been pulling money out of the banks in recent weeks.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Greeks remember very well what happened in Cyprus in 2013, when local banks were given a big thumbs-up from Europe to help themselves to their depositors’ accounts. Cyprus and Greece are very closely tied, and many Greeks consider the island a “sister-nation.”

What little trust remained in banks in Greece died that day. People have been nervously looking for signs something similar may happen again in their home country. And they resolved to act at the first sign of danger: banks cannot confiscate money you have under your mattress. Cash can be hidden away.

Let’s certainly hope that what happened in Cyprus does not happen in Greece.

But right now, both sides are counting on the other side to fold.

The Germans believe that at some point the economic and financial pain will become so immense that it will force the new Greek government to give in to their demands.

The Greeks believe that the threat of a full blown European financial crisis will cause the Germans to back down at the last moment.

So what if they are both wrong?

What if both sides are fully prepared to stand their ground and take us over the cliff and into disaster?

For a long time I have been warning that a great financial crisis is coming to Europe.

This could be the spark that sets it off.

It’s Germany vs. Greece, And The Very Survival Of The Eurozone Is At Stake

Boxing - Public DomainIs this the beginning of the end for the eurozone?  On Thursday, Germany rejected a Greek request for a six-month loan extension.  The Germans insisted that the Greek proposal did not require the Greeks to adhere to the austerity restrictions which previous agreements had forced upon them.  But Greek voters have already very clearly rejected the status quo, and the new Greek government has stated unequivocally that it will not be bound by the current bailout arrangement.  So can Germany and Greece find some sort of compromise that will be acceptable to both of them?  It certainly does not help that some Greek politicians have been comparing the current German government to the Nazis, and the Germans have fired back with some very nasty comments about the Greeks.  Unfortunately for both of them, time is running out.  The Greek government will run out of money in just a couple of weeks, and without a deal there is a very good chance that Greece will be forced to leave the euro.  In fact, this week Commerzbank AG increased the probability of a “Grexit” to 50 percent.  And if Greece does leave the eurozone, it could spark a full blown European financial crisis which would be absolutely catastrophic.

What the Greeks want right now is a six month loan extension which would give them much more economic flexibility than under the current agreement.  Unfortunately for the Greeks, Germany has rejected this proposal

Germany rejected a Greek proposal for a six-month extension to its euro zone loan agreement on Thursday, saying it was “not a substantial solution” because it did not commit Athens to stick to the conditions of its international bailout.

Berlin’s stance set the scene for tough talks at a crucial meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Friday when Greece’s new leftist-led government, racing to avoid running out of money within weeks, will face pressure to make further concessions.

As the biggest creditor and EU paymaster, Germany has the clout to block a deal and cast Greece adrift without a financial lifeline, potentially pushing it toward the euro zone exit.

Even though Germany is already saying no to this deal, Greece is still hoping that the Eurogroup will accept the deal that it has proposed…

“The Greek government submitted a letter to the Eurogroup asking for a six-month extension of the loan agreement. Tomorrow’s Eurogroup has only two options: either to accept or reject the Greek request,” a government  official said. “It will then be clear who wants to find a solution and who doesn’t.” Earlier on Thursday, the German finance ministry rejected Athens’ request for an extension by saying it fell short of the conditions set out earlier this week by the euro zone.

At this point, the odds of a deal going through don’t look good.

But there is always next week.  It is possible that something could still happen.

However, if there is no deal and Greece is forced out of the euro, the consequences for Greece and for the rest of the eurozone could be quite dramatic.

The following is how the Independent summarized what could happen to Greece…

An immediate financial crisis and a new, deep, recession. Without external financial support the country would have to default on its debts and, probably, start printing its own currency again in order to pay civil servants. Its banks would also lose access to funding from the European Central Bank.

To prevent these institutions collapsing Athens would have impose controls on the movement of money out of the country. The international value of the new Greek currency would inevitably be much lower than the euro. That would mean an instant drop in living standards for Greeks as import prices spike. And if Greeks have foreign debts which they have to pay back in euros they will also be instantly worse off. There could be a cascade of defaults.

That doesn’t sound pretty at all.

The most frightening part for those that have money in Greek banks would be the capital controls that would be imposed.  People would have to deal with strict restrictions on how much money they could take out of their accounts and on how much money they could take out of the country.

In anticipation of this happening, people are already pulling money out of Greek banks at a staggering pace

In the midst of the dramatic showdown in Brussels between the new Greek government and its European creditors, many Greek depositors—spooked by the prospect of a Greek default or, worse, an exit from the euro zone and a possible return to the drachma—have been pulling euros out of the nation’s banks in record amounts over the last few days.

The Bank of Greece and the European Central Bank won’t report official cash outflows for January until the end of the month. But sources in the Greek banking sector have told Greek newspapers that as much as 25 billion euros (US $28.4 billion) have left Greek banks since the end of December. According to the same sources, an estimated 900 million euros flowed out of Greek banks on Tuesday alone, the day after the talks broke up in Brussels, sparking fears that measures will be taken to stem the outflow. On Thursday, by mid-afternoon, deposits had shrunk by about 680 million euros (US $77.3 million).

If outflows reach 1 billion euros, capital controls might need to be imposed,” said Thanasis Koukakis, a financial editor for Estia a conservative daily, and To Vima, an influential Sunday newspaper.

And if we do indeed witness a “Grexit”, the rest of Europe would be deeply affected as well.

The following is how the Independent summarized what could happen to the rest of the continent…

There would probably be some financial contagion as financial investors wake up to the fact that euro membership is not irreversible. There could a “flight to safety” as depositors pull euros out of other potentially vulnerable eurozone members such as Portugal, Spain or Italy to avoid taking a hit. European company share prices could also fall sharply if investors panic and divert their cash into the government bonds of states such as Germany and Finland.

The question is how severe this contagion would be. The continent’s politicians and regulators seem to think the impact would be relatively small, saying that Europe’s banks have reduced their cross-border exposure to Greece and that general confidence in the future of the eurozone is much stronger than it was a few years ago. But others think this is too complacent. The truth is that no one knows for sure.

To be honest, I think that the rest of the eurozone is being far too complacent about what Greece leaving would mean.

There are all kinds of implications that most people are not even discussing yet.

For example, just consider what a “Grexit” would mean for the European interbank payment system known as Target2.  The following comes from an article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

In normal times, Target2 adjustments are routine and self-correcting. They occur automatically as money is shifted around the currency bloc. The US Federal Reserve has a similar internal system to square books across regions. They turn nuclear if monetary union breaks up.

The Target2 “debts” owed by Greece’s central bank to the ECB jumped to €49bn in December as capital flight accelerated on fears of a Syriza victory. They may have reached €65bn or €70bn by now.

A Greek default – unavoidable in a Grexit scenario – would crystallize these losses. The German people would discover instantly that a large sum of money committed without their knowledge and without a vote in the Bundestag had vanished.

Ouch.

And in a previous article, I discussed some of the other things that are at stake…

If there is no deal, we could see a Greek debt default, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and go back to the drachma, the euro could collapse to all time lows, all the banks all over Europe that are exposed to Greek government debt could be faced with absolutely massive losses, and the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro could start to unravel.  In essence, if things go badly this could be enough to push us into a global financial crisis.

At the end of the day, there are essentially only two choices for Europe…

#1) Find a way to make a deal, which would maybe keep the current financial house of cards together for another six months.

#2) A horrifying European financial crisis starting almost immediately.

In the long-term, nothing is going to stop the economic horror which is coming to Europe, and once it starts it is going to drag down the entire planet.

A Day Of Reckoning For The Euro Has Arrived – 26 TRILLION In Currency Derivatives At Risk

Yanis Varoufakis - posted to Twitter by Utopian FiremanThis is the month when the future of the eurozone will be decided.  This week, Greek leaders will meet with European officials to discuss what comes next for Greece.  The new prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, has already stated that he will not accept an extension of the current bailout.  Officials from other eurozone countries have already said that they expect Greece to fully honor the terms of the current agreement.  So basically we are watching a giant game of financial “chicken” play out over in Europe, and a showdown is looming.  Adding to the drama is the fact that the Greek government is rapidly running out of money.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Greece is “on course to run out of money within weeks if it doesn’t gain access to additional funds, effectively daring Germany and its other European creditors to let it fail and stumble out of the euro.”  We have witnessed other moments of crisis for Greece before, but things are very different this time because the new Greek government is being run by radical leftists that based their entire campaign on ending the austerity that has been imposed on Greece by the rest of Europe.  If they buckle under the demands of the European financial lords, their credibility will be gone and Syriza will essentially be finished in Greek politics.  But if they don’t compromise, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and we could potentially be facing the equivalent of “financial armageddon” in Europe.  If nobody flinches, the eurozone will fall to pieces, the euro will collapse and trillions upon trillions of dollars in derivatives will be in jeopardy.

According to the Bank for International Settlements, 26.45 trillion dollars in currency derivatives are directly tied to the value of the euro.

Let that number sink in for a moment.

To give you some perspective, keep in mind that the U.S. government spends a total of less than 4 trillion dollars a year.

The entire U.S. national debt is just a bit above 18 trillion dollars.

So 26 trillion dollars is an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.  And of course those are just the derivatives that are directly tied to the euro.  Overall, the total global derivatives bubble is more than 700 trillion dollars in size.

Over the past couple of decades, the global financial system has been transformed into the biggest casino in the history of the planet.  And when things are stable, the computer algorithms used by the big banks work quite well and they make enormous amounts of money.  But when unexpected things happen and markets go haywire, the financial institutions that gamble on derivatives can lose massive quantities of money very rapidly.  We saw this in 2008, and we could be on the verge of seeing this happen again.

If no agreement can be reached and Greece does leave the eurozone, the euro is going to fall off a cliff.

When that happens, someone out there is going to lose an extraordinary amount of money.

And just like in 2008, when the big financial institutions start to fail that will plunge the entire planet into another major financial crisis.

So at the moment, it is absolutely imperative that Greece and the rest of the eurozone find some common ground.

Unfortunately, that may not happen.  The new prime minister of Greece certainly does not sound like he is in a compromising mood

Greece’s new leftist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said on Sunday he would not accept an extension to Greece’s current bailout, setting up a clash with EU leaders – who want him to do just that – at a summit on Thursday.

Tsipras also pledged his government would heal the “wounds” of austerity, sticking to campaign pledges of giving free food and electricity to those who had suffered, and reinstating civil servants who had been fired as part of bailout austerity conditions.

Prior to the summit on Thursday, eurozone finance ministers are going to get together on Wednesday to discuss what they should do.  If these two meetings don’t go well this week, we could be looking at big trouble right around the corner.  In fact, Greece is being warned that they only have until February 16th to apply for an extension of the current bailout…

Euro zone finance ministers will discuss how to proceed with financial support for Athens at a special session next Wednesday ahead of the first summit of EU leaders with the new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, the following day.

However, the chairman of the finance ministers said the following meeting of the Eurogroup on Feb. 16 would be Greece’s last chance to apply for a bailout extension because some euro zone countries would need to consult their parliaments.

“Time will become very short if they (Greece) don’t ask for an extension (by then),” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

The current bailout for Greece expires on Feb 28. Without it the country will not get financing or debt relief from its lenders and has little hope of financing itself in the markets.

And as I mentioned above, the Greek government is quickly running out of money.

Most analysts believe that because of the enormous stakes that one side or the other will give in at some point.

But what if that does not happen?

Personally, I believe that the eurozone is doomed in the configuration that we see it today, and that it is just a matter of time before it breaks up.

And I am far from alone.  For example, just check out what former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan is saying

Mr Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, said: “I believe [Greece] will eventually leave. I don’t think it helps them or the rest of the eurozone – it is just a matter of time before everyone recognizes that parting is the best strategy.

The problem is that there there is no way that I can conceive of the euro of continuing, unless and until all of the members of eurozone become politically integrated – actually even just fiscally integrated won’t do it.”

The Greeks are using all of this to their advantage.  They know that if they leave it could break apart the entire monetary union.  So this gives them a tremendous amount of leverage.  Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has even gone so far as to compare the eurozone to a house of cards

The euro is fragile, it’s like building a castle of cards, if you take out the Greek card the others will collapse.” Varoufakis said according to an Italian transcript of the interview released by RAI ahead of broadcast.

The euro zone faces a risk of fragmentation and “de-construction” unless it faces up to the fact that Greece, and not only Greece, is unable to pay back its debt under the current terms, Varoufakis said.

“I would warn anyone who is considering strategically amputating Greece from Europe because this is very dangerous,” he said. “Who will be next after us? Portugal? What will happen when Italy discovers it is impossible to remain inside the straitjacket of austerity?”

After all this time and after so many bailouts, we have finally reached a day of reckoning.

There is a very real possibility that Greece could leave the eurozone in just a matter of months, and the elite know this.

That is why they are getting prepared for that eventuality.  The following is from a recent Wall Street Journal report

The U.K. government is stepping up contingency planning to prepare for a possible Greek exit from the eurozone and the market instability such a move would create, U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne said on Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury declined comment on the details of the contingency planning.

The U.K. government has said the standoff between Greece’s new anti-austerity government and the eurozone is increasing the risks to the global and U.K. economy.

“That’s why I’m going tomorrow to the G-20 [Group of 20] to encourage our partners to resolve this crisis. It’s why we’re stepping up the contingency planning here at home,” Mr. Osborne told the BBC in an interview. “We have got to make sure we don’t, at this critical time when Britain is also facing a critical choice, add to the instability abroad with instability at home.”

And if Greece does leave, it will cause panic throughout global financial markets as everyone wonders who is next.

Italy, Spain and Portugal are all in a similar position.  Every one of them could rapidly become “the next Greece”.

But of even greater concern is what a “Grexit” would do to the euro.  If the euro falls below parity with the U.S. dollar, the derivatives losses are going to be absolutely mind blowing.  And coupled with the collapse of the price of oil, we could be looking at some extreme financial instability in the not too distant future.

When big banks collapse, they don’t do it overnight.  But we often learn about it in a single moment.

Just remember Lehman Brothers.  Their problems developed over an extended period of time, but we only learned the full extent of their difficulties on one very disturbing day in 2008, and that day changed the world.

As you read this, big financial troubles are brewing in the background.  At some point, they are going to come to the surface.  When they do, the entire planet is going to be shocked.

 

Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt

ObamacareWhen it comes to taking a chainsaw to the future of America, nobody seems more eager than Barack Obama.  Despite the fact that the U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during his eight years in the White House, he has just proposed a budget that would take government spending to crazy new heights.  When Barack Obama took the oath of office, the U.S. national debt was 10.6 trillion dollars.  Today, it has surpassed the 18 trillion dollar mark.  And even though we are being told that “deficits are going down”, the truth is that the U.S. national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal 2014.  But that isn’t good enough for Obama.  He says that we need to come out of this period of “mindless austerity” and steal money from our children and our grandchildren even faster.  In addition, Obama wants to raise taxes again.  His budget calls for 2 trillion dollars in tax increases over the next decade.  He always touts these tax increases as “tax hikes on the rich”, but somehow they almost always seem to end up hitting the middle class too.  But whether or not Congress ever adopts Obama’s new budget is not really the issue.  The reality of the matter is that the “tax and spend Democrats” and the “tax and spend Republicans” are both responsible for getting us into this mess.  Future generations of Americans are already facing the largest mountain of debt in the history of the planet, and both parties want to make this mountain of debt even higher.  The only disagreement is about how fast it should happen.  It is a national disgrace, but most Americans have come to accept this as “normal”.  If our children and our grandchildren get the opportunity, they will curse us for what we have done to them.

All debt destroys.

All debt enslaves.

And when you are talking about an 18 trillion dollar debt, you are talking about an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.

If our national debt was reduced to a stack of one dollar bills, it would circle our planet at the equator 45 times.

How could we have done such a thing?

Thomas Jefferson once said that “the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”  He correctly understood that government debt is stealing.  We are financially raping our children, our grandchildren and all future generations of Americans.  It is an incredibly wicked thing to do.

But instead of men like Thomas Jefferson running our country, we have men like Barack Obama running it.

And to Barack Obama, running up a trillion dollars of debt a year is “mindless austerity”

“I want to work with Congress to replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America,” Obama said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security. “I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward. It would be bad for our security, and bad for our growth.”

Yes, if we steal money from future generations it will artificially inflate our current standard of living and make our economy look temporarily better than it should be.

But it is morally wrong to do this, and our current crop of politicians have no intentions of ever bringing the debt party to an end.

Even with the ridiculously optimistic economic assumptions that are used in Obama’s new budget, the federal budget is never projected to balance within the next decade.  Instead, Obama’s budget projects that the national debt will rise from 18.1 trillion dollars right now to 26.2 trillion dollars in 2025.

Of course it would greatly help if the federal government actually spent our money wisely.  But instead, the feds often waste our hard-earned tax dollars in some of the most bizarre ways imaginable.  The following is just one example

The U.S. federal government has prompted controversy after spending over $33,000 on a study to find out whether same-sex couples live closer to tobacco shops than heterosexuals.

The large sum was spent on a study by the National Institutes of Health entitled, ‘Relationship Between Tobacco Retailer Density and Sexual Minority Couples.’

Thanks to this kind of insane spending, our debt is completely and totally out of control.

While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the U.S. national debt has increased by $84,266 per full-time private sector worker.  Anyone that believes that this kind of debt accumulation is sustainable is absolutely delusional.

The only reason why our house of cards has not completely collapsed already is because the rest of the world has been willing to lend us gigantic piles of money at artificially low interest rates.

In December, the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 2.013 percent.  But in the past, interest rates have been much higher than that.  For example, in January 2000 the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 6.620 percent.  If we returned to that level today, we would be paying well over a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

And the issue isn’t just the more than one trillion dollars in new debt that we are accumulating every 12 months.

As I have discussed previously, the U.S. government has more than seven trillion dollars of debt that must be “rolled over” each year.  In other words, the federal government must issue more than seven trillion dollars of new debt just to pay off old debts that are coming due.

If something were to happen which would cause the rest of the planet to either be unwilling or unable to lend us trillions of dollars at ridiculously low interest rates all of a sudden, the game would be over.

We were handed the keys to the greatest and most prosperous economy in the history of the planet, and our greed has totally wrecked it.

We were wealthy beyond imagination, but that was never good enough for us.  We always had to have more.

And now we are hurtling toward financial oblivion, and we have a man in the White House that wants us to go into debt even faster.

 

Radical Leftists Win Election In Greece – Future Of Eurozone In Serious Jeopardy

Euro Sign - Public DomainRadical leftists have been catapulted to power in Greece, and that means that the European financial crisis has just entered a dangerous new phase.  Syriza, which is actually an acronym for “Coalition of the Radical Left” in Greek, has 36 percent of the total vote with approximately 80 percent of the polling stations reporting.  The current governing party, New Democracy, only has 28 percent of the vote.  Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is promising to roll back a whole host of austerity measures that were imposed on Greece by the EU, and his primary campaign slogan was “hope is on the way”.  Hmmm – that sounds a bit familiar.  Clearly, the Greek population is fed up with the EU after years of austerity and depression-like conditions.  At this point, the unemployment rate in Greece is sitting at 25.8 percent, and the Greek economy is approximately 25 percent smaller than it was just six years ago.  The people of Greece are desperate for things to get better, and so they have turned to the radical leftists.  Unfortunately, things may be about to get a whole lot worse.

Once they formally have control of the government, Syriza plans to call for a European debt conference during which they plan to demand that the repayment terms of their debts be renegotiated.  But the rest of Europe appears to be highly resistant to any renegotiation – especially Germany.

Syriza says that it does not plan to unilaterally pull Greece out of the eurozone, and that it also intends for Greece to continue to use the euro.

But what happens if Germany will not budge?

Syriza’s entire campaign was based on promises to end austerity.  If international creditors refuse to negotiate and continue to insist that Greece abide by the austerity measures that were previously put in place, what will Syriza do?

Will Syriza back down and lose all future credibility with Greek voters?

Since 2010, the Greek people have endured a seemingly endless parade of wage reductions, pension cuts, tax increases and government budget cutbacks.

The Greek people just want things to go back to the way that they used to be, and they are counting on Syriza to deliver.

Unfortunately for Syriza, delivering on those promises is not going to be easy.  They may be faced with a choice of either submitting to the demands of their international creditors or choosing to leave the eurozone altogether.

And if Greece does leave the eurozone, the consequences for all of Europe could be catastrophic

Syriza risks overplaying its hand, said International Capital Strategies’ Rediker. “Given that the ECB controls the liquidity of the Greek banking system, and also serves as its regulator through the SSM (Single Supervisory Mechanism), going toe-to-toe with the ECB is one battle that could end very badly for the Greek government.”

If the ECB were to stop funding the liquidity of the Greek banks, the banks could collapse—an event that could lead to Greece abandoning the euro and printing its own money once more.

Milios didn’t believe it would come to that, saying, “No one wants a collapse of banks in the euro zone. This is going to be Lehman squared or to the tenth. No one wants to jeopardize the future of the euro zone.”

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail, because one bad move could set off a meltdown of the entire European financial system.

Even before the Greek election, the euro was already falling like a rock and economic conditions all over Europe were already getting worse.

So why would the Greeks risk pushing Europe to the brink of utter disaster?

Well, it is because economic conditions in Greece have been absolutely hellish for years and they are sick and tired of it.

For example, the BBC is reporting that many married women have become so desperate to find work in Greece that they are literally begging to work in brothels…

Some who have children and are struggling to support them have turned to sex work, to put food on the table.

Further north, in Larissa, Soula Alevridou, who owns a legal brothel, says the number of married women coming to her looking for work has doubled in the last five years.

They plead and plead but as a legal brothel we cannot employ married women,” she says. “It’s illegal. So eventually they end up as prostitutes on the streets.”

When people get this desperate, they do desperate things – like voting radical leftists into power.

But Greece might just be the beginning.  Surveys show that the popularity of the EU is plummeting all over Europe.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent Telegraph article

Europe is being swept by a wave of popular disenchantment and revolt against mainstream political parties and the European Union.

In 2007, a majority of Europeans – 52 per cent – trusted the EU. That level of trust has now fallen to a third.

Once, Britain’s Euroscepticism was the exception, and was seen as the biggest threat to the future of the EU.

Now, other countries pose a far bigger danger thanks to the political discontents unleashed by the euro.

At this point, the future of the eurozone is in serious jeopardy.

I have a feeling that major changes in Europe are on the way which are going to shock the planet.

Meanwhile, the rest of the globe continues to slide toward another major financial crisis as well.

So many of the things that preceded the last financial crisis are happening once again.  This includes a massive crash in the price of oil.  Most people have absolutely no idea how critical the price of oil is to global financial markets.  I like how Gerald Celente put it during an interview the other day…

I began getting recognition as a trend forecaster in 1987. The Wall Street Journal covered my forecast. I said, ‘1987 would be the year it all collapses.’ I said, ‘There will be a stock market crash.’ One of the fundamentals I was looking at were the crashing oil prices in 1986.

Well, we see crashing oil prices today and the banks are much more concentrated and levered up in the oil patch than they were in 1987. From Goldman Sachs to Morgan Stanley banks have been involved in major debt financing, derivatives and energy transactions. But much of this debt has not been sold to investors and now we are going to start seeing some big defaults.

By itself, the Greek election would be a significant crisis.

But combined with all of the other economic and geopolitical problems that are erupting all over the planet, it looks like the conditions for a “perfect storm” are rapidly coming together.

Unfortunately, the overall global economy is in far worse shape today than it was just prior to the last major financial crisis.

This time around, the consequences might just be far more dramatic than most people would ever dare to imagine.

11 Signs That Italy Is Descending Into A Full-Blown Economic Depression

The Leaning Tower Of PisaWhen you get into too much debt, really bad things start to happen.  Sadly, that is exactly what is happening to Italy right now.  Harsh austerity measures are causing the Italian economy to slow down even more than it was previously.  And yet even with all of the austerity measures, the Italian government just continues to rack up even more debt.  This is the exact same path that we watched Greece go down.  Austerity causes government revenues to drop which causes deficit reduction targets to be missed which causes even more austerity measures to become necessary.  But if Italy collapses economically, it is going to be a far bigger deal than what happened in Greece.  Italy is the ninth largest economy on the entire planet.  Actually, Italy used to be number eight, but now Russia has passed it.  If Italy continues to stumble, India and Canada will soon pass it as well.  It really is a tragedy to watch what is happening in Italy, because it really is a wonderful place.  When I was a child, my father was in the navy, and I got the opportunity to live there for a while.  It is a land of great weather, great food and great soccer.  The people are friendly and the culture is absolutely fascinating.  But now the nation is falling apart.  The following are 11 signs that Italy is descending into a full-blown economic depression…

#1 The unemployment rate in Italy has risen to 12.2 percent.  That is the highest that it has been in more than 35 years.

#2 The youth unemployment rate in Italy is sitting at 38.5 percent, and in southern Italy it recently hit the 50 percent mark.

#3 An average of 134 retail outlets are shutting down in Italy every single day.  Overall, approximately 224,000 retail establishments have closed since 2008.

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

#5 It is being projected that Italy’s GDP will shrink by 1.8 percent this year.

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

#7 Overall, factory output in Italy has fallen by about one-fourth since 2008.

#8 In May, automobile sales in Italy were down 8 percent compared to one year earlier.

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

#10 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of 130 percent.

#11 It is being projected that Italy will need a major EU bailout within six months.

At this point, Italy is flat broke.

And unlike the U.S. or Japan, Italy cannot run over to a central bank and have them print up oodles of new money with which to buy up government bonds.  Italy is married to the euro, and so that greatly limits their options.  Unfortunately, the money is rapidly running out.  The following is from a recent article by Wolf Richter

In most countries, it would be an act of mind-bending chutzpah, or perhaps a display of political insanity, but in Italy it barely made ripples: for a government official, a minister no less, to declare that the country cannot pay its long overdue bills, and not for a month or two, but for the rest of this year! Due to “technical” problems.

The Italian government is out of money. Not that the US government is in any better shape in that respect, or the Japanese government for that matter, but they have central banks that print the missing moolah with lavish abandon. Italy doesn’t. It has the ECB which is run by an Italian who promised last year to print with lavish abandon to keep countries like Italy afloat. But that promise is not the same thing as having your own central bank.

On July 4, Italy’s budget fiasco came to light once again. Wracked by the pretense of austerity, expenditures rose 1.3% in the first quarter, while revenues remained flat. So the deficit rose to 7.3% of GDP, up from 6.6% last year, bringing the national debt to 130% of GDP. Ballooning debt and deficits in a shriveling economy – Italy has been in recession since the fourth quarter of 2011 – is a toxic combination in the Eurozone.

While those numbers may sound really bad, the reality is that the people that are suffering the most are the average folks on the street.  Many Italians have been completely blindsided by this economic depression, and suicides are skyrocketing

In Italy, the tragic stories of suicides apparently linked to the deep recession are becoming all too frequent. Last month, a former factory worker hanged himself near Turin because he could not find work, his relatives said. In May, a young man committed suicide outside of Rome shortly after he lost his job. The next day, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano begged the government to deliver “the utmost attention for situations of greatest malaise and need” to help stop the wave of suicides.

That is absolutely tragic.

But you know what?

The United States is headed down the same path that Italy has gone.

In the coming years unemployment and suicide will both skyrocket here too.

Those that are sticking their heads in the sand right now will be absolutely blindsided by what is coming.  But those that understand what is on the horizon and are preparing for it will have the best chance of making it through.

Italy is kind of like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Everyone knows that it is going to fall eventually, and when it does fall it is going to be a major disaster.

When the financial system of Italy totally implodes, that will be a sign that things are really starting to accelerate.  Expect dominoes to start tumbling much more rapidly in the aftermath.

Will Italy Be The Spark That Sets Off Financial Armageddon In Europe?

Will Italy Be The Spark That Sets Off Financial Armageddon In EuropeIs the financial collapse of Italy going to be the final blow that breaks the back of Europe financially?  Most people don’t realize this, but Italy is actually the third largest debtor in the entire world after the United States and Japan.  Italy currently has a debt to GDP ratio of more than 120 percent, and Italy has a bigger national debt than anyone else in Europe does.  That is why it is such a big deal that Italian voters have just overwhelmingly rejected austerity.  The political parties led by anti-austerity candidates Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo did far better than anticipated.  When you combine their totals, they got more than 50 percent of the vote.  Italian voters have seen what austerity has done to Greece and Spain and they want no part of it.  Unfortunately for Italian voters, it has been the promise of austerity that has kept the Italian financial system stable in recent months.  Now that Italian voters have clearly rejected austerity, investors are fearing that austerity programs all over Europe may start falling apart.  This is creating quite a bit of panic in European financial markets right now.  On Tuesday, Italian stocks had their worst day in 10 months, Italian bond yields rose by the most that we have seen in 19 months, and the stocks of the two largest banks in Italy both fell by more than 8 percent.  Italy is already experiencing its fourth recession since 2001, and unemployment has been steadily rising.  If Italy is now “ungovernable”, as many are saying, then what does that mean for the future of Italy?  Will Italy be the spark that sets off financial armageddon in Europe?

All of Europe was totally shocked by the election results in Italy.  As you can see from the following excerpt from a Bloomberg article, the vote was very divided and the anti-austerity parties did much better than had been projected…

The results showed pre-election favorite Pier Luigi Bersani won the lower house with 29.5 percent, less than a half a percentage point ahead of Silvio Berlusconi, the ex-premier fighting a tax-fraud conviction. Beppe Grillo, a former comedian, got 25.6 percent, while Monti scored 10.6 percent. Bersani and his allies got 31.6 percent of votes in the Senate, compared with 30.7 percent for Berlusconi and 23.79 percent for Grillo, according to final figures from the Interior Ministry.

So what do those election results mean for Italy and for the rest of Europe?

Right now, there is a lot of panic about those results.  There is fear that what just happened in Italy could result in a rejection of austerity all over Europe

“I think the election results (or lack thereof) are a negative for the euro, which will likely keep the currency pressured for some time,” Omer Esiner, chief market analyst for Commonwealth Foreign Exchange, told me. But it’s not just the political uncertainty in Italy, he adds. “The shocking gains made by anti-establishment parties in Italy signal a broad-based frustration with austerity among voters and a decisive rejection of the policies pushed by Germany in nations across the euro zone’s periphery. That theme revives unresolved debt crisis issues and could threaten the continuity of reforms across other countries in the euro zone.”

And the financial markets have clearly interpreted the election results in Europe as a very bad sign.  Zero Hedge summarized some of the bad news out of Europe that we saw on Tuesday…

Swiss 2Y rates turned negative once again for the first time in a month; EURUSD relatively flatlined around 1.3050 (250 pips lower than pre-Italy); Europe’s VIX exploded to almost 26% (from under 19% yesterday); and 3-month EUR-USD basis swaps plunged to their most liquidity-demanding level since 12/28. Spain and Italy (and Portugal) were the most hurt in bonds today as 2Y Italian spreads broke back above 200bps (surging over 50bps casting doubt on OMT support) and 3Y Spain yields broke above 3% once again. The Italian equity market suffered its equal biggest drop in 6 months falling back to 10 week lows (and down 14% from its end-Jan highs). Italian bond yields (and spreads) smashed higher – the biggest jump in 19 months as BTP futures volume exploded in the last two days.

Not that things in Europe were going well before all this.

In fact, the UK was just stripped of its prized AAA credit rating.  That was huge news.

And check out some of the other things that have been going on in the rest of Europe

In Spain, a major real estate company, Reyal Urbis, collapsed last week, leaving already battered banks on the hook for millions of euros in losses. Meanwhile, the government faces a corruption scandal and a steady stream of anti-austerity demonstrations. Thousands of people took to the streets again on Saturday, protesting deep cuts to health and other services, as well as hefty bank bailouts.

Life is no better in a large swath of the broader EU. In Britain, Moody’s cited the continuing economic weakness and the resulting risks to the government’s tight fiscal policy for its rating cut. In Bulgaria, where the government fell last week and the economy is in a shambles, rightists who joined mass demonstrations across the country burned a European Union flag and waved anti-EU banners. Other austerity-minded governments in the EU face similar murky political futures.

At this point, Europe is a complete and total economic mess and things are rapidly getting worse.

And that is really bad news because Europe is already in the midst of a recession.  In fact, according to the BBC, the recession in the eurozone got even deeper during the fourth quarter of 2012…

The eurozone recession deepened in the final three months of 2012, official figures show.

The economy of the 17 nations in the euro shrank by 0.6% in the fourth quarter, which was worse than forecast.

It is the sharpest contraction since the beginning of 2009 and marks the first time the region failed to grow in any quarter during a calendar year.

But this is just the beginning.

The truth is that government debt is not even the greatest danger that Europe is facing.  In reality, a collapse of the European banking system is of much greater concern.

Why is that?

Well, how would you feel if you woke up someday and every penny that you had in the bank was gone?

In the U.S. we don’t have to worry about that so much because all deposits are insured by the FDIC, but in many European countries things work much differently.

For example, just check out what Graham Summers recently had to say about the banking system in Spain…

It’s a little known fact about the Spanish crisis is that when the Spanish Government merges troubled banks, it typically swaps out depositors’ savings for shares in the new bank.

So… when the newly formed bank goes bust, “poof” your savings are GONE. Not gone as in some Spanish version of the FDIC will eventually get you your money, but gone as in gone forever (see the above article for proof).

This is why Bankia’s collapse is so significant: in one move, former depositors at seven banks just lost virtually everything.

And this in a nutshell is Europe’s financial system today: a totally insolvent sewer of garbage debt, run by corrupt career politicians who have no clue how to fix it or their economies… and which results in a big fat ZERO for those who are nuts enough to invest in it.

Be warned. There are many many more Bankias coming to light in the coming months. So if you have not already taken steps to prepare for systemic failure, you NEED to do so NOW. We’re literally at most a few months, and very likely just a few weeks from Europe’s banks imploding, potentially taking down the financial system with them. Think I’m joking? The Fed is pumping hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars into EU banks right now trying to stop this from happening.

Like Graham Summers, I am extremely concerned about the European banking system.  Europe actually has a much larger banking system than the U.S. does, and if the European banking system implodes that is going to send huge shockwaves to the farthest corners of the globe.

But if you want to believe that the “experts” in Europe and in the United States have “everything under control”, then you might as well stop reading now.

After all, they are very highly educated and they know what they are doing, right?

But if you want to listen to some common sense, you might want to check out this very ominous warning from Karl Denninger

I hope you’re ready.

Congress has wasted the time it was given by the Europeans getting things “temporarily” under control.  But they didn’t actually get anything under control, as the Italian elections just showed.

Now, with the budget over there at risk of being abandoned, and fiscal restraint being abandoned (note: exactly what the US has been doing) the markets are recognizing exactly the risk that never in fact went away over the last couple of years.

It was hidden by lies, just as it has been hidden by lies here.

Bernanke’s machinations and other games “gave” the Congress four years to do the right thing.  They didn’t, because that same “gift” also destroyed all market signals of urgency.

As such you have people like Krugman and others claiming that it’s all ok and that we can spend with wild abandon, taking our fiscal medicine never.

They were wrong.  Congress was wrong.  The Republicans were wrong, the Democrats were wrong, and the Administration was wrong.

Congress is out of time; as I noted the deficit spending must stop now, irrespective of the fact that it will cause significant economic damage.

For the past couple of years, authorities in the U.S. and in Europe have been trying to delay the coming crisis by kicking the can down the road.

By doing so, they have been making the eventual collapse even worse.

And now time is running out.

I hope that you are ready.

Armageddon

20 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading For Big Trouble In The Months Ahead

20 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading For Big Trouble In The Months Ahead - Photo by Frank KovalchekIs the U.S. economy about to experience a major downturn?  Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of signs that economic activity in the United States is really slowing down right now.  Freight volumes and freight expenditures are way down, consumer confidence has declined sharply, major retail chains all over America are closing hundreds of stores, and the “sequester” threatens to give the American people their first significant opportunity to experience what “austerity” tastes like.  Gas prices are going up rapidly, corporate insiders are dumping massive amounts of stock and there are high profile corporate bankruptcies in the news almost every single day now.  In many ways, what we are going through right now feels very similar to 2008 before the crash happened.  Back then the warning signs of economic trouble were very obvious, but our politicians and the mainstream media insisted that everything was just fine, and the stock market was very much detached from reality.  When the stock market did finally catch up with reality, it happened very, very rapidly.  Sadly, most people do not appear to have learned any lessons from the crisis of 2008.  Americans continue to rack up staggering amounts of debt, and Wall Street is more reckless than ever.  As a society, we seem to have concluded that 2008 was just a temporary malfunction rather than an indication that our entire system was fundamentally flawed.  In the end, we will pay a great price for our overconfidence and our recklessness.

So what will the rest of 2013 bring?

Hopefully the economy will remain stable for as long as possible, but right now things do not look particularly promising.

The following are 20 signs that the U.S. economy is heading for big trouble in the months ahead…

#1 Freight shipment volumes have hit their lowest level in two years, and freight expenditures have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

#2 The average price of a gallon of gasoline has risen by more than 50 cents over the past two months.  This is making things tougher on our economy, because nearly every form of economic activity involves moving people or goods around.

#3 Reader’s Digest, once one of the most popular magazines in the world, has filed for bankruptcy.

#4 Atlantic City’s newest casino, Revel, has just filed for bankruptcy.  It had been hoped that Revel would help lead a turnaround for Atlantic City.

#5 A state-appointed review board has determined that there is “no satisfactory plan” to solve Detroit’s financial emergency, and many believe that bankruptcy is imminent.  If Detroit does declare bankruptcy, it will be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

#6 David Gallagher, the CEO of Town Sports International, recently said that his company is struggling right now because consumers simply do not have as much disposable income anymore…

“As we moved into January membership trends were tracking to expectations in the first half of the month, but fell off track and did not meet our expectations in the second half of the month. We believe the driver of this was the rapid decline in consumer sentiment that has been reported and is connected to the reduction in net pay consumers earn given the changes in tax rates that went into effect in January.

#7 According to the Conference Board, consumer confidence in the U.S. has hit its lowest level in more than a year.

#8 Sales of the Apple iPhone have been slower than projected, and as a result Chinese manufacturing giant FoxConn has instituted a hiring freeze.  The following is from a CNET report that was posted on Wednesday…

The Financial Times noted that it was the first time since a 2009 downturn that the company opted to halt hiring in all of its facilities across the country. The publication talked to multiple recruiters.

The actions taken by Foxconn fuel the concern over the perceived weakened demand for the iPhone 5 and slumping sentiment around Apple in general, with production activity a leading indicator of interest in the product.

#9 In 2012, global cell phone sales posted their first decline since the end of the last recession.

#10 We appear to be in the midst of a “retail apocalypse“.  It is being projected that Sears, J.C. Penney, Best Buy and RadioShack will also close hundreds of stores by the end of 2013.

#11 An internal memo authored by a Wal-Mart executive that was recently leaked to the press said that February sales were a “total disaster” and that the beginning of February was the “worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”

#12 If Congress does not do anything and “sequestration” goes into effect on March 1st, the Pentagon says that approximately 800,000 civilian employees will be facing mandatory furloughs.

#13 Barack Obama is admitting that the “sequester” could have a crippling impact on the U.S. economy.  The following is from a recent CNBC article

Obama cautioned that if the $85 billion in immediate cuts — known as the sequester — occur, the full range of government would feel the effects. Among those he listed: furloughed FBI agents, reductions in spending for communities to pay police and fire personnel and teachers, and decreased ability to respond to threats around the world.

He said the consequences would be felt across the economy.

“People will lose their jobs,” he said. “The unemployment rate might tick up again.”

#14 If the “sequester” is allowed to go into effect, the CBO is projecting that it will cause U.S. GDP growth to go down by at least 0.6 percent and that it will “reduce job growth by 750,000 jobs“.

#15 According to a recent Gallup survey, 65 percent of all Americans believe that 2013 will be a year of “economic difficulty“, and 50 percent of all Americans believe that the “best days” of America are now in the past.

#16 U.S. GDP actually contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012.  This was the first GDP contraction that the official numbers have shown in more than three years.

#17 For the entire year of 2012, U.S. GDP growth was only about 1.5 percent.  According to Art Cashin, every time GDP growth has fallen this low for an entire year, the U.S. economy has always ended up going into a recession.

#18 The global economy overall is really starting to slow down

The world’s richest countries saw their economies contract for the first time in almost four years during the final three months of 2012, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said.

The Paris-based thinktank said gross domestic product across its 34 member states fell by 0.2% – breaking a period of rising activity stretching back to a 2.3% slump in output in the first quarter of 2009.

All the major economies of the OECD – the US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and the UK – have already reported falls in output at the end of 2012, with the thinktank noting that the steepest declines had been seen in the European Union, where GDP fell by 0.5%. Canada is the only member of the G7 currently on course to register an increase in national output.

#19 Corporate insiders are dumping enormous amounts of stock right now.  Do they know something that we don’t?

#20 Even some of the biggest names on Wall Street are warning that we are heading for an economic collapse.  For example, Seth Klarman, one of the most respected investors on Wall Street, said in his year-end letter that the collapse of the U.S. financial system could happen at any time

“Investing today may well be harder than it has been at any time in our three decades of existence,” writes Seth Klarman in his year-end letter. The Fed’s “relentless interventions and manipulations” have left few purchase targets for Baupost, he laments. “(The) underpinnings of our economy and financial system are so precarious that the un-abating risks of collapse dwarf all other factors.”

So what do you think is going to happen to the U.S. economy in the months ahead?

Please feel free to express your opinion by leaving a comment below…

LoLCat - Help!

The Sovereign Debt Bubble Will Continue To Expand Until – BANG – The System Implodes

The Sovereign Debt Bubble Will Continue To Expand Until - BANG - The System Implodes - Photo by Jeff KubinaWhy are so many politicians around the world declaring that the debt crisis is “over” when debt to GDP ratios all over the planet continue to skyrocket?  The global economy has never seen anything like the sovereign debt bubble that we are experiencing today.  The United States, Japan, and nearly every major nation in Europe are absolutely drowning in debt.  We have heard a lot about “austerity” over in Europe in recent years, but debt to GDP ratios continue to rise in Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal.  In general, most economists consider a debt to GDP ratio of 100% to be a “danger level”, and most of the economies of the western world have either already surpassed that level or are rapidly approaching it.  Of course the biggest debt offender of all in many ways is the United States.  The U.S. debt to GDP ratio has risen from 66.6 percent to 103 percent since 2007, and the U.S. government accumulated more new debt during Barack Obama’s first term than it did under the first 42 U.S. presidents combined.  This insane sovereign debt bubble will continue to expand until a day of reckoning arrives and the system implodes.  Nobody knows exactly when that moment will be reached, but without a doubt it is coming.

But if you listen to the mainstream media in the United States, you would be tempted to think that this giant bubble of debt is not much of a concern at all.  For example, in a recent article in the Washington Post entitled “The case for deficit optimism“, Ezra Klein wrote the following…

“Here’s a secret: For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.”

How many times have we heard that before?

About a decade ago, government officials were projecting that we would be swimming in gigantic government surpluses by now.

Instead, we are running trillion dollar deficits.

But right now there is a lot of optimism about the economy.  The stock market recently hit a 5 year high and the business community is loving all of the false prosperity that all of this debt is buying us.

Even Warren Buffett does not really seem concerned about the exploding U.S. government debt.  He recently made the following statement

“It is not a good thing to have it going up in relation to GDP.  That should be stabilized. But the debt itself is not a problem.”

Oh really?

A debt of 16 trillion dollars “is not a problem”?

Perhaps we should all run our finances that way.

Why don’t we all go out and open up 20 different credit cards, run them all up to the max, and then tell the credit card companies that we can’t pay them back but that it “is not a problem”.

Of course real life does not work that way.

The truth is that government debt is becoming a monstrous problem all over the globe.  Just check out how debt to GDP ratios all over the planet have grown over the past five years

United States

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 66.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 103 percent

United Kingdom

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 43.4 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 85.0 percent

France

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 63.7 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 86 percent

Germany

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 67.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 80.5 percent

Spain

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 39.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 69.3 percent

Ireland

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 24.8 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 106.4 percent

Portugal

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 63.9 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 108.1 percent

Italy

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 106.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 120.7 percent

Greece

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 106.1 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 170.6 percent

The Eurozone As A Whole

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 68.4 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 87.3 percent

Japan

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 172.1 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 211.7 percent

So how does all of this end?

Well, it is going to be messy, but it is very difficult to say exactly when the system will collapse under the weight of too much debt.  Some nations, such as Japan, are able to handle very high debt loads because they have a very high level of domestic saving.  Up to this point, an astounding 95 percent of all Japanese government bonds have been purchased domestically.  But other nations collapse under the weight of government debt even before they reach a debt to GDP ratio of 100%.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Congressional Research Service report

It is hard to predict at what point bond holders would deem it to be unsustainable. A few other advanced economies have debt-to-GDP ratios higher than that of the United States. Some of those countries in Europe have recently seen their financing costs rise to the point that they are unable to finance their deficits solely through private markets. But Japan has the highest debt-to-GDP ratio of any advanced economy, and it has continued to be able to finance its debt at extremely low costs.

When a government runs up massive amounts of debt, it is playing with fire.  You can pile up mountains of government debt for a while, but eventually it catches up with you.

Over the past 10 years, the U.S. national debt has grown by an average of 9.3 percent per year, but the overall U.S. economy has only grown by an average of just 1.8 percent per year.  That is unsustainable by definition.

There is going to be a tremendous price to pay for the debt binge that the U.S. government has indulged in over the past decade.  During Barack Obama’s first term, the amount of new debt accumulated by the federal government breaks down to about $50,521 for every single household in the United States.  That is utter insanity.

If you can believe it, we have accumulated more new government debt under Obama than we did from the inauguration of George Washington to the end of the Clinton administration.

And most Americans realize that something is seriously wrong.  One recent poll found that only 34 percent of all Americans believe that the country is heading in the right direction, and 60 percent of all Americans believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction.

If we keep piling up so much debt, at some point a moment of great crisis will arrive.  When that moment arrives, we could see havoc throughout the entire global financial system.  For instance, most people don’t really understand the key role that U.S. Treasuries play in the derivatives market.  The following is from a recent article posted on Zero Hedge

This time around, things will be far worse if nothing is solved. If the US loses another AAA rating, then the financial markets could face systemic risk. The reason for this is that US Treasuries are one of the senior most forms of collateral used by the banks to backstop the $600+ trillion derivatives market.

As any trader who trades on margin can tell you, when the value of your collateral is called into question, those on the other side of the trade come looking for you to put up more capital on your trades. This can result in assets being sold en masse (similar to what happened after Lehman failed) and things can get very ugly very fast.

For much more on the danger that derivatives pose to our financial system, please see this article: “The Coming Derivatives Panic That Will Destroy Global Financial Markets“.

Once again, nobody knows exactly when the sovereign debt bubble will burst, but if we continue down the path that we are currently on, it will inevitably happen at some point.

And according to Professor Carmen Reinhart, when this bubble does burst things could unravel very rapidly…

“These processes are not linear,” warns Prof. Reinhart. “You can increase debt for a while and nothing happens. Then you hit the wall, and—bang!—what seem to be minor shocks that the markets would shrug off in other circumstances suddenly become big.”

At some point the global financial system will hit the wall that Professor Reinhart has warned about.

Are you ready?

When Will The Bubble Burst?

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