Are The Government And The Big Banks Quietly Preparing For An Imminent Financial Collapse?

Something really strange appears to be happening.  All over the globe, governments and big banks are acting as if they are anticipating an imminent financial collapse.  Unfortunately, we are not privy to the quiet conversations that are taking place in corporate boardrooms and in the halls of power in places such as Washington D.C. and London, so all we can do is try to make sense of all the clues that are all around us.  Of course it is completely possible to misinterpret these clues, but sticking our heads in the sand is not going to do any good either.  Last week, it was revealed that the U.S. government has been secretly directing five of the biggest banks in America “to develop plans for staving off collapse” for the last two years.  By itself, that wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  But when you add that piece to the dozens of other clues of imminent financial collapse, a very troubling picture begins to emerge.  Over the past 12 months, hundreds of banking executives have been resigning, corporate insiders have been selling off enormous amounts of stock, and I have been personally told that a significant number of Wall Street bankers have been shopping for “prepper properties” in rural communities this summer.  Meanwhile, there have been reports that the U.S. government has been stockpiling food and ammunition, and Barack Obama has been signing a whole bunch of executive orders that would potentially be implemented in the event of a major meltdown of society.  So what does all of this mean?  It could mean something or it could mean nothing.  What we do know is that a financial collapse is coming at some point.  Over the past 40 years, the total amount of all debt in the United States has grown from about 2 trillion dollars to nearly 55 trillion dollars.  That is a recipe for financial armageddon, and it is inevitable that this gigantic bubble of debt is going to burst at some point.

In normal times, the U.S. government does not tell major banks to “develop plans for staving off collapse”.

But according to a recent Reuters article, that is apparently exactly what has been happening….

U.S. regulators directed five of the country’s biggest banks, including Bank of America Corp and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, to develop plans for staving off collapse if they faced serious problems, emphasizing that the banks could not count on government help.

The two-year-old program, which has been largely secret until now, is in addition to the “living wills” the banks crafted to help regulators dismantle them if they actually do fail. It shows how hard regulators are working to ensure that banks have plans for worst-case scenarios and can act rationally in times of distress.

Does it seem odd to anyone else that only five really big banks got such a warning?

And why keep it secret from the American public?

Does the federal government actually expect such a collapse to happen?

If federal officials do expect a financial collapse to occur, they would not be the only ones.  An increasing number of very respected economists are speaking about the coming financial collapse as if there is a certain inevitability about it.

For example, check out the following quote from a recent Money Morning article….

Richard Duncan, formerly of the World Bank and chief economist at Blackhorse Asset Mgmt., says America’s $16 trillion federal debt has escalated into a “death spiral,” as he told CNBC.

And it could result in a depression so severe that he doesn’t “think our civilization could survive it.”

A former World Bank executive is warning that our civilization might not survive what is coming?

That is pretty chilling.

Economist Nouriel Roubini says that he believes that the coming crisis will be even worse than 2008….

“Worse because like 2008 you will have an economic and financial crisis but unlike 2008, you are running out of policy bullets. In 2008, you could cut rates; do QE1, QE2; you could do fiscal stimulus; you could backstop/ringfence/guarantee banks and everybody else. Today, more QEs are becoming less and less effective because the problems are of solvency not liquidity. Fiscal deficits are already so large and you cannot bail out the banks because 1) there is a political opposition to it; and 2) governments are near-insolvent – they cannot bailout themselves let alone their banks. The problem is that we are running out of policy rabbits to pull out of the hat!”

Across the pond, many European officials are echoing similar sentiments.

What Nigel Farage told King World News the other day is very ominous….

Today MEP (Member European Parliament) Nigel Farage spoke with King World News about what he described as the possibility of, “a really dramatic banking collapse.”  Farage also warned that central planners want to enslave and imprison people inside of a ‘New Order,’ and he described the situation as “horrifying.”

The situation in Europe continues to get worse and worse.  The authorities in Europe have come out with “solution” after “solution”, and yet unemployment continues to skyrocket and economic conditions in the EU have deteriorated very steadily over the past 12 months.

If all of that was not bad enough, there are an increasing number of indications that Germany is actually considering leaving the euro.

Needless to say, that would be a complete and total disaster for the rest of the eurozone.

Of course there are any number of ways that the financial crisis in Europe could potentially play out.

But all of the realistic scenarios would be very bad for the global economy.

Meanwhile, our resources are dwindling, war in the Middle East could erupt at any moment and our planet is becoming increasingly unstable.  The following is from a recent article by Paul B. Farrell on Marketwatch.com….

Fasten your seat belts, soon we’ll all be shocked out of denial. Some unpredictable black swan. A global wake-up call will trigger the Pentagon’s prediction in Fortune a decade ago at the launch of the Iraq War: “By 2020 … an ancient pattern of desperate, all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies is emerging … warfare defining human life.”

It is almost as if a “perfect storm” is brewing.

Of course the historic drought that is ravaging food production in the United States this summer is not helping matters either.  Another summer or two like this one and we could be looking at a return of Dust Bowl conditions.

Anyone that is watching what is going on in the world and is not concerned at all about what is happening is simply being delusional.

Recently, a “team of scientists, economists, and geopolitical analysts” examined the current state of the global economic system and the conclusions they reached were absolutely staggering….

One member of this team, Chris Martenson, a pathologist and former VP of a Fortune 300 company, explains their findings:

“We found an identical pattern in our debt, total credit market, and money supply that guarantees they’re going to fail. This pattern is nearly the same as in any pyramid scheme, one that escalates exponentially fast before it collapses. Governments around the globe are chiefly responsible.

“And what’s really disturbing about these findings is that the pattern isn’t limited to our economy. We found the same catastrophic pattern in our energy, food, and water systems as well.”

According to Martenson: “These systems could all implode at the same time. Food, water, energy, money. Everything.”

Hmmmm – it sounds like they have been reading The Economic Collapse Blog.

The truth is that a massive worldwide financial collapse is coming.

It is inevitable, and it is going to be extremely painful.

So what do you think about all of this?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

10 Things That Every American Should Know About The Federal Reserve

What would happen if the Federal Reserve was shut down permanently?  That is a question that CNBC asked recently, but unfortunately most Americans don’t really think about the Fed much. Most Americans are content with believing that the Federal Reserve is just another stuffy government agency that sets our interest rates and that is watching out for the best interests of the American people.  But that is not the case at all.  The truth is that the Federal Reserve is a private banking cartel that has been designed to systematically destroy the value of our currency, drain the wealth of the American public and enslave the federal government to perpetually expanding debt.  During this election year, the economy is the number one issue that voters are concerned about.  But instead of endlessly blaming both political parties, the truth is that most of the blame should be placed at the feet of the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve has more power over the performance of the U.S. economy than anyone else does.  The Federal Reserve controls the money supply, the Federal Reserve sets the interest rates and the Federal Reserve hands out bailouts to the big banks that absolutely dwarf anything that Congress ever did.  If the American people are ever going to learn what is really going on with our economy, then it is absolutely imperative that they get educated about the Federal Reserve.

The following are 10 things that every American should know about the Federal Reserve….

#1 The Federal Reserve System Is A Privately Owned Banking Cartel

The Federal Reserve is not a government agency.

The truth is that it is a privately owned central bank.  It is owned by the banks that are members of the Federal Reserve system.  We do not know how much of the system each bank owns, because that has never been disclosed to the American people.

The Federal Reserve openly admits that it is privately owned.  When it was defending itself against a Bloomberg request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Reserve stated unequivocally in court that it was “not an agency” of the federal government and therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

In fact, if you want to find out that the Federal Reserve system is owned by the member banks, all you have to do is go to the Federal Reserve website….

The twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks, which were established by Congress as the operating arms of the nation’s central banking system, are organized much like private corporations–possibly leading to some confusion about “ownership.” For example, the Reserve Banks issue shares of stock to member banks. However, owning Reserve Bank stock is quite different from owning stock in a private company. The Reserve Banks are not operated for profit, and ownership of a certain amount of stock is, by law, a condition of membership in the System. The stock may not be sold, traded, or pledged as security for a loan; dividends are, by law, 6 percent per year.

Foreign governments and foreign banks do own significant ownership interests in the member banks that own the Federal Reserve system.  So it would be accurate to say that the Federal Reserve is partially foreign-owned.

But until the exact ownership shares of the Federal Reserve are revealed, we will never know to what extent the Fed is foreign-owned.

#2 The Federal Reserve System Is A Perpetual Debt Machine

As long as the Federal Reserve System exists, U.S. government debt will continue to go up and up and up.

This runs contrary to the conventional wisdom that Democrats and Republicans would have us believe, but unfortunately it is true.

The way our system works, whenever more money is created more debt is created as well.

For example, whenever the U.S. government wants to spend more money than it takes in (which happens constantly), it has to go ask the Federal Reserve for it.  The federal government gives U.S. Treasury bonds to the Federal Reserve, and the Federal Reserve gives the U.S. government “Federal Reserve Notes” in return.  Usually this is just done electronically.

So where does the Federal Reserve get the Federal Reserve Notes?

It just creates them out of thin air.

Wouldn’t you like to be able to create money out of thin air?

Instead of issuing money directly, the U.S. government lets the Federal Reserve create it out of thin air and then the U.S. government borrows it.

Talk about stupid.

When this new debt is created, the amount of interest that the U.S. government will eventually pay on that debt is not also created.

So where will that money come from?

Well, eventually the U.S. government will have to go back to the Federal Reserve to get even more money to finance the ever expanding debt that it has gotten itself trapped into.

It is a debt spiral that is designed to go on perpetually.

You see, the reality is that the money supply is designed to constantly expand under the Federal Reserve system.  That is why we have all become accustomed to thinking of inflation as “normal”.

So what does the Federal Reserve do with the U.S. Treasury bonds that it gets from the U.S. government?

Well, it sells them off to others.  There are lots of people out there that have made a ton of money by holding U.S. government debt.

In fiscal 2011, the U.S. government paid out 454 billion dollars just in interest on the national debt.

That is 454 billion dollars that was taken out of our pockets and put into the pockets of wealthy individuals and foreign governments around the globe.

The truth is that our current debt-based monetary system was designed by greedy bankers that wanted to make enormous profits by using the Federal Reserve as a tool to create money out of thin air and lend it to the U.S. government at interest.

And that plan is working quite well.

Most Americans today don’t understand how any of this works, but many prominent Americans in the past did understand it.

For example, Thomas Edison was once quoted in the New York Times as saying the following….

That is to say, under the old way any time we wish to add to the national wealth we are compelled to add to the national debt.

Now, that is what Henry Ford wants to prevent. He thinks it is stupid, and so do I, that for the loan of $30,000,000 of their own money the people of the United States should be compelled to pay $66,000,000 — that is what it amounts to, with interest. People who will not turn a shovelful of dirt nor contribute a pound of material will collect more money from the United States than will the people who supply the material and do the work. That is the terrible thing about interest. In all our great bond issues the interest is always greater than the principal. All of the great public works cost more than twice the actual cost, on that account. Under the present system of doing business we simply add 120 to 150 per cent, to the stated cost.

But here is the point: If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good makes the bill good.

We should have listened to men like Edison and Ford.

But we didn’t.

And so we pay the price.

On July 1, 1914 (a few months after the Fed was created) the U.S. national debt was 2.9 billion dollars.

Today, it is more than more than 5000 times larger.

Yes, the perpetual debt machine is working quite well, and most Americans do not even realize what is happening.

#3 The Federal Reserve Has Destroyed More Than 96% Of The Value Of The U.S. Dollar

Did you know that the U.S. dollar has lost 96.2 percent of its value since 1900?  Of course almost all of that decline has happened since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913.

Because the money supply is designed to expand constantly, it is guaranteed that all of our dollars will constantly lose value.

Inflation is a “hidden tax” that continually robs us all of our wealth.  The Federal Reserve always says that it is “committed” to controlling inflation, but that never seems to work out so well.

And current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that it is actually a good thing to have a little bit of inflation.  He plans to try to keep the inflation rate at about 2 percent in the coming years.

So what is so bad about 2 percent?  That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Well, just consider the following excerpt from a recent Forbes article….

The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) has made it official:  After its latest two day meeting, it announced its goal to devalue the dollar by 33% over the next 20 years.  The debauch of the dollar will be even greater if the Fed exceeds its goal of a 2 percent per year increase in the price level.

#4 The Federal Reserve Can Bail Out Whoever It Wants To With No Accountability

The American people got so upset about the bailouts that Congress gave to the Wall Street banks and to the big automakers, but did you know that the biggest bailouts of all were given out by the Federal Reserve?

Thanks to a very limited audit of the Federal Reserve that Congress approved a while back, we learned that the Fed made trillions of dollars in secret bailout loans to the big Wall Street banks during the last financial crisis.  They even secretly loaned out hundreds of billions of dollars to foreign banks.

According to the results of the limited Fed audit mentioned above, a total of $16.1 trillion in secret loans were made by the Federal Reserve between December 1, 2007 and July 21, 2010.

The following is a list of loan recipients that was taken directly from page 131 of the audit report….

Citigroup – $2.513 trillion
Morgan Stanley – $2.041 trillion
Merrill Lynch – $1.949 trillion
Bank of America – $1.344 trillion
Barclays PLC – $868 billion
Bear Sterns – $853 billion
Goldman Sachs – $814 billion
Royal Bank of Scotland – $541 billion
JP Morgan Chase – $391 billion
Deutsche Bank – $354 billion
UBS – $287 billion
Credit Suisse – $262 billion
Lehman Brothers – $183 billion
Bank of Scotland – $181 billion
BNP Paribas – $175 billion
Wells Fargo – $159 billion
Dexia – $159 billion
Wachovia – $142 billion
Dresdner Bank – $135 billion
Societe Generale – $124 billion
“All Other Borrowers” – $2.639 trillion

So why haven’t we heard more about this?

This is scandalous.

In addition, it turns out that the Fed paid enormous sums of money to the big Wall Street banks to help “administer” these nearly interest-free loans….

Not only did the Federal Reserve give 16.1 trillion dollars in nearly interest-free loans to the “too big to fail” banks, the Fed also paid them over 600 million dollars to help run the emergency lending program.  According to the GAO, the Federal Reserve shelled out an astounding $659.4 million in “fees” to the very financial institutions which caused the financial crisis in the first place.

Does reading that make you angry?

It should.

#5 The Federal Reserve Is Paying Banks Not To Lend Money

Did you know that the Federal Reserve is actually paying banks not to make loans?

It is true.

Section 128 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 allows the Federal Reserve to pay interest on “excess reserves” that U.S. banks park at the Fed.

So the banks can just send their cash to the Fed and watch the money come rolling in risk-free.

So are many banks taking advantage of this?

You tell me.  Just check out the chart below.  The amount of “excess reserves” parked at the Fed has gone from nearly nothing to about 1.5 trillion dollars since 2008….

But shouldn’t the banks be lending the money to us so that we can start businesses and buy homes?

You would think that is how it is supposed to work.

Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve is not working for us.

The Federal Reserve is working for the big banks.

Sadly, most Americans have no idea what is going on.

Another example of this is the government debt carry trade.

Here is how it works.  The Federal Reserve lends gigantic piles of nearly interest-free cash to the big Wall Street banks, and in turn those banks use the money to buy up huge amounts of government debt.  Since the return on government debt is higher, the banks are able to make large profits very easily and with very little risk.

This scam was also explained in a recent article in the Guardian….

Consider this: we pretend that banks are private businesses that should be allowed to run their own affairs. But they are the biggest scroungers of public money of our time. Banks are lent vast sums of money by central banks at near-zero interest. They lend that money to us or back to the government at higher rates and rake in the difference by the billion. They don’t even have to make clever investments to make huge profits.

That is a pretty good little scam they have got going, wouldn’t you say?

#6 The Federal Reserve Creates Artificial Economic Bubbles That Are Extremely Damaging

By allowing a centralized authority such as the Federal Reserve to dictate interest rates, it creates an environment where financial bubbles can be created very easily.

Over the past several decades, we have seen bubble after bubble.  Most of these have been the result of the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates artificially low.  If the free market had been setting interest rates all this time, things would have never gotten so far out of hand.

For example, the housing crash would have never been so horrific if the Federal Reserve had not created such ideal conditions for a housing bubble in the first place.  But we allow the Fed to continue to make the same mistakes.

Right now, the Federal Reserve continues to set interest rates much, much lower than they should be.  This is causing a tremendous misallocation of economic resources, and there will be massive consequences for that down the line.

#7 The Federal Reserve System Is Dominated By The Big Wall Street Banks

Even since it was created, the Federal Reserve system has been dominated by the big Wall Street banks.

The following is from a previous article that I did about the Fed….

The New York representative is the only permanent member of the Federal Open Market Committee, while other regional banks rotate in 2 and 3 year intervals.  The former head of the New York Fed, Timothy Geithner, is now U.S. Treasury Secretary.  The truth is that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has always been the most important of the regional Fed banks by far, and in turn the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has always been dominated by Wall Street and the major New York banks.

#8 It Is Not An Accident That We Saw The Personal Income Tax And The Federal Reserve System Both Come Into Existence In 1913

On February 3rd, 1913 the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified.  Later that year, the United States Revenue Act of 1913 imposed a personal income tax on the American people and we have had one ever since.

Without a personal income tax, it is hard to have a central bank.  It takes a lot of money to finance all of the government debt that a central banking system creates.

It is no accident that the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913 and the Federal Reserve system was also created in 1913.

They have a symbiotic relationship and they are designed to work together.

We could fill Congress with people that are committed to ending this oppressive system, but so far we have chosen not to do that.

So our children and our grandchildren will face a lifetime of debt slavery because of us.

I am sure they will be thankful for that.

#9 The Current Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, Has A Nightmarish Track Record Of Incompetence

The mainstream media portrays Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as a brilliant economist, but is that really the case?

Let’s go to the videotape.

The following is an extended excerpt from an article that I published previously….

———-

In 2005, Bernanke said that we shouldn’t worry because housing prices had never declined on a nationwide basis before and he said that he believed that the U.S. would continue to experience close to “full employment”….

“We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.”

In 2005, Bernanke also said that he believed that derivatives were perfectly safe and posed no danger to financial markets….

“With respect to their safety, derivatives, for the most part, are traded among very sophisticated financial institutions and individuals who have considerable incentive to understand them and to use them properly.”

In 2006, Bernanke said that housing prices would probably keep rising….

“Housing markets are cooling a bit. Our expectation is that the decline in activity or the slowing in activity will be moderate, that house prices will probably continue to rise.”

In 2007, Bernanke insisted that there was not a problem with subprime mortgages….

“At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained. In particular, mortgages to prime borrowers and fixed-rate mortgages to all classes of borrowers continue to perform well, with low rates of delinquency.”

In 2008, Bernanke said that a recession was not coming….

“The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.”

A few months before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapsed, Bernanke insisted that they were totally secure….

“The GSEs are adequately capitalized. They are in no danger of failing.”

For many more examples that demonstrate the absolutely nightmarish track record of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, please see the following articles….

*”Say What? 30 Ben Bernanke Quotes That Are So Stupid That You Won’t Know Whether To Laugh Or Cry

*”Is Ben Bernanke A Liar, A Lunatic Or Is He Just Completely And Totally Incompetent?

But after being wrong over and over and over, Barack Obama still nominated Ben Bernanke for another term as Chairman of the Fed.

———-

#10 The Federal Reserve Has Become Way Too Powerful

The Federal Reserve is the most undemocratic institution in America.

The Federal Reserve has become so powerful that it is now known as “the fourth branch of government”, but there are less checks and balances on the Fed than there are on the other three branches.

The Federal Reserve runs the U.S. economy but it is not accountable to the American people.  We can’t vote those that run the Fed out of office if we do not like what they do.

Yes, the president appoints those that run the Fed, but he also knows that if he does not tread lightly he won’t get the money from the big Wall Street banks that he needs for his next election.

Thankfully, there are a few members of Congress that are complaining about how much power the Fed has.  For example, Ron Paul once told MSNBC that he believes that the Federal Reserve is now actually more powerful than Congress…..

“The regulations should be on the Federal Reserve. We should have transparency of the Federal Reserve. They can create trillions of dollars to bail out their friends, and we don’t even have any transparency of this. They’re more powerful than the Congress.”

As members of Congress such as Ron Paul have started to shed some light on the activities of the Federal Reserve, that has caused many in the mainstream media to come to the defense of the Fed.

For example, a recent CNBC article entitled “If The Federal Reserve Is Abolished, What Then?” makes it sound like there is absolutely no other rational alternative to having the Federal Reserve run our economy.

But this is not what our founders intended.

The founders did not intend for a private banking cartel to issue our money and set our interest rates for us.

According to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress has been given the responsibility to “coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures”.

So why is the Federal Reserve doing it?

But the CNBC article mentioned above makes it sound like the sky would fall if control of the currency was handed back over to the American people.

At one point, the article asks the following question….

“How would the U.S. economy then function? Something has to take its place, right?”

No, the truth is that we don’t need anyone to “manage” our economy.

The U.S. Treasury could be in charge of issuing our currency and the free market could set our interest rates.

We don’t need to have a centrally-planned economy.

We aren’t China.

And it goes against everything that our founders believed to be running up so much government debt.

For example, Thomas Jefferson once declared that if he could add just one more amendment to the U.S. Constitution it would be a ban on all government borrowing….

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.

Oh, how things would have been different if we had only listened to Thomas Jefferson.

Please share this article with as many people as you can.  These are things that every American should know about the Federal Reserve, and we need to educate the American people about the Fed while there is still time.

Too Big To Fail?: 10 Banks Own 77 Percent Of All U.S. Banking Assets

Back during the financial crisis of 2008, the American people were told that the largest banks in the United States were “too big to fail” and that was why it was necessary for the federal government to step in and bail them out.  The idea was that if several of our biggest banks collapsed at the same time the financial system would not be strong enough to keep things going and economic activity all across America would simply come to a standstill.  Congress was told that if the “too big to fail” banks did not receive bailouts that there would be chaos in the streets and this country would plunge into another Great Depression.  Since that time, however, essentially no efforts have been made to decentralize the U.S. banking system.  Instead, the “too big to fail” banks just keep getting larger and larger and larger.  Back in 2002, the top 10 banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Unfortunately, these giant banks are also colossal mountains of risk, debt and leverage.  They are incredibly unstable and they could start coming apart again at any time.  None of the major problems that caused the crash of 2008 have been fixed.  In fact, the U.S. banking system is more centralized and more vulnerable today than it ever has been before.

It really is difficult for ordinary Americans to get a handle on just how large these financial institutions are.  For example, the “big six” U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) now possess assets equivalent to approximately 60 percent of America’s gross national product.

These huge banks are giant financial vacuum cleaners.  Over the past couple of decades we have witnessed a financial consolidation in this country that is absolutely unprecedented.

This trend accelerated during the recent financial crisis.  While the big boys were receiving massive bailouts, the hundreds of small banks that were failing were either allowed to collapse or they were told that they should find a big bank that was willing to buy them.

As a group, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo held approximately 22 percent of all banking deposits in FDIC-insured institutions back in 2000.

By the middle of 2009 that figure was up to 39 percent.

That is not just a trend – that is a landslide.

Sadly, smaller banks continue to fail in large numbers and the big banks just keep growing and getting more power.

Today, there are more than 1,000 U.S. banks that are on the “unofficial list” of problem banking institutions.

In the absence of fundamental changes, the consolidation of the banking industry is going to continue.

Meanwhile, the “too big to fail” banks are flush with cash and they are getting serious about expanding.  The Federal Reserve has been extremely good to the big boys and they are eager to grow.

For example, Citigroup is becoming extremely aggressive about expanding….

Citigroup has been hiring dozens of investment bankers, dialing up advertising and drawing up plans to add several hundred branches worldwide, including more than 200 in major cities across the United States.

Hopefully the big banks will start lending again.  The whole idea behind the bailouts and all of the “quantitative easing” that the Federal Reserve did was to get money into the hands of the big banks so that they would lend it out to ordinary Americans and get the economy rolling again.

Well, a funny thing happened.  The big banks just sat on a lot of that money.

In particular, what they did was they deposited much of it at the Fed and drew interest on it.

Since 2008, excess reserves parked at the Fed have grown by nearly 1.7 trillion dollars.  Just check out the chart posted below….

The American people were promised that TARP and all of the other bailouts would enable the big banks to lend out lots of money which would help get the economy going for ordinary Americans again.

Well, it turns out that in 2009 (the first full year after Congress passed the bailout legislation) U.S. banks posted their sharpest decline in lending since 1942.

Lending has never fully recovered since the crash of 2008.  The big financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase have been able to get all the cash that they need, but they have not passed that generosity along to ordinary Americans.

In fact, the biggest U.S. banks have actually reduced small business lending by about 50 percent since the crash of 2008.

That doesn’t sound like what we were promised.

These “too big to fail” banks have been able to borrow gigantic amounts of money from the Fed for next to nothing and yet they still refuse to let credit flow to local communities.  Instead, the big banks have found other purposes for all of the super cheap money that they have been getting from the Fed as Ellen Brown recently explained….

It can be very profitable indeed for the big Wall Street banks, but the purpose of the near-zero interest rates was supposed to be to get banks to lend again. Instead, they are, indeed, paying “outrageous bonuses to their top executives;” using the money to engage in the same sort of unregulated speculation that nearly brought down the economy in 2008; buying up smaller banks; or investing this virtually interest-free money in risk-free government bonds, on which taxpayers are paying 2.5 percent interest (more for longer-term securities).

What makes things even worse is that these big banks often pay next to nothing in taxes.

For example, between 2008 and 2010, Wells Fargo made a total profit of 49.37 billion dollars.

Over that same time period, their tax bill was negative 681 million dollars.

Do you understand what that means?  Over that 3 year time period, Wells Fargo actually got 681 million dollars back from the U.S. government.

Isn’t that just peachy?

Meanwhile, the big financial giants have not learned their lessons and they continue to do business pretty much as they did it prior to 2008.

The big banks continue to roll up massive amounts of risk, debt and leverage.

Today, Wall Street has become one giant financial casino.  More money is made on Wall Street by making side bets (commonly referred to as “derivatives“) than on the investments themselves.

If the bets pay off for the big financial institutions, mind blowing profits can be made.  But if the bets go against the big financial institutions (as we saw in 2008), firms can collapse almost overnight.

In fact, it was derivatives that almost brought down AIG.  The biggest insurance company in the world almost folded in 2008 because of a whole bunch of really bad bets.

The danger from derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet once called them “financial weapons of mass destruction”.  It has been estimated that the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quadrillion dollars.

The largest banks have tens of trillions of dollars of exposure to derivatives.  When the next great financial collapse happens, derivatives will almost certainly be at the center of it once again.  These side bets do not create anything real for the economy – they just make and lose huge amounts of money.  We never know when the next great derivatives crisis will strike.  Derivatives are essentially like a “sword of Damocles” that perpetually hangs over the U.S. financial system.

When I start talking about derivatives I get a lot of people in the financial community mad at me.  On Wall Street today you can bet on just about anything you can imagine.  Almost everyone in the financial world has gotten so used to making wild bets that they couldn’t even imagine a world without them.  If anyone even tried to put significant limits on futures, options and swaps it would cause Wall Street to throw a hissy fit.

But someday the dominoes are going to start to fall and the house of cards is going to come crashing down.  It is an open secret that our financial system is fundamentally unsound.  Even a lot of people working on Wall Street will admit that.  It is just that people are so busy making such big piles of money that nobody wants the party to stop.

It is only a matter of time until some of these big banks get into a huge amount of trouble again.  When that happens, we might really find out whether they are “too big to fail” or whether we could get along just fine without them.

Rampant Unemployment = The Death Of The Middle Class – 40 Facts That Prove The Working Class Is Being Systematically Wiped Out

Without an abundance of good jobs, the middle class in the United States is going to shrivel up and die.  Right now, rampant unemployment is absolutely killing communities all over America.  Hopelessness and poverty are exploding and many are now wondering if we are actually witnessing the slow death of the middle class.  There simply are not nearly enough “good jobs” to go around anymore, and even many in the mainstream media are referring to this as a “long-term structural problem” with the economy.  The only thing that most working class Americans have to offer in the marketplace is their labor.  If nobody will hire them they do not have any other ways to provide for their families.  Well, there is a problem.  Today wealth has become incredibly centralized.  The big corporations and the big banks dominate everything.  Thanks to incredible advances in technology and thanks to the globalization of our economic system, the people with all the money don’t have to hire as many ordinary Americans anymore.  They can hire all the labor they want on the other side of the globe for a fraction of the cost.  So the rich don’t really have that much use for the working class in America anymore.  The only thing of value that the working class had to offer has now been tremendously devalued.  The wealthy don’t have to pay a lot for physical labor anymore.  Thousands of our factories and millions of our jobs have been shipped overseas and they aren’t coming back.  The big corporations are thriving while tens of millions of ordinary Americans are deeply suffering.  Almost all of the wealth being produced by our economy is going to a very centralized group of people at the very top of the food chain.  The rich are getting richer and the working class is being systematically wiped out.

So the fact that we are facing rampant unemployment that never seems to go away should not be a surprise to anyone.  Today, the “official” unemployment rate went up to 9.2 percent even though a whopping 272,000 Americans “dropped out of the labor force” in June.  The government unemployment figure that includes “discouraged workers” went up from 15.8% to 16.2%.  The mainstream media is proclaiming that this was “a horrific report” because most economists were expecting much better news.

Well, guess what?

Things are going to get a whole lot worse.

More job cuts are coming.  One recently released report found that the number of job cuts being planned by U.S. employers increased by 11.6% in June.

It is also being projected that state and local governments across the U.S. will slash nearly half a million more jobs by the end of next year.

Needless to say, things don’t look good.

Most people that still have jobs are desperately trying to hold on to them.

Employers know that most workers are easily replaceable these days, so wages are not moving up even though the cost of living is.

We are right in the middle of the worst employment downturn since World War 2.  Jay-Z recently summed up the situation this way….

“Numbers don’t lie. Unemployment is pretty high.”

Jay-Z certainly has a way with words, eh?

If something is not done about the rampant unemployment in this nation, the death of the middle class will accelerate.

Most Americans just assume that the United States will always have a large middle class, but there is no guarantee that is going to happen.  In fact, there is a whole lot of evidence that the middle class in America is rapidly shrinking.

Take a few moments to read over the facts compiled below.  Taken together, they provide compelling evidence that the working class is being systematically wiped out….

#1 Right now, the U.S. government says that 14.1 million Americans are unemployed.

#2 There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million people to the population since then.

#3 The number of Americans that are “not in the labor force” is at an all-time high.

#4 The United States has never had an employment downturn this deep and this prolonged since World War 2 ended.

#5 There are officially 6.3 million Americans that have been unemployed for more than 6 months.  That number has risen by more than 3.5 million in just the past two years.

#6 It now takes the average unemployed worker in America about 40 weeks to find a new job.  Just check out this chart….

#7 There are now about 7.25 million fewer jobs in America than when the recession began back in 2007.

#8 Back in 2000, the employment to population ratio was over 64 percent.  Today, it is sitting at just 58.2%.

#9 Only 66.8% of American men had a job last year.  That was the lowest level that has ever been recorded in all of U.S. history.

#10 During this economic downturn, employee compensation in the United States has been the lowest that it has been relative to gross domestic product in over 50 years.

#11 The number of “low income jobs” in the U.S. has risen steadily over the past 30 years and they now account for 41 percent of all jobs in the United States.

#12 Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

#13 According to a report released in February from the National Employment Law Project, higher wage industries are accounting for 40 percent of the job losses in America but only 14 percent of the job growth.  Lower wage industries are accounting for just 23 percent of the job losses but 49 percent of the job growth.

#14 The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

#15 Between December 2000 and December 2010, 38 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Ohio were lost, 42 percent of the manufacturing jobs in North Carolina were lost and 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Michigan were lost.

#16 Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.

#17 Do you remember when the United States was the dominant manufacturer of automobiles and trucks on the globe?  Well, in 2010 the U.S. ran a trade deficit in automobiles, trucks and parts of $110 billion.

#18 In 2010, South Korea exported 12 times as many automobiles, trucks and parts to us as we exported to them.

#19 The United States now spends more than 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that China spends on goods and services from the United States.

#20 Since China entered the WTO in 2001, the U.S. trade deficit with China has grown by an average of 18% per year.

#21 The U.S. trade deficit with China in 2010 was 27 times larger than it was back in 1990.

#22 The United States has lost an average of 50,000 manufacturing jobs per month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

#23 In 2002, the United States had a trade deficit in “advanced technology products” of $16 billion with the rest of the world.  In 2010, that number skyrocketed to $82 billion.

#24 Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry was actually lower in 2010 than it was in 1975.

#25 Since 2001, over 42,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have been closed.

#26 There were more manufacturing jobs in the United States in 1950 than there are today.

#27 Since the year 2000, we have lost approximately 10% of our middle class jobs.  In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.  Meanwhile, our population has gotten significantly larger.

#28 When you adjust wages for inflation, middle class workers in the United States make less money today than they did back in 1971.

#29 One recent survey found that 9 out of 10 U.S. workers do not expect their wages to keep up with soaring food prices and soaring gas prices over the next 12 months.

#30 Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.

#31 One out of every six elderly Americans now lives below the federal poverty line.

#32 According to one recent study, approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States were living below the poverty line in 2010.

#33 Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid.

#34 As 2007 began, there were 26 million Americans on food stamps.  Today, there are more than 44 million Americans on food stamps, which is an all-time record.

#35 Today, one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#36 59 percent of all Americans now receive money from the federal government in one form or another.

#37 The number of Americans that are going to food pantries and soup kitchens has increased by 46% since 2006.

#38 In the United States today, the richest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#39 According to Moody’s Analytics, the wealthiest 5% of all households in the United States now account for approximately 37% of all consumer spending.

#40 The poorest 50% of all Americans collectively own just 2.5% of all the wealth in the United States.

The cold, hard reality of the matter is that the United States is experiencing a long-term economic decline.

Every single day, more American families fall out of the middle class and into poverty.  There are millions of American families out there tonight that are just barely hanging on by their fingernails.

More Americans than ever are constantly borrowing more money just to stay afloat.  Even as rampant unemployment plagues this nation and even as wages remain stagnant, middle class Americans are increasing their use of credit.

A CNBC article noted the increase in consumer borrowing that we have seen recently….

The Federal Reserve says consumer borrowing rose $5.1 billion following a revised gain of $5.7 billion in April. Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards increased, as did borrowing in the category for auto and student loans.

It is very hard to live “the American Dream” without going into huge amounts of debt these days.

But for an increasing number of Americans, “the American Dream” is just a distant memory.

Tonight, there are large numbers of people living in the tunnels under the city of Las Vegas.  As the wealthy live the high life in the casinos and hotels above them, an increasing number of desperate “tunnel people” are attempting to carve out an existence in the 200 mile long labyrinth of tunnels that stretches beneath Vegas.  It is a nightmarish environment, but it is all those people have left.

Don’t look down on them, because you never know who might be next.

If you lost your current job, how long would you be able to survive?

Unfortunately, as bad as things are now, the reality is that this is just the beginning.

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Do what you can to make sure that you and your family are not totally wiped out by the next wave of the economic collapse.

Pissed Off!: 67 Percent Of Americans Are Dissatisfied With The Size And Influence Of Major Corporations

The American people are becoming increasingly angry about the extraordinary amount of power and influence that corporations have in the United States today.  A new Gallup poll found that 67 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the size and influence of major corporations in the United States today.  Not only that, the most recent Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index found that only 26 percent of Americans trust our financial system at this point.  The mainstream media is acting as if this is a new phenomenon, but the truth is that a dislike of giant corporations goes all the way back to the founding of this nation.  Our founders held a deep distrust for all big concentrations of power, and they intended to set up a nation where no one person or no one institution could become too powerful.

Unfortunately, we have very much strayed from those principles.  In the United States today, the federal government completely dominates all other levels of government and mammoth international corporations completely dominate our economy.

If our founding fathers could see what is going on today they would probably roll over in their graves.

The history of the corporation can be traced back to the early part of the 17th century when Queen Elizabeth I established the East India Trading Company.

Our founders were not too fond of the East India Trading Company.  In fact, it was their tea that was dumped into the harbor during the original Boston Tea Party.

In his book entitled “Unequal Protection”, Thom Hartman described the great antipathy that our founders had for the East India Trading Company….

“Trade-dominance by the East India Company aroused the greatest passions of America’s Founders – every schoolboy knows how they dumped the Company’s tea into Boston harbour. At the time in Britain virtually all members of parliament were stockholders, a tenth had made their fortunes through the Company, and the Company funded parliamentary elections generously.”

So a disgust for great concentrations of financial power is built into our national DNA.

Many people today think of giant international corporations as being synonymous with “capitalism”, but that is just not the case.

Our founders envisioned a land where free enterprise could flourish in an environment where no institution held too much power.

So this false left/right debate about whether we should give more power to the government or more power to the corporations is largely a bunch of nonsense.

If the founders were around today they would say that we need to take a lot of power away from both of them.

Fortunately, it looks like the American people are starting to think the same thing.  Not only are the American people dissatisfied with government, they are also becoming increasingly dissatisfied with big corporations.

As mentioned above, according to Gallup two-thirds of Americans are now dissatisfied with the size and influence of major corporations in America today….

As you can see, the gap between those in favor of the size and influence of major corporations and those not in favor has been significantly widening over the past decade.

That is a good thing.

Not only that, but the latest Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index shows that Americans have very little trust in the financial system at this point.

The following are some of the key findings from their most recent report….

*Only 26 percent of Americans trust the nation’s financial system.

*Only 13 percent of Americans trust big corporations.

*Only 16 percent of Americans trust the stock market.

*Only 43 percent of Americans trust the banks.

These numbers are staggering, but they should not be surprising.  The American people were not pleased at all when the major banks and big financial institutions were showered with bailouts during the recent financial crisis.  A lot of that anger is still simmering.

The recent housing collapse, which is still ongoing, was caused in great part by the behavior of the major banks and big financial institutions, but it is the American people which have suffered the most from it.  The following very brief animation from Taiwan demonstrates this very humorously….

The American people are still wondering where their “bailouts” are.  Most of the big banks and big corporations seem to be thriving even while the number of Americans slipping into poverty continues to grow.

According to Calculated Risk, approximately 15 million Americans are unemployed, about 9 million Americans are working part-time for “economic reasons” and approximately 4 million American workers have left the labor force since the beginning of the economic downturn.

When you total that all up, you get 28 million Americans that wish they had full-time jobs.

Ouch.

There are other numbers that are very disturbing as well.  In the month of November, the number of people on food stamps set another new all-time record: 43.6 million Americans.

So we have tens of millions of Americans that can’t get the jobs that they want and we have tens of millions of Americans that can’t feed themselves without government assistance.

No wonder so many people are angry at the big corporations!

The U.S. government has showered the big corporations and the big banks with bailouts, tax breaks and cheap loans and yet the big corporations and the big banks are not coming through for the American people.

Meanwhile, food prices continue to go up.  According to the United Nations food agency, global food prices set another new all-time record during the month of January, and they are expected to continue rising for months to come.

That certainly is not going to ease tensions in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.  When people are not able to pay for the food that they need that tends to make them very, very angry.

For now we are not likely to see food riots in the United States, but as food prices rise all of those food stamp cards are not going to go as far as they used to.  Average American families are going to feel more strain at the supermarket.  There will be less money available for other things.

A key indicator to watch is the price of oil.  The price of oil is one of the key components of the price of food, and if we see the price of oil go up to $120 or $150 a barrel that could mean really bad things for both the U.S. economy and the overall global economy.

If we do see another financial crisis like we did in 2008, is the U.S. government going to rush to bail out the big corporations and the big banks like they did the last time?

As we have seen from the numbers above, that certainly would not sit well with the American people.

Another Way That The Federal Reserve Makes Massive Gobs Of Money For The Big Banks

When most people discuss how the Federal Reserve benefits the big banks, they usually only focus on the ways that the Federal Reserve directly brings in income.  But there is so much more to it than that.  The truth is that the Federal Reserve is used in a whole variety of ways to indirectly assist the big banks in making huge gobs of money.  One of the ways this is currently being accomplished is through the U.S. Treasury carry trade.

So how does this carry trade work?

Well, it basically has three steps and it works something like this….

#1) Mr. Big Bank goes over to the Federal Reserve and says, “Hey Mr. Federal Reserve – please loan me a big bag of cash for next to nothing.”  Of course, the Federal Reserve is more than happy to loan it to him.

#2) Mr. Big Bank then invests the same big bag of cash into U.S. Tresuries which have a much higher interest rate than what Mr. Big Bank just borrowed at.  To give  you an idea, 10-year U.S. Treasuries are earning around 3 and a half percent right now.

#3) Mr. Big Bank sits back and enjoys the huge amount of risk-free cash which comes pouring in.

This little three step procedure helped enable four of the biggest U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup) to have a “perfect quarter” during the first quarter of 2010.  What that means is that these four banks had zero days of trading losses in the first quarter.

Wouldn’t you like to have a perfect batting average?

Don’t you wish you could pitch a perfect game every time?

Well, it certainly helps when you are being subsidized by the Federal Reserve as Bloomberg recently explained….

The trading results, which helped the banks report higher quarterly profit than analysts estimated even as unemployment stagnated at a 27-year high, came with a big assist from the Federal Reserve. The U.S. central bank helped lenders by holding short-term borrowing costs near zero, giving them a chance to profit by carrying even 10-year government notes that yielded an average of 3.70 percent last quarter.

Doesn’t it just seem like whenever we turn around the Federal Reserve is doing something new to “help out” the big banks?

This is just getting ridiculous.

Remember all of that talk about how the U.S. government had to help out Wall Street so that they could help out Main Street?

Well, a ton of money did get injected into the banking system.

In fact, the Federal Reserve pumped hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars into the banking system since the beginning of the financial crisis.  This has caused the U.S. monetary base to explode….

So did the big banks use all of that money to help out Main Street?

No.

In fact, business lending by the big banks has been falling precipitously.

So what have the big banks been doing with all of that money?

Buying U.S. government debt of course….

So instead of making loans to American businesses who desperately needed it, most of this new money has gone to pump up yet another bubble.  This time the bubble is in U.S. Treasuries.  Asia Times recently described how this trillion-dollar carry trade in U.S. government securities is setting up a very dangerous situation….

Remarkably, the most aggressive buyers of US government debt during the past several months have been global banks domiciled in London and the Cayman Islands. They borrow at 20 basis points (a fifth of a percentage point) and buy Treasury securities paying 1% to 3%, depending on maturity.

This is the famous “carry trade”, by which banks or hedge funds borrow short-term at a very low rate and lend medium- or long-term at a higher rate. This works as long as short-term rates remain extremely low. The moment that borrowing costs begin to rise, the trillion-dollar carry trade in US government securities will collapse.

But as long as the gravy train of the U.S. Treasury carry trade continues, why should the big banks make risky loans to American businesses and consumers when increasing numbers of them are turning out to be deadbeats anyway?

That is a good question.

Meanwhile, we have this sick situation where the Federal Reserve subsidizes the big banks and enables them to buy up a big chunk of the debt the U.S. government is constantly churning out.

Our national banking resources are increasingly being turned away from building up our once great system of free enterprise, and instead are being devoted to servicing the never ending spiral of government debt and funny money that we have created.

But a bunch of folks down on Wall Street are getting exceedingly rich from this little game, so they certainly aren’t going to complain about it.  And as long as the vast majority of Americans continue to stay in the dark about all of this, the bouncing ball will just continue to keep rolling.

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