The Beginning Of The End
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Are You Better Off This Thanksgiving Than You Were Last Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Dinner - Photo by Marcus QuiqmireAre you in better shape financially than you were last Thanksgiving?  If so, you should consider yourself to be very fortunate because most Americans are not.  As you chow down on turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce this Thursday, please remember that there are millions of Americans that simply cannot afford to eat such a meal.  According to a shocking new report that was just released by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the number of homeless children in the U.S. has reached a new all-time high of 2.5 million.  And right now one out of every seven Americans rely on food banks to put food on the table.  Yes, life is very good at the moment for Americans at the top end of the income spectrum.  The stock market has been soaring and sales of homes worth at last a million dollars are up 16 percent so far this year.  But most Americans live in a very different world.  The percentage of Americans that are employed is about the same as it was during the depths of the last recession, the quality of our jobs continues to go down, the rate of homeownership in America has fallen for seven years in a row, and the cost of living is rising much faster than paychecks are.  As a result, the middle class is smaller this Thanksgiving than it was last Thanksgiving, and most Americans have seen their standards of living go down over the past year.

In 2014, there are tens of millions of Americans that are anonymously leading lives of quiet desperation.  They are desperately trying to hold on even though things just keep getting worse.  For example, just consider the plight of 49-year-old Darrell Eberhardt.  Once upon a time, his job in a Chevy factory paid him $18.50 an hour, but now he only makes $10.50 an hour and he knows that he probably would not be able to make as much in a new job if he decided to leave…

For nearly 20 years, Darrell Eberhardt worked in an Ohio factory putting together wheelchairs, earning $18.50 an hour, enough to gain a toehold in the middle class and feel respected at work.

He is still working with his hands, assembling seats for Chevrolet Cruze cars at the Camaco auto parts factory in Lorain, Ohio, but now he makes $10.50 an hour and is barely hanging on. “I’d like to earn more,” said Mr. Eberhardt, who is 49 and went back to school a few years ago to earn an associate’s degree. “But the chances of finding something like I used to have are slim to none.”

Of course you can’t support a family on $10.50 an hour.

You can barely support one person on $10.50 an hour.

But there are many men out there that would absolutely love to switch positions with Darrell Eberhardt.  At this point, one out of every six men in their prime working years (25 to 54) does not have a job.  That is an absolutely crazy number.

And of course just because you “have a job” does not mean that things are going well.  The number of Americans that are “working part-time involuntarily” has risen by over 50 percent since the beginning of the last recession.  There are millions of hard working Americans that would love to get a full-time job if they could land one.  But these days “decent jobs” are in short supply.

For example, CNN recently profiled the story of college graduate Meghan Brachle…

Meghan would love to be a music teacher or play full-time in an orchestra. She studied music at Loyola University in New Orleans and plays the flute.

Instead, Meghan works a slew of part-time jobs and receives no benefits.

She is a cashier at Whole Foods, a substitute teacher, a flute tutor and an administrative assistant at a non-profit.

Even with all of her hard work, Brachle and her husband often really struggle to pay the bills

With inconsistent hours, Meghan monthly income fluctuates between $1,000 and $3,000. Even with her husband’s teaching salary, the couple sometimes struggles to cover the $3,600 of monthly expenses they have.

“It’s very stressful,” Meghan, a college graduate, says. “I think about all the job applications I’ve turned in and all the interviews I’ve been on and all the other people who are in the same situation, looking for those same [full-time] jobs. It’s frustrating.”

Sadly, a lot of these part-time employers know that their employees desperately need these jobs and are using that leverage to treat them very poorly.

For example, it is being reported that any KMart employees that do not show up for work on Thanksgiving will be automatically fired.

What kind of nonsense is that?

And around the country at Wal-Mart stores, food drives are being held for “needy employees“.

So why wouldn’t Wal-Mart just pay their workers enough so that they could afford to take care of themselves in the first place?

Most people don’t realize this, but approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is currently living below the poverty line.  Many of them are working as hard as they can and still can’t make enough to take care of themselves.

Meanwhile, our paychecks are getting stretched further and further with each passing month.

When you don’t make much money, every dollar is precious.  And when food prices go up substantially, it can be very painful.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening right now…

-From September to October, the price of a pound of Turkey rose from $1.58 to $1.66.  That represents a 5.2 percent price increase in just one month.

-The price of a pound of ground beef has just risen to a brand new record high of $4.15 a pound, and more price increases are on the way.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting that U.S. beef production will drop by another 1 billion pounds next year due to a variety of factors including the horrific multi-year drought out west.

-The entire planet is bracing for a huge chocolate shortage, and this threatens to push the price of chocolate beyond the reach of many American families…

Start hoarding those Hershey’s Kisses and stockpile your Snickers: The world could soon experience a chocolate shortage.

Mars Inc. and Barry Callebaut, two of the world’s largest chocolate makers, say that’s the path we’re headed down. They cite a perfect storm of factors: Less cocoa is being produced as more and more people are devouring chocolate.

In 2013, consumers ate about 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than was produced, The Washington Post reports, and that deficit could go up to 1 million metric tons by 2020. The Ivory Coast and Ghana produce more than 70 percent of the world’s cacao beans, and both countries are experiencing dry weather that limits growth. To make things worse, a fungal disease called frosty pod has destroyed 30 to 40 percent of global cocoa production.

As a result of all of the things that I have just discussed above, more Americans than ever are being forced to turn to the government for assistance.  Today, the number of Americans getting a check from the government each month is at an all-time high, and at this point Americans collectively get more money from the government than they pay in taxes.  For much, much more on this, please see my recent article entitled “21 Facts That Prove That Dependence On The Government Is Out Of Control In America“.

So if things are going well for you this Thanksgiving, you should be truly thankful.

For most of the country, things just continue to get even worse.  And if the next major wave of our economic crisis arrives next year like many are projecting, this may just be the beginning of our economic pain.

50 Percent Of American Workers Make Less Than 28,031 Dollars A Year

Real Median Household Income 2014The Social Security Administration has just released wage statistics for 2013, and the numbers are startling.  Last year, 50 percent of all American workers made less than $28,031, and 39 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000.  If you worked a full-time job at $10 an hour all year long with two weeks off, you would make $20,000.  So the fact that 39 percent of all workers made less than that amount is rather telling.  This is more evidence of the declining quality of the jobs in this country.  In many homes in America today, both parents are working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet. Our paychecks are stagnant while the cost of living just continues to soar.  And the jobs that are being added to the economy pay a lot less than the jobs lost in the last recession.  In fact, it has been estimated that the jobs that have been created since the last recession pay an average of 23 percent less than the jobs that were lost.  We are witnessing the slow-motion destruction of the middle class, and very few of our leaders seem to care.

The “average” yearly wage in America last year was just $43,041.  But after accounting for inflation, that was actually worse than the year before

American paychecks shrank last year, just-released data show, further eroding the public’s purchasing power, which is so vital to economic growth.

Average pay for 2013 was $43,041 — down $79 from the previous year when measured in 2013 dollars. Worse, average pay fell $508 below the 2007 level, my analysis of the new Social Security Administration data shows.

Flat or declining average pay is a major reason so many Americans feel that the Great Recession never ended for them. A severe job shortage compounds that misery not just for workers but also for businesses trying to profit from selling goods and services.

Average pay declined in 59 of the 60 levels of worker pay the government reports each October.

And please keep in mind that “average pay” is really skewed by the millionaires and billionaires at the top end of the spectrum.

Median pay in 2013 was just $28,031.02.  That means that 50 percent of American workers made less than that number, and 50 percent of American workers made more than that number.

Here are some more numbers from the report that the Social Security Administration just released…

-39 percent of American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

-52 percent of American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

-63 percent of American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

-72 percent of American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

I don’t know about you, but those numbers are deeply troubling to me.

It has been estimated that it takes approximately $50,000 a year to support a middle class lifestyle for a family of four, and so the fact that 72 percent of all workers make less than that amount shows how difficult it is for families that try to get by with just a single breadwinner.

The way that our economy is structured now, both parents usually have to work as hard as they can just to pay the bills.

But there was one group of Americans that did see their incomes actually increase last year.

Those making over 50 million dollars had their pay increase by an average of $12.8 million in 2013.

For everyone else, the news was not good.

And of course this is a trend that has been going on for a long time.

Posted below is a chart that comes from the Federal Reserve.  It shows how real median household income in the United States has declined since the year 2000…

Real Median Household Income 2014

Meanwhile, the cost of living has continued to rise at a steady pace.

Needless to say, this is putting a tremendous squeeze on the middle class.  With each passing day, more Americans are losing their spots in the middle class and this has pushed government dependence to an all-time high.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans now live in a home that receives money from the government each month.  This is completely and totally unsustainable, but our long-term economic problems just keep getting worse.

Our politicians have stood by as millions upon millions of good paying jobs have been shipped out of the country.  Millions of other middle class jobs have been lost to technology.  This has resulted in intense competition for the middle class jobs that remain.

And at this point we are even losing lots of lower paying retail jobs.  For example, it is being reported that Sears plans to close 110 more stores and lay off more than 6,000 workers.  Sears says that the report “isn’t accurate”, but it isn’t denying that stores will be closed either…

In an email to USA Today, Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said the store count and closures “isn’t accurate,” but did not provide store closures or layoff numbers.

“As we stated in our (second quarter earnings report), we disclosed that we would be closing unprofitable stores as leases expire and in some cases will accelerate closings when it is economically prudent. And that we would consider closing additional stores during the remainder of the year,” Riefs said. “Make no mistake, we believe the store will continue to play an integral role in our transformation, however, if a store is not generating a profit, it is straightforward that the store should be considered for closure.”

No matter how many stores Sears does end up closing over the next few months, the truth is that our economy is a complete and total mess at this point.

Our politicians and the mainstream media are trying to put a happy face on everything, but the cold, hard numbers prove that we are not anywhere close to where we were prior to the last recession.

Because it is so difficult to find a good job in America today, I often recommend to people that they should consider starting their own businesses.

But thanks to the bureaucratic control freaks in the Obama administration and in our state governments, small business ownership in America today is at an all-time low.  It is almost as if they don’t want the “little guy” to win.  Every avenue of prosperity for the middle class is under assault, and there does not appear to be much hope that this will change any time soon.

And the truly frightening thing is that this is about as good as things are going to get for the middle class.  We are rapidly approaching the next major wave of our long-term economic decline, but that is a topic for a future article.

19 Signs That The U.S. Consumer Is Tapped Out

Spare ChangeYou can’t get blood out of a rock.  Traditionally the United States has had a consumer-driven economy, but now years of declining incomes and rising debts are really starting to catch up with us.  In order to have an economy that is dependent on consumer spending, you need to have a large middle class.  Unfortunately, the U.S. middle class is steadily shrinking, and unless that trend is reversed we are going to see massive economic changes in this country.  For example, in poor neighborhoods all over America we are seeing bank branches, car dealerships and retail stores close down at an alarming rate.  If you didn’t know better, you might be tempted to think that “Space Available” was the hottest new retailer in some areas of the nation.  On the other hand, if you live in San Francisco, New York City or Washington D.C., things are pretty good for the moment.  But as a whole, the condition of the U.S. consumer continues to decline.  Incomes are going down, the cost of living is going up, and debts are skyrocketing.  The following are 19 signs that the U.S. consumer is tapped out…

#1 Real disposable income per capita continues to fall.  In the fourth quarter of 2012, it was sitting at $37,265.  By the time that the fourth quarter of 2013 had come around, it had dropped to $36,941.  That means that average Americans have less money to go shopping with than they did previously.

#2 In January, real disposable income in the U.S. experienced the largest year over year decline that we have seen since 1974.

#3 As disposable income decreases, major retailers are closing thousands of stores all over the country.  Some are even calling this “a retail apocalypse“.

#4 From September 2013 to January 2014, the personal saving rate in the United States dropped by a staggering 16 percent.

#5 During the fourth quarter of 2013, we witnessed the largest increase in consumer debt in this country that we have seen since 2007.

#6 Fewer Americans are applying for mortgages these days.  In fact, the MBA Purchase Applications Index is now the lowest that it has been since 1995.

#7 Overall, the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row.

#8 Many Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to afford a new car or truck.  The following comes from a recent CNBC article

A new study shows the average household in 24 of America’s 25 largest metropolitan areas cannot afford to pay for the average priced new car or truck.

“Just because you can manage the monthly payment doesn’t mean you should let a $30,000 or $40,000 ride gobble up such a huge share of your paycheck,” said Mike Sante, managing editor of Interest.com. “Many people are spending money on a car payment that they could be saving.”

#9 Incredibly, 56 percent of all Americans now have “subprime credit” at this point.

#10 Total consumer credit has risen by a whopping 22 percent over the past three years.

#11 In the third quarter of 2007, the student loan delinquency rate was 7.6 percent.  Today, it is up to 11.5 percent.

#12 Overall, U.S. consumers are $11,360,000,000,000 in debt.

#13 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row.

#14 U.S. workers are taking home the smallest share of the income pie that has ever been recorded.

#15 One recent study found that about 60 percent of the jobs that have been “created” since the end of the last recession pay $13.83 or less an hour.

#16 Middle-wage jobs accounted for 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession, but they have accounted for only 22 percent of the jobs created since then.

#17 According to one recent survey, only 35 percent of all Americans say that they are better off financially than they were a year ago.

#18 In 2008, 25 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket considered themselves to be “lower class”.  In 2014, an astounding 49 percent of them do.

#19 The poverty rate in America has been at 15 percent or above for 3 consecutive years.  That is the first time that has happened since 1965.

Despite what the mainstream media keeps telling them, most Americans know on a gut level that there is something fundamentally wrong with our economy.

According to Gallup, “Unemployment/Jobs” is the number one issue that Americans care about these days and the “Economy in general” is the number three issue that Americans care about these days.

Most people just want to work hard, make a decent living and take care of their families.

Sadly, that is becoming increasingly difficult to do.

And the numbers that I have shared above only tell part of the story.  For a more personal side to all of this, I encourage you to read my previous article entitled “10 Stories From The Cold, Hard Streets Of America That Will Break Your Heart” if you have not done so already.

The really bad news is that this is about as good as things are going to get for the U.S. economy.  The long-term trends that are eating away at our economy like cancer are intensifying, and our “leaders” just continue to act as if “business as usual” will somehow get the job done.

Most of them don’t even realize that time is running out.

As I discussed yesterday, there is a lot of evidence that the massive financial bubble that the Federal Reserve has inflated is getting ready to burst.

When the next great financial crisis does strike, it is going to be absolutely disastrous.  We are in far worse financial shape than we were back then, and this next round of financial trauma could truly be the “knockout blow” for the U.S. economy.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

Don’t Worry – The Government Says That The Inflation You See Is Just Your Imagination

Redd Fox HypnotizedIf you believe that there is high inflation in the United States, you are just imagining things.  That is the message that the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve would have us to believe.  You might have noticed that the government announced on Wednesday that the cost of living increase for Social Security beneficiaries will only be 1.5 percent next year.  This is one of the smallest cost of living increases that we have ever seen.  The federal government is able to get away with this because the official numbers say that there is hardly any inflation in the U.S. right now.  Of course anyone that shops for groceries or that pays bills regularly knows what a load of nonsense the official inflation rate is.  The U.S. government has changed the way that inflation is calculated numerous times since 1978, and each time it has been changed the goal has been to make inflation appear to be even lower.  According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, if the inflation rate was still calculated the same way that it was back when Jimmy Carter was president, the official rate of inflation would be somewhere between 8 and 10 percent today.  But if the mainstream news actually reported such a number, everyone would be screaming and yelling about getting inflation under control.  Instead, the super low number that gets put out to the public makes it look like the Federal Reserve has plenty of room to do even more reckless money printing.  It is a giant scam, but most Americans are falling for it.

Meanwhile, the prices of the things that most Americans buy on a regular basis just keep going up.  The following are just a few examples of price inflation that we have seen lately…

-McDonald’s has killed the dollar menu because it is becoming impossible to “make any money selling burgers for $1“.

But don’t worry – the government says that the inflation you see is just your imagination.

-Amazon.com has raised the minimum order size required for free shipping from $25 to $35.

But don’t worry – you can afford to order more stuff thanks to the great new job that you got during this “economic recovery”.

-It is being projected that those using natural gas to heat their homes will see their heating costs rise by 13 percent this winter.

But don’t worry – “global warming” should kick in to high gear any day now.

-The price of chocolate has gone up by 45 percent since 2007, and it is being projected that it will now be increasing at an even faster pace.

But don’t worry – eating chocolate is bad for you anyway.

-Thanks to Obamacare, the health insurance premiums of many American families are absolutely skyrocketing.  As I wrote about the other day, one family down in Texas just got a letter informing them that their health insurance premiums are going up by 539 percent.

But don’t worry – this is just “health care reform” in action.

Meanwhile, things just continue to get tougher for middle class American families.  Household incomes have actually been declining for five years in a row and total consumer credit has risen by a whopping 22 percent over the past three years.

The quality of our jobs continues to go down and our paychecks are not keeping up with inflation.  In fact, 40 percent of all U.S. workers are now making less than what a full-time minimum wage worker made back in 1968 after you account for inflation.

So what do the “authorities” say that the solution to our problems is?

They want even more inflation of course.  According to CNBC, many Federal Reserve officials (including Janet Yellen) believe that what the U.S. economy really needs is a lot more inflation…

Inflation is widely reviled as a kind of tax on modern life, but as Federal Reserve policy makers prepare to meet this week, there is growing concern inside and outside the Fed that inflation is not rising fast enough.

Some economists say more inflation is just what the American economy needs to escape from a half-decade of sluggish growth and high unemployment.

The Fed has worked for decades to suppress inflation, but economists, including Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Fed starting next year, have long argued that a little inflation is particularly valuable when the economy is weak. Rising prices help companies increase profits; rising wages help borrowers repay debts. Inflation also encourages people and businesses to borrow money and spend it more quickly.

The rest of that article goes on and on about how wonderful inflation is for an economy and about how the U.S. economy desperately needs some more of it.

Well, if that was actually true, then the Weimar Republic should have had one of the best economies in the history of mankind.

But this inevitably happens when a nation starts producing fiat currency that is backed by absolutely nothing.  There is always a temptation to just print a little bit more.

In the end, we are going to be destroyed by our own foolishness.  We have the de facto reserve currency of the planet, and the rest of the world has trusted it for decades.  But now we are systematically destroying our currency, and the rest of the globe is looking on in horror.

If you want to see a very good example of the impact that inflation has had on our economy in recent years, just check out this amazing chart which shows what the Federal Reserve’s reckless policies have done to the prices of commodities.

Ultimately, the U.S. dollar will be destroyed, and we will have done it to ourselves.

Many people are attempting to protect themselves against this inevitability by putting a lot of their money into hard assets such as gold and silver, but before you do that you might want to make sure that you don’t have a vengeful spouse that will toss it all into a dumpster someday.  The following is from a recent New York Post article

A Colorado man was so angry at his ex-wife for divorcing him that he had the couple’s life savings of $500,000 converted to gold — then tossed it in a dumpster so she couldn’t have any of it, the Colorado Springs Gazette reports.

In June, Earl Ray Jones, 52, of Divide, Colorado, was ordered by a judge to pay $3,000 a month to the woman he’d been married to for 25 years, so he pillaged the couple’s retirement account and had it converted into 22 pounds worth of gold and silver bars,  the paper reports.

Jones claims he then tossed the modern-day treasure into a dumpster behind a motel, where he had been living temporarily, later telling the judge he had no money to give his ex-wife, according to the paper.

Did that story make you smile?  It sure did the trick for me.

But that story is also a picture of what the Federal Reserve is doing with our dollar.

Our currency has been used for decades by almost everyone else around the planet.  In fact, more U.S. dollars are used outside of our country than inside of it.

But now the Federal Reserve is systematically trashing the dollar and the rest of the globe is starting to lose faith in it.

Instead of realizing their mistakes, Fed officials say that we need to create even more inflation and they just keep on wildly printing more money.

In the end, we will all pay a great price for their foolishness.

Things Are Getting Worse: Median Household Income Has Fallen 4 Years In A Row

New numbers that have just been released show that things are getting worse for American families.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income declined to $50,054 in 2011.  That is a 1.5 percent decline from the previous year, and median household income has now fallen for 4 years in a row.  In fact, after adjusting for inflation median household income has not been this low since 1995.  These new numbers once again confirm what so many of us have been talking about for so long – American families are steadily getting poorer.  Incomes are going down and the cost of living just keeps going up.  This dynamic is squeezing more Americans out of the middle class every single month.  Others just keep going into more debt in an attempt to maintain their previous lifestyles.  As Americans, we really don’t like to hear that things are getting worse and that we are in decline, but unfortunately that is exactly what is happening.  Our economy does not produce nearly enough jobs for everyone anymore, the proportion of low wage jobs in our economy continues to grow, and the middle class is shrinking at an alarming rate.  Our politicians can deliver speeches about how great we all are until the cows come home, but it isn’t going to change the reality of our situation.  If we want different results we have got to start taking different actions.

When you take the median household income of $50,054 and divide it up over 12 months, it comes to about $4000 a month.

About half of all American households are making more than that and about half of all American households are making less than that.

So can an average family of four people make it on just $4000 a month?

Well, first of all you have got to take out taxes.  After accounting for all forms of taxation you will be lucky if you have $3000 remaining.

With that $3000, you have to pay for all of the following.

*Housing

*Power

*Water

*Food

*Phone

*Internet

*At Least One Vehicle

*Gasoline

*Vehicle Repairs

*Car Insurance

*Health Insurance

*Dental Bills

*Home Or Rental Insurance

*Life Insurance

*Student Loan Debt Payments

*Credit Card Payments

*Furniture

*Clothing

*Pets

*Entertainment (although it is hard to imagine any money will be left for that)

Have I left anything out?

The truth is that $3000 does not go as far as it used to.

No wonder American families are feeling so stretched financially these days.

Most families can’t even afford to think about retirement or investments because most of them are just trying to figure out a way to survive from month to month.

Unfortunately, economic conditions for middle income Americans continue to deteriorate.  Being in the middle class in America is like playing a perverse game of musical chairs.  More chairs are constantly being pulled out of the game and the middle class just continues to shrivel up.

The following are some more statistics that show that things are getting worse….

-In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.

-Health insurance premiums rose faster than the overall rate of inflation in 2011 and that is happening once again in 2012.  In fact, it is been happening for a very long time.

-In the United States today, there are close to 10 million households that do not have a single bank account.  That number has increased by about a million since 2009.

-Back in 1962, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans had 125 times the net worth of the median household.  Today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans has 288 times the net worth of the median household.

-Back in 2007, 19.2 percent of all American families had a net worth of zero or less than zero.  By 2010, that figure had soared to 32.5 percent.

-According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 32 percent of all Americans now identify themselves as “lower class”.  In 2008, that figure was only at 25 percent.

-As I have written about previously, 61 percent of all Americans were “middle income” back in 1971 according to the Pew Research Center.  Today, only 51 percent of all Americans are “middle income”.

-62 percent of all middle class Americans say that they have had to reduce household spending over the past year.

-Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

-There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

-According to the Federal Reserve, the median net worth of American families dropped “from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010“.

-Sadly, 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

-At this point, less than 25 percent of all jobs in the United States are “good jobs”, and that number continues to shrink.

-The percentage of working age Americans that are employed is smaller now than it was two years ago.

-The number of Americans that are financially dependent on the government is sitting at an all-time record, and it just keeps going up.

-If the labor force participation rate was the same today as it was back when Barack Obama first took office, the unemployment rate in the United States would be 11.2 percent.

That last statistic deserves some special attention.

If the exact same percentage of Americans were considered to be “in the work force” today as when Barack Obama became president, the unemployment rate in this country would be well over 11 percent.

But the federal government has pretended that millions upon millions of Americans have “left the work force” over the past few years and that allows them to tell the fib that the unemployment rate has actually declined to 8.1 percent.

Of course we all know that is a bunch of nonsense.  About the same percentage of Americans want a job today as was the case back in 2008.

But 8.1 percent looks way better than 11.2 percent does.

What makes all of this even more distressing is that this is the recovery.

Things are not going to be getting much better than this.  We are rapidly approaching the next wave of the economic collapse and all of the numbers posted above are going to be getting a lot worse.

So even though things may be tight for your family right now, you should enjoy these times while you still have them.

Someday we will look back on these years as “the good old days”.

China And Russia Are Ruthlessly Cutting The Legs Out From Under The U.S. Dollar

The mainstream media in the United States is almost totally ignoring one of the most important trends in global economics.  This trend is going to cause the value of the U.S. dollar to fall dramatically and it is going to cause the cost of living in the United States to go way up.  Right now, the U.S. dollar is the primary reserve currency of the world.  Even though that status has been chipped away at in recent years, U.S. dollars still make up more than 60 percent of all foreign currency reserves in the world.  Most international trade (including the buying and selling of oil) is conducted in U.S. dollars, and this gives the United States a tremendous economic advantage.  Since so much trade is done in dollars, there is a constant demand for more dollars all over the globe from countries that need them for trading purposes.  So the Federal Reserve is able to flood our financial system with dollars without it causing a tremendous amount of inflation because the rest of the world ends up soaking up a lot of those dollars.  But now that is changing.  China and Russia have been spearheading a movement to shift away from using the U.S. dollar in international trade.  At the moment, the shift is happening gradually, but at some point a tipping point will come (for example if Saudi Arabia were to declare that it will no longer take U.S. dollars for oil) and the entire global financial system is going to change.  When that tipping point comes the global demand for U.S. dollars is going to absolutely plummet and nightmarish inflation will come to the United States.  If such a scenario sounds far out to you, then you have not been paying attention.  In fact, China and Russia have been working very hard to move us toward exactly such a scenario.

China and Russia are not the “buddies” of the United States.  The truth is that they are both ruthless competitors of the United States and leaders from both nations have been calling for a new global currency for years.

They don’t like that the United States has a built-in advantage of having the reserve currency of the world, and over the past several years both countries have been busy making international agreements that seek to chip away at that advantage.

Just the other day, China and Germany agreed to start conducting an increasing amount of trade with each other in their own currencies.

You would think that a major currency agreement between the 2nd and 4th largest economies on the face of the planet would make headlines all over the United States.

Instead, the silence in the U.S. media was deafening.

At least there were some reports in the international media about this.  The following is from a Reuters article about this very important deal….

Germany and China plan to conduct an increasing amount of their trade in euros and yuan, the two nations said in a joint statement after talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing on Thursday.

“Both sides intend to support financial institutions and companies of both countries in the use of the renminbi and euro in bilateral trade and investments,” said the text of the statement.

By itself, this deal would not be that alarming.

However, the truth is that both Russia and China have been making deals like this all over the globe in recent years.  I detailed 11 more major agreements like the one that China and Germany just made in this article: “11 International Agreements That Are Nails In The Coffin Of The Petrodollar“.

In that article I listed a few of the things that will likely happen when the petrodollar dies….

-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.

So enjoy going to “the dollar store” while you can.

It will turn into the “five and ten dollar store” soon enough.

Okay, so if you are China and Russia and you are working hard to undermine the dollar, how do you get prepared for the fiat currency crisis that your hard work will eventually create?

You guessed it.  You hoard gold and other precious metals.

And that is exactly what China and Russia has been doing.

A recent MarketWatch article detailed the massive hoarding of gold that Russia has been doing….

I can’t imagine it means anything cheerful that Vladimir Putin, the Russian czar, is stockpiling gold as fast as he can get his hands on it.

According to the World Gold Council, Russia has more than doubled its gold reserves in the past five years. Putin has taken advantage of the financial crisis to build the world’s fifth-biggest gold pile in a handful of years, and is buying about half a billion dollars’ worth every month.

Of course Russia is not alone in hoarding gold.  According to Zero Hedge, China has quietly been importing gigantic mountains of gold….

In July, Chinese gold imports from HK, after two months of declines, have picked up once more and hit a 3-month high of 75.8 tons. While it is notable that this number is double the 38.1 tons imported a year prior, and that year-to-date imports are now a record 458.6 tons, well over four times greater than the seven month total in 2011 which was 103.9 tons, what is far more important is that in the first seven months of 2012 alone China has imported nearly as much gold as the total holdings of the hedge fund at the heart of the Eurozone, elsewhere known simply as the European Central Bank, and just as importantly considering the import run-rate has hardly slowed down in August, which data we will have in a few weeks, it is now safe to say that in 2012 alone China has imported more gold than the ECB’s entire official 502.1 tons of holdings.

And all over the world Chinese companies are buying up gold producers.  China National Gold Group Corporation has put in a $3.9 billion bid to buy African Barrick Gold PLC, but that is only one example.

A recent Fox Business article listed a bunch of other similar transactions that have taken place recently….

Zijin Mining Group Co. (2899.HK), China’s second-largest gold producer by output, said last week that its subsidiary has acquired more than 50% of Kalgoorlie’s Norton Gold Fields (NGF.AU).

That deal gives it a foothold in the Australian market, the world’s second-largest source of gold output after China itself. In 2011, Zijin bought 60% of Kazakhstan-based miner Altynken, which has access to a gold mine in Kyrgyzstan.

Since 2008, Chinese companies have completed 10 US$20-million-plus acquisitions of Australian gold assets, worth a combined $1.6 billion, according to Dealogic. Half were initiated since last year.

In November, Shandong Gold-Mining Co. (600547.SH) launched a bid to acquire Brazilian gold miner Jaguar Mining Inc. (JAG.T) for $1 billion.

You would have to be blind to not see what is happening.

Other big names have been hoarding gold as well.  In a previous article I detailed how George Soros, John Paulson and central banks all over the planet have been hungrily accumulating gold.

So what does all of this mean for the price of gold?

That’s right – it is likely to keep heading up.

In fact, Citi analyst Tom Fitzpatrick believes that the price of gold will likely hit $2500 within 6 months.

Personally, I believe that there will be times when precious metals both fall and rise in price dramatically.  It is going to be a wild ride.  But in the long-term I believe that all precious metals will be going up as fiat currencies such as the U.S. dollar fail.

Sadly, most Americans have no idea just how incredibly vulnerable the U.S. dollar really is.

The following is an excerpt from a recent piece by investigative journalist Bob Woodward.  It shows just how worried our leaders are about a crash of U.S. Treasuries….

Another possible outcome, Geithner said, was perhaps worse. “Suppose we have an auction and no one shows up?”

The cascading impact would be unknowable. The world could decide to dump U.S. Treasuries. Prices would plummet, interest rates would skyrocket. The one pillar of stability, the United States, the rock in the global economy, could collapse.

What happens someday if the rest of the world decides to reject our currency and our debt?

Right now we are able to trade our dollars for the things that we “need” such as oil from the Middle East and cheap plastic consumer products from China.

But what happens if the Federal Reserve keeps printing and printing and printing and the rest of the world eventually decides that the U.S. dollar is not even worth the paper it is printed on?

The truth is that the amount of printing the Federal Reserve has been doing and the amount of borrowing the federal government has been doing are both completely and totally unsustainable.

At this point, Moody’s is threatening to cut the credit rating of the federal government if a deal is not reached soon to reduce our debt to GDP ratio.

And Moody’s is not the only one concerned about our exploding debt.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble recently stated that he believes that “there is great uncertainty about the course American politics will take in dealing the U.S. government’s debts, which are much too high”.

Just because the economy is relatively stable right now does not mean that it is always going to be that way.

If we keep debasing our currency like this, at some point the rest of the world is going to decide that China and Russia have been right all along and that we need a new global reserve currency.

That day is coming.  It might not come tomorrow or next week or next month but it is definitely coming.

Once the U.S. dollar loses reserve currency status, that will be a major turning point in the history of our country.  We will never fully recover from that, and we will never get back to the same level of prosperity that we are enjoying today.

So enjoy spending those dollars while you can.  The party is almost over.

95 Percent Of The Jobs Lost During The Recession Were Middle Class Jobs

Who is the biggest loser in the ongoing decline of the U.S. economy?  Is it the wealthy?  No, the stock market has been soaring lately and their incomes are actually going up.  Is it the poor?  Well, the poor are definitely hurting very badly, but when you don’t have much to begin with you don’t have much to lose.  Unfortunately, it is the middle class that has lost the most during this economic downturn.  According to Bloomberg, 95 percent of the jobs lost during the recession were middle class jobs.  That is an absolutely astounding figure.  Yes, some executives lost their jobs during the last recession as did some minimum-wage workers.  But overwhelmingly the jobs that were lost were middle income jobs.  Sadly, the limited number of jobs that have been added since the end of the last recession have mostly been low income jobs.  A higher percentage of Americans are working low income jobs than ever before, and the cost of living continues to rise at a very brisk pace.  This is causing an erosion of the middle class unlike anything we have ever seen in American history.

When I was growing up I was taught that the fact that we had the largest middle class in the history of the world was evidence that our economic system was working incredibly well.

So what does the fact that the middle class is shrinking at a very rapid pace at this point say about how well our economy is working?

Middle Class Incomes Are Going Down

During the last recession, millions of Americans lost their jobs and the percentage of working age Americans that have jobs has not bounced back in the years since the recession ended.

But most middle class Americans still have jobs.  The big problem for many middle class families is the fact that their incomes are not going up.  In fact, after you account for inflation, middle class incomes are actually way down during the Obama years as a recent Bloomberg article explained….

As a candidate in 2008, Obama blamed the reversals largely on the policies of Bush and other Republicans. He cited census figures showing that median income for working-age households — those headed by someone younger than 65 — had dropped more than $2,000 after inflation during the first seven years of Bush’s time in office.

Yet real median household income in March was down $4,300 since Obama took office in January 2009 and down $2,900 since the June 2009 start of the economic recovery, according to an analysis of census data by Sentier Research, an economic- consulting firm in Annapolis, Maryland.

So is this the “hope and change” that Obama was talking about?

But let’s not just blame Obama and Bush.  The truth is that the trend toward lower paying jobs has been going on for a very long time.

Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

So where will it end?

Will 50 percent or 60 percent of all Americans soon be working low income jobs?

At this point, approximately one out of every four jobs in America pays $10 an hour or less.

Could your family survive on $10 an hour?

The Rising Cost Of Living

As middle class incomes go down, the cost of almost everything that middle class families buy continues to go up.

The Federal Reserve claims that it has kept inflation “low” for decades, but that is a giant lie.

When you take a look at the long-term picture, it is amazing how much prices have changed.

Back in 1950, the average price of a new car was $1,510.

Today, the average price of a new car is $30,748.

In 1967, yearly tuition at Yale was $1,950.

Today it is $38,300.

And inflation continues to take a great toll on the paychecks of middle class families.

For example, electricity bills in the U.S. have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

Also, the price of gas has risen by more than 100 percent since Barack Obama entered the White House and the average U.S. household spent a staggering $4,155 on gasoline during 2011.

The Destruction Of Middle Class Wealth

What is the number one financial asset for most middle class families?

Most middle class families don’t have a lot of stocks, bonds or other financial assets.

Instead, normally the family home is the number one financial asset for most middle class families, and in recent years the value of that asset has been absolutely decimated.

When you take inflation into account, housing prices have fallen all the way back to 1998 levels.  The following is from a recent Smart Money article….

The latest S&P / Case-Shiller numbers, reported last week, show that prices in 20 major markets declined 3.5% over the year through February. They’re now back to 2002 levels. If we subtract for inflation, they’re back to 1998 levels.

Overall, home prices in the U.S. have declined for six months in a row and are now down a total of 35 percent from the peak of the housing bubble.

Unfortunately, things don’t look like they are going to turn around any time soon.  Yale economics professor Robert Shiller recently said the following about U.S. home prices….

“I worry that we might not see a really major turnaround in our lifetimes”

But falling home prices are not the only problem we are witnessing.  We are also seeing millions of middle class families lose their homes.

According to the U.S. Census, homeownership in America is now at the lowest level it has been in 15 years.

According to Gallup, the current level of homeownership in the United States is the lowest that Gallup has ever measured.

Owning your own home is an indication that you are part of the middle class, and so the fact that the number of Americans that own a home is falling rapidly is not a good sign for the health of the middle class at all.

The Future Is Not Bright

Those that are graduating from college right now are supposed to be the future of the middle class in America.

But for most of those college graduates, the future is not so bright.  Last year, a staggering 53 percent of all U.S. college graduates under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed.

Millions of young college graduates have been forced to take jobs that do not even require a college degree.  Just check out the following stats from a recent CNBC article….

In the last year, they were more likely to be employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined (100,000 versus 90,000). There were more working in office-related jobs such as receptionist or payroll clerk than in all computer professional jobs (163,000 versus 100,000).

Aren’t those numbers crazy?

The truth is that a college education is no longer a ticket to the middle class.

What Happens To Americans That Fall Out Of The Middle Class?

As the middle class shrinks, the ranks of the “low income” and “the poor” are absolutely swelling.

Today, approximately 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be “low income” or are living in poverty.

That is almost half the country.

Each year, millions more fall out of the middle class.  In 2010, 2.6 million more Americans fell into poverty.  That was the biggest increase that we have seen since the U.S. government began keeping statistics on this back in 1959.

As the middle class shrinks, the number of Americans dependent on the government for survival rises.  Right now, government dependence is at an all-time high and things are only going to get worse from here.

In November 2008 (when Barack Obama won the election), 30.8 million Americans were on food stamps.  Today, more than 46 million Americans are on food stamps.

Will we eventually see 50 million or 60 million Americans on food stamps?

The U.S. economy desperately needs more middle class jobs.

Unfortunately, the Republicans failed to generate them under George W. Bush and the Democrats failed to generate them under Barack Obama.

Instead, both parties continue to promote the politics of division and they both continue to push for more of the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

Nothing is being done to solve our problems and so the middle class in America is going to be even smaller by this time next year.

If you still have a spot in the middle class, hold on to it as tightly as you can.  It is not as secure as you might think.

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