Bankrupt America: Bankruptcy Soars As The Country Grapples With An Unprecedented Debt Problem

America, you officially have a debt problem, and I am not just talking about the national debt.  Consumer bankruptcies are surging, corporate debt has doubled since the last financial crisis, state and local government debt loads have never been higher, and the federal government has been adding more than a trillion dollars a year to the federal debt ever since Barack Obama entered the White House.  We have been on the greatest debt binge in human history, and it has enabled us to enjoy our ridiculously high standard of living for far longer than we deserved.  Many of us have been sounding the alarm about our debt problem for a very long time, but now even the mainstream news is freaking out about it.  I have a feeling that they just want something else to hammer President Trump over the head with, but they are actually speaking the truth when they say that we are facing an unprecedented debt crisis.

For example, the New York Times just published a piece that discussed the fact that the bankruptcy rate among retirees is about three times higher than it was in 1991…

For a rapidly growing share of older Americans, traditional ideas about life in retirement are being upended by a dismal reality: bankruptcy.

The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. Now, new research sheds light on the scope of the problem: The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.

Overall, Baby Boomers are doing a whole lot better financially than the generations coming after them, and so this is very troubling news.

And here is another very troubling fact from that same article

Not only are more older people seeking relief through bankruptcy, but they also represent a widening slice of all filers: 12.2 percent of filers are now 65 or older, up from 2.1 percent in 1991.

The jump is so pronounced, the study says, that the aging of the baby boom generation cannot explain it.

Of course it isn’t just Baby Boomers that are drowning in debt.

Collectively, U.S. households are 13.15 trillion dollars in debt, which is the highest level in American history.

All over the nation, companies are also going bankrupt at a staggering pace.  This week we learned that the biggest mattress retailer in the entire country “Is considering a potential bankruptcy filing”

Mattress Firm Inc, the largest U.S. mattress retailer, is considering a potential bankruptcy filing as it seeks ways to get out of costly store leases and shut some of its 3,000 locations that are losing money, people familiar with the matter said.

Mattress Firm’s deliberations offer the latest example of a U.S. brick-and-mortar retailer struggling financially amid competition from e-commerce firms such as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

We have seen retailer after retailer go down, and it is being projected that this will be the worst year for retail store closings ever.

But it isn’t just retailers that are hurting.  Yesterday, I came across an article about a television manufacturer in South Carolina that just had to lay off “94 percent of their workforce”

A TV manufacturer based in South Carolina have blamed Trump’s trade tariffs for laying off 94 percent of their workforce.

Element Electronics now has just eight employees in their company after letting 126 members of staff go.

They said the tariffs imposed on goods from China mean they can no longer buy essential components for their TVs.

During this next economic downturn, I believe that we are going to see the biggest wave of corporate bankruptcies that this country has ever seen.

State and local governments don’t go bankrupt, but they are drowning in debt as well.  State and local government debt has ballooned to the highest levels on record in recent years, and one of the big reasons for this is because we are facing a coming pension crisis that threatens to absolutely overwhelm us

Many cities and states can no longer afford the unsustainable retirement promises made to millions of public workers over many years. By one estimate they are short $5 trillion, an amount that is roughly equal to the output of the world’s third-largest economy.

Certain pension funds face the prospect of insolvency unless governments increase taxes, divert funds or persuade workers to relinquish money they are owed. It is increasingly likely that retirees, as well as new workers, will be forced to take deeper benefit cuts.

Meanwhile, the federal government continues to engage in incredibly reckless financial behavior.  When Barack Obama was elected, we were 10 trillion dollars in debt, and now we are 21 trillion dollars in debt.

What that means is that we have been adding more than a trillion dollars to the national debt per year since 2008, and we continue to steal more than 100 million dollars every single hour of every single day from future generations of Americans.

And even though the Republicans have been in control in Washington, very few of our leaders seem to want to alter the trajectory that we are on.  But if something is not done, absolute disaster is a certainty.  At this point, it is being projected that our debt will reach 30 trillion dollars by 2028 if we stay on this current path.  It would be difficult to overstate the grave danger that we are facing, but nothing is being done to turn things around.  Here are some more projections from the Congressional Budget Office

In 2022, the Highway Trust Fund will run out of full funding. In 2026, the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund follows. In 2032, the Social Security trust fund surpluses run dry, and all beneficiaries regardless of age or income level will face a 21 percent across-the-board benefit cut. Before 2030, we could have trillion-dollar annual interest payments. Interest rates have been low until now, but that is changing. As rates go up, we have to pay more on new debt and on all accumulated debt.

The amount we pay in interest on the debt is set to triple over the next ten years. But if interest rates rise just 1 point higher than expected, the government will owe an extra $1.9 trillion over 10 years.

On top of everything else, everyone else around the world has been on a massive debt binge as well.

Total global debt is well above 200 trillion dollars, and it has nearly quadrupled over the past 17 years.

Are you starting to understand why they call this a “debt bubble”?

Unfortunately, all debt bubbles must burst eventually, and the one that we are in right now is definitely on borrowed time.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Wild And Unprecedented Price Fluctuations Are Causing Financial Chaos For U.S. Businesses

In every war there is a high price to pay, and this trade war will not be any different.  The normal flow of goods and services around the globe is being severely disrupted, and even though this trade war has barely just begun, it is already having an enormous impact on the U.S. economy.  Even if we ultimately win this trade war and the Trump administration is able to achieve all of the goals that it is targeting, there will still be a great cost in the short-term.  We are going to see businesses fail, we are going to see workers get laid off, and global economic activity will inevitably contract.  Heck, at this point even Fox News is calling this trade war “economic suicide”.  We live at a time when a delicately balanced formula of economic factors allows us to live a debt-fueled standard of living that is far beyond what we actually deserve.  Now we are messing with that formula, and the consequences are likely to be far more severe than most Americans are anticipating.

Let’s start by talking about steel and aluminum.  One of the chief goals of the tariffs was to help the steel and aluminum industries, and thanks to those tariffs we have seen the price of U.S. steel rise 36 percent since the beginning of 2018…

For instance, US steel and aluminum prices have soared since the imposition of tariffs. US midwest hot-rolled coil steel price, the US steel price benchmark, soared 36% between the start of the year and the start of July. This in turn causes prices of goods made with the metal to rise.

That is good news for the U.S. economy, right?

Actually, it isn’t.

Every product that uses steel and aluminum is now going to cost more.

In many cases, a lot more.

For instance, one grill company is reporting that they have had to raise prices “by almost $350 per grill”

Middleby Residential, a California-based company that makes Lynx grills, told the Dallas Morning News that even though the company uses US steel, the recent price pressures have driven up costs by almost $350 per grill.

Do you want to pay an extra $350 for your next grill?

Retail prices for washer and dryers are surging as well.  They have increased by 20 percent compared to a year ago, and that is because prices for raw materials are skyrocketing

Whirlpool Corp trimmed its full-year profit outlook as it booked a large charge on its European operations and said it wouldn’t be able to offset the effect of steel tariffs with higher prices for consumers.

The company said Monday it now expects to pay about $350 million more this year from rising raw-material costs as it faces “a very challenging cost environment.”

Anybody that purchases any products that contain steel and/or aluminum will be feeling these prices increases.

And any business that uses steel and/or aluminum on a regular basis is going to be feeling an enormous amount of pain.  For example, the largest nail company in America is already laying off workers

When President Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports last month, America’s largest nail manufacturer had little choice but to raise its prices. Mid Continent Nail Corporation quickly lost 50 percent of its orders as customers opted for cheaper suppliers. Within weeks, the firm had to lay off 60 workers. Up to 200 more might lose their jobs by the end of this month.

All over the country, companies are going to be forced to either raise prices, fire workers or move production facilities out of the United States.

Meanwhile, farmers all over America are facing a different problem.  Thanks to a massive decline in demand from China (thanks to tariffs that they have hit us with), prices are plummeting and warehouses are filling up with food that doesn’t have anywhere to go.

Every year, the U.S. usually imports about 14 billion dollars worth of soybeans to China, and I covered the plight of soybean farmers in a previous article.  But of course soybean farmers are far from alone.  It is being reported that more than 2.5 billion pounds of meat and poultry products that have been produced by our farmers is being stockpiled in cold-storage warehouses.  To help the agricultural community, President Trump announced 12 billion dollars in aid to farmers on Tuesday

As President Donald Trump embarks on a multistate tour through parts of the country hit heavily by trade battles, his administration said Tuesday it will direct $12 billion to farmers whose harvests have been hurt by tariffs.

But the idea faced immediate criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Responding to farm groups and the Republican discontent, administration officials said they have been working since April on a short-term plan to shore up slipping prices for soybeans, pork and other crops hit with retaliatory tariffs from China.

Sure, this will help farmers get through the trade war in the short-term, but isn’t this exactly the kind of big government socialism that we are always railing against?

And who is going to bail out the real estate industry?

CNBC is reporting that home sales fell a whopping 11.8 percent year over year in southern California last month…

Southern California home sales hit the brakes in June, falling to the lowest reading for the month in four years. Sales of both new and existing houses and condominiums dropped 11.8 percent year over year, as prices shot up to a record high, according to CoreLogic. The report covers Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

And do you know who has been fueling the extremely hot real estate market on the west coast?

The Chinese.

At one time they were buying up everything in sight, but now they have become net sellers of U.S. real estate.

And there are rumblings that we could soon see some sort of “national boycott” of American goods in China.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

The survey found that 54 percent of 2,000 respondents in 300 cities across China would “probably” or “definitely” stop buying US-branded goods “in the event of a trade war”. Just 13 percent said they would not.

The remaining 33 percent said they were unsure or did not at present buy US branded goods, according to the survey, conducted for FT Confidential Research (FTCR), a research unit at the Financial Times.

The survey was carried out between June 27 and July 10, mostly before the US imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34bn of Chinese goods on July 6. The move elicited an immediate tit-for-tat response from Beijing.

Of course something similar could be tried in the United States, but most Americans simply do not care if a product comes from China or not.  They are simply going to buy the cheapest stuff no matter what anyone tells them to do.

Look, I very much understand that we have been sending businesses and jobs overseas for a very long time.  I have been writing about this for years, and something had to be done.

But trying to fight trade wars with virtually everyone else on the planet simultaneously is madness, and the consequences for the U.S. economy are going to cause all of us an immense amount of pain.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The Trade War Is Already Having A Huge Impact On The U.S. Economy

The trade war has barely just begun, and yet significant ripple effects are already being felt all across the U.S. economy.  Once thriving businesses are on the verge of failure, workers are being laid off, and some sectors of the economy are witnessing enormous price hikes.  Right now the mainstream media is absolutely fixated on the drama surrounding the recently concluded Trump-Putin summit meeting, but the consequences of this trade war will ultimately be far more important for the lives of most ordinary Americans.  As more tariffs continue to be implemented, this will perhaps be the biggest disruption to the global economic system that we have seen in decades.  Perhaps you have not been affected personally yet, but for many Americans this trade war has changed everything.  For example, just consider the plight of soybean farmer Tim Bardole

The U.S. is China’s second-biggest source of soybeans at 34% of the imports, after Brazil, which ships 53%. The staple is used to make cooking oil and seasoning, and soybean meal is found in pig feed.

Now the tariffs have taken the bottom out of U.S. soybean prices, delivering a gut punch to farmers like Tim Bardole. He was already $100,000 in the red last year due to a yearslong slump in cereal prices, and the current predicament has driven him into a corner.

“I’m not sure if I can get a loan from the bank to finance our next year’s crop,” said Bardole.

If this trade war had not happened, perhaps Bardole would have been able to eventually get out of debt.  But now he is facing financial ruin and the potential loss of his entire farm.

Switching gears, U.S. consumers will soon discover that common electronics such as phones and computers cost a lot more.  The following comes from CBS News

Buyers in the U.S. will soon see price hikes on computers, phones, thermostats and “everyday items,” according to the Information Technology Industry Council, a group that represents tech companies.

Hundreds of Chinese components that the Trump administration penalized are used to make everything from LEDs to sensors to printer and scanner components. When manufacturers pay more for their parts, the costs are typically passed on to consumers, the ITI said.

Are you ready to pay 50 dollars for your next phone to support this trade war?

Maybe.

50 dollars is ultimately not that big of a deal.

But what about paying $9,000 more for your next house?

Tariffs on lumber coming from the evil Canadians are adding about $9,000 to the cost of a new house, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Washing machine prices have jumped some 15% this year, the fastest increase ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Are you starting to understand why starting trade wars with all of our major trading partners simultaneously was a really bad idea?

We are about to see major price hikes in just about every sector of the economy.  According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the average American could pay over $5,000 more for their next vehicle

Consumers may see an average price increase of $5,800 if a 25 percent import tariff that Mr. Trump has threatened goes into effect, according to estimates cited by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), a lobbying group for carmakers.

That’s a “$45 billion tax on consumers,” the group said, citing an analysis of Commerce Department data.

U.S. consumers are already stretched to the max, and they will not be able to easily absorb these price increases.

Meanwhile, farm incomes all across the interior of the country are going to be absolutely devastated by this trade war.  Just check out these numbers

The American Farm Bureau says it expects farm incomes to drop to a 12-year low this year, largely because of the trade war.

An agricultural economist at Purdue University, Christopher Hurt, added that 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans would have made a farmer a $42,000 profit on June 1. Now, it could net him a $126,000 loss.

And as I mentioned above, many businesses all over the United States that rely heavily on exports are already struggling so mightily that they have to lay off workers.  The following comes from USA Today

In Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Mid-Continent Nail, the nation’s largest nail maker, laid off 60 workers last month. Sales plunged 70 percent after Trump placed a 25 percent tariff on steel from Mexico and Canada. When the company boosted its prices, customers defected. Now, Mid-Continent is strongly considering a second round of 200 layoffs, company spokeswoman Elizabeth Heaton says, and all 500 employees could be axed by Labor Day.

Yes, we desperately needed to do something about China and other trade partners that were taking advantage of us.  But there is a right way to handle things and a wrong way to handle things, and starting a trade war with everyone at the same time is a really, really bad idea.

I think that a recent piece by Thomas Grennes, a professor of economics at North Carolina State University, made this point quite well

The Trump administration has said that tariffs are a negotiating technique that need not be implemented. Now that tariffs are in place, they say other countries will soon back down. However, trading partners have not backed down, and, in fact, retaliatory tariffs against U.S. exports are already in place. Foreign officials have expressed confusion about exactly what concessions the US government wants. Currently, no formal negotiations are taking place. Higher future tariffs are being announced regularly. There are no signs of an end to this tariff war. When will both sides recognize that interfering with voluntary trade is harmful to both parties? Trade wars are lose-lose propositions.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that most Americans have any idea how exceedingly painful this trade war could potentially become.

The longer it lasts, the worse things will get, and ultimately it could tip the U.S. economy into the worst recession that any of us have ever experienced.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

$28,166: What It Costs To Provide Health Care For An American Family Of Four For One Year

One of the primary reasons why the middle class in America is disappearing so rapidly is because of skyrocketing health care costs.  Families all over the country are being absolutely crushed by extremely high health insurance premiums, ridiculously high deductibles and very large out-of-pocket expenses that were not anticipated.  In fact, medical bills are the number one reason why individuals go bankrupt in the United States today.  Once upon a time, the medical profession was all about helping people, but today it has become a heartless money-making operation that is dominated by health insurance corporations and pharmaceutical companies.  If we do not make major changes quickly, our out of control health care system will destroy the middle class in our country all by itself.

I knew that health care costs were astronomical, but I had no idea that health care costs for an average family of four for one year had hit $28,166

The total costs for a typical family of four insured by the most common health plan offered by employers will average $28,166 this year, according to the annual Milliman Medical Index.

The estimate includes the average cost of health insurance paid by employers and employees, as well as deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

That is a crazy amount of money.  Once upon a time, you could buy an entire house in America for $28,000.  But now that will only cover health care costs for a single year.

The largest portion of that amount goes to pay for health insurance.  For those that receive health benefits at work, usually the employer pays most of that bill

Last year, the premium for the most popular health plan offered by employers — what is known as a preferred provider organization  — for family coverage was $19,481, according to the annual survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

Employers paid $13,430 and employees paid $6,050 of the premium on average.

When you break down that total, it comes to more than $1,500 a month just for health insurance.

That is insane.

And of course those of us that are self-employed or that work for businesses that don’t provide health insurance have to pay for it all on our own.

Needless to say, that can be financially crippling.  And thanks to Obamacare, it is harder than ever before.  Not too long ago, I wrote about one family in Virginia that is now faced with the prospect of paying $3,000 a month for an Obamacare plan…

Could you afford to pay $3000 a month for health insurance? Previously, Ian Dixon had been paying $900 a month for health insurance for his family of four, but thanks to changes in the Charlottesville insurance market, a similar plan will now cost him more than $3,000 a month.

This is one of the biggest reasons why the percentage of Americans that are self-employed is hovering near record lows.  People simply cannot afford the health insurance.

And every year it gets worse.  For 2018, it was being projected that the average rate increase for Obamacare plans would be 37 percent.

If our paychecks were going up 37 percent each year, that would be fine.

But of course that just isn’t happening.

This is one of our great long-term challenges as a society.  We have got to get health care costs under control if our system is going to be sustainable.

There is absolutely no reason why an appendectomy in the United States needs to be 10 times more expensive than an appendectomy in Mexico.  The quality of care in Mexico is not 10 times worse than in the United States.  In fact, it is actually pretty comparable to what we have here, and many Americans are now taking “medical vacations” to have procedures performed down there because our system is so badly broken.

Sadly, this figure of $28,166 for a family of four will be out of date by next month.

According to one expert quoted by USA Today, every single month the number goes up by another one hundred dollars…

“But every month, a family of four’s health care costs are going up $100 a month,” Weltz said.

The costs have been going up by that amount — on average — for more than a decade.

I have to admit that our health care system makes me angry.  Today, the U.S. health care system accounts for nearly one-fifth of the U.S. economy, but back in 1960 it only accounted for about 5 percent of the overall economy.

There is no reason why we can’t start moving back toward that level.  We just need to reintroduce true competition and free market principles into our health care system.  Those that have been abusing their power need to be held accountable, and something desperately needs to be done about the health insurance companies and the big pharmaceutical giants.  In one recent year, more than 100 billion dollars was spent on cancer drugs, and that is absolutely outrageous.

If you go all the way back to 1960, an average of $146 was spent on health care per person for the entire year.

So for a family of four, the total would have been about $600, but now it is over $28,000.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

On a per capita basis, we spend far, far more than anyone else in the world on health care.

If you can believe it, we actually spend nearly twice as much as most of the other industrialized nations in the world on a per capita basis.

The only way that we are going to have a thriving middle class is if we get health care costs under control, but unfortunately Congress is such a mess right now that nothing is likely to get done for the foreseeable future.

So our health care system is going to continue to deteriorate, and many Americans will continue to travel overseas when they need important procedures to be done.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Would This Have Happened Under President Hillary? Holiday Retail Sales Soar Compare To Last Year

We are nearly a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, and the economic numbers continue to look quite good.  On Monday, we learned that U.S. retail sales during the holiday season are projected to be way up compared to 2016.  Yes, there are all sorts of economic red flags popping up all over the place, and I write about them regularly.  And without a doubt, 2017 has been one of the worst years for brick and mortar retail stores in a very long time.  But when something good happens we should acknowledge that too, and many are giving President Trump credit for the fact that retail sales are projected to be up 4.9 percent this holiday season compared to last year…

Despite thousands of store closings this year, Americans supplied a final flurry of spending to give retailers their best holiday season sales since 2011, figures released Tuesday show.

U.S. year-end holiday retail sales rose 4.9% compared to the same period last year, a welcome gift to U.S. retailers amid new signs of consumer confidence.

Of course this doesn’t mean that things have completely turned around for the retail industry.  We still absolutely shattered the all-time record for store closings in a single year, and the final number is going to be somewhere right around 7,000.  The following comes from CNBC

A larger-than-average slew of retail bankruptcies and stores being shuttered rocked the industry this year, making headlines and dragging even some of the better-performing companies such as Home Depot, TJ Maxx and Costco down with the dismal news.

So far in 2017, 6,985 store closure announcements have been made, according to a tracker from FGRT (formerly Fung Global Retail & Technology). That’s up more than 200 percent from a year ago, based on the firm’s findings.

More specifically, the number of store closings is up 229 percent compared to last year.

So yes, we are still very much in the midst of a “retail apocalypse”.

And actually, earlier this month we got news that Toys R US has filed for bankruptcy protection and could soon close as many as 200 stores

It’s hardly fun and games for the toy industry this holiday season with the bankruptcy of Toys ‘R’ Us hurting the fortunes of toymakers Mattel (MAT) and Hasbro (HAS). The sector’s prospects aren’t expected to improve anytime soon.

Toys ‘R’ Us, which filed for bankruptcy in September, is now said to be considering closing as many as 200 U.S. stores, roughly 21 percent of its brick-and-mortar locations, because of lackluster sales.

The fact that retail sales are up so much during this holiday season may slow the retail apocalypse, but it certainly will not end it.

We have got so much work to do to turn the economy around, but at least we have taken a few small steps in the right direction.  The recent tax bill that Congress passed was one of those small steps, but there is still so, so much more that needs to be accomplished.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

We Have Tripled The Number Of Store Closings From Last Year, And 20 Major Retailers Have Closed At Least 50 Stores In 2017

Did you know that the number of retail store closings in 2017 has already tripled the number from all of 2016?  Last year, a total of 2,056 store locations were closed down, but this year more than 6,700 stores have been shut down so far.  That absolutely shatters the all-time record for store closings in a single year, and yet nobody seems that concerned about it.  In 2008, an all-time record 6,163 retail stores were shuttered, and we have already surpassed that mark by a very wide margin.  We are facing an unprecedented retail apocalypse, and as you will see below, the number of retail store closings is actually supposed to be much higher next year.

Whenever the mainstream media reports on the retail apocalypse, they always try to put a positive spin on the story by blaming the growth of Amazon and other online retailers.  And without a doubt that has had an impact, but at this point online shopping still accounts for less than 10 percent of total U.S. retail sales.

Look, Amazon didn’t just show up to the party.  They have been around for many, many years and while it is true that they are growing, they still only account for a very small sliver of the overall retail pie.

So those that would like to explain away this retail apocalypse need to come up with a better explanation.

As I noted in the headline, there are 20 different major retail chains that have closed at least 50 stores so far this year.  The following numbers originally come from Fox Business

1. Abercrombie & Fitch: 60 stores
2. Aerosoles: 88 stores
3. American Apparel: 110 stores
4. BCBG: 118 stores
5. Bebe: 168 stores
6. The Children’s Place: hundreds of stores to be closed by 2020
7. CVS: 70 stores
8. Guess: 60 stores
9. Gymboree: 350 stores
10. HHgregg: 220 stores
11. J.Crew: 50 stores
12. JC Penney: 138 stores
13. The Limited: 250 stores
14. Macy’s: 68 stores
15. Michael Kors: 125 stores
16. Payless: 800 stores
17. RadioShack: more than 1,000 stores
18. Rue21: up to 400 stores
19. Sears/Kmart: more than 300 stores
20. Wet Seal: 171 stores

If the U.S. economy was really doing well, then why are all of these major retailers closing down locations?

Of course the truth is that the economy is not doing well.  The U.S. economy has not grown by at least 3 percent in a single year since the middle of the Bush administration, and it isn’t going to happen this year either.  Overall, the U.S. economy has grown by an average of just 1.33 percent over the last 10 years, and meanwhile U.S. stock prices are up about 250 percent since the end of the last recession.  The stock market has become completely and utterly disconnected from economic reality, and yet many Americans still believe that it is an accurate barometer for the health of the economy.

I used to do a Black Friday article every year, but I have ended that tradition.  Yes, there were still a few scuffles this year, but at this point the much bigger story is how poorly the retailers are doing.

So far this year, more than 300 retailers have filed for bankruptcy, and we are currently on pace to lose over 147 million square feet of retail space by the end of 2017.

Those are absolutely catastrophic numbers.

And some analysts are already predicting that as many as 9,000 stores could be shut down in the United States in 2018.

Are we just going to keep blaming Amazon every time another retail chain goes belly up?

What we should really be focusing on is the fact that the “retail bubble” is starting to burst.  In the aftermath of the last financial crisis, retailers went on an unprecedented debt binge, and now a lot of that debt is starting to go bad.

In fact, in a previous article I discussed the fact that “the amount of high-yield retail debt that will mature next year is approximately 19 times larger than the amount that matured this year”.  This is going to have very serious implications on Wall Street, but very few people are really talking about this.

Most stores try to stay open through Christmas, but once the holiday season is over we will see another huge wave of store closings.

And as individual stores close down, this will put a lot of financial pressure on malls and shopping centers.  Not too long ago, one report projected that up to 25 percent of all shopping malls in the entire nation could close down by 2022, but I tend to think that number is too optimistic.

The retail industry in the United States is dying, and the biggest reason for that is not Amazon.

Rather, the real reason why the retail industry is in so much trouble is because of the steady decline of the middle class.  The gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is greater than ever, and we can clearly see the impact of this in the retail world.

Retailers that serve the very wealthy are generally doing well, and those that serve the other end of the food chain (such as dollar stores and Wal-Mart) are also doing okay.

But virtually all of the retailers that depend on middle class shoppers are really struggling, and this is going to continue for the foreseeable future.

Most American families are either living paycheck to paycheck or are close to that level, and these days U.S. consumers simply do not have much discretionary income to play around with.  More hard working Americans are going to fall out of the middle class with each passing month, and that is extremely bad news for a retail industry that is literally falling apart right in front of our eyes.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

As America Gives Thanks, Homelessness Continues To Set New Records In Major Cities All Over The Nation

If the economy is doing just fine, then why is homelessness at levels not seen “since the Great Depression” in major cities all over the country?  If the U.S. economy was actually in good shape, we would expect that the number of people that are homeless would be going down or at least stabilizing.  Instead, we have a growing national crisis on our hands.  In fact, within the past two years “at least 10 cities or municipal regions in California, Oregon and Washington” have declared a state of emergency because the number of homeless is growing so rapidly.

Things are particularly bad in southern California, and this year the Midnight Mission will literally be feeding a small army of people that have nowhere to sleep at night…

Thanksgiving meals will be served to thousands of homeless and near-homeless individuals today on Skid Row and in Pasadena and Canoga Park amid calls for donations and volunteers for the rest of the year.

The Midnight Mission will serve Thanksgiving brunch to nearly 2,500 homeless and near-homeless men, women and children, according to Georgia Berkovich, its director of public affairs.

Overall, the Midnight Mission serves more than a million meals a year, and Berkovich says that homelessness hasn’t been this bad in southern California “since the Great Depression”

Berkovich said the group has been serving nearly 1 million meals a year each year since 2013.

“We haven’t seen numbers like this since the Great Depression,” she said.

And of course the official numbers confirm what Berkovich is claiming.  According to an article published earlier this year, the number of homeless people living in Los Angeles County has never been higher…

The number of homeless people in Los Angeles has jumped to a new record, as city officials grapple with a humanitarian crisis of proportions remarkable for a modern American metropolis.

Municipal leaders said that a recent count over several nights found 55,188 homeless people living in a survey region comprising most of Los Angeles County, up more than 25% from last year.

If the California economy is truly doing well, then why is this happening?

We see the same thing happening when we look at the east coast.  Just check out these numbers from New York City

In recent years the number of homeless people has grown. Whereas rents increased by 18% between 2005 and 2015, incomes rose by 5%. When Rudy Giuliani entered City Hall in 1994, 24,000 people lived in shelters. About 31,000 lived in them when Mike Bloomberg became mayor in 2002. When Bill de Blasio entered City Hall in 2014, 51,500 did. The number of homeless people now in shelters is around 63,000.

For New York, this is the highest that the homeless population has been since the Great Depression, and city leaders are trying to come up with a solution.

Meanwhile, things are so bad in Seattle that “400 unauthorized tent camps” have popped up…

Housing prices are soaring here thanks to the tech industry, but the boom comes with a consequence: A surge in homelessness marked by 400 unauthorized tent camps in parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. The liberal city is trying to figure out what to do.

Are you noticing a theme?

Homelessness is at epidemic levels all over the U.S., and this crisis is getting worse with each passing day.  Some communities are trying to care for their growing homeless populations, but others are simply trying to force them to go somewhere else.  They are doing this by essentially making it illegal to be homeless.  In some cities it is now a crime to engage in “public camping”, to “block a walkway” or to create any sort of “temporary structure for human habitation”.  These laws specifically target the homeless, and they are very cruel.

Many of us tend to picture the homeless as mostly lazy older men that don’t want to work and that instead want to drink or do drugs all day.

But the truth is that women and children make up a significant percentage of the homeless.  In fact, the number of homeless children in our country has increased by about 60 percent since the end of the last recession.

And there are thousands upon thousands of military veterans that are homeless.  For example, a 34-year-old man named Johnny that served in the Marine Corps recently used his last 20 dollars to buy fuel for a woman that had run out of gas and was stranded along I-95 in Miami

Pulled over on the side of I-95, McClure, 27, was approached by a homeless man named Johnny. She was apprehensive at first, but Johnny told her to get back into her car and to lock the doors while he walked to get her help. He went to a nearby gas station, used his last $20 fill a can and brought it back to fill up her car.

Grateful, but without a dollar to repay him, McClure promised she would come back with something.

In the weeks since, she’s returned to the spot along I-95 where Johnny stays with cash, snacks and Wawa gift cards. Each time she’s stopped by with her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, they’ve learned a bit more about Johnny’s story, and become humbled by his gratitude.

Deciding that they wanted to do even more for Johnny, they started a GoFundMe page for him and have since raised approximately $250,000.

So it looks like there is going to be a happy ending to Johnny’s story, but the truth is that more people are falling into homelessness with each passing day.

If things are this bad now, how much worse will they become as the economy really starts slowing down?  Already, we have shattered the all-time yearly record for retail store closings, and we still have more than a month to go.  The following is from a CNN article entitled “Is This The Last Black Friday?”

A record number of store closures — 6,735 — have already been announced this year. That’s more than triple the tally for 2016, according to Fung Global Retail and Technology, a retail think tank.

And there have been 620 bankruptcies in the sector so far this year, according to BankruptcyData.com, up 31% from the same period last year. Prominent names such as Toys R Us, Gymboree, Payless Shoes and RadioShack have all filed this year, and Sears Holdings (SHLD), which owns both the iconic Sears and Kmart chains, has warned there is “substantial doubt” it can remain in business.

Sadly, analysts are projecting that the number of store closings could be as high as 9,000 next year.

Yes, there are some areas of the country that are doing well right now, but there are many others that are not.

Let us always remember to have compassion on those that are struggling, because someday we may be the ones that end up needing some help.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Why America’s Retail Apocalypse Could Accelerate Even More In 2018

Is the retail apocalypse in the United States about to go to a whole new level?  That is a frightening thing to consider, because the truth is that things are already quite bad.  We have already shattered the all-time record for store closings in a single year and we still have the rest of November and December to go.  Unfortunately, it truly does appear that things will get even worse in 2018, because a tremendous amount of high-yield retail debt is coming due next year.  In fact, Bloomberg is reporting that the amount of high-yield retail debt that will mature next year is approximately 19 times larger than the amount that matured this year…

Just $100 million of high-yield retail borrowings were set to mature this year, but that will increase to $1.9 billion in 2018, according to Fitch Ratings Inc. And from 2019 to 2025, it will balloon to an annual average of almost $5 billion. The amount of retail debt considered risky is also rising. Over the past year, high-yield bonds outstanding gained 20 percent, to $35 billion, and the industry’s leveraged loans are up 15 percent, to $152 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

Even worse, this will hit as a record $1 trillion in high-yield debt for all industries comes due over the next five years, according to Moody’s.

Can you say “debt bomb”?

For those of you that are not familiar with these concepts, high-yield debt is considered to be the riskiest form of debt.  Retailers all over the nation went on a tremendous debt binge for years, and many of those loans never should have been made.  Now that debt is going to start to come due, and many of these retailers simply will not be able to pay.

So how does that concern the rest of us?

Well, just like with the subprime mortgage meltdown, the “spillover” could potentially be enormous.  Here is more from Bloomberg

The debt coming due, along with America’s over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. There will be displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases and investor losses on stocks, bonds and real estate. If today is considered a retail apocalypse, then what’s coming next could truly be scary.

I have written extensively about Sears and other troubled retailers that definitely appear to be headed for zero.  But one major retailer that is flying below the radar a little bit that you should keep an eye on is Target.  For over a year, conservatives have been boycotting the retailer, and this boycott is really starting to take a toll

Target has been desperately grasping at ideas to recover lost business, including remodeling existing stores and opening smaller stores, lowering prices, hiring more holiday staff and introducing a new home line from Chip and Joanna Gaines. But Target stock remains relatively stagnant, opening at 61.50 today—certainly nowhere near the mid-80s of April 2016, when the AFA boycott began.

In the past, retailers could always count on the middle class to bail them out, but the middle class is steadily shrinking these days.  In fact, at this point one out of every five U.S. households has a net worth of zero or less.

And we must also keep in mind that we do not actually deserve the debt-fueled standard of living that we are currently enjoying.  We are consuming far more wealth than we are producing, and the only way we are able to do that is by going into unprecedented amounts of debt.  The following comes from Egon von Greyerz

Total US debt in 1913 was $39 billion. Today it is $70 trillion, up 1,800X. But that only tells part of the story. There were virtually no unfunded liabilities in 1913. Today they are $130 trillion. So adding the $70 trillion debt to the unfunded liabilities gives a total liability of $200 trillion.

In 1913 US debt to GDP was 150%. Today, including unfunded liabilities, the figure becomes almost 1,000%. This is the burden that ordinary Americans are responsible for, a burden that will break the US people and the US economy as well as the dollar.

The only possible way that the game can go on is to continue to grow our debt much faster than the overall economy is growing.

Of course that is completely unsustainable, and when this debt bubble finally bursts everything is going to collapse.

We don’t know exactly when the next great financial crisis is coming, but we do know that conditions are absolutely perfect for one to erupt.  According to John Hussman, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see stock prices fall more than 60 percent from current levels…

At the root of Hussman’s pessimistic market view are stock valuations that look historically stretched by a handful of measures. According to his preferred valuation metric — the ratio of non-financial market cap to corporate gross value-added (Market Cap/GVA) — stocks are more expensive than they were in 1929 and 2000, periods that immediately preceded major market selloffs.

“US equity market valuations at the most offensive levels in history,” he wrote in his November monthly note. “We expect that more extreme valuations will only be met by more severe losses.”

Those losses won’t just include the 63% plunge referenced above — it’ll also be accompanied by a longer 10 to 12 year period over which the S&P 500 will fall, says Hussman.

A financial system that is based on a pyramid of debt will never be sustainable.  As I discuss in my new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters”, the design of our current debt-based system is fundamentally flawed, and it needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

The borrower is the servant of the lender, and our current system is designed to create as much debt as possible.  When it inevitably fails, we need to be ready to offer an alternative, because patching together our current system and trying to re-inflate the bubble is not a real solution.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

The Economy Is Okay? U.S. Retail Store Closings Hit A New Record High As West Coast Homelessness Soars

If the U.S. economy is doing just fine, why have we already shattered the all-time record for retail store closings in a single year?  Whenever I write about our “retail apocalypse”, many try to counter my arguments by pointing out the growing dominance of Amazon.  And I certainly can’t deny that online shopping is on the rise, but it still accounts for less than 10 percent of total U.S. retail sales.  No, something bigger is happening in our economy, and it isn’t receiving nearly enough attention from the mainstream media.

Back in 2008, a plummeting economy absolutely devastated retailers and it resulted in an all-time record of 6,163 retail stores being closed that year.

So far in 2017, over 6,700 stores have been shut down and we still have nearly two months to go!  The following comes from CNN

More store closings have been announced in 2017 than any other year on record.

Since January 1, retailers have announced plans to shutter more than 6,700 stores in the U.S., according to Fung Global Retail & Technology, a retail think tank.

That beats the previous all-time high of 6,163 store closings, which hit in 2008 amid the financial meltdown, according to Credit Suisse (CS).

Just within the last week, we have learned that Sears is closing down another 60 stores, and Walgreens announced that it intends to close approximately 600 locations.

Overall, about 300 retailers have declared bankruptcy so far in 2017, and we are on pace to lose over 147 million square feet of retail space by the end of the year.

Oh, but it is all Amazon’s fault, right?

Meanwhile, mainstream news outlets are reporting that homelessness is “exploding” out on the west coast.

For instance, we are being told that there are “400 unauthorized tent camps” in the city of Seattle alone

Housing prices are soaring here thanks to the tech industry, but the boom comes with a consequence: A surge in homelessness marked by 400 unauthorized tent camps in parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. The liberal city is trying to figure out what to do.

But I thought that the Seattle economy was doing so well.

I guess not.

Down in San Diego, they are actually scrubbing the sidewalks with bleach because the growing homeless population is spreading hepatitis A everywhere…

San Diego now scrubs its sidewalks with bleach to counter a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. In Anaheim, 400 people sleep along a bike path in the shadow of Angel Stadium. Organizers in Portland lit incense at an outdoor food festival to cover up the stench of urine in a parking lot where vendors set up shop.

Over the past two years, “at least 10 cities or municipal regions in California, Oregon and Washington” have declared a state of emergency because homelessness has gotten so far out of control.

Does that sound like a healthy economy to you?

The truth is that the financial markets have been doing great since the last financial crisis, but the real economy has never really recovered in any sort of meaningful way.

With each passing day, more Americans fall out of the middle class, and the homeless populations in major cities all over the nation continue to grow.

We truly are in the midst of a long-term economic collapse, and if we don’t find a way to fix things our problems will just continue to accelerate.

So don’t be fooled by the mainstream media.  They may be trying to convince you that everything is just wonderful, but that is not the reality that most people are facing at all.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

2017 Is Going To Be The Worst Retail Apocalypse In U.S. History – More Than 300 Retailers Have Already Filed For Bankruptcy

Not even during the worst parts of the last recession did things ever get this bad for the U.S. retail industry.  As you will see in this article, more than 300 retailers have already filed for bankruptcy in 2017, and it is being projected that a staggering 8,640 stores will close in America by the end of this calendar year.  That would shatter the old record by more than 20 percent.  Sadly, our ongoing retail apocalypse appears to only be in the early chapters.  One report recently estimated that up to 25 percent of all shopping malls in the country could shut down by 2022 due to the current woes of the retail industry.  And if the new financial crisis that is already hitting Europe starts spreading over here, the numbers that I just shared with you could ultimately turn out to be a whole lot worse.

I knew that a lot of retailers were filing for bankruptcy, but I had no idea that the grand total for this year was already in the hundreds.  According to CNN, the number of retail bankruptcies is now up 31 percent compared to the same time period last year…

Bankruptcies continue to pile up in the retail industry.

More than 300 retailers have filed for bankruptcy so far this year, according to data from BankruptcyData.com. That’s up 31% from the same time last year. Most of those filings were for small companies — the proverbial Mom & Pop store with a single location. But there are also plenty of household names on the list.

Yes, the growth of online retailers such as Amazon is fueling some of this, but the Internet has been around for several decades now.

So why are retail store closings and retail bankruptcies surging so dramatically all of a sudden?

Just a few days ago, another major victim of the retail apocalypse made headlines all over the nation when it filed for bankruptcy.  At one time Gymboree was absolutely thriving, but now it is in a desperate fight to survive

Children’s clothing chain Gymboree has filed for bankruptcy protection, aiming to slash its debts and close hundreds of stores amid crushing pressure on retailers.

Gymboree said it plans to remain in business but will close 375 to 450 of its 1,281 stores in filing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Gymboree employs more than 11,000 people, including 10,500 hourly workers.

And in recent weeks other major retailers that were once very prosperous have also been forced to close stores and lay off staff

This hemorrhaging of retail jobs comes on the heels of last week’s mass layoffs at Hudson Bay Company, where employees from Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor were among the 2,000 people laid off. The news of HBC layoffs came on the same day that Ascena, the parent company of brands like Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, and Dress Barn, told investors it will be closing up to 650 stores (although it did not specify which brands will be affected just yet). Only two weeks ago, affordable luxury brand Michael Kors announced it too would close 125 stores to combat brand overexposure and plummeting sales.

In a lot of ways this reminds me of 2007.  The stock market was still performing very well, but the real economy was starting to come apart at the seams.

And without a doubt, the real economy is really hurting right now.  According to Business Insider, Moody’s is warning that 22 more major retailers may be forced to declare bankruptcy in the very near future…

Twenty-two retailers in Moody’s portfolio are in serious financial trouble that could lead to bankruptcy, according to a Moody’s note published on Wednesday. That’s 16% of the 148 companies in the financial firm’s retail group — eclipsing the level of seriously distressed retail companies that Moody’s reported during the Great Recession.

You can find the full list right here.  If this many major retailers are “distressed” now, what are things going to look like once the financial markets start crashing?

As thousands of stores close down all across the United States, this is going to put an incredible amount of stress on shopping mall owners.  In order to meet their financial obligations, those mall owners need tenants, but now the number of potential tenants is shrinking rapidly.

I have talked about dead malls before, but apparently what we have seen so far is nothing compared to what is coming.  The following comes from CNN

Store closings and even dead malls are nothing new, but things might be about to get a whole lot worse.

Between 20% and 25% of American malls will close within five years, according to a new report out this week from Credit Suisse. That kind of plunge would be unprecedented in the nation’s history.

I can’t even imagine what this country is going to look like if a quarter of our shopping malls shut down within the next five years.  Already, there are some parts of the U.S. that look like a third world nation.

And what is this going to do to employment?  Today, the retail industry employs millions upon millions of Americans, and those jobs could start disappearing very rapidly

The retail sales associate is one of the most popular jobs in the country, with roughly 4.5 million Americans filling the occupation. In May, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released data that found that 7.5 million retail jobs might be replaced by technology. The World Economic Forum predicts 30 to 50 percent of retail jobs will be gone once struggling companies like Gymboree fully hop on the digital train. MarketWatch found that over the last year, the department store space bled 29,900 jobs, while general merchandising stores cut 15,700 positions. At this rate, one Florida columnist put it soberingly, “Half of all US retail jobs could vanish. Just as ATMs replaced many bank tellers, automated check-out stations are supplanting retail clerks.”

At this moment, the number of working age Americans that do not have a job is hovering near a record high.  So being able to at least get a job in the retail industry has been a real lifeline for many Americans, and now that lifeline may be in grave danger.

For those running our big corporations, losing these kinds of jobs is not a big deal.  In fact, many corporate executives would be quite happy to replace all of their U.S. employees with technology or with foreign workers.

But if the middle class is going to survive, we need an economy that produces good paying jobs.  Unfortunately, even poor paying retail jobs are starting to disappear now, and the future of the middle class is looking bleaker than it ever has before.