The Beginning Of The End
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11-Year-Old Girl BANNED From Selling Cupcakes By Control Freak Government Bureaucrats

Marble Cupcakes - Photo by F_A from Ostwestfalen, GermanyAmerica is being suffocated to death by red tape.  You are about to read about an 11-year-old girl in Illinois that had her cupcake business brutally shut down by government bureaucrats.  Her name is Chloe Stirling and her crime was doing something that we used to applaud young people in America for doing.  Instead of sitting on her sofa and watching television all day, she actually started her own business.  And it turned out there her little business started thriving.  In fact, it started doing so well that a local newspaper took notice of it.  Well, that is when the control freaks swooped in and took her business away and banned her from selling any more cupcakes.  The really sad thing is that people are being paid to do this with our tax dollars.  All over America, little entrepreneurs are having their lemonade stands shut down and are being banned from selling Girl Scout cookies, and our tax dollars are paying the people that are doing it.  As I wrote about earlier this month, the level of economic freedom in the United States is at an all-time low, and it gets worse with each passing year.  The country that so many of us love is dying, and it is being replaced with something that I like to call “the USSA”.

In the Union of Soviet Socialist Americans, you have to have a government “license” or “permit” to do just about anything.  If the government does not give you permission, you can get into a whole lot of trouble.

Little 11-year-old Chloe Stirling must have thought that this was still the nation that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson once founded, because she dared to actually start a business and sell cupcakes to the public.  Little did she know that she would soon make national news

An 11-year-old girl from Illinois got a dose of regulation American-style this week when local government officials shut down her cupcake business.

Chloe Stirling, from Troy, got the front-page treatment from her local newspaper, which featured how well her business, Hey, Cupcake, was doing. By all accounts, it was a successful little enterprise. Chloe was getting $10 for a dozen cupcakes and $2 for each specialty cupcake. She even donated her cupcakes when a boy in her school fighting cancer held a fundraiser.

So why did they shut her down?

Well, it turns out that she didn’t have a “permit” to sell cupcakes and her kitchen was not “licensed”.

Like I said, you have to have permission from the government to do just about anything these days.

Another example of this phenomenon that is absolutely infuriating took place out in Fauquier County, Virginia.  When a mother held a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls and posted the photos on Facebook, she never imagined that she would soon be hit with $15,000 in fines…

Martha Boneta owns a small farm in Fauquier County, Virginia, where she recently hosted a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls. They wore hats, picked veggies, and made goat’s milk soap. The county says she should have obtain a license before hosting such an event and hit her with a $5,000 fine.

Boneta also got slammed with two more fines for $5,000 each, one for advertising a pumpkin carving and another for violations in the small shop on her property. Boneta sells produce from her farm, as well as eggs, yarn, birdhouses, and local crafts. She sought and received a license for the shop in 2011, but the county now says she can’t sell handiwork or produce from her neighbors under that license.

Stuff like this just makes me want to scream sometimes.

What is happening to this country?

A few years ago, my wife used to take old pieces of furniture, sand them down, repaint them and sell them to others.  It was something that she really enjoyed doing and she made some extra money along the way.

But if you try doing that in some areas of the country today, the EPA could potentially hit you with a fine of $30,000 for a single incident in which you do not follow the proper procedures.  The following is an excerpt from a discussion that some furniture painters were having on Facebook.  It is a little technical, but it is worth reading.  In this excerpt the identity of the business has been removed to protect the business from overzealous regulators…

As a painter in PA, I am required by law to test everything that I disturb and I must charge the customer $60 for every test I perform which adds up. What the law states in my area is that if I disturb more than 6 square inches on anything made prior to Jan 1 1979 I must test it. Disturbing means, sanding, scraping, or even using a sponge/scuff pad (like you use on your pots) if I disturb more than 6 inches, I must take photographs, document in 4 different logs, I have local, county, state, and federal log books. If I find lead then I must suit up. Originally, the law stated that if there were no children around then you didn’t have to do that however some lame brained legislator decided that if a child enters the premises for more than one hour a day, we must assume they will be in contact with the lead and therefore will contract lead poisoning. Then the legislators decided that if you were over the age of 60 then it didn’t matter, you didn’t have to test who cares if you get poisoned. Lo and behold OSHA stepped in and joined forces with the EPA, they decided that all were at risk including your pets and the leaves on your trees can hold the lead dust and …..well, that’s a whole other issue.

What is happening now is that so many painters decided they weren’t going to follow the lead law, that OSHA and EPA send out secret shoppers. A lot of us don’t even put our logo’s on our vehicles because that invites these shoppers to investigate. If you come to the **** ********, you won’t see signage on the building, you have to get to the actual door of the workroom to know we are there. We no longer have logo’s on our vehicles either as the fines are too stiff. There isn’t one of us that can afford a find of $30,000.00 A DAY, not a year, A DAY.

The government bureaucrats are running wild and the rest of us are just sitting back and letting it happen.

Things have gotten so bad in this country that the federal government even requires small-time magicians to submit “disaster plans” for the rabbits that they use in their acts.  The following is an excerpt from one of my previous articles

Central planning in this country is getting completely and totally out of control.  These days, you can hardly do anything without running into a suffocating web of red tape.  For example, a small-time magician from Missouri that does magic shows for kids was absolutely horrified when he learned that the Obama administration is requiring him to submit a 32 page “disaster plan” for the rabbit that he uses in his shows.  Yes, this is actually true.  His name is Marty Hahne, and he thought that it was bad enough when the U.S. Department of Agriculture busted him for not having a “license” for his rabbit.  He went out and acquired the proper “license” for his rabbit, but he never dreamed that eventually he would also have to submit a 32 page “disaster plan” for the same rabbit.

You can read the rest of that article right here.

Are you starting to get the picture?

These control freaks want to completely dominate every aspect of our lives.  The “nanny state” is entirely out of control and it is up to “we the people” to do something about it.

Barack Obama revealed the kind of mentality that is behind this “nanny state” when he recently made the following statement

“I would not let my son play pro football”

And without a doubt, the control freaks that run things will try to ban football (or at least “tone it down”) the moment that they think that they can get away with it.

America was supposed to be a place where liberty and freedom were maximized and the interference of the federal government in our lives was supposed to be minimized.

Instead, what we have now is just the opposite.

No wonder Americans consider the government to be their biggest problem.

Marble Cupcakes - Photo by F_A from Ostwestfalen, Germany

What Recovery? Sears And J.C. Penney Are DYING

Sears - Photo by Belus Capital AdvisorsTwo of the largest retailers in America are steamrolling toward bankruptcy.  Sears and J.C. Penney are both losing hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter, and both of them appear to be caught in the grip of a death spiral from which it will be impossible to escape.  Once upon a time, Sears was actually the largest retailer in the United States, and even today Sears and J.C. Penney are “anchor stores” in malls all over the country.  When I was growing up, my mother would take me to the mall when it was time to go clothes shopping, and there were usually just two options: Sears or J.C. Penney.  When I got older, I actually worked for Sears for a little while.  At the time, nobody would have ever imagined that Sears or J.C. Penney could go out of business someday.  But that is precisely what is happening.  They are both shutting down unprofitable stores and laying off employees in a desperate attempt to avoid bankruptcy, but everyone knows that they are just delaying the inevitable.  These two great retail giants are dying, and they certainly won’t be the last to fall.  This is just the beginning.

The Death Of Sears

Sales have declined at Sears for 27 quarters in a row, and the legendary retailer has been closing hundreds of stores and selling off property in a frantic attempt to turn things around.

Unfortunately for Sears, it is not working.  In fact, Sears has announced that it expects to lose “between $250 million to $360 million” for the quarter that will end on February 1st.

Things have gotten so bad that Sears is even making commercials that openly acknowledge how badly it is struggling.  For example, consider the following bit of dialogue from a recent Sears television commercial featuring two young women…

“Wait, the movie theater is on the other side,” the passenger says.

“But Sears always has parking!” the driver responds.

Sears always has parking???

Of course the unspoken admission is that Sears always has parking because nobody shops there anymore.

I have posted video of the commercial below…

A couple of months ago I walked into a Sears store in the middle of the week and it was like a ghost town.  A few associates were milling around here and there having private discussions among themselves, but other than that it was eerily quiet.

You can find 18 incredibly depressing photographs which do a great job of illustrating why Sears is steadily dying right here.  This was once one of America’s greatest companies, but soon it will be dead.

The Death Of J.C. Penney

J.C. Penny has been a dead man walking for a long time.  In some ways, it is in even worse shape than Sears.

If you can believe it, J.C. Penney actually lost 586 million dollars during the second quarter of 2013 alone.

How in the world do you lose 586 million dollars in three months?

Are they paying employees to flush giant piles of cash down the toilets?

This week J.C. Penney announced that it is eliminating 2,000 jobs and closing 33 stores.  The following is a list of the store closings that was released to the public…

Selma, Ala. — Selma Mall

Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. — Arrow Plaza

Colorado Springs — Chapel Hills Mall

Meriden, Conn. — Meriden Square

Leesburg, Fla. — Lake Square Mall

Port Richey, Fla. — Gulf View Square

Muscatine, Iowa — Muscatine Mall

Bloomingdale, Ill. — Stratford Square Mall

Forsyth, Ill. — Hickory Point Mall

Marion, Ind. — Five Points Mall

Warsaw, Ind. — Marketplace Shopping Center

Salisbury, Md. — The Centre at Salisbury

Marquette, Mich. — Westwood Plaza

Worthington, Minn. — Northland Mall

Gautier, Miss. — Singing River Mall

Natchez, Miss. — Natchez Mall

Butte, Mont. — Butte Plaza Shopping Center

Cut Bank, Mont.

Kinston, N.C. — Vernon Park Mall

Burlington, N.J. — Burlington Center

Phillipsburg, N.J. — Phillipsburg Mall

Wooster, Ohio — Wayne Towne Plaza

Exton, Pa. — Exton Square Mall

Hazleton, Pa. — LaurelMall

Washington, Pa. — Washington Mall

Chattanooga — Northgate Mall

Bristol, Va. — Bristol Mall

Norfolk, Va. — Military Circle Mall

Fond du Lac, Wis., Forest Mall

Janesville, Wis. — Janesville Mall

Rhinelander, Wis. — Lincoln Plaza Center

Rice Lake, Wis. — Cedar Mall

Wausau, Wis. — Wausau Mall

The CEO of J.C. Penney says that these closures were necessary for the future of the company…

“As we continue to progress toward long-term profitable growth, it is necessary to reexamine the financial performance of our store portfolio and adjust our national footprint accordingly,” CEO Myron Ullman said in a news release.

Actually, his statement would be a lot more accurate if he replaced “continue to progress toward long-term profitable growth” with ” prepare for bankruptcy”.

It would be hard to overstate how much of a disaster 2013 was for J.C. Penney.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNN article

It’s been a brutal year for J.C. Penney, its stock falling over 60% in the past 12 months. The company has been losing hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter, and is in the midst of another turnaround effort after ousting former Apple executive Ron Johnson last year.

Overall, shares of J.C. Penney have fallen by an astounding 84 percent since February 2012.  And keep in mind that this decline has happened during one of the greatest stock market rallies of all-time.

For now, J.C. Penney will continue to try to desperately raise more cash from investors that are foolish enough to give it to them, but all that is really accomplishing is just delaying the inevitable.

If you would like to see some photos that graphically illustrate why J.C. Penney is falling apart, you can find some right here.

And of course Sears and J.C. Penney are not the only large retailers that have fallen on hard times.  This week the CEO of Best Buy admitted that sales declined at his chain during the holiday season…

Best Buy shares skid on Thursday after the retailer said total revenue and sales at its established U.S stores fell in the all-important holiday season due to intense discounting by rivals, supply constraints for key products and weak traffic in December.

In the immediate aftermath of that announcement, Best Buy stock was down more than 30 percent in pre-market trading.

And Macy’s just announced that it is laying off 2,500 employees in an attempt to move in a more profitable direction.

So why is all of this happening?

Aren’t we supposed to be in the midst of an “economic recovery”?

That is what the Obama administration and the mainstream media keep telling us, but it is simply not true.

In fact, a new Gallup survey has found that the number of Americans that are “financially worse off” than a year ago is significantly higher than the number of Americans that say that they are “financially better off” than a year ago…

More Americans, 42%, say they are financially worse off now than they were a year ago, reversing the lower levels found over the past two years. Just more than a third of Americans say their financial situation has improved from a year ago.

That is why these stores are dying.

Things continue to get even worse for the middle class.

But a lot of people out there will continue to deny what is happening right in front of their eyes.  They are kind of like that woman over in California who was conned out of half a million dollars by a Nigerian online dating scam.  They will never admit the truth until it is far too late to do anything about it.

So have you been to a Sears or a J.C. Penney lately?

Do you believe that they will survive?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

Vast Stretches Of Impoverished Appalachia Look Like They Have Been Through A War

West VirginiaIf you want to get an idea of where the rest of America is heading, just take a trip through the western half of West Virginia and the eastern half of Kentucky some time.  Once you leave the main highways, you will rapidly encounter poverty on a level that is absolutely staggering.  Overall, about 15 percent of the entire nation is under the poverty line, but in some areas of eastern Kentucky, more than 40 percent of the population is living in poverty.  Most of the people would work if they could.  Over the past couple of decades, locals have witnessed businesses and industries leave the region at a steady pace.  When another factory or business shuts down, many of the unemployed do not even realize that their jobs have been shipped overseas.  Coal mining still produces jobs that pay a decent wage, but Barack Obama is doing his very best to kill off that entire industry.  After decades of decline, vast stretches of impoverished Appalachia look like they have been through a war.  Those living in the area know that things are not good, but they just try to do the best that they can with what they have.

In previous articles about areas of the country that are economically depressed, I have typically focused on large cities such as Detroit or Camden, New Jersey.  But the economic suffering that is taking place in rural communities in the heartland of America is just as tragic.  We just don’t hear about it as much.

Most of those that live in the heart of Appalachia are really good “salt of the earth” people that just want to work hard and do what is right for their families.  But after decades of increasing poverty, the entire region has been transformed into an economic nightmare that never seems to end.  The following is a description of what life is like in Appalachia today that comes from a recent article by Kevin D. Williamson

Thinking about the future here and its bleak prospects is not much fun at all, so instead of too much black-minded introspection you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, the draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short — the typical man here dies well over a decade earlier than does a man in Fairfax County, Va. — and they are getting shorter, women’s life expectancy having declined by nearly 1.1 percent from 1987 to 2007.

In these kinds of conditions, people do whatever they have to do just to survive.  With so much poverty around, serving those on food stamps has become an important part of the local economy.  In fact, cases of soda purchased with food stamps have become a form of “alternative currency” in the region.  In his article, Williamson described how this works…

It works like this: Once a month, the debit-card accounts of those receiving what we still call food stamps are credited with a few hundred dollars — about $500 for a family of four, on average — which are immediately converted into a unit of exchange, in this case cases of soda. On the day when accounts are credited, local establishments accepting EBT cards — and all across the Big White Ghetto, “We Accept Food Stamps” is the new E pluribus unum – are swamped with locals using their public benefits to buy cases and cases — reports put the number at 30 to 40 cases for some buyers — of soda. Those cases of soda then either go on to another retailer, who buys them at 50 cents on the dollar, in effect laundering those $500 in monthly benefits into $250 in cash — a considerably worse rate than your typical organized-crime money launderer offers — or else they go into the local black-market economy, where they can be used as currency in such ventures as the dealing of unauthorized prescription painkillers — by “pillbillies,” as they are known at the sympathetic establishments in Florida that do so much business with Kentucky and West Virginia that the relevant interstate bus service is nicknamed the “OxyContin Express.” A woman who is intimately familiar with the local drug economy suggests that the exchange rate between sexual favors and cases of pop — some dealers will accept either — is about 1:1, meaning that the value of a woman in the local prescription-drug economy is about $12.99 at Walmart prices.

I would encourage everyone to read the rest of Williamson’s excellent article.  You can find the entire article right here.

In Appalachia, the abuse of alcohol, meth and other legal and illegal drugs is significantly higher than in the U.S. population as a whole.  In a desperate attempt to deal with the pain of their lives, many people living in the region are looking for anything that will allow them to “escape” for a little while.  The following is an excerpt from an excellent article by Chris Hedges which describes what life is like in the little town of Gary, West Virginia at this point…

Joe and I are sitting in the Tug River Health Clinic in Gary with a registered nurse who does not want her name used. The clinic handles federal and state black lung applications. It runs a program for those addicted to prescription pills. It also handles what in the local vernacular is known as “the crazy check” — payments obtained for mental illness from Medicaid or SSI — a vital source of income for those whose five years of welfare payments have run out. Doctors willing to diagnose a patient as mentally ill are important to economic survival.

“They come in and want to be diagnosed as soon as they can for the crazy check,” the nurse says. “They will insist to us they are crazy. They will tell us, ‘I know I’m not right.’ People here are very resigned. They will avoid working by being diagnosed as crazy.”

The reliance on government checks, and a vast array of painkillers and opiates, has turned towns like Gary into modern opium dens. The painkillers OxyContin, fentanyl — 80 times stronger than morphine — Lortab, as well as a wide variety of anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, are widely abused. Many top off their daily cocktail of painkillers at night with sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. And for fun, addicts, especially the young, hold “pharm parties,” in which they combine their pills in a bowl, scoop out handfuls of medication, swallow them, and wait to feel the result.

Of course this kind of thing is not just happening in the heart of Appalachia.  All over the country there are rural communities that are economically depressed.  In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, economic activity in about half of the counties in the entire nation is still below pre-recession levels…

About half of the nation’s 3,069 county economies are still short of their prerecession economic output, reflecting the uneven economic recovery, according to a new report from the National Association of Counties.

So what are our “leaders” doing to fix this?

Well, they plan to ship millions more of our good jobs overseas.

Unfortunately, I am not kidding.

Republicans in the House of Representatives are introducing “fast track” trade promotion authority legislation that will pave the way for rapid approval of the secret trade treaty that Barack Obama has been negotiating.  The following is how I described this insidious treaty in a previous article

Did you know that the Obama administration is negotiating a super secret “trade agreement” that is so sensitive that he isn’t even allowing members of Congress to see it?  The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being called the “NAFTA of the Pacific” and “NAFTA on steroids”, but the truth is that it is so much more than just a trade agreement.  This treaty has 29 chapters, but only 5 of them have to do with trade.  Most Americans don’t realize this, but this treaty will fundamentally change our laws regarding Internet freedom, health care, the trading of derivatives, copyright issues, food safety, environmental standards, civil liberties and so much more.  It will also merge the United States far more deeply into the emerging one world economic system.

Once again, our politicians are betraying the American people and millions of jobs will be lost as a result.

Not that the economy needs another reason to go downhill.  The truth is that our economic foundations have already been rotting away for quite some time.

But now the ongoing economic collapse seems to be picking up steam again.  For example, the Baltic Dry Index (a very important indicator of global economic activity) is collapsing at a rate not seen since the great financial crash of 2008

Despite ‘blaming’ the drop in the cost of dry bulk shipping on Colombian coal restrictions, it seems increasingly clear that the 40% collapse in the Baltic Dry Index since the start of the year is more than just that. While this is the worst start to a year in over 30 years, the scale of this meltdown is only matched by the total devastation that occurred in Q3 2008. Of course, the mainstream media will continue to ignore this dour index until it decides to rise once again, but for now, 9 days in a row of plunging prices is yet another canary in the global trade coalmine and suggests what inventory stacking that occurred in Q3/4 2013 is anything but sustained.

Soon economic conditions will get even worse for Appalachia and for the rest of the country.  The consequences of decades of very foolish decisions are rapidly catching up with us, and millions upon millions of Americans are going to experience immense economic pain during the years to come.

So what are things like in your area of the country right now?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

West Virginia

55 Reasons Why California Is The Worst State In America

Why in the world would anyone want to live in the state of California at this point?  The entire state is rapidly becoming a bright, shining example of everything that is wrong with America.  It is so sad to watch our most populated state implode right in front of our eyes.  Like millions of Americans, I was quite enamored with the state of California when I was younger.  The warm weather, the beaches, the great natural beauty of the state and the mystique of Hollywood all really appealed to me.  At one point I even thought that I wanted to move there.  But today, hordes of Californians are racing to get out of the state because it has become a total nightmare.  It is the worst state in the country in which to do business, taxes were just raised even higher, unemployment is more than 20 percent higher than the national average and the state government is drowning in debt.  Meanwhile, poverty, gang activity and crime just seem to get worse with each passing year.  On top of everything else, the insane politicians in Sacramento just keep on passing more laws that make the problems that the state is facing even worse.  Unfortunately, what is happening in California may be a preview of what is coming to the entire nation.  The old adage, “as California goes, so goes the nation”, has been proven to be true way too many times.

In dozens of different ways, the state of California is showing the rest of us what not to do.  Will we learn from their mistakes, or will we follow them into oblivion?  Please share the list below with as many people as you can.  In addition to a large amount of new research, this list also pulled heavily from one of my previous articles and from outstanding research done by Richard Rider.  The following are 55 reasons why California is the worst state in America…

1. One survey of business executives has ranked California as the worst state in America to do business for 8 years in a row.

2. In 2011, the state of California ranked 50th out of all 50 states in new business creation.

3. According to one recent study, California is the worst-governed state in the entire country.

4. Thanks to Proposition 30, California now boasts the highest state income tax rate in the nation.

5. Even though California just raised taxes dramatically on the wealthy, state revenues are falling like a rock.  State revenue for November 2012 was 10.8 percent below projections.

6. California has the highest sales tax rate in the United States.

7. California has the 8th highest corporate income tax rate in the country.

8. California has the highest “minimum corporate tax” in the country.  Each corporation must pay at least $800 to the state even if a corporation does not make a single dollar of profit.

9. California is tied with New York for the highest gasoline tax rate in the country.

10. California is the only state in America that taxes carbon emissions.

11. The state of California issues some of the most expensive traffic tickets in the nation.  This is another form of taxation.

12. As of October, only Nevada and Rhode Island had higher unemployment rates than California.

13. The unemployment rate in California is more than 20 percent higher than the overall unemployment rate for the rest of the nation.

14. The state of California requires licenses for 177 different occupations (the most in the nation).  The national average is only 92.

15. California teachers are the highest paid in the nation, but California students rank 48th in math and 49th in reading.

16. California accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. population, but a whopping 33 percent of Americans that receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) live there.

17. Only the state of Illinois has a lower bond rating than the state of California does.

18. Including unfunded pension liabilities, the state of California has more than twice as much debt as any other state does.

19. Average pay for California state workers has risen by more than 100 percent since 2005.  That is good news for those state employees, but it is bad news for the taxpayers that have to pay their salaries.

20. More than 5,000 California state troopers made more than $100,000 last year.

21. One highway patrol officer ended up bringing home almost $484,000 in 2011.

22. One state psychiatrist in California was paid $822,000 in 2011.

23. Since 2007, the number of children living in poverty in the state of California has increased by 30 percent.

24. Sadly, an astounding 60 percent of all students attending California public schools now qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

25. The American Tort Reform Association has ranked the state of California as the worst “judicial hellhole” in America.

26. Businesses all over the state of California are being absolutely suffocated to death by ridiculous regulations.

27. According to the Milken Institute, operating costs for California businesses are 23 percent higher than the national average.

28. According to CNN, the state of California had the worst “small business failure rate” in America in 2010.  It was 69 percent higher than the national average.

29. The number of people unemployed in the state of California is roughly equivalent to the populations of Nevada, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

30. Residential customers in California pay about 29 percent more for electricity than the national average.

31. So many poor people and illegal aliens have taken advantage of the “free” healthcare at emergency rooms that many of them have been forced to shut down in California.  As a result, the state of California now ranks dead last out of all 50 states in the number of emergency rooms per million people.

32. Political correctness is totally out of control in California.

33. One California town is actually considering making it illegal to smoke in your own backyard.

34. The traffic around the big cities is horrific.

35. Los Angeles

36. San Francisco

37. Oakland

38. Stockton

39. Sacramento

40. The rampant gang activity in the state gets even worse with each passing year.

41. Crime continues to rise all over the state.

42. Just recently, the city attorney of San Bernardino, California told citizens to “lock their doors and load their guns” because there is not enough money to pay for adequate police protection any longer.

43. The murder rate in San Bernardino is up 50 percent this year.

44. In Oakland, burglaries are up 43 percent so far this year.

45. Today, Oakland is considered the 5th most violent city in the United States.

46. There have been more than 250 gold chain robberies in Stockton, California just since the month of April.

47. In Stockton, the police budget cuts got so bad that the police union put up a billboard at one point with the following message: “Welcome to the 2nd most dangerous city in California. Stop laying off cops.”

48. Jerry Brown.

49. The absolutely insane California state legislature.

50. Wildfires.

51. Mudslides.

52. The state of California lies directly along the infamous “Ring of Fire“.  Approximately 90 percent of all the earthquakes in the entire world happen along the Ring of Fire and the “Big One” could hit the state at any moment.

53. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 100,000 more people moved out of the state of California in 2011 than moved into it.

54. During 2011, more than 58,000 people moved from California to the state of Texas.

55. Overall, the state of California has experienced a net loss of about four million residents to other states over the past 20 years.

They Are Going To Make It Nearly Impossible To Pass On A Farm Or A Business To Your Children

If you have a farm or a small business, would you like to pass it on to your children when you die?  Well, unless Congress does something, it is going to become much, much harder to do that starting next year.  Right now, there is a 5 million dollar estate tax exemption and anything above that is taxed at 35 percent.  But on January 1st, the exemption will go down to 1 million dollars and the tax rate will go up to 55 percent.  A lot of liberals are very excited about this, because they believe that the government will be soaking wealthy people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.  But the truth is that a lot of farms, ranches and small businesses will be absolutely devastated by this change in the tax law.  There are many farmers and ranchers out there today that do not make much money but are sitting on tracts of land that are worth millions of dollars.  According to the American Farm Bureau, approximately 97 percent of all farms and ranches in the United States would be subject to the estate tax if the exemption was reduced to just a million dollars.  That means that the children of these farmers and ranchers would be faced with a very cruel choice when it is time to inherit these farms and ranches.  Either they come up with enough money to pay the government about half of what the farm or ranch is worth, or they sell the farm or ranch that may have been in their family for generations.  Needless to say, most farm and ranch families do not have that kind of cash lying around.  Most of them are just barely making it from year to year.  So this change in the tax law is going to greatly accelerate the death of the family farm in America.  This is also going to devastate many family-owned small businesses.  Many small businesses don’t make much money, but they have buildings or land or assets worth millions of dollars.  Children that may have wanted to continue the family legacy will be forced to sell because of the massive tax bill that they get from Uncle Sam.  This is an insidious cruelty, and it shows just how broken our system has become.

The desire to leave the wealth that you have worked so hard to accumulate all your life to your children is something that is common to virtually all human societies.  We want to know that future generations will be taken care of.

It is simply immoral for the federal government to swoop in and tax farms, ranches and small businesses that were intended to be passed down from parents to their children at a 55 percent tax rate.

A lot of the people that are going to be affected by this change are not “wealthy” at all.  A recent Fox News report examined what this change in the law is going to mean for rancher Kevin Kester and his family…

Rancher Kevin Kester works dawn to dusk, drives a 12-year-old pick-up truck and earns less than a typical bureaucrat in Washington D.C., yet the federal government considers him rich enough to pay the estate tax — also known as the “death tax.”

Kester told Fox News that he has no doubt that his ranch will have to be sold when he dies just to pay the tax bill…

“There is no way financially my kids can pay what the IRS is going to demand from them nine months after death and keep this ranch intact for their generation and future generations,” said Kester, of the Bear Valley Ranch in Central California.

Two decades ago, Kester paid the IRS $2 million when he inherited a 22,000-acre cattle ranch from his grandfather. Come January, the tax burden on his children will be more than $13 million.

Reading that should make you angry.  Every single year, thousands upon thousands of farms, ranches and small businesses are going to be lost to the federal tax monster.

It is almost as if the federal government does not want income-producing assets to remain in the hands of the “little guy”.

What in the world are we supposed to do?

It isn’t as if all of those farmers and ranchers can go off to the big cities and find good jobs.  As I wrote about yesterday, our politicians are standing aside as millions of our good jobs are shipped out of the country.

The cold, hard truth is that our system does not work for average Americans any longer.  Those that roll out of bed every morning, work hard and never complain always seem to get the short end of the stick.

The people that are the backbone of America are the ones that the government is always the hardest on.

Unfortunately, we have gotten to a point where the government is searching for more “revenue” from anywhere it can because it desperately needs more money.  U.S. government finances are a complete and total mess and we are drowning in the biggest ocean of debt the world has ever seen.

We are more than 16 trillion dollars in debt and there are more than 100 million Americans that are enrolled in at least one welfare program.

Someday has to pay for all this.

Middle class Americans are already hit with dozens of different taxes each year, and you can be certain that our politicians will continue to invent ways to extract even more “revenue” out of us.

And of course our politicians will never stop their wild spending.  Despite all of the negotiations that have taken place over the past couple of years, our spending problems just continue to grow.  For example, the federal budget deficit for the month of October was $120 billion, which was more than 20 percent larger than the federal budget deficit for October 2011 was.

So what is the solution?

Well, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner now says that he wants to eliminate the debt ceiling entirely.  He says that we should just have no limit and that the federal government should just be able to go into debt as much as it wants.

In the end, all of this debt is going to absolutely crush us.  We have literally destroyed the future of America, and yet most of the country still seems clueless about all of this.  The blind are leading the blind, and we are headed straight for complete and utter disaster.

One day, when people look back on this period in American history, what do you think people are going to say about us?

The Twinkie That Broke The Economy’s Back?

Can you hear that sound?  It is the sound of the air being let out of the economy.  Since the election, there has been a massive tsunami of layoffs and business failures.  Of course the company that is making the biggest headlines right now is Hostess.  On Monday, Hostess will be in a New York bankruptcy courtroom as it begins the process of liquidating itself.  Needless to say, Twinkie lovers all over America are horrified.  Many are running out to grocery stores and hoarding as many as they can find, and some online sellers are already listing boxes of 10 Twinkies for as much as $10,000 on auction websites such as eBay.  Well, there is really no reason to panic.  It is very likely that another company will purchase the Twinkie brand and continue to produce them.  In fact, it is already being rumored that a Mexican company may have the inside track.  But even though the Twinkie may survive, the failure of Hostess is yet another sign of how weak the U.S. economy has become.  Approximately 18,500 Hostess workers will be losing their jobs, and even if some of them are rehired by the company that takes over the Twinkie brand, the truth is that those workers will almost certainly be looking at greatly reduced pay and benefits.  Sadly, we are seeing this kind of thing happen all over America.  Large numbers of once thriving businesses are either shutting down or laying off workers.  Overall, the failure of Hostess is not that big of a deal for the U.S. economy.  But we may look back someday and remember Hostess as a symbol of the economic problems that were unleashed by the election of 2012.  Since November 6th, a wave of pessimism has swept over the economy and we are now seeing some of the worst economic numbers that we have seen in more than a year.  Many fear that we may have reached a tipping point and that things are only going to get worse from here.

Sadly, the reality is that Hostess is not the only iconic American company that is in a huge amount of trouble right now.  Sears just announced a loss of nearly 500 million dollars in the third quarter.  Sears has been bleeding money like this for a couple of years, and if they continue to do so it will just be a matter of time before Sears is headed for liquidation as well.

Can you imagine trying to explain the Sears catalog and Twinkies to future generations in a world where those things no longer exist?

Our world is changing at mind blowing speed, and the pace of change is only going to keep accelerating.

A few days after the election, I wrote an article about the huge number of layoff announcements that we saw after Barack Obama won.

Well, it has gotten even worse since then.  The following is a partial list of the layoffs and job losses that have been announced since November 6th…

Abbott Labs 700
Activision 30
Adventist Health 48
Airlines SAS 6000
AMD 400
American Cotton Growers 110
ArcelorMittal 20
American Independence Museum 4
Ameridose 790
American Airlines 4400 + 800 leaving voluntarily
American Coal 54
Atlantic Lottery Corporation 16
Assc Milk Producers 130
Aveo Oncology 45
ATI 172
Bankia 5000
Bechtel Power Corp 277
Bigpoint Games 47
Boston Scientific 1200
Brake Parts LLC 75
Brattleboro Retreat 31
Bristol Myers 500
Career Education 900 + Closing 23 Campuses
Cigna 1300
Citigroup 100
Commerzbank 6000
Consol Energy in W.V. 145
Covidien 595
Crouse Hospital Syracuse NY 70
Cummins 150
CVPH 27
DEP in Tallahassee FL 15
DuPont, Co. 64
Eagle-Tribune, Andover 21
Emanuel Medical Cente 24
Energizer Holdings 1500
Ericsson 1550
Exide Tech, Laureldale 150
City of Findlay, OH 39
First Energy 400
Gameforge Berlin 20
Gamesa Energy 92
GenOn Energy Inc 33
Glen Falls Hospital 29
Groupon 80
GT Advanced Tech 165
Harris’ Broadcast 17
Hawker Beechcraft 400 + Facilities closing
Hill Rom 200
Hills Holdings 300
HMX Group 567
Hostess 627
Iberia Airlines 4500
ICM of Colwich 25
ING 2350
Judson University 21
Juniper Networks 500
Kaiser Permanente 84
Kinetic Concepts 427
Kratos Defense Security 125
Lackawanna County PA 11
Lightyear Network Solutions 12+
Lonza 500
Majestic Star Casino/hotel 80
Major Wind Company 3000
Martha Stewart Living 70
Medtronic 1000
Mills Manufacturing NC 68
Momentive, Inc. 150
Monitor Group 235
Montco Behavioral Health/Dev 58
NBC 500
Nebraska Medical Center 38
Neovia Logistics Services 52
New Energy 40
Ormet 200
Panasonic 10000
PayPal 320
Penn Refrigeration 40
Penske Logistics 50
Pepsi 4000
Philips Electronics 218
Pierce Mfg 325
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne 100
Research in Motion 200
Rheem Manufacturing 50
Sentry Foods 70
Shaw’s Supermarket 700
Shawano foundry WI 90
Smith & Nephew 770
Smithfield Packing Co. 125
Solel Solar Systems 140
Southeastern Container 15
SpaceX 100
SRA Intl Inc 222
St. Jude Medical 300
Stryker 1170
Sulake 60
Sun Media 500
TE Connectivity 620
TECO Coal Corporation 90
Texas Instruments 1700
The Providence Journal Co 23
TMX Group Ltd. 100
Turbocare 220
Turkey Point Nuclear Plant 277
Oce North America, Inc. 135
Turbocare OCE 220
UBS 10000
US Cellular 980
UtahAmerican Energy Inc 102
Volvo Trucks Pulaski County 300
Wake Forest Baptist Medical 950
Welch Allyn 275
West Ridge Mine 102
Westinghouse 50
World Media Enterprises Inc 105
WPS Health Insurance 600
Wright Patterson AFB 115
Wyodak Coal Mine 11
Xerox 2500

Sadly, the list actually keeps going.  You can view the remainder of the list right here.

Even companies owned by Obama supporters are laying people off.  Just check out this excerpt from a report by CitizenLink

A corporation whose part owner gave $2 million to a group committed to re-electing President Obama announced this week that it will be forced to lay off more than 1,000 employees in lieu of the financial hardship imposed by the president’s signature health care law.

Overall, more than 100,000 job losses have been announced since the election.  It is almost as if the election was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Everyone in the business community that had been hoping for something different now realizes that no change is coming.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to pour on even more rules and regulations.  According to CNSNews.com, the Obama administration has posted a total of 6,125 regulations on its reguations.gov website during the past 90 days.  Our politicians are clueless and they simply don’t understand what they are doing to the business community.

But of course this goes for politicians from both sides.  For decades we have been consuming far more than we produce and spending far more money then we bring in, and most of our politicians seem to be under the delusion that this can continue indefinitely.

The other night my wife had me watch a documentary entitled “The Queen of Versailles” that followed the lives of time share mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie.  I found it to be a perfect metaphor for what America is going through right now.  David Siegel built the greatest time share empire the world has ever seen on a mountain of easy money and cheap credit.  At the beginning of the movie, David and Jackie were living the high life and were constructing the largest house in America down in Florida.

Well, things dramatically changed when the financial crisis of 2008 struck.  Suddenly nobody wanted to lend to David’s company and the house of cards started to crumble.  But even though they were facing massive financial problems, Jackie found it incredibly difficult to adjust her lifestyle.  She just kept spending and spending and spending.

It would be easy to pass judgment on David and Jackie, but the truth is that they are a perfect example of what this entire country is going through.  Thousands of businesses are failing, our economic infrastructure is being gutted, millions of jobs are being shipped overseas, our financial system has become a gigantic casino and we keep piling even more mountains of debt on top of the mountains of debt that we already have.  We have been living way above our means for so long that we don’t even have any concept of what “normal” is anymore.

If you have not seen “The Queen of Versailles” yet, I encourage you to do so.  Don’t watch it to laugh at the downfall of David and Jackie Siegel.  They are just trying to make their way in this world like all of us are.  Rather, watch for parallels between their lives and what the United States is experiencing as a whole.  As I mentioned earlier, I found their story to be a perfect metaphor for what is happening to this entire country.  You can find the trailer for “The Queen of Versailles” right here.

As the economy falls apart, it is going to be really easy to point fingers at one another and blame one another.  But what will really be needed is more love and compassion.  A lot of workers at Hostess and a lot of other good companies just lost their jobs.  The unemployment epidemic in this country is going to get a lot worse.  These people are going to need our love and support.

In the end, we are all in this together.  The coming economic storm is not going to be averted, but we can choose how we respond to it.  Hopefully the crisis that is coming will bring out the best in many of us.

Is America The Most Materialistic Society In The History Of The World?

When it comes to materialism, has any nation ever surpassed what we are seeing in the United States right now?  We define our lives by how much stuff we have, to a large degree our personal and business relationships are defined by how much money we make, and even most of the important dates on our calendar are all about materialism.  Just think about it.  We throw outrageous birthday parties for our kids and we shower them with gifts.  Most of our “holidays” have become highly materialistic, and the biggest holiday of all in our society, Christmas, is an absolute orgy of materialism.  We make lists of the “wealthiest Americans” and we glorify their achievements.  We spend most of our time either making money or spending it.  Even the phrase “the American Dream” reveals how materialistic we are.  When most people are asked what “the American Dream” is, they start talking about a house, a car, vacations, retirement, sending your kids to college, etc.  The American Dream has become all about money and stuff.  Sadly, no matter how big our homes are and no matter how many shiny new toys we accumulate, we never seem to be happy.  We always want more, and we always seem to be willing to go into more debt to get it.  We are the most materialistic society in the history of the world, and our endless greed is going to end up swallowing us alive.

When it comes to materialism in America, there are outrageous examples all around us, but one of my favorite examples is the “Rich Kids of Instagram“.  It is a Tumblr blog of photos from Instagram of young Americans showing off how they are enjoying the vast wealth of their parents.  The following is how the Washington Post describes the blog….

The controversial new Tumblr is a collection of snapshots from the photo-sharing site that depicts the children of wealth and privilege — summering in the Hamptons, lounging on yachts and posing by their luxury cars.

One does a back-flip out of a helicopter near St. Tropez. Others snap pictures of their restaurant bills — allegedly paying thousands of dollars for lobster, champagne and high-end liquor.

In the warm patina of the Instagram, the youngsters appear to be living over-the-top lifestyles — and enjoying every moment.

“Our everyday is better than your best day,” reads one caption, a bit tauntingly. And, “Do you have a horse in your backyard? Didn’t think so.”

But just because you have a horse on your property does that make your life better than the rest of our lives?

Of course not.

Wealth does not equal happiness.

Unfortunately, however, most Americans have totally bought into this lie.

Most Americans believe that more money equals a better life.

In response to “the Rich Kids of Instagram”, the Huffington Post recently put together a piece entitled “the Rich Cats of Instagram” that features photos of cats as they “model upscale accessories, lounge with bottles of champagne, sail on yachts and ponder life while relaxing atop piles of money.”

Of course a lot of those pictures are quite funny, but they also reveal a deep truth about our society.

We have spent our lives chasing after the almighty dollar thinking that it will make us happy.  Study after study has shown that we tend to link wealth and happiness.  The following is from a recent NBC News article about one of those studies….

Many parents already know older children can be materialistic. Some tweens not only want the latest games and clothes, but also think owning these things will bring them happiness, friends and popularity. And marketers are eager to get them to buy: Tweens spend $28 billion a year, not including the more than $200 billion their parents spend on them, according to market research company C+R Research.

But even though we have an incredibly high standard of living compared to most of the rest of the world, are most of us actually happy?

No way.  In fact, Americans take more anti-depressants than anyone else on the planet.

It is really easy to get caught up in materialism though.  Let me share an example from my own life.

Several months ago our old truck completely died.  Instead of pouring thousands of more dollars into fixing it, we decided that we would get another used truck.

So the other day I stopped by a dealership while my wife was grabbing some things from Home Depot.  The salesperson started showing me some of the used trucks on the lot, but after a while I suggested that he show me some of the new trucks that were sitting on the other side of the lot.

Before I knew it, I was sitting in the most expensive truck on the lot and he was showing me all of the cool features it had.

And I have to admit – for a few moments there I was really enamored with that truck.  It was the coolest truck that I had ever seen in my life.

Of course my wife and I don’t need a truck like that.  We only need to haul stuff around a few times a month.  And we certainly do not need the amount of debt that it would take to buy such a truck.

But for a few moments there I really wanted it.  The pull of materialism can be very strong.

So would that truck have “changed my life” or brought me lasting happiness?

Of course not.

It would have brought some thrills for the first couple of days, but after a while it would just be sitting in the garage taking up space just like any other truck would.

So did I end up buying a truck?

Not yet.  But we need one soon.  My wife has been without a truck for quite a few months now and she is getting impatient.

But whether we get a nice used truck or a used truck that has one foot in the grave, it really isn’t going to change our lives much.

In the end, our lives should not be defined by what we own or by how much money we have in the bank.

But how do we refer to ourselves in this day and age?

The American people are called “consumers” and the truth is that we consume far more than anyone else on the globe does.

Just look at our eating habits.  Of all the major industrialized nations, America is the most obese.

The next time you go into a store, take note of how many people are overweight.

It has not always been this way.  Back in 1962, only 13 percent of all Americans were obese.

But now overeating is a national sport.  At this point, approximately 36 percent of all Americans are obese, and it is being projected that number will rise to 42 percent by 2030.

While we are gorging ourselves with food, what else do we like to do?

That’s right – we love to watch television.  In fact, the average American watches 28 hours of television every single week.

We have become completely and totally addicted to entertainment, and we have become trained to be constantly “plugged in” to something.

Our lives have become all about constantly feeding our greed and our selfishness.  In fact, that is a major reason for the breakdown of the family in America.  We tend to view marriage as a temporary condition that can be quickly discarded when it no longer makes us happy.

Sadly, the United States has the highest divorce rate in the world by a very wide margin at this point.

In addition, more Americans than ever are putting off marriage these days.  Young Americans are being told that “an education” and “a career” are more important.  According to the Pew Research Center, only 51 percent of all American adults are currently married.  Back in 1960, 72 percent of all adults in America were married.

As a result of these factors, we are an incredibly lonely nation.  Today, the United States has the highest percentage of one person households on the entire globe.

In order to fill the void, the American people turn to things that will numb the pain.  American use more legal drugs than anyone else on the planet and they also use more illegal drugs than anyone else on the planet.

We have more “stuff” than any other society in the history of the world has ever had, but it has not made us happy.

And how did we pay for all of this?

We paid for a lot of this with debt.  In fact, we have accumulated the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world.

During my lifetime, the debt of the U.S. government has gotten more than 30 times larger.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “27 Things That Every American Should Know About The National Debt“.

But the federal government is not the only one with a debt problem.  The truth is that our entire society is absolutely drowning in debt.

Over the past 50 years, the total amount of debt in the U.S. has grown from less than a trillion dollars to nearly 55 trillion dollars….

We have used massive amounts of debt in an attempt to feed our endless greed and materialism and we have gotten ourselves into a whole lot of trouble.

This is one of the reasons why I write.  I want people to understand how bad things have really gotten.

Thanks to our foolishness, our economy has been declining, it is going to continue to decline, and a massive economic collapse is coming.

Some people believe that this is a message of “doom and gloom”, but that is not the case at all.

Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that somehow everything is going to be just fine is not going to do anyone any good.

Instead, I believe that warning people about the coming economic collapse is a message of hope.

There is hope in understanding what is happening, developing a plan to deal with it, and preparing yourself and your family for the storm that is coming.

It is the people that are ignoring all of the warnings that are going to be in real trouble.

Millions upon millions of people will be absolutely blindsided by what is coming.  Many will give in to total despair once they realize that their prosperity is gone and they have done nothing to prepare for what they are now facing.

My hope is that the information that I write about will be shocking enough that it will wake people up and motivate them to get prepared so that they can handle the incredibly challenging years that are ahead.

And the truth is that our lives should not be about our money and our stuff anyway.

Your possessions are just temporary.  None of them are going to last forever and you certainly cannot take them with you when you die.

Even though our economy has had some rough times, we still have a higher standard of living than 99 percent of the humans that have ever lived on this planet have had.

You would think that would be enough for us.

But it isn’t.  We have hoarded our wealth and we have lived in luxury and self-indulgence.

When our debt-fueled prosperity disappears, most Americans are not going to know how to handle it.

Most Americans will believe that their lives are “over” at that point.

But those that are not caught up in materialism and that have prepared for what is ahead will understand that the next chapters of their lives can be the greatest chapters of all.

Why A Greek Exit From The Euro Would Mean The End Of The Eurozone

What was considered unthinkable a few months ago has now become probable.  All over the globe there are headlines proclaiming that a Greek exit from the euro is now a real possibility.  In fact, some of those headlines make it sound like it is practically inevitable.  For example, Der Spiegel ran a front page story the other day with the following startling headline: “Acropolis, Adieu! Why Greece must leave the euro”.  Many are saying that the euro will be stronger without Greece.  They are saying things such as “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” and they are claiming that financial markets are now far more prepared for a “Grexit” than they would have been two years ago.  But the truth is that it really is naive to think that a Greek exit from the euro can be “managed” and that business will go on as usual afterwards.  If Greece leaves the euro it will set a very dangerous precedent.  The moment Greece exits the euro, investors all over the globe will be asking the following question: “Who is next?”  Portugal, Italy and Spain would all see bond yields soar and they would all likely experience runs on their banks.  It would only be a matter of time before more eurozone members would leave.  In the end, the whole monetary union experiment would crumble.

As I have written about previously, New York Times economist Paul Krugman is wrong about a whole lot of things, but in a blog post the other day he absolutely nailed what is likely to soon unfold in Greece….

1. Greek euro exit, very possibly next month.

2. Huge withdrawals from Spanish and Italian banks, as depositors try to move their money to Germany.

3a. Maybe, just possibly, de facto controls, with banks forbidden to transfer deposits out of country and limits on cash withdrawals.

3b. Alternatively, or maybe in tandem, huge draws on ECB credit to keep the banks from collapsing.

4a. Germany has a choice. Accept huge indirect public claims on Italy and Spain, plus a drastic revision of strategy — basically, to give Spain in particular any hope you need both guarantees on its debt to hold borrowing costs down and a higher eurozone inflation target to make relative price adjustment possible; or:

4b. End of the euro.

By itself, Greece cannot crash the eurozone.  But the precedent that Greece is about to set could set forth a chain of events that may very well bring about the end of the eurozone.

If one country is allowed to leave the euro, that means that other countries will be allowed to leave the euro as well.  This is the kind of uncertainty that drives financial markets crazy.

When the euro was initially created, monetary union was intended to be irreversible.  There are no provisions for what happens if a member nation wants to leave the euro.  It simply was not even conceived of at the time.

So we are really moving into uncharted territory.  A recent Bloomberg article attempted to set forth some of the things that might happen if a Greek exit from the euro becomes a reality….

A Greek departure from the euro could trigger a default-inducing surge in bond yields, capital flight that might spread to other indebted states and a resultant series of bank runs. Although Greece accounts for 2 percent of the euro-area’s economic output, its exit would fragment a system of monetary union designed to be irreversible and might cause investors to raise the threat of withdrawal by other states.

In fact, yields on Spanish debt and Italian debt are already rising rapidly thanks to the bad news out of Greece in recent days.

What makes things worse is that a new government has still not formed in Greece.  It looks like new elections may have to be held in June.

Meanwhile, the Greek government is rapidly running out of money.  The following is from a Bank of America report that was released a few days ago….

“If no government is in place before June when the next installment (of loan money) from the European Union and International Monetary Fund is due, we estimate that Greece will run out of money sometime between the end of June and beginning of July, at which point a return to the drachma would seem inevitable”

In the recent Greek elections, parties that opposed the bailout agreements picked up huge gains.  And opinion polls suggest that they will make even larger gains if another round of elections is held.

The Coalition of the Radical Left, also known as Syriza, surprised everyone by coming in second in the recent elections.  Current polling shows that Syriza is likely to come in first if new elections are held.

The leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, is passionately against the bailout agreements.  He says that Greece can reject austerity because the rest of Europe will never kick Greece out of the eurozone.  Tsipras believes that the rest of Europe must bail out Greece because the consequences of allowing Greece to go bankrupt and fall out of the eurozone would be far too high for the rest of Europe.

A spokesman for Syriza, Yiannis Bournos, recently told the Telegraph the following….

“Mr Schaeuble [Germany’s finance minister] is pretending to be the fearless cowboy on the radio, saying the euro is secure [against a Greek exit]. But there’s no way they will kick us out”

So Greece and Germany are playing a game of chicken.

Who will blink first?

Will either of them blink first?

Syriza is trying to convince the Greek people that they can reject austerity and stay in the euro.  Syriza insists that the rest of Europe will provide the money that they need to pay their bills.

And most Greeks do actually want to stay in the euro.  One recent poll found that 78.1 percent of all Greeks want Greece to remain in the eurozone.

But a majority of Greeks also do not want anymore austerity.

Unfortunately, it is not realistic for them to assume that they can have their cake and eat it too.  If Greece does not continue to move toward a balanced budget, they will lose their aid money.

And if Greece loses that aid money, the consequences will be dramatic.

Outgoing deputy prime minister of Greece Theodoros Pangalos recently had the following to say about what would happen if Greece doesn’t get the bailout money that it needs….

“We will be in wild bankruptcy, out-of-control bankruptcy. The state will not be able to pay salaries and pensions. This is not recognised by the citizens. We have got until June before we run out of money.”

If Greece gets cut off and runs out of money, it will almost certainly be forced to go back to using the drachma.  If that happens there will likely be a “bank holiday”, the borders will be secured to limit capital flight and new currency will be rapidly printed up.  It would be a giant mess.

In fact, there are rumblings that the European financial system is already making preparations for all this.  For example, a recent Reuters article had the following shock headline: “Banks prepare for the return of the drachma

But a new drachma would almost certainly crash in value almost immediately as a recent article in the Telegraph described….

Most economists think that a new, free-floating drachma would immediately crash by up to 50 percent against the euro and other currencies, effectively halving the value of everyone’s savings and spelling catastrophe for those on fixed incomes, like pensioners.

A Greek economy that is already experiencing a depression would get even worse.  The Greek economy has contracted by 8.5 percent over the past 12 months and the unemployment rate in Greece is up to 21.8 percent.  It is hard to imagine what Greece is going to look like if things continue to fall apart.

But the consequences for the rest of Europe (and for the rest of the globe) would be dramatic as well.  A Greek exit from the euro could be the next “Lehman Brothers moment” and could plunge the entire global financial system into another major crisis.

Unfortunately, at this point it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the eventual break up of the euro can be avoided.

Germany would have to become willing to bail out the rest of the eurozone indefinitely, and that simply is not going to happen.

So there is a lot of pessimism in the financial world right now.  Nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next and the number of short positions is steadily rising as a recent CNN article detailed….

After staying quiet at the start of the year, the bears have come roaring back with a vengeance.

Short interest — a bet on stocks turning lower — topped 13 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange at the end of last month. That’s up 4% from March and marks the highest level of the year.

If the eurozone is going to survive, Greece must stay a part of it.

Instead of removing the weakest link from the chain, the reality is that a Greek exit from the euro would end up shattering the chain.

Confidence is a funny thing.  It can take decades to build but it can be lost in a single moment.

If Greece leaves the euro, investor confidence in the eurozone will be permanently damaged.  And when investors get spooked they don’t behave rationally.

A common currency in Europe is not dead by any means, but this current manifestation is now operating on borrowed time.

As the eurozone crumbles, it is likely that Germany will simply pull the plug at some point and decide to start over.

So what do you think?

Do you think that I am right or do you think that I am wrong?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

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