Can you imagine a world where your home, your vehicles, your appliances and every single electronic device that you own is constantly connected to the Internet? This is not some grand vision that is being planned for some day in the future. This is something that is being systematically implemented right now. In 2015, we already have “smart homes”, vehicles that talk to one another, refrigerators that are connected to the Internet, and televisions that spy on us. Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected, and that opens up some wonderful possibilities. But there is also a downside. What if we rapidly reach a point where one must be connected to the Internet in order to function in society? Will there come a day when we can’t even do basic things such as buy, sell, get a job or open a bank account without it? And what about the potential for government abuse? Could an “Internet of Things” create a dystopian nightmare where everyone and everything will be constantly monitored and tracked by the government? That is something to think about.
Today, the Internet has become such an integral part of our lives that it is hard to remember how we ever survived without it. And with each passing year, the number of devices connected to the Internet continues to grow at an exponential rate. If you have never heard of the “Internet of Things” before, here is a little bit about it from Wikipedia…
Things, in the IoT, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clams in coastal waters, automobiles with built-in sensors, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue. These devices collect useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then autonomously flow the data between other devices. Current market examples include smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize wifi for remote monitoring.
But there is also a dark side to the Internet of Things. Security is a huge issue, and when that security is compromised the consequences can be absolutely horrifying. Just consider the following example…
It is a strange series of events that link two Armenian software engineers; a Shenzen, China-based webcam company; two sets of new parents in the U.S.; and an unknown creep who likes to hack baby monitors to yell obscenities at children. “Wake up, you little ****,” the hacker screamed at the top of his digital lungs last summer when a two-year-old in Houston wouldn’t stir; she happened to be deaf. A year later, a baby monitor hacker struck again yelling obscenities at a 10-month-old in Ohio.
Both families were using an Internet-connected baby monitor made by China-based Foscam. The hacker took advantage of a weakness in the camera’s software design that U.S.-based Armenian computer engineers revealed at a security conference in Amsterdam last April.
The Internet allows us to reach into the outside world from inside our homes, but it also allows the reverse to take place as well.
Do we really want to make ourselves that vulnerable?
Sadly, we live at a time when people don’t really stop to consider the downside to our exploding technological capabilities.
In fact, there are many people that are extremely eager to connect themselves to the Internet of Things.
In Sweden, there are dozens of people that have willingly had microchips implanted under the skin. They call themselves “bio-hackers”, and they embrace what they see as the coming merger between humanity and technology. The following is what one of the founders of a Sweden based bio-hacking community had to say during one recent interview…
“The technology is already happening,” says Hannes Sjoblad, one of the founders of BioNyfiken. “We are seeing a fast-growing community of people experimenting with chip implants, which allow users to quickly and easily perform a variety of everyday tasks, such as allowing access to buildings, unlocking personal devices without PIN codes and enabling read access to various types of stored data.
“I consider the take-off of this technology as another important interface-moment in the history of human-computer interaction, similar to the launches of the first windows desktop or the first touch screen. Identification by touch is innate for humans. PIN codes and passwords are not natural. And every additional device that we have to carry around to identify ourselves, be it a key fob or a swipe card, is just another item that clutters our lives.”
And of course this is happening in the United States as well…
In America, a dedicated amateur community — the “biohackers” or “grinders” — has been experimenting with implantable technology for several years. Amal Graafstra, a 38-year-old programmer and self-styled “adventure technologist”, has been inserting various types of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips into the soft flesh between his thumbs and index fingers since 2005. The chips can be read by scanners that Graafstra has installed on the doors of his house, and also on his laptop, which gives him access with a swipe of his hand without the need for keys or passwords.
But you don’t have to have a microchip implant in order to be a part of the Internet of Things.
In fact, there are a whole host of “wearable technologies” that are currently being developed for our society.
For instance, have you heard about “OnStar for the Body” yet? It will enable medical personnel to constantly monitor your health wherever you are…
Smart, cheaper and point-of-care sensors, such as those being developed for the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE, will further enable the ‘Digital Checkup’ from anywhere. The world of ‘Quantified Self’ and ‘Quantified Health’ will lead to a new generation of wearable technologies partnered with Artificial Intelligence that will help decipher and make this information actionable.
And this ‘actionability’ is key. We hear the term Big Data used in various contexts; when applied to health information it will likely be the smart integration of massive data sets from the ‘Internet of things’ with the small data about your activity, mood, and other information. When properly filtered, this data set can give insights on a macro level – population health – and micro – ‘OnStar for the Body‘ with a personalized ‘check engine light’ to help identify individual problems before they further develop into expensive, difficult-to-treat or fatal conditions.
If that sounded creepy to you, this next item will probably blow you away.
According to one survey, approximately one-fourth of all professionals in the 18 to 50-year-old age bracket would like to directly connect their brains to the Internet…
According to a survey by tech giant Cisco Systems, about a fourth of professionals ages 18 to 50 would leap at the chance to get a surgical brain implant that allowed them to instantly link their thoughts to the Internet.
The study was conducted on 3,700 adults working in white-collar jobs in 15 countries.
“Assuming a company invented a brain implant that made the World Wide Web instantly accessible to their thoughts, roughly one-quarter would move forward with the operation,” the study found.
In the end, they are not going to have to force most of us to get connected to the Internet of Things.
Most of us will do it eagerly.
But most people will never even stop to consider the potential for abuse.
An Internet of Things could potentially give governments all over the world the ability to continually monitor and track the activities of everyone under their power all of the time.
“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation Internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing”
Are you starting to get the picture?
They plan to use the Internet of Things to spy on all of us.
But we just can’t help ourselves. Our society has a love affair with new technology. And some of the things that are being developed right now are beyond what most of us ever dreamed was possible.
For example, Microsoft has just released a new promotional video featuring 3D holograms, smart surfaces, next-generation wearable technologies, and “fluid mobility”…
The elaborate, highly produced video shows jaw-dropping technologies like a SCUBA mask that annotates the sea with 3D holograms, a multipart bracelet that joins together to become a communications device, and interactive, flexible displays that automatically “rehydrate” with information specific to the people using them.
This video from Microsoft was posted on YouTube, and I have shared it below…
So what do you think about all of this?
Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…
QE3 has barely even started and some folks on Wall Street are already clamoring for QE4. In fact, as you will read below, one equity strategist at Morgan Stanley says that he would not be “surprised” if the Federal Reserve announced another new round of money printing by the end of the year. But this is what tends to happen when a financial system starts becoming addicted to easy money. There is always a deep hunger for another “hit” of “currency meth”. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was probably hoping that QE3 would satisfy the wolves on Wall Street for a while. His promise to recklessly print 40 billion dollars a month and use it to buy mortgage-backed securities is being called “QEInfinity” by detractors. During QE3, nearly half a trillion dollars a year will be added to the financial system until the Fed decides that it is time to stop. This is so crazy that even former Federal Reserve officials are speaking out against it. For example, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker says that QE3 is the “most extreme easing of monetary policy” that he could ever remember. But the big Wall Street banks are never going to be satisfied. If QE4 is announced, they will start calling for QE5. As I noted in a previous article, quantitative easing tends to pump up the prices of financial assets such as stocks and commodities, and that is very good for Wall Street bankers. So of course they want more quantitative easing. They always want bigger profits and bigger bonus checks at the end of the year.
But at this point the Federal Reserve has already “jumped the shark”. If you don’t know what “jumping the shark” means, you can find a definition on Wikipedia right here. Whatever shreds of credibility the Fed had left are being washed away by a flood of newly printed money.
Those running the Fed have essentially used up all of their bullets and the next great financial crisis has not even fully erupted yet.
So what is the Fed going to do if the stock market crashes and the credit market freezes up like we saw back in 2008?
How much more extreme can the Fed go?
One can just picture “Helicopter Ben” strapping on a pair of water skis and making the following promise….
“We are going to print so much money that we’ll make Zimbabwe and the Weimar Republic look like wimps!”
Sadly, the truth is that money printing is not a “quick fix” and it never has been. Just look at Japan. The Bank of Japan is on round 8 of their quantitative easing strategy, and yet things in Japan continue to get even worse.
But that is not going to stop the folks on Wall Street from calling for even more quantitative easing.
For example, the top U.S. equity strategist for Morgan Stanley, Adam Parker, made headlines all over the world this week by writing the following….
“QE3 will likely be insufficient to significantly boost equity markets and we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Fed dramatically augment this program (i.e., QE4) before year-end, particularly if economic and corporate news continue to deteriorate as they have over the past few weeks.”
Did you get what he is saying there?
He says that QE3 is not going to be enough to boost equity markets (the stock market) so more money printing will be necessary.
But wasn’t QE3 supposed to be about creating jobs and helping the middle class?
I can almost hear many of you laughing out loud already.
As I have written about before, QE3 is unlikely to change the employment picture in any significant way, but what it will do is create more inflation which will squeeze the poor, the middle class and the elderly.
The truth is that quantitative easing has always been about bailing out the banks, and the hope is that this will trickle down to the folks on Main Street as well, but that never seems to happen.
Wall Street is not calling for even more quantitative easing because it would be good for you and I. Rather, Wall Street is calling for even more quantitative easing because it would be good for them.
The Federal Reserve’s latest easing move has been nicknamed everything from “QE3” to “QE Infinity” to “QEternal,” but some on Wall Street question whether the unprecedented move will be QEnough.
And of course everyone pretty much understands that QE3 is definitely not going to fix our economic problems. Even most of those on Wall Street will admit as much. In the CNBC article mentioned above, a couple of economists named Paul Ashworth and Paul Dales at Capital Economics were quoted as saying the following….
“The Fed can commit to deliver whatever economic outcome it likes, but the problem is that the crisis in the euro-zone and/or a stand-off in negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff in the U.S. may well reveal it to be like the proverbial Emperor with no clothes”
An emperor with no clothes?
I think the analogy fits.
The Federal Reserve is going to keep printing and printing and printing and things are not going to get any better.
The Federal Reserve’s QE3 bond buying program announced earlier this month could last until the middle of 2015 and eventually reach $2 trillion, according to an estimate from economists at Goldman Sachs.
The Goldman economists also wrote in a report that they believe the Fed will not raise the federal funds rate until 2016. This rate, which is used as a benchmark for a wide variety of consumer and business loans, has been near 0% since December 2008. The Fed said in its last statement that it expected rates would remain low until mid-2015.
So why is Wall Street whining and complaining so loudly right now?
Well, even with all of the bailouts and even with all of the help from the first two rounds of quantitative easing, things are still tough for them.
For example, Bank of America recently announced that they will be laying off 16,000 workers.
In addition, there are rumors that 100 highly paid partners at Goldman Sachs are going to be getting the axe. It is said that Goldman will save 2 billion dollars with such a move.
We haven’t even reached the next great financial crisis and the pink slips are already flying on Wall Street. Meredith Whitney says that she has never seen anything quite like this….
“The industry is as bad as I’ve seen it. So it’s certainly not a great time to be on Wall Street.”
But of course Wall Street is not going to get much sympathy from the rest of America. The truth is that things have been far rougher for most of the rest of us than things have been for them.
When the last crisis hit, they got trillions of dollars in bailout money and we got nothing.
So most people are not really in a mood to shed any tears for Wall Street.
But of course the Federal Reserve is definitely hoping to help their friends on Wall Street out by printing lots of money.
You never know, by the time this is all over we may see QE4, QE5, QE Reloaded, QE With A Vengeance and QE The Return Of The Bernanke.
Meanwhile, Europe is gearing up to print money like crazy too.
“Within our mandate, the European Central Bank is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro, and believe me, it will be enough.”
And of course the Bank of Japan has joined the money printing party too. The following is from a recent article by David Kotok….
The recently announced additional program by the BOJ includes a fifty-percent allocation to the purchase of ten-year Japanese government bonds. The other fifty percent will buy shorter-term government securities. Thus, the BOJ is applying half of its additional QE stimulus to extracting long duration from the government bond market, denominated in Japanese yen.
All of the central banks seem to be getting on the QE bandwagon.
“Another round of QE is understandable – but it will fail to fix the problem. There is so much liquidity in the market that adding more is not going to change the economy.”
Sadly, most Americans have a ton of faith in the people running our system, but the truth is that they really do not know what they are doing. Just check out what Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said the other day….
“The truth, however, is that nobody on the committee, nor on our staffs at the Board of Governors and the 12 Banks, really knows what is holding back the economy. Nobody really knows what will work to get the economy back on course. And nobody – in fact, no central bank anywhere on the planet – has the experience of successfully navigating a return home from the place in which we now find ourselves. No central bank – not, at least, the Federal Reserve – has ever been on this cruise before.”
Can you imagine the head coach of a football team coming in at halftime and telling his players the following….
“Nobody on the coaching stuff really has any idea what will work.”
That sure would not inspire a lot of confidence, would it?
Perhaps the Fed should be open to some input from the rest of us.
Actually, back on September 14th the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco posted a poll on Facebook that asked the following question….
You can’t accuse Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke of not living up to his nickname. Back in 2002, Bernanke delivered a speech entitled “Deflation: Making Sure ‘It’ Doesn’t Happen Here” in which he referenced a statement by economist Milton Friedman about fighting deflation by dropping money from a helicopter. Well, it might be time for a new nickname for Bernanke because what he did today was a lot more than drop money from a helicopter. Today the Federal Reserve announced that QE3 will begin on Friday, but it is going to be much different from QE1 and QE2. Both of those rounds of quantitative easing were of limited duration. This time, the quantitative easing is going to be open-ended. The Fed is going to buy 40 billion dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities per month until they have decided that the economy is in good enough shape to stop. For those that get confused by terms like “quantitative easing” and “mortgage-backed securities”, what the Federal Reserve is essentially saying is this: “We’re going to print a bunch of money and buy stuff for as long as we feel it is necessary.” In addition, the Federal Reserve has promised to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels all the way through mid-2015. The course that the Federal Reserve has set us on is utter insanity. Ben Bernanke can rain money down on us all he wants, but it is not going to do much at all to help the real economy. However, it will definitely hasten the destruction of the U.S. dollar.
And the Federal Reserve is apparently very eager to get QE3 going. Purchases of mortgage-backed securities are going to start on Friday.
In the coming months, hundreds of billions of dollars that the Federal Reserve has zapped into existence out of nothing will be injected into our financial system.
So what will happen to all of this new money?
If banks and financial institutions use that money to make loans then it could have somewhat of a positive impact on the economy in the short-term.
However, the truth is that it isn’t as if banks are hurting for cash to loan out. In fact, right now banks are already sitting on $1.6 trillion in excess reserves. Just like with the first two rounds of quantitative easing, a lot of the money from QE3 will likely end up being put on the shelf.
But the stock market loved the news because they know that the previous two rounds of quantitative easing have been great for the financial markets. On Thursday, the stock market soared to levels not seen since December 2007.
There is much rejoicing on Wall Street right now.
And this stock market bounce is great for Bernanke’s good buddy Barack Obama.
Obama nominated Bernanke to a second term as Fed Chairman, and this might be Bernanke’s way of paying him back.
But of course the Fed is supposed to be “above politics” so that would never happen, right?
The Federal Reserve essentially “crossed the Rubicon” today. No longer will quantitative easing be considered an “emergency measure”. Rather, it will now be considered just another “tool” that the Fed uses in the normal course of business.
Considering how vulnerable the U.S. dollar already is, announcing an “open-ended” round of quantitative easing is utter foolishness. According to the Fed, when you add the 40 billion dollars of new mortgage-backed security purchases per month to all of the other “easing” measures the Fed is continuing to do, the grand total is going to come to about 85 billion dollars a month. The following is from the statement that the Fed released earlier today….
To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee agreed today to increase policy accommodation by purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month. The Committee also will continue through the end of the year its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in June, and it is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities. These actions, which together will increase the Committee’s holdings of longer-term securities by about $85 billion each month through the end of the year, should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.
The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will, as always, take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.
The Fed also promised to keep interest rates at “exceptionally low levels” until mid-2015….
To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee also decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate are likely to be warranted at least through mid-2015.
It seems that whenever the U.S. economy gets into trouble, Bernanke and his friends at the Fed only have one prescription and it goes something like this….
“Print more money and promise to keep interest rates near zero even longer.”
Of course a lot of Republicans are quite disturbed that QE3 was announced with just a couple of months remaining in a very heated election battle.
Even big news organizations such as CNBC are commenting on this….
Though the Fed is ostensibly politically independent, the decision comes at a ticklish time with the presidential election less than two months away.
And without a doubt the mainstream media will be proclaiming this to be “good news” for the economy in the short-term.
But is QE3 really going to help the average person on the street?
Well, first let’s take a look at employment. We are told that one of the primary reasons for QE3 is jobs.
But did QE1 and QE2 create jobs?
The answer is clearly no.
As you can see from the chart below, the percentage of working age Americans with a job fell dramatically during the last recession and has not bounced back since that time despite all of the quantitative easing that has been done already….
So why try the same thing again when it did not work the first two times?
But what more quantitative easing is likely to do is to pump up stock market values because a lot of the money from QE3 is going to end up being put into stocks and other investments.
This is going to help the wealthy get even wealthier, and it is going to make the “wealth gap” between the rich and the poor even larger in America.
QE3 is also probably going to cause commodity prices to rise just like QE1 and QE2 did.
That means that you will be paying more for gasoline, food and other basic necessities.
So there may not be more jobs, but at least you will get the privilege of paying more for things.
The inflation that QE3 will cause will be particularly cruel for those on fixed incomes such as retirees.
None of the extra money from QE3 is going to go into their pockets, but they will have to pay more to heat their homes and fill up their shopping carts.
And the “exceptionally low interest rate” policy of the Federal Reserve is absolutely devastating for those that have saved for retirement and that are relying on interest income for their living expenses.
In short, quantitative easing is very good for the wealthy and it is very bad for the average man and woman on the street.
Perhaps the biggest danger from QE3 is that it could greatly hasten the day when the U.S. dollar ceases to be the reserve currency of the world.
The rest of the world is not stupid. They see that the Federal Reserve is now firing up the printing presses whenever they feel like it. They can see the games that we are playing with our currency.
Why should the rest of the world continue to use the U.S. dollar to trade with one another when the United States is constantly debasing it and playing games with its value?
As I wrote about the other day, China and Russia have been calling for a new reserve currency for the world for several years. They have been leading the charge to conduct international trade in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, and I have documented many of the major international agreements to move away from the U.S. dollar that have been made in the last couple of years.
The status of the U.S. dollar in the world has already been steadily slipping, and now Helicopter Ben Bernanke pulls this kind of nonsense.
We are handing the rest of the world an excuse to abandon the U.S. dollar on a silver platter.
And when the rest of the globe rejects the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency, the dollar will crash, the cost of living will increase dramatically, our standard of living will go way down and we will never fully recover from it.
So if you think that things are “bad” now, just wait until that happens.
The U.S. dollar is one of the best things that the U.S. economy still has going for it, and Helicopter Ben Bernanke is doing his best to absolutely destroy that.
What is your opinion of QE3? Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….
America is becoming a very cold place. If you don’t have money, you don’t really matter much in our society. The ads on television aren’t for you – they are directed at people that actually have good jobs and that can afford to buy the nice little “extras” in life. The politicians aren’t really interested in you either – they figure that they can buy your vote with all of the money that they are getting from the wealthy people. When you don’t have money, even friends and relatives start to distance themselves from you. Perhaps they are afraid that you will ask them for money or perhaps they are afraid that your “failure” will start to rub off on them. When people know that you are struggling for money, the barriers immediately go up. In the United States today, there are tens of millions of people that have been forsaken and forgotten. They mostly stay at home (if they still have a home), and for most of them quiet desperation has become a way of life. You won’t ever read much about them or see them appear much on television because nobody really cares too much about them. As far as society is concerned, there are just way too many of them and they are a problem that “the government” should be able to handle anyway. Sadly, the truth is that many communities all across America want absolutely nothing to do with those that can’t take care of themselves. All over the country cities are passing laws making it illegal to feed the homeless, and in other instances cities are actually making it illegal to be homeless. Unfortunately, this problem is not going away. In fact, the number of Americans living in poverty increases with each passing day. So where do we go from here?
These days, a lot of formerly middle class Americans are down on their luck and can’t even afford to buy enough food. The following is from a recent Yahoo article….
Cheryl Preston knows that others are worse off. But she’s still hungry.
As grocery prices creep higher and her income sags, rationing her family’s food is a daily task. The 54-year-old mother of three and grandmother of three in Roanoke, Va., says there are days she skips meals so her husband and son can eat. If they notice, she says, she’ll let them think she’s fasting. She waters down the milk and juice to make it last longer. She visits food pantries, but it’s not enough.
Have you ever had to skip meals because you simply could not afford to buy enough food?
Have you ever wondered how you were going to make it to the next paycheck?
When you look into the eyes of your hungry children and you realize that your best efforts have not been good enough to provide what they need it can be absolutely soul crushing.
And when you have lost everything it quickly becomes apparent that most people in society simply do not care about you.
About a third of the country is already on some form of welfare. Another family falling out of the middle class and into poverty is not going to cause anyone to sit up and take notice.
The middle class in America is being absolutely shredded. In a recent article I wrote entitled “84 Statistics That Prove That The Decline Of The Middle Class Is Real And That It Is Getting Worse” I detailed this very clearly. But most Americans don’t think about this very much because they are just focused on what is going on in their own little worlds. If they still have their jobs and if their family and friends are still doing okay then they are likely to believe that everything is just fine.
But everything is not fine.
According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of all Americans were “middle income” back in 1971.
Today, only 51 percent of all Americans are “middle income”.
There aren’t enough good jobs in this country and there never will be enough good jobs ever again.
Those that are just entering the job market understand very clearly that there are not enough good jobs.
Of the recent college graduates that have been fortunate enough to actually get a job, about half of them have taken jobs that do not even require a college degree.
But at least if you have a job, even if it is really crappy, you still matter in this economy.
Many of those that are not working at all have been completely forsaken and forgotten.
Over the past year, approximately 1.3 million Americans have seen their extended unemployment benefits end. Most of them are considered to have “dropped out of the labor force” even though they aren’t working, they don’t have any income coming in and they are very desperate. They are told to go “get a job” in an economy that does not produce enough jobs for everyone. The music stopped playing and they were left without a seat and nobody really cares too much.
But if you live in the good areas of New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle this article might seem like complete nonsense to you. After all, corporate profits are at an all-time high and the stores and malls where you live are packed with people. Everyone around you is driving new cars, wearing designer clothes and using the latest tech gadgets.
But it is not like that everywhere in America.
There are two Americas today. One is swimming in money and is seemingly more prosperous than ever.
The other America is a complete and total economic nightmare.
But those that are paying millions of dollars for dinky little apartments in New York City may be wondering what all the fuss is about.
Well, in the forgotten areas of America “despair” is what people experience on a good day. Unemployment and government dependence are a way of life, and alcohol and drugs are used to dull the pain. The following is from a recent article by Chris Hedges. It describes what life is like in the little town of Gary, West Virginia….
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.
There are hundreds of small towns all over America today just like Gary that have been forsaken by society. Most people in those towns are just “existing” and gave up all hope of a better life long ago.
Some of these stories are being told in a new documentary film called “American Winter”. You can view the trailer for the film right here. It is a very powerful 5 minutes and 41 seconds.
Sadly, the truth is that there really does not need to be so much suffering in America.
And the overwhelming greed that we see in society today is absolutely astounding.
For example, Yahoo recently profiled a hoarder who packed her home with $500,000 worth of “stuff” that she could not resist buying….
There are shoe closets, and then there are shoe rooms. Monte, a retired teacher in her fifties, had scattered $20,000 worth of footwear throughout six rooms in her home. Some were organized by color, but most lay in mountainous piles of clutter in her 4,000 square foot home outside Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Over a period of 10 years, she’d spent over $500,000 on clothing, accessories and home furnishings, all of which lay strewn across her kitchen, entryway and bedrooms, tags intact.
But far worse are the “Rich Kids of Instagram“. It has apparently become trendy for wealthy kids to take pictures of themselves enjoying their outrageous wealth. It truly is disgusting.
Meanwhile, most American families are really struggling to get by. In fact, 77 percent of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck at least some of the time.
And jobless claims are rising again. We are on the verge of another major economic crisis and that means that millions more Americans are going to lose their jobs and their homes.
If you think that things are bad now, just wait, because things are about to get a whole lot worse.
Don’t be afraid to reach out and help those that are hurting. When things are the darkest, that is when heroes are needed the most.
Is the petrodollar dead? Well, not yet, but the nails are being hammered into the coffin even as you read this. For decades, most of the nations of the world have used the U.S. dollar to buy oil and to trade with each other. In essence, the U.S. dollar has been acting as a true global currency. Virtually every country on the face of the earth has needed big piles of U.S. dollars for international trade. This has ensured a huge demand for U.S. dollars and U.S. government debt. This demand for dollars has kept prices and interest rates low, and it has given the U.S. government an incredible amount of power and leverage around the globe. Right now, U.S. dollars make up more than 60 percent of all foreign currency reserves in the world. But times are changing. Over the past couple of years there has been a whole bunch of international agreements that have made the U.S. dollar less important in international trade. The mainstream media in the United States has been strangely quiet about all of these agreements, but the truth is that they are setting the stage for a fundamental shift in the way that trade is conducted around the globe. When the petrodollar dies, it is going to have an absolutely devastating impact on the U.S. economy. Sadly, most Americans are totally clueless regarding what is about to happen to the dollar.
One of the reasons the Federal Reserve has been able to get away with flooding the financial system with U.S. dollars is because the rest of the world has been soaking a lot of those dollars up. The rest of the world has needed giant piles of dollars to trade with, but what is going to happen when they don’t need dollars anymore?
Could we see a tsunami of inflation as demand for the dollar plummets like a rock?
The power of the U.S. dollar has been one of the few things holding up our economy. Once that leg gets kicked out from under us we are going to be in a whole lot of trouble.
The following are 11 international agreements that are nails in the coffin of the petrodollar….
#1 China And Russia
China and Russia have decided to start using their own currencies when trading with each other. The following is from a China Daily article about this important agreement….
China and Russia have decided to renounce the US dollar and resort to using their own currencies for bilateral trade, Premier Wen Jiabao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced late on Tuesday.
Chinese experts said the move reflected closer relations between Beijing and Moscow and is not aimed at challenging the dollar, but to protect their domestic economies.
“About trade settlement, we have decided to use our own currencies,” Putin said at a joint news conference with Wen in St. Petersburg.
The two countries were accustomed to using other currencies, especially the dollar, for bilateral trade. Since the financial crisis, however, high-ranking officials on both sides began to explore other possibilities.
#2 China And Brazil
Did you know that Brazil conducts more trade with China than with anyone else?
The largest economy in South America has just agreed to a huge currency swap deal with the largest economy in Asia. The following is from a recent BBC article….
China and Brazil have agreed a currency swap deal in a bid to safeguard against any global financial crisis and strengthen their trade ties.
It will allow their respective central banks to exchange local currencies worth up to 60bn reais or 190bn yuan ($30bn; £19bn).
The amount can be used to shore up reserves in times of crisis or put towards boosting bilateral trade.
#3 China And Australia
Did you know that Australia conducts more trade with China than with anyone else?
Australia also recently agreed to a huge currency swap deal with China. The following is from a recent Financial Express article….
The central banks of China and Australia signed a A$30 billion ($31.2 billion) currency-swap agreement to ensure the availability of capital between the trading partners, the Reserve Bank of Australia said.
“The main purposes of the swap agreement are to support trade and investment between Australia and China, particularly in local-currency terms, and to strengthen bilateral financial cooperation,” the RBA said in a statement on its website. “The agreement reflects the increasing opportunities available to settle trade between the two countries in Chinese renminbi and to make RMB-denominated investments.”
China has been expanding currency-swap accords as it promotes the international use of the yuan, and the accord with Australia follows similar deals with nations including South Korea, Turkey and Kazakhstan. China is Australia’s biggest trading partner and accounts for about a quarter of the nation’s merchandise sales abroad.
#4 China And Japan
The second and third largest economies on the entire planet have decided that they should start moving toward using their own currencies when trading with each other. This agreement was incredibly important but it was almost totally ignored by the U.S. media.
According to Bloomberg, it is anticipated that this agreement will strengthen ties between these two Asian giants….
Japan and China will promote direct trading of the yen and yuan without using dollars and will encourage the development of a market for companies involved in the exchanges, the Japanese government said.
Japan will also apply to buy Chinese bonds next year, allowing the investment of renminbi that leaves China during the transactions, the Japanese government said in a statement after a meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing yesterday. Encouraging direct yen- yuan settlement should reduce currency risks and trading costs, the Japanese and Chinese governments said.
China is Japan’s biggest trading partner with 26.5 trillion yen ($340 billion) in two-way transactions last year, from 9.2 trillion yen a decade earlier.
#5 India And Japan
It is not just China making these kinds of currency agreements. According to Reuters, India and Japan have also agreed to a very large currency swap deal….
India and Japan have agreed to a $15 billion currency swap line, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Wednesday, in a positive move for the troubled Indian rupee, Asia’s worst-performing currency this year.
#6 “Junk For Oil”: How India And China Are Buying Oil From Iran
Iran is still selling lots of oil. They just aren’t exchanging that oil for U.S. dollars as much these days.
So how is Iran selling their oil without using dollars?
A Bloomberg article recently detailed what countries such as China and India are exchanging for Iranian oil….
Iran and its leading oil buyers, China and India, are finding ways to skirt U.S. and European Union financial sanctions on the Islamic republic by agreeing to trade oil for local currencies and goods including wheat, soybean meal and consumer products.
India, the second-biggest importer of Iran’s oil, has set up a rupee account at a state-owned bank to settle as much as much as 45 percent of its bill, according to Indian officials. China, Iran’s largest oil customer, already settles some of its oil debts through barter, Mahmoud Bahmani, Iran’s central bank governor, said Feb. 28. Iran also has sought to trade oil for wheat from Pakistan and Russia, according to media reports from the two countries.
#7 Iran And Russia
According to Bloomberg, Iran and Russia have decided to discard the U.S. dollar and use their own currencies when trading with each other….
Iran and Russia replaced the U.S. dollar with their national currencies in bilateral trade, Iran’s state-run Fars news agency reported, citing Seyed Reza Sajjadi, the Iranian ambassador in Moscow.
The proposal to switch to the ruble and the rial was raised by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in Astana, Kazakhstan, of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the ambassador said.
#8 China And Chile
China and Chile recently signed a new agreement that will dramatically expand trade between the two nations and that is also likely to lead to significant currency swaps between the two countries….
The following is from a recent report that described this new agreement between China and Chile….
Wen called on the two nations to expand trade in goods, promote trade in services and mutual investment, and double bilateral trade in three years.
The Chinese leader also said the two countries should enhance cooperation in mining, expand farm product trade, and promote cooperation in farm product production and processing and agricultural technology.
China would like to be actively engaged in Chile’s infrastructure construction and work with Chile to promote the development of transportation networks in Latin America, said Wen.
Meanwhile, Wen suggested that the two sides launch currency swaps and expand settlement in China’s renminbi.
#9 China And The United Arab Emirates
According to CNN, China and the United Arab Emirates recently agreed to a very large currency swap deal….
In January, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the United Arab Emirates and signed a $5.5 billion currency swap deal to boost trade and investments between the two countries.
For many years the U.S. dollar was dominant in Africa, but now that is changing. A report from Africa’s largest bank, Standard Bank, says the following….
“We expect at least $100 billion (about R768 billion) in Sino-African trade – more than the total bilateral trade between China and Africa in 2010 – to be settled in the renminbi by 2015.”
#11 Brazil, Russia, India, China And South Africa
The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) continue to become a larger factor in the global economy.
A recent agreement between those nations sets the stage for them to increasingly use their own national currencies when trading with each other rather than the U.S. dollar. The following is from a news source in India….
The five major emerging economies of BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are set to inject greater economic momentum into their grouping by signing two pacts for promoting intra-BRICS trade at the fourth summit of their leaders here Thursday.
The two agreements that will enable credit facility in local currency for businesses of BRICS countries will be signed in the presence of the leaders of the five countries, Sudhir Vyas, secretary (economic relations) in the external affairs ministry, told reporters here.
The pacts are expected to scale up intra-BRICS trade which has been growing at the rate of 28 percent over the last few years, but at $230 billion, remains much below the potential of the five economic powerhouses.
In a previous article, I quoted an outstanding article by Marin Katusa that detailed many of the important benefits that the petrodollar system has had for the U.S. economy….
The “petrodollar” system was a brilliant political and economic move. It forced the world’s oil money to flow through the US Federal Reserve, creating ever-growing international demand for both US dollars and US debt, while essentially letting the US pretty much own the world’s oil for free, since oil’s value is denominated in a currency that America controls and prints. The petrodollar system spread beyond oil: the majority of international trade is done in US dollars. That means that from Russia to China, Brazil to South Korea, every country aims to maximize the US-dollar surplus garnered from its export trade to buy oil.
The US has reaped many rewards. As oil usage increased in the 1980s, demand for the US dollar rose with it, lifting the US economy to new heights. But even without economic success at home the US dollar would have soared, because the petrodollar system created consistent international demand for US dollars, which in turn gained in value. A strong US dollar allowed Americans to buy imported goods at a massive discount – the petrodollar system essentially creating a subsidy for US consumers at the expense of the rest of the world. Here, finally, the US hit on a downside: The availability of cheap imports hit the US manufacturing industry hard, and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs remains one of the biggest challenges in resurrecting the US economy today.
So what happens when the petrodollar dies?
The following are some of the things we are likely to see….
-Oil will cost a lot more.
-Everything will cost a lot more.
-There will be a lot less foreign demand for U.S. government debt.
-Interest rates on U.S. government debt will rise.
-Interest rates on just about everything in the U.S. economy will rise.
And that is just for starters.
As I wrote about earlier today, the Federal Reserve is not going to save us. Ben Bernanke is not somehow going to pull a rabbit out of a hat that will magically make everything okay. Fundamental changes to the global financial system are happening right now that are impossible for Bernanke to stop.
We should have never gone into so much debt. Up until now we have gotten away with it, but when demand for U.S. dollars and U.S. debt dries up we are going to experience a massive amount of pain.
Keep your eyes and ears open for more news stories like the ones referenced above. The end of the petrodollar is going to be a very significant landmark on the road toward the total collapse of the U.S. economy.
So what do you think the fate of the U.S. dollar is going to be in the years ahead?
Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….
Did you know that we buy about a half a trillion dollars more stuff from the rest of the world than they buy from us? The U.S. balance of trade is not only mind-blowingly bad – it is the worst in the world. It is being projected that the U.S. trade deficit for 2011 will be 558.2 billion dollars. That would be an increase of more than 11 percent from last year. As I have written about previously, the United States is the worst in the world at a lot of things, but as far as the economic well-being of our nation is concerned, our balance of trade is particularly important. Every single month, far more money goes out of this country than comes into it. Tax revenues are significantly reduced as all of this money gets sucked out of our communities. The federal government, state governments and local governments borrow gigantic piles of money to try to make up the difference, but all of this borrowing just makes our debt problems a whole lot worse. In the end, no amount of government debt is going to be able to cover over the fact that our national economic pie is shrinking. We are continually consuming far more wealth than we produce, and that is a recipe for economic disaster.
The “current account balance” is one key indicator of how a country is doing economically. The following is how the CIA World Factbook defines “current account balance”….
This entry records a country’s net trade in goods and services, plus net earnings from rents, interest, profits, and dividends, and net transfer payments (such as pension funds and worker remittances) to and from the rest of the world during the period specified.
If someone were to ask you what countries in the world have strong, thriving economies right now, what countries would you think of?
Would countries like China, Germany, Russia and Saudi Arabia come to mind?
Well, all of those nations have huge positive current account balances. In fact, China has the best current account balance in the world at +$305 billion.
The United States is rated dead last at number 197.
Just take a close look at those numbers for a minute.
The U.S. had a current account balance of negative 470 billion dollars in 2010. That figure was almost 7 times worse than the next worst country (Italy).
Not only does the United States have the worst current account balance in the entire world, the truth is that no other country is even in the same ballpark as us.
We are bleeding wealth so fast that it is hard to even describe it.
But perhaps a real life example can help put this all into perspective.
One 22-year-old Saudi Arabian student has a collection of sports cars that is worth more than 12 million dollars. Reportedly, his collection includes at least three Lamborghinis, five Ferraris and five Porsches.
And guess who paid for it?
Every month, billions of dollars go out of the United States to help pay for the insane lifestyles of the ultra-wealthy oil barons of the Middle East.
Meanwhile, dozens of major U.S. cities are degenerating into hellholes.
Once upon a time, Detroit was one of the greatest industrial cities that the world has ever seen. It was the envy of the entire globe.
But now Detroit is an utter nightmare….
*An analysis of census figures found that 48.5% of all men living in Detroit from age 20 to age 64 did not have a job in 2008.
*If you can believe it, the median price of a home in Detroit is now just $6000.
*Only 25 percent of students in Detroit graduate from high school.
So what happened to Detroit?
Well, just as has been happening in so many other U.S. cities, industry has been leaving at an astounding pace.
Overall, the U.S. has lost a total of more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.
This country is bleeding middle class jobs profusely, and neither major political party seems to care.
American family budgets are being stretched tighter and tighter these days. There are not nearly enough good jobs to go around and yet the cost of everything just seems to keep going up.
Many families are going into massive amounts of debt in an attempt to make ends meet. According to a recent CNN article, credit card use in the United States is experiencing a major upswing once again….
Purchases made with credit cards rose 8.2% in the first quarter of 2011, 9% in the second quarter and 10.6% in the third quarter, according to First Data.
Of course American consumers were out in force on Black Friday once again this year. They gleefully filled up their carts with cheap plastic crap made overseas, and many racked up huge credit card balances in the process.
But most of us never stop to think about those that make all of these cheap plastic products for us.
Thanks to the globalization of the economy, big corporations and corrupt governments can make stuff in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages and then ship their products into the United States for free.
It is important for all of us to learn what actually happens to these people that are working so hard for slave labor wages. The following comes from a recent article in the Guardian….
At the Hung Hing factory the researcher found that the 8,000 workers put in up to 100 hours of overtime a month, far in excess of the legal maximum. Workers say they have to sign a document agreeing to work additional overtime on top of the legal maximum. The basic wage was £132 a month (up to £250 with maximum overtime payments) but wages were paid up to three weeks late.
Workers complained of inadequate training with the factory machines and last year one worker died when he fell into a machine. They said there were frequent injuries and concerns over the chemicals used. There were also complaints about the standard of the dormitories, where water for washing and flushing toilets is turned off at 10pm.
How in the world are American workers supposed to “compete” for jobs at those wage levels?
As I have written about previously, Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University is warning that 40 million more U.S. jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades if nothing is done to stop this.
“If any single number captures the state of the American economy over the last decade, it is zero. That was the net gain in jobs between 1999 and 2009—nada, nil, zip. By painful contrast, from the 1940s through the 1990s, recessions came and went, but no decade ended without at least a 20 percent increase in the number of jobs.”
That 7.5 trillion dollars could have gone to support U.S. workers and U.S. businesses.
But it didn’t. Instead, it went out of the country and it made foreigners wealthier as our own cities slowly rotted.
Now we are actually passing laws that encourage wealthy foreigners to come in and buy up pieces of the United States.
For example, there is actually a bill in Congress that would automatically give residence visas to any foreigners that are willing to spend at least half a million dollars to buy houses inside the United States.
The idea behind the bill is that this will get the housing market moving again.
There aren’t enough Americans with good jobs to buy houses, so we have now decided to beg foreigners to buy them.
How bizarre is that?
Until our horrendous balance of trade is fixed, the employment situation in this country is going to continue to get worse.
Any politician that tries to sell you on a “jobs plan” that does not address our balance of trade is either totally incompetent or is straight out lying to you.
The economic infrastructure of America is crumbling a little bit more every single day. If something dramatic is not done, we will continue to bleed businesses, bleed jobs and bleed wealth.
Please share this information with as many people as you can. The American people need to understand what is happening to the economy. We need to work to wake up as many people as we can before it is too late.