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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.

Grexit: Remaining In The Eurozone Is No Longer ‘The Base Case’ For Greece

Exit - Public DomainAccording to the Wall Street Journal, Greece staying in the eurozone is no longer “the base case” for European officials, and one even told the Journal that “literally nothing has been achieved” in negotiations with the new Greek government since the Greek election almost three months ago.  In other words, you can take all of that stuff you heard about how the Greek crisis was fixed and throw it out the window.  Over the next few months, a big chunk of Greek government bonds held by the IMF and the European Central Bank will mature.  Unless negotiations produce a load of new cash for Greece, there will be a default, and right now there is very little optimism that we will see an agreement any time soon.  In fact, as I wrote about the other day, behind the scenes banks all over Europe are quietly preparing for a Grexit.  European news sources are reporting that the Greek banking system is on the verge of collapse, and over the past couple of weeks Greek bond yields have shot through the roof.  Most of the things that we would expect to see in the lead up to a Greek exit from the eurozone are happening, and now we will wait and see if the Greeks actually have the guts to pull the trigger when push comes to shove.

At this point, many top European officials are quietly admitting that it is more likely than not that Greece will leave the euro by the end of this year.  The following is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal article that I mentioned above

It’s still possible that Greece can remain in the eurozone—though that is no longer the base case for many policy makers. At the very least, most fear the situation is going to get much, worse before it gets any better. No one now expects a deal to unlock Greek bailout funding at this week’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Riga—originally set as the final deadline for a deal. The new final, final deadline is now said to be a summit on May 11.

But among European politicians and officials gathered in Washington DC last week for the International Monetary Fund’s Spring Meetings, there was little optimism that a deal will be agreed by then.

The two sides are no closer to an agreement than when the Greek government took office almost three months ago. “Nothing, literally nothing has been achieved,” says an official.

Literally nothing has been achieved?

That is not what the mainstream media has been telling us over the past few months.

They kept telling us that agreements were in place and that everything had been fixed.

I guess not.

The Germans believe that the risks of a “Grexit” have already been priced in by the financial markets and that a Greek exit from the euro can be “managed” without any serious risk of contagion.

So they are playing hardball with the Greeks.

On the other hand, the Greeks believe that the risk of contagion will eventually force the Germans to back down

Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that if Greece were to leave the euro zone, there would be an inevitable contagion effect.

“Anyone who toys with the idea of cutting off bits of the euro zone hoping the rest will survive is playing with fire,” he told La Sexta, a Spanish TV channel, in an interview recorded 10 days ago.

“Some claim that the rest of Europe has been ring-fenced from Greece and that the ECB has tools at its disposal to amputate Greece, if need be, cauterize the wound and allow the rest of euro zone to carry on.”

In this case, I believe that the Greeks are right about what a Grexit would mean for the rest of Europe and the Germans are wrong.

Once one country leaves the euro, that tells the entire world that membership in the euro is only temporary.  Immediately everyone would be looking for the “next Greece”, and there are lots of candidates – Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc.

There is a very good chance that a Grexit would set off a full-blown European financial panic.  And once a financial panic starts, it is very hard to stop.  The danger that a Grexit poses is so obvious that even the Obama administration can see it

A Greek exit from the euro zone would carry significant risks for the global economy and no one should be under the impression that financial markets have fully priced in such an event, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers said.

The comments by Jason Furman in an interview with Reuters in Berlin are among the strongest by a senior U.S. official and are at odds with those of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who told an audience in New York last week that contagion risks from a so-called “Grexit” were limited.

“A Greek exit would not just be bad for the Greek economy, it would be taking a very large and unnecessary risk with the global economy just when a lot of things are starting to go right,” Furman said.

Meanwhile things continue to get even worse inside Greece.  If you have any money in Greek banks, you need to move it immediately.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

Things for insolvent, cashless Greece are – not unexpectedly – getting worse by the day.

Following yesterday’s shocking decree that the government will confiscate local government reserves and “sweep” them into the central bank to provide the country more funds as it approaches another month of heavy IMF repayments, earlier today Bloomberg reported that the ECB would add insult to injury and may increase haircuts for Greek banks accessing Emergency Liquidity Assistance, thus “reining in” the very critical emergency liquidity which has kept Greek banks operating in recent weeks as the bank run sweeping the domestic banking sector has gotten worse by the day.

And many Greeks don’t even have any money to put in the banks because they haven’t been paid in months

Meanwhile, the reality is that for a majority of the Greek population, none of this really matters because as Greek Ta Nea reports, citing Labor Ministry data, about one million Greek workers see delays of up to 5 months in salaries payment by their employers. The Greek media adds that about 45% of salaried workers in Greece make no more than €751 per month, the country’s old minimum wage; which also includes part-time workers.

No matter what European officials try, things just continue to unravel in Greece and in much of the rest of Europe.

We stand on the verge of the next great global economic crisis.  The lessons that we should have learned from the last crisis were never learned, and instead global debt levels have exploded much higher since then.  In fact, according to Doug Casey, the total amount of global debt is 57 trillion dollars higher than it was just prior to the last crisis…

In 2008, excess debt pushed the global financial system to the brink. It was a golden opportunity for governments and banks to reform the system. But rather than deal with the problem, they papered over it by issuing more debt. Worldwide debt levels are now $57 trillion higher than in 2008.

The eurozone as it is constituted today is doomed.

That doesn’t mean that the Europeans are going to give up on social, economic and political integration.  It just means that we are entering a time of transition that is going to be extremely messy.

And once the European financial system begins to fall apart, the rest of the world will quickly follow.

The Economy Of The Largest Superpower On The Planet Is Collapsing Right Now

Globe Earth World - Public DomainHow do you fix a superpower with exploding levels of debt, that has a rapidly aging population, that consumes far more wealth than it produces, and that has scores of zombie banks that could collapse at any moment.  You might think that I am talking about the United States, but I am actually talking about Europe.  You see, the truth is that the European Union has a larger population than the United States does, it has a larger economy than the United States does, and it has a much larger banking system than the United States does.  Most of the time I write about the horrible economic problems that the U.S. is facing, but without a doubt economic conditions in Europe are even worse at the moment.  In fact, there are many (including the Washington Post) that are calling what is happening in Europe a full-blown “depression”.  Sadly, this is probably only just the beginning.  In the months to come things in Europe are likely to get much worse.

First of all, let’s take a look at unemployment.  If the U.S. was using honest numbers, the official unemployment rate would probably be somewhere close to 10 percent.  But in many nations in Europe, the official unemployment rate is already above the ten percent mark…

France: 10.2%

Poland: 11.5%

Italy: 12.6%

Portugal: 13.1%

Spain: 23.6%

Greece: 26.4%

The official unemployment rate for the eurozone as a whole is currently 11.5 percent.  The lack of good jobs is causing the middle class to shrink all over Europe, and more people than ever are becoming dependent on government assistance.  European nations are well known for their generous welfare programs, but all of this spending is causing  debt to GDP ratios to absolutely explode…

Spain: 92.1%

France: 92.2%

Belgium: 101.5%

Portugal: 129.0%

Italy: 132.6%

Greece: 174.9%

At the same time, the value of the euro has been steadily declining over the last six months.  This is significantly reducing the purchasing power that European families have…

Dollar Euro Exchange Rate

Many believe that the euro will ultimately go much lower than this.  Nations such as Greece and Spain are already experiencing deflation, and the inflation rates in Germany and France are both currently below one percent.  If the European Central Bank starts injecting lots of fresh euros into the system to combat this perceived problem, that will lift the level of inflation but it will also further erode the value of the euro.

In the long run, it would not be a surprise to see the U.S. dollar at parity with the euro.

When it happens, remember where you heard it.

The Europeans are scared to death of a deflationary depression, but that is precisely where the long-term economic trends are taking them right now.  The following is from a recent Forbes article

Market consensus believes that the eurozone is edging toward that moment when the scourge of deflation actually becomes a crippling reality. Eurozone data is constantly reminding investors that the region’s economy is barely limping along, as companies slash selling prices in a vain attempt to improve sales in the face of a weakening economy and evaporating new orders. Corporate deflationary reactions like this only hurt a company’s bottom line by squeezing profit margins even further. The obvious knock-on effect will limit resources for hiring and investing, which in turn only dampens any chances of an economic rebound, again putting the region into a bigger hole.

In a desperate attempt to avoid widespread deflation in Europe, the ECB will inevitably take action at some point.

It may not happen immediately, but when it does it will be yet another salvo in the emerging global currency war.

Speaking of currencies, it is being reported that Russia is actually considering legislation that will ban the circulation of the U.S. dollar in that nation.  The following is from an article that was posted on Infowars

Russia may ban the circulation of the United States dollar.

The State Duma has already been submitted a relevant bill banning and terminating the circulation of USD in Russia, APA’s Moscow correspondent reports.

If the bill is approved, Russian citizens will have to close their dollar accounts in Russian banks within a year and exchange their dollars in cash to Russian ruble or other countries’ currencies.

Otherwise their accounts will be frozen and cash dollars levied by police, customs, tax, border, and migration services confiscated.

That is not good news for the U.S. dollar at all.

Expect wild shifts in the foreign exchange markets in the months and years to come.  Turbulent times are ahead for the dollar, the euro and the yen.

Getting back to Europe, let us hope that things stabilize over there – at least for a while.

But that might not happen.  In fact, things could take a turn for the worse at any moment.

Most people don’t realize this, but European banks are even shakier than U.S. banks, and that is saying a lot.

For example, the largest bank in the strongest economy in Europe is Deutsche Bank.  At this point, Deutsche Bank has approximately 75 trillion dollars worth of exposure to derivatives.  That amount of money is about 20 times the size of German GDP, and it is more exposure than any U.S. bank has.

And Deutsche Bank is far from alone.  All over Europe there are zombie banks that are essentially insolvent.  Many of them are being propped up by their governments.  Those governments know that if those banks failed that it would make their economic problems even worse.

Just like in the United States, most economic activity in Europe is fueled by debt.  So those banks are needed to provide mortgages, loans and credit cards to average citizens and businesses.  Unfortunately, bad debt levels and business failures continue to shoot up all over Europe.

The system is breaking down, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.

So keep an eye on Europe.  In particular, keep an eye on Italy.  I have a feeling that big economic news is about to start coming out of Italy, and it won’t be good.

In 2014, we have been experiencing “the calm before the storm”.

But 2015 is right around the corner, and it promises to be extremely “interesting”.

Wall Street Admits That A Cyberattack Could Crash Our Banking System At Any Time

Cyberattack - Public DomainWall Street banks are getting hit by cyber attacks every single minute of every single day.  It is a massive onslaught that is not highly publicized because the bankers do not want to alarm the public.  But as you will see below, one big Wall Street bank is spending 250 million dollars a year just by themselves to combat this growing problem.  The truth is that our financial system is not nearly as stable as most Americans think that it is.  We have become more dependent on technology than ever before, and that comes with a potentially huge downside.  An electromagnetic pulse weapon or an incredibly massive cyberattack could conceivably take down part or all of our banking system at any time.

This week, the mainstream news is reporting on an attack on our major banks that was so massive that the FBI and the Secret Service have decided to get involved.  The following is how Forbes described what is going on…

The FBI and the Secret Service are investigating a huge wave of cyber attacks on Wall Street banks, reportedly including JP Morgan Chase, that took place in recent weeks.

The attacks may have involved the theft of multiple gigabytes of sensitive data, according to reports. Joshua Campbell, supervisory special agent at the FBI, tells Forbes: “We are working with the United States Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyber attacks against several American financial institutions.”

When most people think of “cyber attacks”, they think of a handful of hackers working out of lonely apartments or the basements of their parents.  But that is not primarily what we are dealing with anymore.  Today, big banks are dealing with cyberattackers that are extremely organized and that are incredibly sophisticated.

The threat grows with each passing day, and that is why JPMorgan Chase says that “not every battle will be won” even though it is spending 250 million dollars a year in a relentless fight against cyberattacks…

JPMorgan Chase this year will spend $250 million and dedicate 1,000 people to protecting itself from cybercrime — and it still might not be completely successful, CEO Jamie Dimon warned in April.

Cyberattacks are growing every day in strength and velocity across the globe. It is going to be continual and likely never-ending battle to stay ahead of it — and, unfortunately, not every battle will be won,” Dimon said in his annual letter to shareholders.

Other big Wall Street banks have a similar perspective.  Just consider the following two quotes from a recent USA Today article

Bank of America: “Although to date we have not experienced any material losses relating to cyber attacks or other information security breaches, there can be no assurance that we will not suffer such losses in the future.”

Citigroup: “Citi has been subject to intentional cyber incidents from external sources, including (i) denial of service attacks, which attempted to interrupt service to clients and customers; (ii) data breaches, which aimed to obtain unauthorized access to customer account data; and (iii) malicious software attacks on client systems, which attempted to allow unauthorized entrance to Citi’s systems under the guise of a client and the extraction of client data. For example, in 2013 Citi and other U.S. financial institutions experienced distributed denial of service attacks which were intended to disrupt consumer online banking services. …

“… because the methods used to cause cyber attacks change frequently or, in some cases, are not recognized until launched, Citi may be unable to implement effective preventive measures or proactively address these methods.”

I don’t know about you, but those quotes do not exactly fill me with confidence.

Another potential threat that banking executives lose sleep over is the threat of electromagnetic pulse weapons.  The technology of these weapons has advanced so much that they can fit inside a briefcase now.  Just consider the following excerpt from an article that was posted on an engineering website entitled “Electromagnetic Warfare Is Here“…

The problem is growing because the technology available to attackers has improved even as the technology being attacked has become more vulnerable. Our infrastructure increasingly depends on closely integrated, high-speed electronic systems operating at low internal voltages. That means they can be laid low by short, sharp pulses high in voltage but low in energy—output that can now be generated by a machine the size of a suitcase, batteries included.

Electromagnetic (EM) attacks are not only possible—they are happening. One may be under way as you read this. Even so, you would probably never hear of it: These stories are typically hushed up, for the sake of security or the victims’ reputation.

That same article described how an attack might possibly happen…

An attack might be staged as follows. A larger electromagnetic weapon could be hidden in a small van with side panels made of fiberglass, which is transparent to EM radiation. If the van is parked about 5 to 10 meters away from the target, the EM fields propagating to the wall of the building can be very high. If, as is usually the case, the walls are mere masonry, without metal shielding, the fields will attenuate only slightly. You can tell just how well shielded a building is by a simple test: If your cellphone works well when you’re inside, then you are probably wide open to attack.

And with electromagnetic pulse weapons, terrorists or cyberattackers can try again and again until they finally get it right

And, unlike other means of attack, EM weapons can be used without much risk. A terrorist gang can be caught at the gates, and a hacker may raise alarms while attempting to slip through the firewalls, but an EM attacker can try and try again, and no one will notice until computer systems begin to fail (and even then the victims may still not know why).

Never before have our financial institutions faced potential threats on this scale.

According to the Telegraph, our banks are under assault from cyberattacks “every minute of every day”, and these attacks are continually growing in size and scope…

Every minute, of every hour, of every day, a major financial institution is under attack.

Threats range from teenagers in their bedrooms engaging in adolescent “hacktivism”, to sophisticated criminal gangs and state-sponsored terrorists attempting everything from extortion to industrial espionage. Though the details of these crimes remain scant, cyber security experts are clear that behind-the-scenes online attacks have already had far reaching consequences for banks and the financial markets.

In the end, it is probably only a matter of time until we experience a technological 9/11.

When that day arrives, will your money be safe?

15 Quotes From Our Founding Fathers About Economics, Capitalism And Banking

George Washington At The Constitutional Convention 1787 - Public DomainWhy have we turned our backs on the principles that this nation was founded upon?  Many of those that founded this nation bled and died so that we could experience “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.  And yet we have tossed their ideals aside as if they were so much rubbish.  Our founders had experienced the tyranny of big government (the monarchy) and the tyranny of the big banks and feudal lords, and they wanted something very different for the citizens of the new republic that they were forming.  They wanted a country where private property was respected and hard work was rewarded.  They wanted a country where the individual was empowered, and where everyone could own land and start businesses.  They wanted a country where there were severe restrictions on all large collections of power (government, banks and corporations all included).  They wanted a country where freedom and liberty were maximized and where ordinary people had the power to pursue their dreams and build better lives for their families.  And you know what?  While no system is ever perfect, the experiment that our founders originally set up worked beyond their wildest dreams.  But now we are killing it.  Why in the world would we want to do that?

Most people are under the illusion that the United States has a “capitalist economy” today, but that simply is not accurate.  At best, we have a “mixed economy” that is becoming a little bit more socialist with each passing day.  We pay dozens of different types of taxes each year, and some Americans actually end up giving more of their earnings to the government than they keep themselves.  But that is still not enough, and so our state governments have accumulated astounding amounts of debt, and our federal government has amassed the largest single debt that the world has ever seen.  If future generations of Americans get the chance, they will curse us for the chains of debt that we have placed upon their shoulders.

So what do our government officials do with all of this money?

Well, today approximately 70 percent of all federal government activity involves taking money from some Americans and giving it to other Americans.

Despite this unprecedented wealth-redistribution program, poverty is absolutely exploding in this country and 49 million Americans are dealing with food insecurity.

Meanwhile, the bankers have been getting fabulously wealthy from all of this debt.  The Federal Reserve system was designed to trap the U.S. government in an endless spiral of debt from which it could never possibly escape, and that mission has been accomplished.  In fact, the U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created a little more than 100 years ago.

Most people like to think of big banks as “capitalist” institutions, but that is not really accurate.  In the end, giant corporate banks like we have in the United States are actually collectivist institutions.  They tend to greatly concentrate wealth and power, and socialists find those kinds of banks very useful.

In fact, Vladimir Lenin once said that “without big banks, socialism would be impossible.”

While there may be a bit of animosity between big government and big banks once in a while, the truth is that they are usually very closely tied to one another.  We saw this close relationship very clearly during the financial crisis of 2008, and it is no secret that there is a revolving door between the boardrooms of Wall Street and the halls of power in Washington.  The elite dominate both spheres, and it is not for the benefit of the rest of us.

In America today, government just keeps getting bigger and the banks just keep getting bigger.  Meanwhile, the percentage of self-employed Americans is at an all-time low and the middle class is steadily dying.

What we are doing right now is clearly not working.

So why don’t we go back and do the things that we were doing when we were extremely successful as a nation?

In case you don’t know what those things were, here are some clues…

#1 “A wise and frugal government… shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

#2 “A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.” – George Washington

#3 “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own.” – James Madison, Essay on Property, 1792

#4 “Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good.” – John Adams

#5 “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

#6 “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.” — John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787

#7 “I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. If we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessities and in our comforts, in our labor and in our amusements.” – Thomas Jefferson

#8 “Beware the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry.” – Thomas Paine

#9 “If we can but prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.” – Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, November 29, 1802

#10 “All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from defects in the Constitution or Confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.” – John Adams, at the Constitutional Convention (1787)

#11 “The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” – Thomas Jefferson

#12 “Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.” – John Adams, 1765

#13 “If ever again our nation stumbles upon unfunded paper, it shall surely be like death to our body politic. This country will crash.” – George Washington

#14 “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.” – Thomas Jefferson

#15 “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin

Does The Trail Of Dead Bankers Lead Somewhere?

Trail - Photo by Ws47What are we to make of this sudden rash of banker suicides?  Does this trail of dead bankers lead somewhere?  Or could it be just a coincidence that so many bankers have died in such close proximity?  I will be perfectly honest and admit that I do not know what is going on.  But there are some common themes that seem to link at least some of these deaths together.  First of all, most of these men were in good health and in their prime working years.  Secondly, most of these “suicides” seem to have come out of nowhere and were a total surprise to their families.  Thirdly, three of the dead bankers worked for JP Morgan.  Fourthly, several of these individuals were either involved in foreign exchange trading or the trading of derivatives in some way.  So when “a foreign exchange trader” jumped to his death from the top of JP Morgan’s Hong Kong headquarters this morning, that definitely raised my eyebrows.  These dead bankers are starting to pile up, and something definitely stinks about this whole thing.

What would cause a young man that is making really good money to jump off of a 30 story building?  The following is how the South China Morning Post described the dramatic suicide of 33-year-old Li Jie…

An investment banker at JP Morgan jumped to his death from the roof of the bank’s headquarters in Central yesterday.

Witnesses said the man went to the roof of the 30-storey Chater House in the heart of Hong Kong’s central business district and, despite attempts to talk him down, jumped to his death.

If this was just an isolated incident, nobody would really take notice.

But this is now the 7th suspicious banker death that we have witnessed in just the past few weeks

– On January 26, former Deutsche Bank executive Broeksmit was found dead at his South Kensington home after police responded to reports of a man found hanging at a house. According to reports, Broeksmit had “close ties to co-chief executive Anshu Jain.”

– Gabriel Magee, a 39-year-old senior manager at JP Morgan’s European headquarters, jumped 500ft from the top of the bank’s headquarters in central London on January 27, landing on an adjacent 9 story roof.

– Mike Dueker, the chief economist at Russell Investments, fell down a 50 foot embankment in what police are describing as a suicide. He was reported missing on January 29 by friends, who said he had been “having problems at work.”

– Richard Talley, 57, founder of American Title Services in Centennial, Colorado, was also found dead earlier this month after apparently shooting himself with a nail gun.

– 37-year-old JP Morgan executive director Ryan Henry Crane died last week.

– Tim Dickenson, a U.K.-based communications director at Swiss Re AG, also died last month, although the circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown.

So did all of those men actually kill themselves?

Well, there is reason to believe that at least some of those deaths may not have been suicides after all.

For example, before throwing himself off of JP Morgan’s headquarters in London, Gabriel Magee had actually made plans for later that evening

There was no indication Magee was going to kill himself at all. In fact, Magee’s girlfriend had received an email from him the night before saying he was finishing up work and would be home soon.

And 57-year-old Richard Talley was found “with eight nail gun wounds to his torso and head” in his own garage.

How in the world was he able to accomplish that?

Like I said, something really stinks about all of this.

Meanwhile, things continue to deteriorate financially around the globe.  Just consider some of the things that have happened in the last 48 hours…

-According to the Bangkok Post, people are “stampeding to yank their deposits out of banks” in Thailand right now.

-Venezuela is coming apart at the seams.  Just check out the photos in this article.

-The unemployment rate in South Africa is above 24 percent.

-Ukraine is on the verge of total collapse

Three weeks of uneasy truce between the Ukrainian government and Western-oriented protesters ended Tuesday with an outburst of violence in which at least three people were killed, prompting a warning from authorities of a crackdown to restore order. Protesters outside the Ukrainian parliament hurled broken bricks and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with stun grenades and rubber bullets.

-This week we learned that the level of bad loans in Spain has risen to a new all-time high of 13.6 percent.

-China is starting to quietly sell off U.S. debt.  Already, Chinese U.S. Treasury holdings are down to their lowest level in almost a year.

-During the 4th quarter of 2013, U.S. consumer debt rose at the fastest pace since 2007.

-U.S. homebuilder confidence just experienced the largest one month decline ever recorded.

-George Soros has doubled his bet that the S&P 500 is going to crash.  His total bet is now up to about $1,300,000,000.

For many more signs of financial trouble all over the planet, please see my previous article entitled “20 Signs That The Global Economic Crisis Is Starting To Catch Fire“.

Could some of these deaths have something to do with this emerging financial crisis?

That is a very good question.

Once again, I will be the first one to admit that I simply do not know why so many bankers are dying.

But one thing is for certain – dead bankers don’t talk.

Everyone knows that there is a massive amount of corruption in our banking system.  If the truth about all of this corruption was to ever actually come out and justice was actually served, we would see a huge wave of very important people go to prison.

In addition, it is an open secret that Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world over the past several decades.  Our big banks have become more reckless than ever, and trillions of dollars are riding on the decisions that are being made every day.  In such an environment, it is expected that you will be loyal to the firm that you work for and that you will keep your mouth shut about the secrets that you know.

In the final analysis, there is really not that much difference between how mobsters operate and how Wall Street operates.

If you cross the line, you may end up paying a very great price.

Why Are Banking Executives In London Killing Themselves?

JPMorgan Tower In London - Photo by Danesman1Bankers committing suicide by jumping from the rooftops of their own banks is something that we think of when we think of the Great Depression.  Well, it just happened in London, England.  A vice president at JPMorgan’s European headquarters in London plunged to his death after jumping from the top of the 33rd floor.  He fell more than 500 feet, and it is being reported by an eyewitness that “there was quite a lot of blood“.  This comes on the heels of news that a former Deutsche Bank executive was found hanged in his home in London on Sunday.  So why is this happening?  Yes, the markets have gone down a little bit recently but they certainly have not crashed yet.  Could there be more to these deaths than meets the eye?  You never know.  And as I will discuss below, there have been a lot of other really strange things happening around the world lately as well.

But before we get to any of that, let’s take a closer look at some of these banker deaths.  The JPMorgan executive that jumped to his death on Tuesday was named Gabriel Magee.  He was 39 years old, and his suicide has the city of London in shock

A bank executive who died after jumping 500ft from the top of JP Morgan’s European headquarters in London this morning has been named as Gabriel Magee.

The American senior manager, 39, fell from the 33-story skyscraper and was found on the ninth floor roof, which surrounds the Canary Wharf skyscraper.

He was a vice president in the corporate and investment bank technology department having joined in 2004, moving to Britain from the United States in 2007.

What would cause a man in his prime working years who is making huge amounts of money to do something like that?

The death on Sunday of former Deutsche Bank executive Bill Broeksmit is also a mystery.  According to the Daily Mail, police consider his death to be “non-suspicious”, which means that they believe that it was a suicide and not a murder…

A former Deutsche Bank executive has been found dead at a house in London, it emerged today.

The body of William ‘Bill’ Broeksmit, 58, was discovered at his home in South Kensington on Sunday shortly after midday by police, who had been called to reports of a man found hanging at a house.

Mr Broeksmit – who retired last February – was a former senior manager with close ties to co-chief executive Anshu Jain. Metropolitan Police officers said his death was declared as non-suspicious.

On top of that, Business Insider is reporting that a communications director at another bank in London was found dead last week…

Last week, a U.K.-based communications director at Swiss Re AG died last week. The cause of death has not been made public.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence that these deaths have all come so close to one another.  After all, people die all the time.

And London is rather dreary this time of the year.  It is easy for people to get depressed if they are not accustomed to endless gloomy weather.

If the stock market was already crashing, it would be easy to blame the suicides on that.  The world certainly remembers what happened during the crash of 1929

Historically, bankers have been stereotyped as the most likely to commit suicide. This has a lot to do with the famous 1929 stock market crash, which resulted in 1,616 banks failing and more than 20,000 businesses going bankrupt. The number of bankers committing suicide directly after the crash is thought to have been only around 20, with another 100 people connected to the financial industry dying at their own hand within the year.

But the market isn’t crashing just yet.  We definitely appear to be at a “turning point“, but things are still at least somewhat stable.

So why are bankers killing themselves?

That is a good question.

As I mentioned above, there have also been quite a few other strange things that have happened lately that seem to be “out of place”.

For example, Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report posted the following cryptic message on Twitter the other day…

“Have an exit plan…”

What in the world does he mean by that?

Maybe that is just a case of Drudge being Drudge.

Then again, maybe not.

And on Tuesday we learned that a prominent Russian Bank has banned all cash withdrawals until next week…

Bloomberg reports that ‘My Bank’ – one of Russia’s top 200 lenders by assets – has introduced a complete ban on cash withdrawals until next week. While the Ruble has been losing ground rapidly recently, we suspect few have been expecting bank runs in Russia.

Yes, we have heard some reports of people having difficulty getting money out of their banks around the world lately, but this news out of Russia really surprised me.

Yet another story that seemed rather odd was a report in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that stated that Germany’s central bank is advocating “a one-time wealth tax” for European nations that need a bailout…

Germany’s central bank Monday proposed a one-time wealth tax as an option for euro-zone countries facing bankruptcy, reviving a idea that has circled for years in Europe but has so far gained little traction.

Why would they be suggesting such a thing if “economic recovery” was just around the corner?

According to that same article, the IMF has recommended a similar thing…

The International Monetary Fund in October also floated the idea of a one-time “capital levy,” amid a sharp deterioration of public finances in many countries. A 10% tax would bring the debt levels of a sample of 15 euro-zone member countries back to pre-crisis levels of 2007, the IMF said.

So what does all of this mean?

I am not exactly sure, but I have got a bad feeling about this – especially considering the financial chaos that we are witnessing in emerging markets all over the globe right now.

So what do you think?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

JPMorgan Tower In London - Photo by Danesman1

Words Of Warning: Get Your Money Out Of European Banks

Words Of Warning: Get Your Money Out Of European Banks - Photo by Julien JorgeIf you still have money in European banks, you need to get it out.  This is particularly true if you have money in southern European banks.  As I write this, the final details of the Cyprus bailout are being worked out, but one thing has become abundantly clear: at least some depositors are going to lose a substantial amount of money.  Personally, I never dreamed that they would go after private bank accounts in Europe, but now that this precedent has been set it should be apparent to everyone that no bank account will ever be considered 100% safe ever again.  Without trust, a banking system simply cannot function, and right now there are prominent voices on both sides of the Atlantic that are loudly warning that trust in the European banking system has been shattered and that people need to get their money out of those banks as rapidly as they can.  Even if you don’t end up losing a significant chunk of your money, you could still end up dealing with very serious capital controls that greatly restrict what you are able to do with your money.  Just look at what is already happening in Cyprus.  Cash withdrawals through ATMs have now been limited to 100 euros per day, and when the banks finally do reopen there will be strict limits on financial transactions in order to prevent a full-blown bank run.  And of course anyone with half a brain will be trying to get as much of their money as they can out of those banks once they do reopen.  So the truth is that the problems for Cyprus banks are just beginning.  The size of the “bailout” that will be needed to keep those banks afloat will just keep getting larger and larger the more money that is withdrawn.  Cyprus is heading for a complete and total banking meltdown, and because the economy of the island is so dependent on banking that means that the economy of the entire nation is going to collapse.  Sadly, similar scenarios will soon start playing out all over Europe.

So if you hear that a “deal” has been reached to “bail out” Cyprus, please keep in mind that the economy of Cyprus is going to collapse no matter what happens.  It is just a matter of apportioning the pain at this point.

According to the New York Times, it looks like much of the pain is going to be placed on the backs of those with deposits of over 100,000 euros…

The revised terms under discussion would assess a one-time tax  of 20 percent on deposits above 100,000 euros at the Bank of Cyprus, which has the largest number of savings accounts on the island. Because the Bank of Cyprus suffered huge losses on bets that it took on Greek bonds, the government appears to be taking  depositors’ money to help plug the hole.

A separate tax of 4 percent would be assessed on uninsured deposits at all other banks, including the 26 foreign banks that operate in Cyprus.

Does that sound bad to you?

Well, if a deal is not reached, there is a possibility that those with uninsured deposits could lose everything.  According to Ekathimerini, EU officials are telling Cyprus to choose between a “bad scenario” and a “very bad scenario”…

The main question surrounds the future of the island’s largest lender, Bank of Cyprus. If unsecured deposits (above 100,000 euros) at all Cypriot banks are taxed then large savings at Bank of Cyprus are likely to be taxed between 20 and 25 percent. If the levy is not imposed on deposits at other lenders, the haircut for Bank of Cyprus customers will be much larger.

The option of a full bail in of Bank of Cyprus depositors is still on the table. As with the Popular Bank of Cyprus (Laiki), which is to go through a resolution process, the full bail in option could lead to deposits above 100,000 euros being lost. The only compensation for unsecured depositors will be shares in the “good” bank that will be created by a possible merger between the “healthy” Laiki and Bank of Cyprus entities.

When asked by Kathimerini how the Cypriot economy will survive if all company and personal deposits above 100,000 euros disappear from the country’s two biggest lenders, the EU official said: “Unfortunately, Cyprus’s choices are between a bad scenario and a very bad scenario.”

So what percentage of the deposits in Cyprus are uninsured deposits?

Well, nobody knows for sure, but according to JPMorgan close to half of the total amount of money on deposit in EU banks as a whole is uninsured.

Do you think that some of those people will start moving their money to safer locations after watching how things are going down in Cyprus?

They would be crazy if they didn’t.

And if you think that “deposit insurance” will keep you safe, you are just being delusional.

According to CNBC, very strict capital controls are coming to Cyprus.  These rules will apply even to accounts that contain less than 100,000 euros…

Financial controls are coming. Depositors with less than 100,000 euros may not lose their money outright, but they won’t like the restrictions–no matter how much they have in the bank. Limits on withdrawals, limits on check cashing, and perhaps even outright conversion of checking accounts into fixed term deposits are coming (translation: you don’t have a checking account, you have a bond from the bank).

A lot of people are going to lose a lot of money in Cyprus banks, and a significant percentage of them are going to be Russian.

And as I wrote about the other day, you don’t want to have the Russians mad at you.

According to the Guardian, Moscow is already considering various ways that it might “punish” the EU…

However, with Russian investors having an estimated €30bn (£26bn) deposited in banks on the island, the growing optimism about a deal was accompanied by fears of retaliation from Moscow. Alexander Nekrassov, a former Kremlin adviser, said: “If it is the case that there will be a 25% levy on deposits greater than €100,000 then some Russians will suffer very badly.

“Then, of course, Moscow will be looking for ways to punish the EU. There are a number of large German companies operating in Russia. You could possibly look at freezing assets or taxing assets. The Kremlin is adopting a wait and see policy.”

Could this be the start of a bit of “economic warfare” between east and west?

One thing is for sure – the Russians simply do not allow people to walk all over them.

Meanwhile, things in Cyprus are getting more desperate with each passing day.  Because they cannot get money out of the banks, many retail stores find themselves running low on cash.  In a few more days many of them may not be able to function at all…

Retailers, facing cash-on-delivery demands from suppliers, warned stocks were running low. “At the moment, supplies will last another two or three days,” said Adamos Hadijadamou, head of Cyprus’s Association of Supermarkets. “We’ll have a problem if this is not resolved by next week.”

But do you know who was able to get their money out in time?

The insiders.

According to the Daily Mail, the President of Cyprus actually warned “close friends” about what was going to happen and told them to get their money out Cyprus…

Cypriot president Nikos Anastasiades ‘warned’ close friends of the financial crisis about to engulf his country so they could move their money abroad, it was claimed on Friday.

Overall, approximately 4.5 billion euros was moved out of Cyprus during the week just before the crisis struck.

Wouldn’t you like to get advance warning like that?

Well, at this point it does not take a genius to figure out what to do about any money that you may have in European banks.  The following is from a recent Forbes article by economist Laurence Kotlikoff…

Whatever happens, no one is going to trust or use Cypriot banks.  This will shut down the country’s financial highway and flip Cyprus’ economy to a truly awful equilibrium in a replay of our own country’s Great Depression, which was kicked off by the failure of one-in-three U.S. banks.

Cyprus is a small country.  Still, the failure of its banks could trigger massive bank runs in Greece.  After all, if the European Central Bank is abandoning Cypriot depositors, they may abandon Greek depositors next.  A run on Greek banks could then spread to Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Italy and from there to Belgium and France and, you get the picture, to other countries around the globe, including, drum roll, the U.S.   Every bank in each of these countries has made promises they can’t keep were push come to shove, i.e., if all depositors demand their money back immediately.

We’ve seen this movie before.  And not just in real life.  Every Christmas our tellys show It’s a Wonderful Life in which banker Jimmy Stewart barely saves his small town from economic ruin arising from a banking panic.

Others are being even more blunt with their warnings.  For example, Nigel Farage, a member of the European Parliament, is warning everyone to get their money out of southern European banks while they still can…

The appalling events in Cyprus over the course of the past week have surpassed even my direst of predictions.

Even I didn’t think that they would stoop to stealing money from people’s bank accounts. I find that astonishing.

There are 750,000 British people who own properties, or who live, many of them in retirement down in Spain.

Our message to expats now that the EU has crossed this line, must be: Get your money out of there while you’ve still got a chance.

And Martin Sibileau is proclaiming that if you still have an unsecured deposit in a eurozone bank that you should have your head examined…

What are depositors of Euros faced with today? Anything but a clean bet! They don’t know what the expected loss on their capital will be, because it will be decided over a weekend by politicians who don’t even represent them.  They don’t really know where their deposits went to and they also ignore what jurisdiction they really belong to. Finally, depositors are paid mere basis points for their trust in the system vs. the 20% p.a. Argentina offered in 2001 (thanks to the zero-interest rate policies of the 21st century). In light of all this, I can only conclude that anyone still having an unsecured deposit in a Euro zone bank should get his/her head examined!

So where should you put your money?

I don’t know that there is anywhere that is 100% safe at this point.  But many are pointing to hard assets such as gold and silver.  The following is what trends forecaster Gerald Celente had to say during one recent interview

“People always say to me, ‘Mr. Celente you are always talking about gold.  What are you going to do with gold when everything collapses and there is no money?’  Well, let’s say you are a Cypriot and all of the ATM machines are out of money and the banks are closed?  Do you think those pieces of silver are going to buy you what you need?  Do you think that ounce of gold is going to get you what you want?

That’s the real money.  There is no other money.  When it all comes down, gold and silver are the only things you have to buy what you need, get what you want, or even get out if you need to.”

I used to tell people that putting their money in U.S. banks was safer than putting it other places because U.S. bank deposits are covered by deposit insurance up to a certain amount.

But now we see that deposit insurance means absolutely nothing.  If they decide to “tax” (i.e. steal) your money from your bank accounts they will just go ahead and do it.

So what should we all do?

Personally, I think that not having all of your eggs in one basket is a wise approach.  If you have your wealth a bunch of different places and in several different forms, I think that will help.

But as the global financial system falls apart, there will be no such thing as 100% safety.  So if you are looking for that you can stop trying.

Our world is becoming a very unstable place, and things are going to get a lot worse.  We are all going to have to adjust to this new paradigm and do the best that we can.

The Euro Is Falling

Watch The Financial Markets In Europe

Watch The Financial Markets In EuropeIs the financial system of Europe on the verge of a meltdown?  I have always maintained that the next wave of the economic crisis would begin in Europe, and right now the situation in Europe is unraveling at a frightening pace.  On Monday, European stocks had their worst day in over six months, and over the past four days we have seen the EUR/USD decline by the most that it has in nearly seven months.  Meanwhile, scandals are erupting all over the continent.  A political scandal in Spain, a derivatives scandal in Italy and banking scandals all over the eurozone are seriously shaking confidence in the system.  If things move much farther in a negative direction, we could be facing a full-blown financial crisis in Europe very rapidly.  So watch the financial markets in Europe very carefully.  Yes, most Americans tend to ignore Europe because they are convinced that the U.S. is “the center of the universe”, but the truth is that Europe actually has a bigger population than we do, they have a bigger economy then we do, and they have a much larger banking system than we do.  The global financial system is more integrated today than it ever has been before, and if there is a major stock market crash in Europe it is going to deeply affect the United States and the rest of the globe as well.  So pay close attention to what is going on in Europe, because events over there could spark a chain reaction that would have very serious implications for every man, woman and child on the planet.

As I noted above, European markets started off the week very badly and things have certainly not improved since then.  The following is how Zero Hedge summarized what happened on Thursday…

EuroStoxx (Europe’s Dow) closed today -1% for 2013. France, Germany, and Spain are all lower on the year now. Italy, following ENI’s CEO fraud, collapsed almost 3% from the US day-session open, leaving it up less than 1% for the year. Just as we argued, credit markets have been warning that all is not well and today’s afternoon free-fall begins the catch-down.

In addition, the euro has been dropping like a rock all of a sudden.  Just check out this chart which shows what happened to the euro on Thursday.  It is very rare to see the euro move that dramatically.

So what is causing all of this?

Well, we already know that the economic fundamentals in Europe are absolutely horrible.  Unemployment in the eurozone is at a record high, and the unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are over 26 percent.  Those are depression-level numbers.

But up until now there had still been a tremendous amount of confidence in the European financial system.  But now that confidence is being shaken by a whole host of scandals.

In recent days, a number of major banking scandals have begun to emerge all over Europe.  Just check out this article which summarizes many of them.

One of the worst banking scandals is in Italy.  A horrible derivatives scandal has pushed the third largest bank in Italy to the verge of collapse

Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI), Italy’s third biggest lender, said on Wednesday losses linked to three problematic derivative trades totaled 730 million euros ($988.3 million) as it sought to draw a line under a scandal over risky financial transactions.

There is that word “derivative” that I keep telling people to watch for.  Of course this is not the big “derivatives panic” that I have been talking about, but it is an example of how these toxic financial instruments can bring down even the biggest banks.  Monte dei Paschi is the oldest bank in the world, and now the only way it is able to survive is with government bailouts.

Another big scandal that is shaking up Europe right now is happening over in Spain.  It is being alleged that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other members of his party have been receiving illegal cash payments.  The following summary of the scandal comes from a recent Bloomberg article

On Jan. 31, the Spanish newspaper El Pais published copies of what it said were ledgers from secret accounts held by Luis Barcenas, the former treasurer of the ruling People’s Party, which revealed the existence of a party slush fund. The newspaper said 7.5 million euros in corporate donations were channeled into the fund and allegedly doled out from 1997 to 2009 to senior party members, including Rajoy.

That doesn’t sound good at all.

So what is the truth?

Could Rajoy actually be innocent?

Well, at this point most of the population of Spain does not believe that is the case.  Just check out the following poll numbers from the Bloomberg article quoted above…

According to the Metroscopia poll, 76 percent of Spaniards don’t believe the People’s Party’s denials of the slush-fund allegations. Even more damning, 58 percent of the party’s supporters think it’s lying. All of the Spanish businessmen with whom I discussed the latest scandal expect it to get worse before it gets better. Their assumption that there are more skeletons in the government’s closet indicates what little trust they have in their leaders.

Meanwhile, the underlying economic fundamentals in Europe just continue to get worse.  One of the biggest concerns right now is France.  Just check out this excerpt from a recent report by Phoenix Capital Research

The house of cards that is Europe is close to collapsing as those widely held responsible for solving the Crisis (Prime Ministers, Treasurers and ECB head Mario Draghi) have all been recently implicated in corruption scandals.

Those EU leaders who have yet to be implicated in scandals are not faring much better than their more corrupt counterparts. In France, socialist Prime Minister Francois Hollande, has proven yet again that socialism doesn’t work by chasing after the wealthy and trying to grow France’s public sector… when the public sector already accounts for 56% of French employment.

France was already suffering from a lack of competitiveness. Now that wealthy businesspeople are fleeing the country (meaning investment will dry up), the economy has begun to positively implode.

As the report goes on to mention, over the past few months the economic numbers coming out of France have been absolutely frightful

Auto sales for 2012 fell 13% from those of 2011. Sales of existing homes outside of Paris fell 20% year over year for the third quarter of 2012. New home sales fell 25%. Even the high-end real estate markets are collapsing with sales for apartments in Paris that cost over €2 million collapsing an incredible 42% in 2012.

Today, the jobless rate in France is at a 15-year high, and industrial production is headed into the toilet.  The wealthy are fleeing France in droves because of the recent tax increases, and the nation is absolutely drowning in debt.  Even the French jobs minister recently admitted that France is essentially “bankrupt” at this point…

France’s government was plunged into an embarrassing row yesterday after a minister said the country was ‘totally bankrupt’.

Employment secretary Michel Sapin said cuts were needed to put the damaged economy back on track.

‘There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state,’ he said.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that the crisis in Europe is just beginning.  Things are going to be getting a lot worse.

Perhaps that is one reason why corporate insiders are dumping so much stock right now as I noted in my article yesterday entitled “Do Wall Street Insiders Expect Something Really BIG To Happen Very Soon?”  There are a whole host of signs that both the United States and Europe are heading for recession, and a lot of financial experts are warning that stocks are way overdue for a “correction”.

For example, Blackstone’s Byron Wien told CNBC the other day that he expects the S&P 500 to drop by 200 points during the first half of 2013.

Seabreeze Partners portfolio manager Doug Kass recently told CNBC that what is happening right now in the financial markets very much reminds him of the stock market crash of 1987…

“I’m getting the ‘summer of 1987 feeling’ in the U.S. equity market,” Kass told CNBC, “which means we’re headed for a sharp fall.”

Toward the end of 2012 and at the very beginning of 2013 we saw markets both in the U.S. and in Europe move up steadily even though the underlying economic fundamentals did not justify such a move.

In many ways, that move up reminded me of the “head fakes” that we have seen prior to many of the largest “market corrections” of the past.  Often financial markets are at their most “euphoric” just before a crash hits.

So get ready.

Even if you don’t have a penny in the financial markets, now is the time to prepare for what is ahead.

We all need to learn from what Europe is going through right now.  In Greece, formerly middle class citizens are now trampling one another for food.  We all need to prepare financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically so that we can weather the economic storm that is coming.

Most Americans are accustomed to living paycheck to paycheck and being constantly up to their eyeballs in debt, but that is incredibly foolish.  Even in the animal kingdom, animals work hard during the warm months to prepare for the winter months.  Even so, we should all be working very hard to prepare during prosperous times so that we will have something stored up for the lean years that are coming.

Unfortunately, if events in Europe are any indication, we may be rapidly running out of time.

Time Is Running Out

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