Just Before The Great Recession, Mountains Of Unsold Goods Piled Up In U.S. Warehouses – And Now It Is Happening Again

When economic conditions initially begin to slow down, businesses continue to order goods like they normally would but those goods don’t sell as quickly as they previously did.  As a result, inventory levels begin to rise, and that is precisely what is happening right now.  In fact, the U.S. inventory to sales ratio has risen sharply for five months in a row.  This is mirroring the pattern that we witnessed just prior to the financial crisis of 2008, and it is exactly what we would expect to see if a new recession was now beginning.  In recent weeks, I have been sharing number after number that indicates that a serious economic slowdown is upon us, and many believe that what is coming will eventually be even worse than what we experienced in 2008.

And even though I write about this stuff every day, I was stunned by how rapidly inventory levels have been rising recently.  The following numbers come from Peter Schiff’s website

This comes on the heels of the largest gain in wholesale inventories in more than five years in December.

Inventories rose 7.7% from a year ago in January. Meanwhile, sales only rose by 2.7%. Overall, total inventories were $669.9 billion at the end of January, up 1.2% from the revised December level.

The increase in durable goods inventories at the wholesale level was even starker. These inventories were up 11.7% from January a year ago, and are up 17% from January two years ago, hitting $415 billion, the highest ever.

Businesses don’t like to have excess inventory, because carrying excess inventory is expensive and cuts into profits.  So they try very hard to manage their inventories efficiently, but if the economy slows down unexpectedly that can catch them off guard

There are few indications of economic slowing that are more convincing than an unwanted build in inventories — and that apparently is what’s underway in the wholesale sector.

When inventory levels get too high, businesses often start reducing the amount of stuff they are ordering from manufacturers.

So we would expect the numbers to indicate that manufacturing output is down, and that is precisely what we have witnessed over the last couple of months

U.S. manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February and factory activity in New York state hit nearly a two-year low this month, offering further evidence of a sharp slowdown in economic growth early in the first quarter.

If manufacturers are making and sending less stuff to businesses, and if businesses are selling less stuff to their customers, then we would expect to see less stuff moved around the U.S. by truck, rail and air.

And wouldn’t you know it, the numbers also tell us that this has been happening too.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Now it’s the third month in a row, and the red flag is getting more visible and a little harder to ignore about the goods-based economy: Freight shipment volume in the US across all modes of transportation – truck, rail, air, and barge – in February fell 2.1% from February a year ago, according to the Cass Freight Index, released today. The three months in a row of year-over-year declines are the first such declines since the transportation recession of 2015 and 2016.

So there you have it.  Anyone that tries to tell you that the U.S. economy is “booming” is simply not being accurate.

And when you throw in the fact that we just witnessed one of the worst disasters for U.S. agriculture in all of U.S. history, it is easy to understand why the economic outlook for the remainder of 2019 is rather bleak.  One agribusiness company just announced that it will have “a negative pretax operating profit impact of $50 million to $60 million for the first quarter” as a result of all the flooding…

Already suffering from low crop prices and the U.S.-China trade war, Mother Nature has delivered yet another blow to the beleaguered American farmer. Growers in the heartland this year have seen arctic cold blasts, been blanketed by snow and just in the last week were inundated by floods. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., one of the world’s biggest agribusinesses, said Monday that it expects weather disruptions to have a negative pretax operating profit impact of $50 million to $60 million for the first quarter.

Korth said he fears the worst for local farmers, citing a friend who lost 85 cows to flooding and another who sells seeds and has already seen order cancellations.

“It’s going to put a lot of people out of business,” Korth said. “It’s just a terrible deal.”

Unfortunately, the flooding in the middle portion of the country is just getting started.  According to the National Weather Service, we are going to see more catastrophic flooding for the next two months.

As you can see, the elements for a “perfect storm” are definitely coming together, and I encourage everyone to get prepared for rough times ahead.

But many people are not that concerned about a new crisis, because they remember that global central banks were able to pull us out of the fire last time around.

Unfortunately, they may not be able to do it this time.  Just consider the words of the deputy director of the IMF

Major financial institutions may be powerless to prevent the next global economic downturn from tuning into a full-blow recession, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

In a speech on the future of the eurozone, the IMF’s deputy director David Lipton, warned of the depleted power of central banks and governments to combat another sharp economic shock.

“The bottom line is this: the tools used to confront the global financial crisis may not be available or may not be as potent next time” he said.

But I am sure that global central banks will try to patch the system back together again, and at certain moments it may even look like they are having some success.

In the end, however, they will not be able to stop the “Bubble To End All Bubbles” from completely bursting.

It has taken decades of exceedingly foolish decisions to get us to this point, and there is simply no way that we can avoid the day of reckoning that is coming.

Get Prepared NowAbout the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally-syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including Get Prepared Now, The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters. His articles are originally published on The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News. From there, his articles are republished on dozens of other prominent websites. If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so. The more people that see this information the better, and we need to wake more people up while there is still time.

Trumphoria: Americans Are More Optimistic About The Economy Than They Have Been Since Obama’s Win In 2008

donald-trump-accepts-the-nomination-public-domainOptimism about the future of the U.S. economy has not been this strong since Barack Obama’s first presidential election victory in 2008. Donald Trump promised us an economic resurgence, and what is not to like so far? As I discussed earlier this week, stocks are soaring, businesses are already announcing that they are bringing jobs back to the United States, and the U.S. dollar has been lifted to levels that we haven’t seen in many years. Many are referring to this post-election surge as “Trumphoria”, and I think that is quite appropriate. Personally, I couldn’t imagine financial markets behaving this way if Hillary Clinton had won the election. Right now tens of millions of Americans are feeling deeply optimistic about the future for the first time in a very long time, and this is clearly reflected in the results of the most recent CNBC All-America Economic Survey

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey for the fourth quarter found that the percentage of Americans who believe the economy will get better in the next year jumped an unprecedented 17 points to 42 percent, compared with before the election. It’s the highest level since President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008.

The surge was powered by Republicans and independents reversing their outlooks. Republicans swung from deeply pessimistic, with just 15 percent saying the economy would improve in the next year, to strongly optimistic, with 74 percent believing in an economic upswing. Optimism among independents doubled but it fell by more than half for Democrats. Just 16 percent think the economy will improve.

It is funny how our political perspectives so greatly shape our view of the future. Because Trump won, Democrats now have an extremely dismal opinion of where the economy is heading, while Republicans suddenly believe that happy days are here again.

Of course the truth is that the president has far less power to influence the economy than the Federal Reserve does, and so most Americans greatly overestimate what a president can do to alter our economic trajectory.

But for now most Americans (excluding Democrats) are feeling really good about where things are headed. In fact, we just learned that the University of Michigan consumer confidence survey has soared to the highest level that we have seen since 2005.

And of course the financial markets continued to roll onward and upward on Friday. The Dow was up another 142 points, and it is now less than 250 points away from the magic number of 20,000.

I never thought that we would actually get to 20,000, but thanks to “Trumphoria” we may actually get there before the wheels start coming off.

This post-election run has really been unprecedented. The following comes from CNBC

All major indexes have been hitting record highs since the election. In fact, the Dow has notched 14 record closes since then and gains in 20 of the past 24 sessions.

The Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq also did something they haven’t done in more than five years: all three rose each day of this trading week. The last time all three rose every day during the same trading week was September 2011.

Wouldn’t it be great if every month during Trump’s presidency was like the last 30 days?

Trump promised that we would start winning so much that we would actually start getting tired of winning, and so far we are off to a tremendous start.

As I discussed yesterday, some of the biggest winners from “Trumphoria” have been the big banks

The shares of Wells Fargo, the most hated bank in America these days, soared 28% over the past 30 days, Citigroup 25%, JP Morgan 26%, Goldman Sachs, which is successfully placing its people inside the Trump administration, 37%.

But is this momentum in the financial markets sustainable?

Of course not.

There are signs of emerging economic trouble all around us. For instance, Sears just announced that it lost 748 million dollars last quarter and that it plans to liquidate even more stores.

How in the world do you lose three-quarters of a billion dollars in a single quarter? If you had employees in every store literally flushing dollar bills down the toilet all day I don’t think you could lose money that quickly.

And the moment that Trump takes office, he may immediately be faced with a major financial crisis in Europe which has been sparked by the meltdown of large Italian banks. The following comes from a Forbes article entitled “Italy’s Banking Crisis Is Nearly Upon Us“…

There is a high degree of probability (approaching 90%, I’d say) that Italy will experience a severe banking crisis in the next few quarters. Perhaps they can stave off the problem for a year, but something will have to be done about the banks.

Unfortunately, it looks like things are about to get very real for Italian banking giant Monte dei Paschi di Siena. According to Reuters, the European Central Bank has turned down their request for more time to raise needed capital…

The European Central Bank has rejected a request by Italy’s Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI) for more time to raise capital, a source said on Friday, a decision that piles pressure on the Rome government to bail out the lender.

Italy’s third-largest bank, and the world’s oldest, had asked for a three-week extension until January 20 to try to wrap up a privately funded, 5 billion euro ($5.3 billion) rescue plan in the face of fresh political uncertainty.

The ECB’s supervisory board turned down the request at a meeting on Friday on the grounds that a delay would be of little use and that it was time for Rome to step in, the source said.

But most Americans have no idea what is unfolding in Europe right now.

As Americans, we tend to be largely oblivious to what is going on in the rest of the world, and at this moment “Trumphoria” has gripped our nation.

It is certainly not wrong to celebrate the fact that we are getting Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton, but let us also not lose sight of the fact that we are likely to be facing some tremendous challenges very early in 2017.

The South American Financial Crisis Of 2015

South America - Public DomainMost nations in South America are either already experiencing an economic recession or are right on the verge of one.  In general, South American economies are very heavily dependent on exports, and right now they are being absolutely shredded by the twin blades of a commodity price collapse and a skyrocketing U.S. dollar.  During the boom times in South America, governments and businesses loaded up on tremendous amounts of debt.  Since much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars, South American borrowers are now finding that it takes much more of their own local currencies to service and pay back those debts.  At the same time, there is much less demand for commodities being produced by South American nations in the international marketplace.  As a result, South America is heading into a full-blown financial crisis which will cause years of pain for the entire continent.

If you know your financial history, then you know that we have seen this exact same scenario play out before in various parts of the world.  The following comes from a recent CNN article

The dollar’s gains should make history nerds shake in their boots. Its rally in the early 1980s helped trigger Latin America’s debt crisis. Fifteen years later, the greenback surged quickly again, causing Southeast Asian economies, such as Thailand, to collapse after a run on the banks ensued.

In particular, what is going on right now is so similar to what took place back in the early 1980s.  At that time, Latin American governments were swimming in debt, the U.S. dollar was surging and commodity prices were falling.  The conditions were perfect for a debt crisis in Latin America, and that is precisely what happened

When the world economy went into recession in the 1970s and 80s, and oil prices skyrocketed, it created a breaking point for most countries in the region. Developing countries also found themselves in a desperate liquidity crunch. Petroleum exporting countries – flush with cash after the oil price increases of 1973-74 – invested their money with international banks, which ‘recycled’ a major portion of the capital as loans to Latin American governments. The sharp increase in oil prices caused many countries to search out more loans to cover the high prices, and even oil producing countries wanted to use the opportunity to develop further. These oil producers believed that the high prices would remain and would allow them to pay off their additional debt.

As interest rates increased in the United States of America and in Europe in 1979, debt payments also increased, making it harder for borrowing countries to pay back their debts. Deterioration in the exchange rate with the US dollar meant that Latin American governments ended up owing tremendous quantities of their national currencies, as well as losing purchasing power. The contraction of world trade in 1981 caused the prices of primary resources (Latin America’s largest export) to fall.

Sadly, the same mistakes have been repeated once again.  In recent years South American nations have loaded up on vast amounts of debt, and now that commodity prices are tanking and the U.S. dollar is surging, all of that debt is creating tremendous headaches.

For instance, just consider what is happening in Brazil

Brazil’s real plummeted to a 12-year low of 3.34 to the dollar, reflecting the country’s heavy reliance on exports of iron ore and other raw materials to China.

The devaluation tightens the noose on Brazilian companies saddled with $188bn in dollar debt taken out during the glory days of the commodity boom. The oil group Petrobras alone raised $52bn on the US bond markets.

Today, Brazil has the 7th largest economy on the entire planet.

So a major financial crisis in Brazil would be extremely significant.

And that is precisely what is starting to happen.  It is being projected that Brazilian government debt will soon be reduced to junk status, Brazilian stocks have already entered “correction territory“, and economic forecasters say that the Brazilian economy is heading into its worst recession in at least 25 years

Brazil needs to brace itself for some very tough times. Brazilian banks are currently forecasting another economic contraction for the South American country in 2016, marking the first time that Brazil’s economy has shrunk in two consecutive years since the Great Depression.

Last Friday, economist Nelson Teixeira of Switzerland-based financial services holding company Credit Suisse released a revision of his already dour forecast for the Brazilian GDP, moving this year’s numbers from -1.8 percent to -2.4 percent.

The IMF is also projecting that 2015 will be a year of recession for the second largest economy in South America (Argentina) and the third largest economy in South America (Venezuela).

And actually Venezuela is in the deepest trouble of all.  According to a recent Bloomberg article, it appears to be inevitable that there will be a debt default by the Venezuelan government in the very near future…

Harvard University Professor Ricardo Hausmann last year questioned Venezuela’s decision to keep paying bondholders as the country sank deeper into crisis and suggested it stop honoring the debt.

Now, he’s saying Venezuela will have no choice but to default next year.

Hausmann’s comments come as a deepening collapse in oil prices and a shortage of dollars stoke concern Venezuela is fast running out of money to stay current on debt. The country’s bonds plunged last year after Hausmann, who served as Venezuelan planning minister after Hugo Chavez’s failed 1992 coup, raised the specter of default, saying he found “no moral grounds” for the government to pay debt at a time when Venezuelans were facing shortages of everything from basic medicine to toilet paper.

The inflation rate in Venezuela today is an astounding 68.5 percent, and the country is plunging into full-blown economic collapse.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

As we recently warned, the hyperinflationary collapse in Venezuela is reaching its terminal phase. With inflation soaring at least 65%, murder rates the 2nd highest in the world, and chronic food (and toilet paper shortages), the following disturbing clip shows what is rapidly becoming major social unrest in the Maduro’s socialist paradise… and perhaps more importantly, Venezuela shows us what the end game for every fiat money system looks like (and perhaps Janet and her colleagues should remember that).

Here is the video that was mentioned in the excerpt above.  As you watch this, please keep in mind that the United States is on the exact same path that Venezuela has gone down…

Economic chaos is beginning to erupt all over the planet, and the depression that we are entering into will truly be global in scope.

For the moment, many in the United States still believe that what is going on in the rest of the world will not affect us.  But the truth is that we are also right on the verge of a major financial crisis, and it is going to be even worse than what we experienced back in 2008.

So what do you think about what is going on down in South America?

Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

The “Economic Recovery” Continues: Businesses Are Being Destroyed Faster Than They Are Being Created

The Death Of Small Business - Photo by Tina McKimmieWhat would you say about an economy where businesses are shutting down faster than they are opening?  Well, a shocking new study released by the Brookings Institution indicates that this is exactly what is happening in the United States.  We are absolutely killing small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit in this country, and as you will see below, the number of self-employed Americans has been on a downward trend for a decade even though our population has been steadily growing.  Traditionally, small businesses have been the primary engine of job growth in this nation, so the fact that study after study has found that small business creation is being crippled in the United States is a really bad sign for our economic future.

Personally, I write about our long-term economic decline nearly every day, but even I had no idea that businesses were being destroyed faster than they were being created.  According to the Brookings Institution, this first started happening in 2009

The American economy is less entrepreneurial now than at any point in the last three decades. That’s the conclusion of a new study out from the Brookings Institution, which looks at the rates of new business creation and destruction since 1978.

Not only that, but during the most recent three years of the study — 2009, 2010 and 2011 — businesses were collapsing faster than they were being formed, a first.

And this mirrors an earlier study conducted by economist Tim Kane.  According to his analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data, the following is how the decline in the number of new business jobs per one thousand Americans breaks down by presidential administration

Bush Sr.: 11.3

Clinton: 11.2

Bush Jr.: 10.8

Obama: 7.8

As you can see, this is a problem that has been building for decades and that has accelerated under the Obama administration.

We are strangling small business creation to death, and as a result the number of Americans that are self-employed just keeps going down.  Just check out this chart…

Self-Employed 2014

And keep in mind that throughout this entire time the U.S. population has been growing.  So the numbers in the chart above should be going up steadily as the population grows.  But instead they have just kept going down.

Meanwhile, the “economic recovery” is continuing in the corporate world as well.

On Tuesday, we learned that Office Depot is going to be closing 400 stores.

Why would that happen if the economy was actually getting better?

When this was announced, shares of Office Depot rose about 20 percent.

I can never understand why that happens.  You would think that when a business makes an announcement that essentially says “our business is failing” that it would cause people to dump the stock.

In any event, this comes on the heels of an announcement by Staples back in March that it was going to shut down 225 stores in the United States and Canada.

So where will we buy our pens and paper from now on?

If the economy really was “recovering”, you would think that demand for office supplies would actually be on the rise.

But the only places where the economy is “recovering” is in places such as Washington D.C., New York City and San Francisco.

Those at the top of the pyramid are doing well, but almost everyone else in the country is really suffering right now.

When you kill off small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit, it tends to increasingly funnel money to the very top of the food chain.  And this is precisely what is happening in America at this point.  In a recent article, Charles Hugh Smith included a chart that shows how average household net worth in the U.S. breaks down by quartile…

Bottom 25%: $4,600
From 25% to 50%: $21,700
From 50% to 75%: $78,900
From 75% to 90%: $242,800
Top 10%: $1,606,600

As you can see, the bottom 50 percent are really not that much above zero at all.  In the old days, it seemed like almost everyone was “middle class” in America, but now that is rapidly changing.

We can see this increasing divide in the real estate market as well.  According to Bloomberg, sales of million dollar homes are booming, but sales of homes at the low end are plunging…

“Million-dollar homes in the U.S. are selling at double their historical average while middle-class property demand stumbles, showing that the housing recovery is mirroring America’s wealth divide.

Purchases costing $1 million or more rose 7.8 percent in March from a year earlier, according to data released last week by the National Association of Realtors. Transactions for $250,000 or less, which represent almost two-thirds of the market, plunged 12 percent in the period”

So this explains why it is almost impossible to find an affordable home in San Francisco, but the overall homeownership rate in the United States has dropped to the lowest level in 19 years.

But even in our wealthy enclaves there are signs of deep economic trouble.  For example, in New York City the number of homeless children has soared to a new all-time high…

They’re just like other kids except they have a secret. They are homeless.  Children are living hidden lives in plain sight. They are part a growing number of low income families who find themselves with no way out but they are working hard to find a solution.

It’s a big issue. And it’s growing. More than 23,000 children sleep in homeless shelters every night, an all-time high, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

The only “recovery” being experienced in America is the one that is happening on Wall Street, in boardrooms in Silicon Valley and in the halls of power in Washington.

In the rest of the country, retail stores are closing at the fastest pace that we have seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, 20 percent of all families do not have a single member that is employed and 49 million Americans are dealing with food insecurity.

There is no way that we are ever going to have a broad-based economic recovery in this nation if we continue to destroy small businesses.  They are the lifeblood of any economy and they are the primary engine of job creation.

Sadly, our politicians seem completely clueless about all of this.  So they will continue to do the same things that they have always been doing and then wonder why the economy never seems to turn around.

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

Camden, New Jersey: One Of Hundreds Of U.S. Cities That Are Turning Into Rotting, Decaying Hellholes

Camden, New Jersey - Photo by Blake BolingerAll over America, formerly prosperous communities are being transformed into crime-infested wastelands of poverty and despair.  Of course the most famous example of this is Detroit.  At one time, Detroit was the greatest manufacturing city that the world had ever seen and it had the highest per capita income in the entire country.  But now it has become a rotting, decaying hellhole that the rest of the planet laughs at.  And of course Detroit is far from alone.  There are hundreds of other U.S. cities that are suffering a similar fate.  In this article, the focus is going to be on Camden, New Jersey, but the truth is that there are lots of other “Detroits” and “Camdens” all over the nation.  Jobs and businesses are leaving our cities at a staggering rate, and what is being left behind is poverty, crime and extreme desperation.

Earlier this month, Rolling Stone published an article that took a hard look at the nightmare conditions that exist in Camden.  A city that once made Campbell’s soup and some of this nation’s most famous warships is now a national disgrace.  The following are six of the best quotes out of that article…

-“In September, its last supermarket closed, and the city has been declared a “food desert” by the USDA. The place is literally dying, its population having plummeted from above 120,000 in the Fifties to less than 80,000 today.”

-“Their home is a city with thousands of abandoned houses but no money to demolish them, leaving whole blocks full of Ninth Ward-style wreckage to gather waste and rats.”

-“With legal business mostly gone, illegal business took hold. Those hundreds of industries have been replaced by about 175 open-air drug markets, through which some quarter of a billion dollars in dope moves every year.”

-“On January 18th, 2011, the city laid off 168 of its 368 police officers, kicking off a dramatic, years-long, cops-versus-locals, house-to-house battle over a few square miles of North American territory that should have been national news, but has not been, likely because it took place in an isolated black and Hispanic ghost town.”

-“After the 2011 layoffs, police went into almost total retreat. Drug dealers cheerfully gave interviews to local reporters while slinging in broad daylight.”

-“The carnage left Camden’s crime rate on par with places like Haiti after its 2010 earthquake, and with other infamous Third World hot spots, as police officials later noticed to their dismay when they studied U.N. statistics.”

You can read the rest of the article right here.  But as bad as things have become in Camden, this should not be a surprise to most of you.  The reality is that this kind of rot and decay is happening in communities all over the United States.

Over in Detroit, crime has gotten so bad that even the police are telling people to “enter Detroit at your own risk“.  When you call the police in Detroit it takes them an average of 58 minutes to respond, and more than 90 percent of the crimes committed in the city end up as unsolved mysteries.

At this point, 60 percent of all children in Detroit are living in poverty, and there are approximately 78,000 abandoned homes in the city.

For much more on all this, check out the statistics in this article, and you can find some great photos of the “ruins of Detroit” right here.

So why is all of this happening?

Well, there are lots of factors involved of course, but the biggest one is the lack of good jobs in these cities.

At one time, Detroit had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the entire nation.  But now those days are long gone.

And what is happening to Detroit is precisely what is happening to America as a whole.  Our good jobs are disappearing and the middle class is being systematically destroyed.

In order to have a middle class, you have got to have middle class jobs.

There is no way around that.

And right now, hordes of young people are graduating from college and discovering that the middle class jobs that they were promised simply are not there.

CNN recently profiled a 37-year-old college graduate named Bobby Bingham.  Because he cannot find a good job, he is forced to work four low paying jobs…

Bobby Bingham works four jobs in Kansas City, Missouri, yet he has very little to show for it.

Bingham is 37 years old and has a college degree, but like many Americans, is stuck working many hours in low wage, part-time jobs.

Each week, he works a total of about 60 hours in his jobs as a massage therapist, a waiter at a Mexican restaurant, a delivery man for sandwich chain Jimmy John’s and a receptionist at his massage school.

Bingham makes approximately $400 a week, which works out to about $20,000 a year.  He has come to the conclusion that he may never be able to make enough to support a family…

“I’ve come to the point in my life where I wonder if I can ever support a family,” he said. “I have no idea how that’s ever going to logically happen.”

That deeply saddened my heart when I read that.  Here is a young man that wants to get married, have a family and do all the right things, but the economy is so bad that he fears that this may never be possible for him.

As I have written about previously, the economic downturn that we are experiencing right now has hit men particularly hard.  The number of men in their prime working years that do not make enough money to support a family is rising with each passing year, and this is causing massive problems in this country.

And when our politicians proclaim that all we need is “more education”, I feel like vomiting.  The U.S. population as a whole has more “education” today than it ever has had before.

If you think that “more education” is the answer, then check out the following excerpt from a recent interview with a law school graduate that is making about $40,000 a year and that has about $200,000 in law school debt…

Yes, it’s extremely hard to get by. I can’t afford rent or a car and can barely afford food. Anything extra like enjoying myself with friends, going to a movie, traveling, etc. — that’s all out the window for the foreseeable future and possibly for the rest of my life thanks to law school. I live with my parents. I don’t have a car. I don’t go out to socialize. I don’t date. I don’t buy new clothes. I don’t buy electronics. I don’t buy much of anything. I spend my free time working other jobs to put more money toward my debt. I do contract work for other lawyers, but the pay is very low and payment is sporadic.

Why did this happen to him?  Well, the truth is that there are way, way too many law school graduates.  There are not nearly enough good jobs for all of them.  In fact, this particular law school graduate deeply regrets ever going to law school and considers it “an extraordinary waste of money”…

I consider law school a waste of my life and an extraordinary waste of money. I feel like I was duped and tricked. At the end of the day, it’s my own fault for being a sucker and I learned an extremely hard lesson. Because I went to law school, I don’t see myself having a family, earning a comfortable wage, or having an enjoyable lifestyle.

But at least he has a job.  There are millions of college graduates that do not.  And there are hundreds of thousands of other college graduates that are currently working as waiters and waitresses.  Large numbers are also working temp jobs or standing behind registers in retail stores.

Over the past decade, tens of thousands of businesses and millions of good jobs have left this country.  The quality of the jobs that remain continues to decline at a frightening pace, and most of the new jobs that are being “created” these days are part-time jobs.

But you won’t hear the mainstream media or our most prominent politicians talk about these things much.  You won’t hear them talk about the fact that median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row or about the fact that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row.

The middle class is dying.

Wake up America.

And even as millions of our jobs have been shipped to the other side of the planet, some of the most prominent “American companies” have been bought up by foreigners.  The following list comes from a recent Economy In Crisis article

—–

Here are some of America’s most famous brands currently held in foreign hands:

  • Budweiser, now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev N.V., which is based in Leuven, Belgium
  • Alka-Seltzer, now owned by German company Bayer Schering Pharma AG
  • Ben & Jerrys, now owned by British-Dutch Unilever
  • AMC theaters, now owned by the Chinese
  • 7-Eleven, now owned by the Japanese company, Seven & I Holdings
  • Woman’s Day Magazine, now owned by the French company,  Hachette Filipacchi Médias, S.A
  • Purina, now owned by the Swiss company, Nestle
  • Gerber, now owned by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Novartis
  • Firestone, now owned by the Japanese Bridgestone Corporation
  • Citgo, now owned by the government of Venezuela
  • French’s Mustard, now owned by Reckitt Benckiser, a British conglomerate
  • Frigidaire, now owned by Sweden’s AB Electrolux
  • The Plaza Hotel in New York City, now owned by Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva’s El-Ad Group
  • Trader Joes, now owned by German billionaires Karl and Theo Albrecht
  • Dial soap, now owned by Henkel KGaA, based in Dusseldorf, Germany
  • Sunglass Hut, now owned by Italian eyewear seller Luxottica Group

—–

Are you starting to get the picture?

Our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted and more than 46 million Americans are now living in poverty.

And if you are waiting for the jokers in Washington D.C. to fix things, you are going to be waiting for a very, very long time.

Over the past several years, both the Democrats and the Republicans have proven again and again that they are basically completely and totally useless.  In fact, just about everything that they try to do actually makes our problems even worse.

In just a few days, Barack Obama leaves for a 17 day holiday vacation in Hawaii.  Many have criticized him and the members of Congress for taking so much time off, but perhaps that is the best thing that they can do at this point.  As long as they are away from Washington D.C., at least they won’t be making things even worse for all the rest of us.

The Biggest Ponzi Scheme In The History Of The World

America Is BrokeDid you know that you are involved in the most massive Ponzi scheme that has ever existed?  To illustrate my point, allow me to tell you a little story.  Once upon a time, there was a man named Sam.  When he was younger, he had been a very principled young man that had worked incredibly hard and that had built a large number of tremendously successful businesses.  He became fabulously wealthy and he accumulated far more gold than anyone else on the planet.  But when he started to get a little older he forgot the values of his youth.  He started making really bad decisions and some of his relatives started to take advantage of him.  One particularly devious relative was a nephew named Fred.  One day Fred approached his uncle Sam with a scheme that his friends the bankers had come up with.  What happened next would change the course of Sam’s life forever.

Even though Sam was the wealthiest man in the world by far, Fred convinced Sam that he could have an even higher standard of living by going into a little bit of debt.  In exchange for IOUs issued by his uncle Sam, Fred would give him paper notes that he printed off on his printing press.  Since the paper notes would be backed by the gold that Sam was holding, everyone would consider them to be valuable.  Sam could take those paper notes and spend them on whatever his heart desired.  Uncle Sam started to do this, and he started to become addicted to all of the nice things that those paper notes would buy him.

Fred took the IOUs that he received from his uncle and he auctioned them off to the bankers.  But there was a problem.  The IOUs issued by Uncle Sam had to be paid back with interest.  When the time came to pay back the IOUs, Uncle Sam could not afford to pay back the debts, pay the interest on those debts, and buy all of the nice things that he wanted.  So Uncle Sam issued even more IOUs than before so that he could get enough notes to pay off his debts.  As time rolled on, this pattern just kept on repeating.  Uncle Sam repeatedly paid off his old debts by taking out even larger new debts.

Meanwhile, since the notes that Uncle Sam was using were backed by gold, everyone else in the world decided to start using them to trade with one another.  This was greatly beneficial to Uncle Sam, because the rest of the world was glad to send him oil, home electronics, plastic trinkets and anything else that Uncle Sam wanted in exchange for his gold-backed notes.

Eventually, however, the rest of the world started to suspect that the number of gold-backed notes that Uncle Sam was issuing far exceeded the amount of gold that Uncle Sam actually had.  So the rest of the world started to trade in their notes for gold.

And by that time Uncle Sam definitely did not have enough gold to back up his notes.  Realizing that the scheme was starting to collapse, one day Uncle Sam announced that his notes would no longer be backed by gold.  But he insisted that the rest of the world should continue using his notes because he was the wealthiest man on the planet and everyone should just trust him.

And the rest of the world did continue to trust him, although it wasn’t the same as before.

As Uncle Sam got greedier and greedier, he started to issue IOUs and spend notes at a rate that nobody ever dreamed possible.  The great businesses that Uncle Sam had built when he was younger were starting to decline, and Uncle Sam started buying far more stuff from the rest of the world than they bought from him.  The rest of the world was still glad to take Uncle Sam’s notes because they used them to trade with one another, but they started accumulating far more notes than they actually needed.

Not sure exactly what to do with mountains of these notes, the rest of the world started to loan them back to Uncle Sam.  It eventually got to the point where Uncle Sam owed the rest of the world trillions of these notes.  Even though the notes were losing value at a rate of close to 10 percent a year, Uncle Sam somehow convinced the rest of the world to loan him notes at an average rate of interest of less than 3 percent a year.

One day Uncle Sam woke up and realized that the amount of debt that he owed was now more than 5000 times larger than it was when Fred had first approached him with this ill-fated scheme.  Uncle Sam now owed more than 16 trillion notes to his creditors, and Uncle Sam had already made future financial commitments of 202 trillion notes that he would never be able to pay.  Meanwhile, the notes that Fred had been printing up for Uncle Sam were now worth less than 5 percent of their original value.  Uncle Sam was becoming concerned because some of his other relatives were warning that this whole scheme was about to collapse.

Sadly, Uncle Sam did not listen to them.  Uncle Sam knew that if he admitted how fraudulent the financial scheme was, the rest of the world would quit sending him all of the things that he needed in exchange for his notes and they would quit lending his notes back to him at super low interest rates.

And if the rest of the world lost confidence in his notes and quit using them, Uncle Sam knew that his standard of living would go way, way down.  That was something that Uncle Sam could not bear to have happen.

When a financial crisis almost caused the scheme to crash in 2008, a desperate Uncle Sam went to Fred and asked for help.  In response, Fred started printing up far more notes than ever before and started directly buying up large amounts of IOUs from Uncle Sam with the notes that he was creating out of thin air.  Fred hoped that the rest of the world would not notice what he was doing.

It seemed to work for a little while, but then an even worse financial crisis came along.  Once again, Uncle Sam started issuing massive amounts of new IOUs and Fred started printing up giant mountains of new notes to try to fix things, but their desperate attempts to keep the system going were to no avail.  The rest of the world started to realize that they had been sucked into a massive Ponzi scheme, and they lost confidence in the notes that Uncle Sam was using.  Suddenly nobody wanted to lend notes to Uncle Sam at super low interest rates anymore, and people started asking for far more notes in exchange for the things that Uncle Sam wanted.

Uncle Sam’s standard of living dropped dramatically.  Since he could no longer flood the world with his notes, Uncle Sam could not continue to consume far, far more wealth than he produced.  Uncle Sam sunk into a deep depression as he watched the scheme fall apart all around him.

Uncle Sam had once been the wealthiest man on the entire planet, but now he was a broke, tired old man that was absolutely drowning in debt.  Unfortunately, once he was down on his luck the rest of the world did not have any compassion for him.  In fact, much of the rest of the world celebrated the downfall of Uncle Sam.

All of this could have been avoided if Uncle Sam had never agreed to Fred’s crazy scheme.  And once Uncle Sam made the decision to stop backing his notes with gold, it was only a matter of time before the scheme was going to collapse.

Does this little story sound crazy to you?  It shouldn’t.  The truth is that you are involved in such a scheme right now.  In case you haven’t figured it out, “Uncle Sam” is the United States, the “notes” are U.S. dollars, and “Fred” is the Federal Reserve.

Please share this story with as many people as you can.  Our country is headed for complete and total financial disaster, and we need to get people educated about this while there is still time.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!