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….

If You Live In California Things Just Got A Whole Lot Worse

Why does the state of California seem to be so incredibly hopeless?  These days California can’t seem to do anything right, and if you live in California things just got a whole lot worse.  Governor Brown has announced that the state budget deficit for this year is going to be much larger than projected, that more government services are going to be cut and that voters are going to vote on another round of tax increases in November.  Meanwhile, unemployment is sitting at 11 percent and extended federal unemployment benefits for workers in the state are ending.  Because California is one of the worst places in the nation to conduct business, there has been a steady flow of companies leaving the state.  Those companies have taken a whole lot of good jobs with them.  Due to the lack of jobs and a steady stream of impoverished immigrants coming in from Mexico and other countries, poverty in the state has exploded and crime is rapidly increasing.  California may be the land of “endless sunshine”, but for the California economy there are only dark clouds on the horizon.  The state is coming apart at the seams and there is not much hope that things are going to turn around any time soon.

These days, California is very similar to Greece in many ways.

Just like Greece, California has had round after round of “austerity” and yet still cannot seem to balance the budget.

Even after all of the cuts that have been implemented in recent years, the California budget deficit is still going to be far larger than originally projected this year.  The following is from the Los Angeles Times….

Gov. Jerry Brown announced on Saturday that the state’s deficit has ballooned to $16 billion, a huge increase over his $9.2-billion estimate in January.

The bigger deficit is a significant setback for California, which has struggled to turn the page on a devastating budget crisis. Brown, who announced the deficit on YouTube, is expected to outline his full budget proposal on Monday in Sacramento.

“This means we will have to go much further, and make cuts far greater, than I asked for at the beginning of the year,” Brown said in the video.

During his remarks on YouTube, Governor Brown stated that California is “still recovering from the worst recession since the 1930s” and he stressed that hard choices are ahead.

But the California state government has already cut back in so many places.  For example, back in the late 1970s the state of California was number one in per-pupil spending on education, but now California has fallen to 48th place.

Unfortunately, Governor Brown does not believe that budget cuts alone will solve the problem.

So you know what that means.

Tax increases!

The tax increases that California voters will be voting on in November were outlined in a recent Bloomberg article….

Brown this week submitted more than 1.5 million signatures to place the tax measure on the ballot. It would temporarily raise the state sales tax, already the highest in the U.S., to 7.5 percent from 7.25 percent. It would also boost rates on income starting at $250,000. The 10.3 percent levy on those making $1 million or more would rise to 13.3 percent, the most of any state.

Get ready to fire up the moving vans.

The rest of the California economy may be falling apart, but moving companies will continue to do very well.

As I have written about previously, California has already experienced a net loss of approximately four million residents to other states over the past 20 years.

If the top rate on those making a million dollars or more a year hits 13.3 percent you will see a lot more wealthy people leave.

And thousands of businesses have left California in recent years as well.  Sadly, one survey found that CEOs ranked California as the worst place in the United States to do business for seven years in a row.

You would think that the state legislature would get the message.

Unfortunately they have not.

California absolutely suffocates businesses with rules and regulations and it gets worse with each passing year.

So lots of good jobs continue to leave the state.

As mentioned earlier, the official rate of unemployment in California is sitting at 11 percent.  That is almost 3 points higher than for the nation as a whole.

Of course the “official” numbers greatly understate the true scope of the unemployment problem, but for more on that you can check out this article.

However you want to look at it, the reality is that California has a massive unemployment problem.

Sadly, a whole bunch of unemployed workers in California are about to lose their unemployment benefits.

On Saturday, more than 200,000 unemployed Americans were dumped off the unemployment rolls.  Close to half of them live in California.

Instead of 99 weeks, unemployed workers in California will now only be able to collect unemployment benefits for a maximum of 79 weeks.

It is estimated that a total of 93,000 people in California have suddenly lost their benefits as a result of this change.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the employment picture in California is not really getting any better.  It is still incredibly difficult to find a decent job.

Unless you are “connected”, it can be a horribly frustrating experience trying to find a new job in this economic environment.

But if you are truly desperate, there are some folks out there who are always hiring.

These days, “national security” is quite a growth industry.  For example, if you are currently unemployed you can always apply to work as an Internment/Resettlement Specialist for the national guard.

While the economy is going to pot, you can get paid to lock up other Americans that are protesting about the state of our country.

Doesn’t that sound fun?

But seriously, if you live in California right now you probably don’t need anyone else to tell you how bad things are.

You probably already know that the number of children living in poverty in the state of California has increased by 30 percent since 2007.

California is rapidly changing, and not for the better.

But it is not just the economy that is falling apart in California.  The truth is that there are a whole host of good reasons to move away from California.  The traffic is nightmarish, crime is on the rise, the gangs are bigger and more active than ever before, millions of illegal immigrants have poured into the state, and the control freak politicians become more insane with each passing year.

Plus there is the constant threat that your home will be destroyed by a mudslide, a wildfire or an earthquake.

One of these days the “big onewill hit California.

You do not want to be there when that happens.

But if you decide that you do want to move from California, what is the best state to move to?

That is a very good question.

The truth is that economic conditions are horrible in most of the country and are rapidly getting a whole lot worse.

According to one poll, 30 percent of all Americans described the condition of the economy as “good” back in February but only 20 percent do now.

When we enter the next major economic downturn, unemployment is going to go higher everywhere in the nation.

There will be small pockets where jobs are still plentiful (where the oil industry is strong for example) but almost everywhere else will be really hurting.

So what do all of you think?

For people looking to move away from California, where should they go?

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

11 Reasons Why America Would Be A Better Place Without Goldman Sachs

Would America be a better place without Goldman Sachs?  Of course it would.  The “vampire squid” of Wall Street does not care about the future of America.  Sadly, Goldman Sachs apparently does not even care much about their own clients.  What Goldman Sachs is all about is making as much money as humanly possible.  In the end, there is nothing wrong with making money, but there are constructive ways to make money and there are destructive ways to make money.  Unfortunately, Goldman Sachs seems to find the destructive path almost irresistible.  Greg Smith, the head of the U.S. equity derivatives business for Goldman Sachs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa made headlines all over the world on Wednesday when he resigned publicly from Goldman Sachs in a scorching editorial in the New York Times.  Smith said that he could “honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it”.  Considering what we know has gone on at Goldman over the past decade, that is very frightening to hear.  So could this be the beginning of the end for Goldman Sachs?  And if it is, will America be a better place when Goldman is gone?

You would think that at some point clients of Goldman would become so sick and tired of the stories of corruption coming out of the firm that they would simply walk away.

Unfortunately, corruption is so endemic on Wall Street that Goldman Sachs really does not seem out of place.  The truth is that a lot of the things that are said about Goldman could also be said about JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley.

But in recent years Goldman Sachs has truly become a national symbol of what is wrong with our financial system.  As the American people become fed up with institutions such as Goldman, hopefully we will start to see some of them disappear.

The following are 11 reasons why America would be a better place without Goldman Sachs….

#1 Even after all of the negative publicity we have seen in recent years, Goldman Sachs appears to not have learned any lessons.  The following is how Greg Smith described the three ways to get ahead at Goldman Sachs….

“What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.”

#2 Goldman Sachs is one of the too big to fail banks and those banks just keeping getting bigger than ever.  Back in 2002, the top 10 U.S. banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 U.S. banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  So if we couldn’t afford to let them fail back in 2008 because they were so big, why did we allow them to become even larger?

#3 The Federal Reserve shows great favoritism to big Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs.  For example, between December 1, 2007 and July 21, 2010 the Federal Reserve made 814 billion dollars in secret loans to Goldman Sachs.

#4 Goldman Sachs is at the heart of the derivatives bubble that threatens to throw the entire global financial system into chaos.  At this point, Goldman Sachs has over 53 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.

According to the New York Times, the big Wall Street banks completely control derivatives trading.  In fact, the New York Times says that representatives from JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup hold a secretive meeting each month to coordinate their domination over the derivatives market….

On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.

The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.

#5 Goldman Sachs was at the very heart of the financial crisis of 2008 which plunged the entire global economy into a very deep recession.  In the years leading up to the financial crisis of 2008, Goldman Sachs was putting together mortgage-backed securities that they knew were garbage and they marketed them to investors as AAA-rated investments.  On top of that, Goldman then often made huge bets against those exact same securities which turned out to be extremely profitable when those securities crashed and burned.

The following is how the New York Times described what was going on at the time….

“Goldman was not the only firm that peddled these complex securities — known as synthetic collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s — and then made financial bets against them, called selling short in Wall Street parlance. Others that created similar securities and then bet they would fail, according to Wall Street traders, include Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, as well as smaller firms like Tricadia Inc.”

Sylvain Raynes, an expert in structured finance at R & R Consulting in New York, said at the time that he was absolutely shocked by what Goldman was doing….

“The simultaneous selling of securities to customers and shorting them because they believed they were going to default is the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen”

#6 Goldman Sachs played a huge role in getting Greece, Italy and several other European nations into so much debt.  The following is an excerpt from an article by Andrew Gavin Marshall….

In the same way that homeowners take out a second mortgage to pay off their credit card debt, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase and other U.S. banks helped push government debt far into the future through the derivatives market. This was done in Greece, Italy, and likely several other euro-zone countries as well. In several dozen deals in Europe, “banks provided cash upfront in return for government payments in the future, with those liabilities then left off the books.” Because the deals are not listed as loans, they are not listed as debt (liabilities), and so the true debt of Greece and other euro-zone countries was and likely to a large degree remains hidden. Greece effectively mortgaged its airports and highways to the major banks in order to get cash up-front and keep the loans off the books, classifying them as transactions.

#7 Goldman Sachs is working very hard to help state and local governments sell off our highways, water treatment plants, libraries, parking meters, airports and power plants to the highest bidder.  Much of the time foreigners are the highest bidders for these precious infrastructure assets.

The following is how Dylan Ratigan described what is going on….

On Wall Street, setting up and running “Infrastructure Funds” is big business, with over $140 billion run by such banks as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Australian infrastructure specialist Macquarie. Goldman’s 2010 SEC filing should give you some sense of the scope of the campaign. Goldman says it will be involved with “ownership and operation of public services, such as airports, toll roads and shipping ports, as well as power generation facilities, physical commodities and other commodities infrastructure components, both within and outside the United States.” While the bank sees increased opportunity in “distressed assets” (ie. Cities and states gone broke because of the financial crisis), the bank also recognizes “reputational concerns with the manner in which these assets are being operated or held.”

#8 At the same time that Goldman Sachs is causing all sorts of trouble for everyone else, their employees are making crazy amounts of money.  During 2010, employees of Goldman Sachs brought in more than 15 billion dollars in total compensation.

#9 Goldman Sachs has way too much influence over the federal government.  There is a reason why it is commonly referred to as “Government Sachs”.  No matter who is the White House, people that used to work for Goldman and other big Wall Street banks always seem to be crawling around.

Last year, Michael Brenner wrote the following about the composition of the Obama administration….

Wall Street’s takeover of the Obama administration is now complete. The mega-banks and their corporate allies control every economic policy position of consequence. Mr. Obama has moved rapidly since the November debacle to install business people where it counts most. Mr.William Daley from JP Morgan Chase as White House Chief of Staff. Mr. Gene Sperling from the Goldman Sachs payroll to be director of the National Economic Council. Eileen Rominger from Goldman Sachs named director of the SEC’s Investment Management division. Even the National Security Advisor, Thomas Donilon, was executive vice president for law and policy at the disgraced Fannie Mae after serving as a corporate lobbyist with O’Melveny & Roberts. The keystone of the business friendly team was put in place on Friday. General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt will serve as chair of the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

#10 Employees from Goldman Sachs pour way too much money into our national elections.  In 2008, donations from individuals and organizations affiliated with Goldman Sachs donated more than a million dollars to Barack Obama.  This time around they are pouring huge amounts of cash into Mitt Romney’s campaign.

#11 Goldman Sachs is still a “vampire squid” as Matt Taibbi once so famously proclaimed in Rolling Stone….

“The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.”

Once again, there is nothing wrong with making money.

And there is certainly nothing wrong with working in the financial system.

But there is a right way to do things and there is a wrong way to do things.

Goldman Sachs is doing things very much the wrong way, and America would be a better place without them.

Making Money On Poverty: JP Morgan Makes Bigger Profits When The Number Of Americans On Food Stamps Goes Up

How would you feel if someone told you that one of the largest banks on Wall Street makes more money whenever the number of Americans on food stamps goes up?  Unfortunately, this is something that is actually true.  In the United States today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps.  In fact, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased by a whopping 14 million since Barack Obama entered the White House.  All of this makes JP Morgan very happy, because JP Morgan has been making money by the boatload on food stamps.  Right now, JP Morgan Chase issues food stamp debit cards in 26 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.  The division of JP Morgan Chase that issues these debit cards made an eye-popping 5.47 billion dollars in net revenue during 2010.  JP Morgan is paid per customer, so when the number of Americans on food stamps goes up, they make more money.  But doesn’t this give JP Morgan an incentive to try to keep the number of Americans on food stamps as high as possible?  Of course it does.  JP Morgan is interested in making money as rapidly as possible. If JP Morgan can get more Americans enrolled in the food stamp program and keep them enrolled in it for as long as possible, that is good for business.

And the Obama administration is certainly doing what it can to help out.  Even though a whopping 46 million Americans are now on food stamps, the Obama administration plans to give out large amounts of money to organizations that are able figure out ways to get even more people enrolled in the program….

Despite the historic rise in food stamp use, however, the Obama Administration believes not enough people are receiving food stamps who should be and is offering $75,000 grants to groups who devise “effective strategies” to “increase program participation” among those who have yet to sign up.

In fact, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that if we can get even more Americans enrolled in the food stamp program, that will be a great way to “stimulate the economy“.

Of course JP Morgan just loves all of this.  The more people they have in the system the better.

Christopher Paton, the managing director of JP Morgan’s “Treasury Solutions” business, made the following statement about the “food stamp business” that his firm is engaged in during an interview with Bloomberg Television….

“This business is a very important business to JPMorgan. It’s an important business in terms of its size and scale…Right now, volumes have gone through the roof in the past couple of years. The good news, from JPMorgan’s perspective, is the infrastructure that we built has been able to cope with that increase in volume.”

You can see more of the interview with Paton in the video posted below….

As the interview above noted, more than 40 percent of all food stamp recipients in the United States actually have a job.

This is an exciting “growth area” for JP Morgan.  As the middle class continues to decline, the number of “the working poor” in America is exploding.

Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.  This trend is perfect for JP Morgan because it means that the number of low income workers that are eligible for food stamps is going to keep increasing.

And what makes all of this even sadder is that JP Morgan has outsourced many of the customer service jobs for its food stamp program to India.

Yes, you read that correctly.

When Americans that can’t find a decent job need help with their food stamps there is a good chance that they will be talking to a customer service representative sitting in India.

Isn’t that crazy?

When ABC News confronted JP Morgan about this, JP Morgan would not tell ABC which states have customer service calls sent to India and which states have them handled inside the United States….

JP Morgan is the only one today still operating public-assistance call centers overseas. The company refused to say which states had calls routed to India and which ones had calls stay domestically. That decision, the company said, was often left up to the individual states.

But JP Morgan doesn’t just handle food stamps.  JP Morgan also issues child support debit cards in 15 states and unemployment insurance debit cards in 7 states.

Of course JP Morgan is not the only big bank involved in this kind of business.  Several others are also making money in massive quantities on the backs of the poor.

The following example comes from a Huffington Post article….

Shawana Busby does not seem like the sort of customer who would be at the center of a major bank’s business plan. Out of work for much of the last three years, she depends upon a $264-a-week unemployment check from the state of South Carolina. But the state has contracted with Bank of America to administer its unemployment benefits, and Busby has frequently found herself incurring bank fees to get her money.

To withdraw her benefits, Busby, 33, uses a Bank of America prepaid debit card on which the state deposits her funds. She could visit a Bank of America ATM free of charge. But this small community in the state’s rural center, her hometown, does not have a Bank of America branch. Neither do the surrounding towns where she drops off her kids at school and attends church.

She could drive north to Columbia, the state capital, and use a Bank of America ATM there. But that entails a 50 mile drive, cutting into her gas budget. So Busby visits the ATMs in her area and begrudgingly accepts the fees, which reach as high as five dollars per transaction. She estimates that she has paid at least $350 in fees to tap her unemployment benefits.

There is something about all of this that just seems very, very wrong.

When we have good jobs, the big banks hit us with outrageous bank fees and they try to get us enslaved to credit card debt.

When we are down on our luck and become dependent on the government, the big banks still find ways of making money at our expense.

Why do the banksters always seem to win and we always seem to lose?

If You Are A Blue Collar Worker In America You Are An Endangered Species

Have you ever heard of the dodo bird?  Once upon a time, dodo birds lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.  But if you go there today you won’t find any because they are extinct.  Well, if you are a blue collar worker in America today it looks like you are headed for a similar fate.  Blue collar workers are truly becoming an “endangered species” in the United States.  In the old days, the balance of power between business owners and labor was more even because they both needed each other.  But today that has all changed.  Thanks to robotics, automation and computers there is simply not as much of a need for physical laborers anymore and nothing is going to reverse that trend.  Big employers will continue to look for ways to replace men with machines, and there is nothing wrong with that.  But there is another major trend that is also destroying blue collar jobs in America that we should do something about.  Right now, it is perfectly legal for big corporations to shut down manufacturing facilities in the United States and send the jobs over to nations on the other side of the globe where it is legal to pay slave labor wages and where there are barely any regulations.  As you will see later on this article, this has been the biggest reason for the shocking blue collar job losses in America over the past decade.  The big corporations don’t care that you need to pay the mortgage and put food on the table for your families.  All they care about it the bottom line, and if dramatic changes are not made soon, the number of blue collar jobs leaving the United States will continue to increase.

Once upon a time, almost everyone who wanted a job in America could get one.  If you go back a few decades, you will find that about 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job.  Today that figure is struggling to stay above 80 percent.

If you are a blue collar worker in America, you are simply not valued.  Your bosses are constantly trying to think of ways to replace you or send your job overseas.

According to Reuters, 23.7 million American workers are either unemployed or underemployed right now.  The more “blue collar” you are, the more likely you are to be unemployed.  The following chart that shows the unemployment rate during 2010 broken down by level of education comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics….

If you are an unskilled worker in America today, you simply are not needed.  Yes, once upon a time nearly anyone could go out and get a factory job, but those days are over.  Neither major political party seems the least bit interested in trying to keep manufacturing jobs in America.

Back in the year 2000, more than 20 percent of all jobs in America were manufacturing jobs.  Today, about 5 percent of all jobs in America are manufacturing jobs.

To have that huge of a shift in a little over a decade is absolutely mind blowing.

Many Americans had been hoping that Barack Obama would stand up for the working man like he promised to do.  But just like so many of Obama’s other promises, that one was totally worthless as well.

The Obama administration has been pushing hard for even more “free trade” deals that will allow big corporations to ship even more of our jobs out of the country.  The Obama administration simply does not value blue collar jobs at all.  In fact, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk is running around telling the press that there are lots of things that “we don’t want to make in America” anymore.

If you are a blue collar worker, Barack Obama does not care about you.

He never cared about you.

In fact, the vast majority of the politicians in both major political parties do not care about you.

What they do care about is winning elections and taking care of the big donors that keep helping them win elections.

Many of those donors are systematically shipping huge numbers of our jobs overseas.

In addition, now that labor has become a “global commodity”, wages for the jobs that remain in America are being steadily driven lower.

A recent White House reported entitled “Investing in America: Building an Economy That Lasts” actually bragged that our trade policies have driven wages in America down.  The following chart is from that report….

We were told that the “one world economy” would be great for America, but the truth is that it has only been great for the giant corporations.  For the average working man, it has been a disaster.

But we should have all seen this coming.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going to happen once you put American workers into the same labor pool as slave laborers on the other side of the world.  After all, what greedy corporate executive really wants to pay U.S. workers ten to twenty times as much compensation just because it is the “right” thing to do?

Today, formerly great cities all over America are being transformed into hellholes while shiny, new industrial cities are popping up all over China.

For example, a couple of decades ago the Chinese city of Shenzhen was a sleepy little fishing town.

In 2012, it is a teeming metropolis of over 13 million people.

Foxconn (the builder of iPhones, iPads and many other products that we buy) runs a factory in Shenzhen that employs over 400,000 people.  Most of those people work for about a dollar an hour.

A recent article posted on Business Insider described the incredibly long hours and the nightmarish working conditions that those workers must endure.  The following is a brief excerpt from that article….

A Chinese working “hour” is 60 minutes–unlike an American “hour,” which generally includes breaks for Facebook, the bathroom, a phone call, and some conversation. The official work day in China is 8 hours long, but the standard shift is 12 hours. Generally, these shifts extend to 14-16 hours, especially when there’s a hot new gadget to build.

At Foxconn, they don’t really care about the health and safety of the workers.  Workers are expected to do the same repetitive tasks as rapidly as they can for as long as they can.  When their bodies break down, they are fired….

Some workers can no longer work because their hands have been destroyed by doing the same thing hundreds of thousands of times over many years (mega-carpal-tunnel). This could have been avoided if the workers had merely shifted jobs. Once the workers’ hands no longer work, obviously, they’re canned.

But the Obama administration insists that allowing big corporations to ship our jobs over to countries with working conditions like that is “good for the economy”.

Well, it might be good for the profits of the largest corporations, but it is a total nightmare for the rest of us.  Just consider the following stats….

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

*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.

*According to U.S. Representative Betty Sutton, America has lost an average of 15 manufacturing facilities a day over the last 10 years.  During 2010 it got even worse.  Last year, an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day shut down in the United States.

*In all, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have shut down since 2001.

*According to one study, between 1969 and 2009 the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 dropped by 27 percent after you account for inflation.

*According to Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University, 40 million more U.S. jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades.

Are you starting to get the picture?

If you are a blue collar worker that cannot find a job, it is not because you have failed as a human being.

Rather, the truth is that you cannot find a job because of the failed trade policies of the federal government.

We are experiencing the bitter fruit of a “one world economy”.  Globalization was never intended to make the lives of American workers better, and now many are finally waking up and realizing this.

Hopefully, as Americans wake up on these issues they will fight to turn this nation in a more positive direction.

Unfortunately, way too many Americans are giving up hope completely.  The following comes from a recent article in the Guardian….

The year 2011 will be remembered as the time when many ever-optimistic Americans began to give up hope. President John F Kennedy once said that a rising tide lifts all boats. But now, in the receding tide, Americans are beginning to see not only that those with taller masts had been lifted far higher, but also that many of the smaller boats had been dashed to pieces in their wake.

As I have written about so many times, we are watching the middle class in America be systematically destroyed.

The economy is not getting better.  There may be moments when the economy seems like it is improving, but the reality is that we are mired in a nightmarish long-term decline.  If you are not yet convinced of this, please see this article and this article.

Even those running our economy are saying that things are not going to be getting much better any time soon.

For example, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Charles Evans, recently admitted that the employment picture is not going to be much brighter than it is now by the end of 2012.  He recently said that “at the end of the year, we’re not going to be very different from 8.5 percent unemployment.”

And remember – history has shown us that most pronouncements by Federal Reserve officials are usually far too optimistic.

If you are a blue collar worker in America, there is simply not too much to be optimistic about right now.

You might want to think about how you and your family are going to survive without any work.

The millions of jobs that have been sent overseas are not coming back.  Even if you still have a decent job, now is the time to be developing a side business or developing other alternative streams of income.

What you don’t want to do is to just sit there and hope that somehow things will “magically” turn around if we just vote in the “right” politician.

If you want to get a really good idea of what is really going on with the U.S. economy right now, just go tour some of the formerly great industrial cities in the “Rust Belt”.

In Cuyahoga County, Ohio one out of every five houses is sitting vacant.  It is not that those homes are not needed – it is just that there are not nearly enough people with good jobs available to buy up all of the foreclosures.

So thousands of perfectly good houses are being torn down.  The following comes from a recent CBS News report by Scott Pelley….

Across America, recession-fueled foreclosures and plummeting home values have left countless properties abandoned and vulnerable to looting. As Scott Pelley reports, the problem has gotten so bad in Cleveland, Ohio, that county officials have demolished more than 1,000 homes this year – and plan to demolish 20,000 more – rather than let the blight spread and render nearby homes worthless.

Can you imagine that?

20,000 homes being demolished in one county alone?

Of course Detroit is in even worse shape than Cleveland.  If you can believe it, the median price of a home in Detroit is now just $6000.

For much more on all of this, please read my recent article entitled “Formerly Great Cities All Over America Are Turning Into Open, Festering Sores“.

It would be great if I could tell you that hope is just around the corner, but it is not.  The plight of the blue collar worker in America is going to get worse and worse.

But just because blue collar workers in America are an endangered species does not mean that you have to be a victim.

We should all seek to become less dependent on the system.

If you are completely and totally dependent on having a “job” (just over broke), then you have put yourself in a very vulnerable position.

That job could disappear at any moment.

Over the next few years, the number of good jobs is going to continue to decrease.  Things are going to be really tough.  But those that have prepared and that have tried to become more independent are going to be in much better shape than those that have not.

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