Most people that discuss the “economic collapse” focus on what is coming in the future. And without a doubt, we are on the verge of some incredibly hard times. But what often gets neglected is the immense permanent damage that has been done to the U.S. economy by the long-term economic collapse that we are already experiencing. In this article I am going to share with you 12 economic charts that show that we are in much, much worse shape than we were five or ten years ago. The long-term problems that are eating away at the foundations of our economy like cancer have not been fixed. In fact, many of them continue to get even worse year after year. But because unprecedented levels of government debt and reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve have bought us a very short window of relative stability, most Americans don’t seem too concerned about our long-term problems. They seem to have faith that our “leaders” will be able to find a way to muddle through whatever challenges are ahead. Hopefully this article will be a wake up call. The last major wave of the economic collapse did a colossal amount of damage to our economic foundations, and now the next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.
The mainstream media is constantly telling us about the “employment recovery” that is happening in the United States, but the truth is that it is just an illusion. As the chart below demonstrates, just prior to the last recession about 63 percent of all working age Americans had a job. During the last wave of the economic collapse, that number dropped to below 59 percent and stayed there for a very long time. In the past few months we have finally seen the employment-population ratio tick back up to 59 percent, but we are still far, far below where we used to be. To call the tiny little bump at the end of this chart a “recovery” is really an insult to our intelligence…
#2 The Labor Force Participation Rate
The percentage of Americans that are either employed or currently looking for a job started to fall during the last recession and it has not stopped falling since then. The labor force participation rate has now fallen to a 36 year low, and this is a sign of a very, very sick economy…
#3 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Years
Some blame the decline in the labor force participation rate on the aging of our population. But it isn’t just elderly people that are dropping out of the labor force. In fact, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years (25 to 54) continues to rise and is now at the highest level that has ever been recorded…
#4 Manufacturing Employees
Once upon a time in America, anyone that was reliable and willing to work hard could easily find a manufacturing job somewhere. But we have stood by and allowed millions upon millions of good paying manufacturing jobs to be shipped out of the country, and now many of our formerly great manufacturing cities have been transformed into ghost towns. Over the past few years, there has been a slight “recovery”, but we are still well below where we were at just previous to the last recession…
#5 Our Current Account Balance
As a nation, we buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us. In other words, we perpetually consume far more wealth than we produce. This is a recipe for national economic suicide. Our current account balance soared to obscene levels just prior to the last recession, and now we have almost gotten back to those levels…
#6 Existing Home Sales
Our economy has never fully recovered from the housing crash of 2007-2008. As you can see from the chart below, the number of existing home sales is still far below the level that we hit back in 2006. At this point we are just getting back to the level we were at in 2000, but our population today is far larger than it was back then…
#7 New Home Sales
Things are even more dramatic when you look at new home sales. This is an industry that have been absolutely emasculated. The number of new home sales in the United States is just a little more than half of what it was back in 2000, and it isn’t even worth comparing to what we experienced during the peak of 2006.
#8 The Monetary Base
In a desperate attempt to get the economy going again, the Federal Reserve has been wildly printing money. It has been so reckless that it is hard to put it into words. When I look at this chart, the phrase “Weimar Republic” comes to mind…
#9 Food Inflation
Thankfully, much of the money that the Federal Reserve has been injecting into the system has not made it into the real economy. But enough of it has gotten into the system to force food prices significantly higher. For example, my wife went to the store today and paid just a shade under 10 bucks for just four pieces of chicken. And as you can see from the chart below, food prices have been steadily going up in America for a very long time…
#10 The Velocity Of Money
One of the reasons why we have not seen even more inflation is because the velocity of money is extraordinarily low. In general, when an economy is healthy money tends to flow through the system rapidly. People are buying and selling and money changes hands frequently. But when an economy is sick, money tends to stagnate. And that is exactly what is happening in the United States right now. In fact, at this point the velocity of the M2 money stock has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded…
#11 The National Debt
As our economic fundamentals have deteriorated, our politicians have attempted to prop up our standard of living by borrowing from the future. The U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during the Obama years, and it increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2014 alone. Despite assurances that “the deficit is under control”, the federal government borrows about a trillion dollars a year to fund new spending in addition to borrowing about 7 trillion dollars to pay off old debt that is coming due. What we are doing to future generations of Americans is absolutely criminal, and it is just a matter of time before this Ponzi scheme totally collapses…
#12 Total Debt
Of course it is not just the federal government that is gorging on debt. When you add up all forms of debt in our society (government, business, consumer, etc.) it comes to a grand total of more than 57 trillion dollars. This total has more than doubled since the year 2000…
If you know anyone that believes that we are in good economic shape, just show them these charts.
The numbers do not lie. Our economy is sick and it is getting sicker by the day.
And of course the next major financial crisis could strike at any time. U.S. stocks just experienced their worst week in three years, and if cases of Ebola start popping up around the country the fear that would cause could collapse our economy all by itself.
The debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is not real. We are living on the fumes of our past, and every single day our long-term problems get even worse.
Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what is coming.
Sadly, most Americans will continue to deny the truth until it is far too late.
The next time you visit a hospital, it is your wallet that may end up hurting the most. All over the United States, it has become common practice for hospitals to wildly inflate medical bills. For example, it has been reported that some hospitals are charging up to 30 dollars for a single aspirin pill. And as you will see below, some victims report being billed tens of thousands of dollars for a non-surgical hospital visit that lasts only a few hours. When something is seriously wrong with us, most of us never stop to ask our health professionals how much it will cost to actually treat us. In that moment, we are desperate and we just want someone to help us. Many doctors and hospitals take full advantage of this by billing their “customers” as much as they feel they can possible get away with. It is a legal scam that is bilking ordinary Americans out of billions of dollars every single year.
Over the weekend, the New York Times reported on one case that is a perfect example of the outrageous medical billing that I am talking about…
Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks in December, Peter Drier, 37, signed a pile of consent forms. A bank technology manager who had researched his insurance coverage, Mr. Drier was prepared when the bills started arriving: $56,000 from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, $4,300 from the anesthesiologist and even $133,000 from his orthopedist, who he knew would accept a fraction of that fee.
He was blindsided, though, by a bill of about $117,000 from an “assistant surgeon,” a Queens-based neurosurgeon whom Mr. Drier did not recall meeting.
“I thought I understood the risks,” Mr. Drier, who lives in New York City, said later. “But this was just so wrong — I had no choice and no negotiating power.”
The practice known as “drive-by doctoring” has gotten completely and totally out of control.
All over America, doctors are popping into surgeries or are stopping by to talk to another doctor’s patients for a few minutes and are charging thousands of dollars for this “assistance”.
It is a morally reprehensible scam that needs to be stopped.
Another thing that needs to be stopped is the practice that many hospitals have of billing patients for emergency medications at a rate that is thousands of times over cost.
For example, just check out what happened when 52-year-old Marcie Edmonds went in to a hospital in Arizona to get treated for a scorpion sting…
With the help of a friend, she called Poison Control and was advised to go to the nearest hospital that had scorpion antivenom, Chandler Regional Medical Center. At the hospital, an emergency room doctor told her about the antivenom, called Anascorp, that could quickly relieve her symptoms. Edmonds said the physician never talked with her about the cost of the drug or treatment alternatives.
Her symptoms subsided after she received two doses of the drug Anascorp through an IV, and she was discharged from the hospital in about three hours.
Weeks later, she received a bill for $83,046 from Chandler Regional Medical Center. The hospital, owned by Dignity Health, charged her $39,652 per dose of Anascorp.
Did that hospital actually need to charge that much?
Of course not.
Hospitals down in Mexico only charge $100 per dose of Anascorp.
And anyone that has ever been in for major surgery knows how outrageous some of these hospital bills can be.
For instance, consider the experience of an NBC News reporter that chose to have neck surgery for degenerative disc disease….
Once I got my itemized bill, the grand total was a little over $66,013.40! That was for a one night stay and a four level vertebrae fusion surgery. The charges included $22 for one sleeping pill, $427 for one dissecting tool, and $32,000 for four titanium plates and ten screws.
I brought it to Todd Hill, a fee based patient advocate who helps people decipher their medical bills. “The screws in your procedure were billed at $605 a piece for a total of $6050 dollars. We’ve seen those in our past research for $25 or $30,” he said. “In this case, the markup is tremendous,” he added.
One of the primary reasons why so many Americans die completely broke is because medical bills can run up to astronomical heights if you happen to have a terminal illness.
For example, a while back Time Magazine reported on one cancer patient in California that had run up nearly a million dollars in hospital bills before he died…
By the time Steven D. died at his home in Northern California the following November, he had lived for an additional 11 months. And Alice had collected bills totaling $902,452. The family’s first bill — for $348,000 — which arrived when Steven got home from the Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif., was full of all the usual chargemaster profit grabs: $18 each for 88 diabetes-test strips that Amazon sells in boxes of 50 for $27.85; $24 each for 19 niacin pills that are sold in drugstores for about a nickel apiece. There were also four boxes of sterile gauze pads for $77 each. None of that was considered part of what was provided in return for Seton’s facility charge for the intensive-care unit for two days at $13,225 a day, 12 days in the critical unit at $7,315 a day and one day in a standard room (all of which totaled $120,116 over 15 days). There was also $20,886 for CT scans and $24,251 for lab work.
The sad truth is that the U.S. health care system has become a giant money making scam, and all of us are the victims.
Those that work in this industry should be greatly ashamed for what they are doing to us.
Just consider the following numbers…
-It has been estimated that hospitals in the United States overcharge their patients by about 10 billion dollars every single year.
-Medical bills are the number one reason why Americans file for bankruptcy. One study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.
-According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills cause more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States.
-Health insurance is not nearly as much protection as you might think. According to a report published in the American Journal of Medicine, of all bankruptcies caused by medical debt approximately 75 percent of the time the people actually did have health insurance.
-Hospitals are not shy about sending debt collection agencies after people with unpaid medical bills. In fact, collection agencies seek to collect unpaid medical bills from approximately 30 million Americans every year.
-Back in 1980, less than 10 percent of U.S. GDP went to health care. Today, about 18 percent of U.S. GDP goes toward health care.
-If the U.S. health care system was a nation, it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.
Does anyone out there have any doubt that the system is completely broken?
Please share this article with as many people as you can. Hospitals all over America are brazenly ripping us off, and we need to stand up and say that enough is enough.
The global derivatives bubble is now 20 percent bigger than it was just before the last great financial crisis struck in 2008. It is a financial bubble far larger than anything the world has ever seen, and when it finally bursts it is going to be a complete and utter nightmare for the financial system of the planet. According to the Bank for International Settlements, the total notional value of derivatives contracts around the world has ballooned to an astounding 710 trillion dollars ($710,000,000,000,000). Other estimates put the grand total well over a quadrillion dollars. If that sounds like a lot of money, that is because it is. For example, U.S. GDP is projected to be in the neighborhood of around 17 trillion dollars for 2014. So 710 trillion dollars is an amount of money that is almost incomprehensible. Instead of actually doing something about the insanely reckless behavior of the big banks, our leaders have allowed the derivatives bubble and these banks to get larger than ever. In fact, as I have written about previously, the big Wall Street banks are collectively 37 percent larger than they were just prior to the last recession. “Too big to fail” is a far more massive problem than it was the last time around, and at some point this derivatives bubble is going to burst and start taking those banks down. When that day arrives, we are going to be facing a crisis that is going to make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.
If you do not know what a derivative is, Mayra Rodríguez Valladares, a managing principal at MRV Associates, provided a pretty good definition in her recent article for the New York Times…
A derivative, put simply, is a contract between two parties whose value is determined by changes in the value of an underlying asset. Those assets could be bonds, equities, commodities or currencies. The majority of contracts are traded over the counter, where details about pricing, risk measurement and collateral, if any, are not available to the public.
In other words, a derivative does not have any intrinsic value. It is essentially a side bet. Most commonly, derivative contracts have to do with the movement of interest rates. But there are many, many other kinds of derivatives as well. People are betting on just about anything and everything that you can imagine, and Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the planet.
After the last financial crisis, our politicians promised us that they would do something to get derivatives trading under control. But instead, the size of the derivatives bubble has reached a new record high. In the New York Times article I mentioned above, Goldman Sachs and Citibank were singled out as two players that have experienced tremendous growth in this area in recent years…
Goldman Sachs has been increasing its derivatives volumes since the crisis, and it had a portfolio of about $48 trillion at the end of 2013. Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that as part of its growth strategy, Goldman plans to sell more derivatives to clients. Citibank, too, has been increasing its derivatives portfolio, despite the numerous capital and regulatory challenges, In fact, its portfolio has risen by over 65 percent since the crisis — the most of any of the four banks — to $62 trillion.
According to official government numbers, the top 25 banks in the United States now have a grand total of more than 236 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives. But there are four banks that dwarf everyone else. The following are the latest numbers for those four banks…
Total Assets: $1,945,467,000,000 (nearly 2 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $70,088,625,000,000 (more than 70 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $1,346,747,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $62,247,698,000,000 (more than 62 trillion dollars)
Bank Of America
Total Assets: $1,433,716,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $38,850,900,000,000 (more than 38 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $105,616,000,000 (just a shade over 105 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $48,611,684,000,000 (more than 48 trillion dollars)
If the stock market keeps going up, interest rates stay fairly stable and the global economy does not experience a major downturn, this bubble will probably not burst for a while.
But if there is a major shock to the system, we could easily experience a major derivatives crisis very rapidly and several of those banks could fail simultaneously.
There are many out there that would welcome the collapse of the big banks, but that would also be very bad news for the rest of us.
You see, the truth is that the U.S. economy is like a very sick patient with an extremely advanced case of cancer. You can try to kill the cancer (the banks), but in the process you will inevitably kill the patient as well.
Right now, the five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the entire country, and the six largest banks control 67 percent of all banking assets.
If they go down, we go down too.
That is why the fact that they have been so reckless is so infuriating.
Just look at the numbers for Goldman Sachs again. At this point, the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 460 times greater than their total assets.
And this kind of thing is not just happening in the United States. German banking giant Deutsche Bank has more than 75 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives. That is even more than any single U.S. bank has.
This derivatives bubble is a “sword of Damocles” that is hanging over the global economy by a thread day after day, month after month, year after year.
At some point that thread is going to break, the bubble is going to burst, and then all hell is going to break loose.
You see, the truth is that virtually none of the underlying problems that caused the last financial crisis have been fixed.
Instead, our problems have just gotten even bigger and the financial bubbles have gotten even larger.
Never before in the history of the United States have we been faced with the threat of such a great financial catastrophe.
Sadly, most Americans are totally oblivious to all of this. They just have faith that our leaders know what they are doing, and they have been lulled into complacency by the bubble of false stability that we have been enjoying for the last couple of years.
Unfortunately for them, this bubble of false stability is not going to last much longer.
A financial crisis far greater than what we experienced in 2008 is coming, and it is going to shock the world.
There are hundreds of formerly prosperous communities all over America that are being steadily transformed into rotting, decaying hellholes. The good paying middle class jobs that once supported those communities are long gone, and they have been replaced with low paying service jobs if they have been replaced at all. When you visit those communities, it is almost as if all of the hope has been sucked right out of the air. It can be absolutely heartbreaking to look into the hollow eyes of someone that has totally given in to despair, but unfortunately the number of Americans that are giving up on the economy continues to grow. Today, the labor participation rate is the lowest that it has been in 35 years, and more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program. It is easy to say that they should just “get a job”, but as I have written about repeatedly, our economy simply is not producing enough jobs for everyone anymore. The percentage of working age Americans with a job has remained at the same level that it was at during the worst days of the last recession, and meanwhile the quality of our jobs has continued to steadily decline. Median household income has fallen for five years in a row, but the cost of living continues to rise rapidly. The middle class is being systematically shredded, and poverty is growing at an alarming rate. The U.S. economy has been in decline for a long time, and the really bad news is that it appears that this decline is about to accelerate.
We are a nation that consumes far more wealth than we produce. We are a nation that buys far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us. We are a nation that has a “buy now, pay later” mentality.
As a nation, we have accumulated the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world. 40 years ago, the total amount of debt in our system (government, business and consumer) was about 2 trillion dollars. Today, it is more than 56 trillion dollars.
The consequences of decades of incredibly foolish decisions are starting to catch up with us, and it is those at the bottom of the food chain that will suffer the most.
I could spend the rest of this article quoting 30 or 40 more statistics that show how bad things are, but today I wanted to do something different. Today, I wanted to share some quotes from some of my readers about what they are seeing where they live. The following are 20 quotes from ordinary Americans about the economic despair that is rapidly growing like a cancer all around us…
“Yes, the American economy is in the pits. I know five languages, have three degrees (including two graduate degrees), and have lived overseas for 16 years and I still can’t find a job in the USA. Everything is broken in America. Maybe I should give up my American citizenship.”
“I’ve been struggling since I finished college in the summer of 2010. My dream is to work in the courts, law enforcement but it’s almost impossible to get a call back for an interview. I interviewed with Garland, Texas PD for a position in the city jail and I made the final 30 of 300 applicants that applied for the 3 positions.”
“I have two Master’s degrees, am 61 years old and earning $10 per hour. What does that say about the current economy?”
#4 Cincinnati Dave:
“I work for one of the banks mentioned in your article. I was in mortgages. I saw all of this coming, so several months ago I asked to get into another area of the bank and fortunately, for me, they granted by request. A lot of people are losing their jobs and there is really no prospects out there for anything else whereby the same kind of money could be made. I will make nothing near what I had been earning but am at the least grateful to be employed. This is all so sad to watch happen.”
“I used to work for WF processing mortgages. The week that the rates went up, I was out of work, not one extra week of work.”
“The U.S. economy is producing mostly part-time, low-wage jobs. These jobs barely pay enough to put food on the table.”
“What I am aware of, is every person I know, who had to switch jobs in the last five years took a pay cut. The smallest cut among my friends was 10%, the average was closer to 18%. No we are heading down a bad road, and we are past the point of no return.”
“After spending most of my life in the middle class, I now consider myself lower class due to age and income. Nothing wrong with that. I am still able to provide myself with what I need and some of my ‘wants’. I am like most retirees today.”
“As many of you already know (but maybe some new members of this blog don’t) – I live in Phoenix, Arizona. Where you live here, determines (to a great extent) your economic well being. Those in the “East Valley” – Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale, etc – have the jobs, the opportunities and the transportation. Those in the wealthier areas of the “West Valley” also have these benefits.
The remainder – those who live in the older west side of town, and the south side of town – are mainly forgotten and left to struggle. Many are hard working citizens who just want a chance. Unfortunately, chance costs money, in the view of many people, and as far as the municipal government is concerned, there’s no money for us. It’s cheaper to let them live in a tent in the park, where the cops at least have an excuse to evict them.”
“We are no longer the land of opportunity where anyone can make it.”
“There is no middle class here in the Florida Panhandle. Only folks who have money are the retired and they hate everyone. They own all the antique stores [big business] and most thriving businesses and restuarants. Military is big here, they spend every dime they have on stupid stuff and taxis. Tourist are way down since the spill. Now for the good news. A major food chain here is going out of business [Food World] Another is losing 20k a month to theft. Every other property it seems is up for sale. There are tons of empty real estate [store fronts] There are thrift stores opening everywhere. People are selling goods on the streets, only to be run off by the cops. Crime is getting out of hand. Most don’t go out after dark. Police are beating up the homeless at the beaches. Panhandling now is mainly younger people. Where did all the older ones go?”
“In my area which is SW Florida, it’s been getting tighter for my customers so on a case by case basis I lower my price when they need auto repairs. I still find road signs advertising homes for sale (cash only). Many are advertised as foreclosed.
I’ve started seeing people living out of their cars. It’s not a daily occurrence but I have been noticing it.”
I have been looking after the homeless now for 4 years. Last winter I had an encounter where I was told that I could not hand out blankets and sleeping bags in the dead of winter and that I would be arrested for trespassing if “me and my friends” didn’t move along.
So, I adopted the policy that I would pull up next to them, have them get in the car and we would go for a drive. I would find a place to pull over and give them what they needed then I would drop them off in a different place.
“Around where I live in the SE, things seem ok but I live in a university town. Go to some of the surrounding small towns and it is desolate. Car dealerships closed. Entire streets with abandoned stores. The only activity is a one clerk post office. I know people in our church who are a paycheck away from going over the edge or going over due to a spouse dying and losing one of their social security checks. I see grim. More homeless. A local church is feeding many more including some folks living out of their cars—lots of children. Mostly minimum wage jobs in the area. If it were not for the university and its 34,000 students, this place would look as bad as the smaller communities.”
#15 TN Gal:
“Here in southeast TN we have jobs, mostly part-time or low wage. Our problem these days are so many people dependent on government programs no one wants to work. They do better on programs than working partying and paying for insurance. Housing still very depressed. Seeing more homeless around and local churches straining to provide food. Crime is up and drugs, which were down, are coming back with a vengeance. Middle class here are senior citizens on SS, younger retirees not the older ones. Older ones seem to be struggling. Sad.”
Michael, I live in North Central Illinois. About 60 miles southeast of Chicago. The town we live in has about 8,000 in it. Very “middle class” farm community. Unemployment is high and so is underemployment. We know many people living off 2 part time jobs. That seems to be the norm around here. Or people taking jobs that they would never of considered in the past, just to get by. My son used to work for CAT in Aurora, but was “let go” in order to bring in new workers at a lower pay scale. It took him over a year(which really isn’t bad) to find a part time job with 3M.
“Drive around Los Angeles at 3:00 AM any day and you will see the devastating and pervasive homelessness from 8 to 80 year olds. And the massage parlors and hookers on the streets of used to be ‘high-end’ neighborhoods are exploding. No other way to make a living.”
“A couple of years ago it was reported 9K people a night slept in their cars here in San Diego County. Special car parks are set up in some church parking lots. The cops look the other way. Wonder what the figure is now?”
“My own viewpoint is that a collapse of the current economic system is inevitable and imminent.”
#20 El Pollo de Oro:
“During a conversation on prepping, someone recently said to me, ‘If things get half as bad as these preppers think they will, I don’t want to be alive.’ So, how bad will things will get? Real unemployment is already at Great Depression levels (John Williams’ Shadow Statistics contradicts the BLS’ bogus figures), but when this depression deepens, I think we’ll be looking at 50% or 60% unemployment easily. Much worse than the 1930s. It will be absolute hell for millions of Americans, and when the money stops flowing down to the man on the street, the blood will flow in the streets (Gerald Celente). Lots of it.”
Will rapidly rising interest rates rip through the U.S. financial system like a giant lawnmower blade? Yes, the U.S. economy survived much higher interest rates in the past, but at that time there were not hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of interest rate derivatives hanging over our financial system like a Sword of Damocles. This is something that I have been talking about for quite some time, and now a Mexican billionaire has come forward with a similar warning. Hugo Salinas Price was the founder of the Elektra retail chain down in Mexico, and he is extremely concerned that rising interest rates could burst the derivatives bubble and cause “massive bankruptcies around the globe”. Of course there are a whole lot of people out there that would be quite glad to see the “too big to fail” banks go bankrupt, but the truth is that if they go down our entire economy will go down with them. Our situation is similar to a patient with a very advanced stage of cancer. You can try to kill the cancer with drugs, but you will almost certainly kill the patient at the same time. Well, that is essentially what our relationship with the big banks is like. Our entire economic system is based on credit, and just like we saw back in 2008, if the big banks start failing credit freezes up and suddenly nobody can get any money for anything. When the next great credit crunch comes, every important number in our economy will rapidly start getting much worse.
The big banks are going to play a starring role in the next financial crash just like they did in the last one. Only this next crash may be quite a bit worse. Just check out what billionaire Hugo Salinas Price told King World News recently…
I think we are going to see a series of bankruptcies. I think the rise in interest rates is the fatal sign which is going to ignite a derivatives crisis. This is going to bring down the derivatives system (and the financial system).
There are (over) one quadrillion dollars of derivatives and most of them are related to interest rates. The spiking of interest rates in the United States may set that off. What is going to happen in the world is eventually we are going to come to a moment where there is going to be massive bankruptcies around the globe.
What is going to be left after the dust settles is gold, and some people are going to have it and some people are not. Then the problem is going to be to hold on to what you’ve got because it’s not going to be a very pleasant world.
Right now, there are about 441 trillion dollars of interest rate derivatives sitting out there. If interest rates stay about where they are right now and they don’t go much higher, we will be fine. But if they start going much higher, all bets will be off and we could see financial carnage on a scale that we have never seen before.
And at the moment the big banks have got to behave themselves because the government is investigating allegations that they have been cheating pension funds and other investors out of millions of dollars by manipulating the trading of interest rate derivatives. The following is from an article that the Telegraph posted on Friday…
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is probing 15 banks over allegations that they instructed brokers to carry out trades that would move ISDAfix, the leading benchmark rate for interest rate swaps.
Pension funds and companies who invest in interest rate derivatives often deal with banks to insure against big movements in the ISDAfix rate or to speculate on changes to interest rate swaps
ISDAfix is published each morning after banks submit bids for swaps via Icap, the inter-dealer broker, in a number of currencies. The CFTC has been investigating suggestions that the banks deliberately moved the rate in order to profit on these deals.
Given the hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of interest rate derivatives trades that occur annually, even the slightest manipulation can have a substantial effect. The CFTC, which started to investigate ISDAfix after last summer’s Libor scandal has now been handed emails and phone call recordings that show the rate was deliberately moved, according to Bloomberg.
Essentially they got their hands caught in the cookie jar and so they have got to play it straight (at least for now).
Meanwhile, it looks like the Fed may not be able to keep long-term interest rates down for much longer.
The Federal Reserve has been using quantitative easing to try to keep long-term interest rates low, but now some officials over at the Fed are becoming extremely alarmed about how bloated the Fed balance sheet has become. For example, the following was recently written by the head of the Dallas Fed, Richard Fisher…
This later program is referred to as quantitative easing, or QE, by the public and as large-scale asset purchases, or LSAPs, internally at the Fed. As a result of LSAPs conducted over three stages of QE, the Fed’s System Open Market Account now holds $2 trillion of Treasury securities and $1.3 trillion of agency and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Since last fall, when we initiated the third stage of QE, we have regularly been purchasing $45 billion a month of Treasuries and $40 billion a month in MBS, meanwhile reinvesting the proceeds from the paydowns of our mortgage-based investments. The result is that our balance sheet has ballooned to more than $3.5 trillion. That’s $3.5 trillion, or $11,300 for every man, woman and child residing in the United States.
Fisher has compared the current Fed balance sheet to a “Gordian Knot”, and he hopes that the Fed will be able to unwind this knot without creating “market havoc”…
The point is: We own a significant slice of these critical markets. This is, indeed, something of a Gordian Knot.
Those of you familiar with the Gordian legend know there were two versions to it: One holds that Alexander the Great simply dispatched with the problem by slicing the intractable knot in half with his sword; the other posits that Alexander pulled the knot out of its pole pin, exposed the two ends of the cord and proceeded to untie it. According to the myth, the oracles then divined that he would go on to conquer the world.
There is no Alexander to simply slice the complex knot that we have created with our rounds of QE. Instead, when the right time comes, we must carefully remove the program’s pole pin and gingerly unwind it so as not to prompt market havoc. For starters though, we need to stop building upon the knot. For this reason, I have advocated that we socialize the idea of the inevitability of our dialing back and eventually ending our LSAPs. In June, I argued for the Chairman to signal this possibility at his last press conference and at last week’s meeting suggested that we should gird our loins to make our first move this fall. We shall see if that recommendation obtains with the majority of the Committee.
But of course it should be obvious to everyone that the Fed is not going to be able to reduce the size of its balance sheet without causing huge distress in the financial markets. A few weeks ago, just the suggestion that the Fed may eventually begin to slow down the pace of quantitative easing caused the markets to throw an epic temper tantrum.
Unfortunately, the Fed may not be able to keep control of long-term interest rates even if they continue quantitative easing indefinitely. Over the past several weeks long-term interest rates have been rising steadily, and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries crept a bit higher on Monday.
At this point, many on Wall Street are convinced that the bull market for bonds is over and that rates will eventually go much, much higher than they are right now no matter what the Fed does. The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC article…
The Federal Reserve will lose control of interest rates as the “great rotation” out of bonds into equities takes off in full force, according to one market watcher, who sees U.S. 10-year Treasury yields hitting 5-6 percent in the next 18-24 months.
“It is our opinion that interest rates have begun their assent, that the Fed will eventually lose control of interest rates. The yield curve will first steepen and then will shift, moving rates significantly higher,” said Mike Crofton, President and CEO, Philadelphia Trust Company told CNBC on Wednesday.
If the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries does hit 6 percent, we are going to have a major disaster on our hands.
Hugo Salinas Price is exactly right – the derivatives bubble is the number one threat that our financial system is facing, and it could potentially bring down a whole bunch of our big banks.
But for the moment, Wall Street is still in a euphoric mood. The Dow is near a record high and many investors are hoping that this rally will last for the rest of the year.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t count on that happening. The truth is that the stock market has become completely divorced from economic reality.
Since March 2009, the size of the U.S. economy has grown by approximately $1.3 trillion, but stock market wealth has grown by an astounding $12 trillion.
And the stock market has just kept on rising even though GDP growth forecasts have been steadily falling.
It doesn’t make any sense.
But Obama, Bernanke and the wizards on Wall Street assure us that there is no end to the party in sight.
Believe them at your own peril.
The people at the controls are completely and totally clueless and we are rapidly careening toward disaster.
Perhaps we should do what one little town in Minnesota did and put a 4-year-old kid in charge.
That kid certainly could not be much worse than our current leadership, don’t you think?