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America The Debt Pig: We Are A ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Society – And ‘Pay Later’ Is Rapidly Approaching

America The Pig - Public DomainIf you really wanted to live like a millionaire, you could start doing it right now.  All you have to do is to apply for as many credit cards as possible and then begin running up credit card balances like there is no tomorrow.  At this point, I know what most of you are probably thinking.  You are probably thinking that such a lifestyle would not last for long and that a day of reckoning would eventually come, and you would be exactly right.  In fact, anyone that has ever had a tremendous amount of credit card debt knows how painful that day of reckoning can be.  To mindlessly run up credit card debt is exceedingly reckless, but unfortunately that is precisely what we have been doing as a nation as a whole.  We are a “buy now, pay later” society, and our national day of reckoning is approaching very, very quickly.

Often we like to focus on our exploding national debt, but household debt is out of control too.  In fact, the total amount of household debt in the United States is now up to a whopping 12.3 trillion dolllars

In the second quarter, total household debt increased by $35 billion to $12.3 trillion, according to the New York Fed’s latest quarterly report on household debt. That increase was driven by two categories: auto loans and credit cards.

We throw around words like “trillion” so often these days that they often start to lose their meaning.  But the truth is that 12.3 trillion dollars is an astounding amount of money.  It breaks down to about $38,557 for every man, woman and child in the entire country.  So if you have a family of four, your share comes to a grand total of $154,231, and that doesn’t even include corporate debt, local government debt, state government debt or the gigantic debt of the federal government.  That number is only for household debt, and there aren’t too many Americans that could cough up their share right at this moment.

Do you remember when I wrote about how credit card companies are specifically targeting less educated and less sophisticated consumers?  Well, that is where much of the credit card debt growth has come lately.  Just check out these numbers

Now, credit cards are returning among individuals with low credit or subprime credit scores below 660. Among people with credit scores between 620 and 660, the share that had a credit card rose to 58.8% in 2015 from a low of 54.3% in 2013. Among those with scores below 620, the number of people with a credit card increased to 50% from a low of 45.6% two years ago. Both figures for 2015 are the highest since 2008.

In America today, we are enjoying a standard of living that we do not deserve.

We consume far more wealth than we produce.  The only way we are able to do that is by going into debt.

Debt takes future consumption and brings it into the present.  In other words, we are damaging the future in order to make the present a little bit better.  On an individual level, we may enjoy the big screen television we buy with a credit card today, but we are taking away our ability to spend money later.  And on a national level, what our unprecedented debt binge is doing to future generations of Americans is beyond criminal.

Earlier this month I explained these things to a live studio audience down at Morningside, and you can view a video of that right here

In this article I haven’t even talked about corporate debt yet.  Instead of learning their lessons from the last financial crisis, big corporations have gone on the biggest debt spree of all time.  If you can believe it, corporate debt has approximately doubled since the last financial crisis.  In other words, since the last recession we have essentially matched the total amount of corporate debt that we accumulated from the beginning of the country up to 2009.

Unfortunately, a lot of that debt is now going bad.

In previous articles I have documented that corporate debt delinquencies are now the highest that they have been since the last financial crisis, and corporate debt defaults are also the highest that they have been since the last financial crisis.

At this point, even the mainstream media is acknowledging that we have a corporate debt “crisis”.  The following comes from an article that was just put out by the Denver Post

The number of companies that have defaulted so far this year has already passed the total for all of last year, which itself had the most since the financial crisis. Even among companies considered high-quality, or investment grade, credit-rating agencies say a record number are so stretched financially that they’re one bad quarter or so from being downgraded to “junk” status.

Companies whose debt is already deemed “junk” are in the worst shape in years. To pay back all they owe, they would have to set aside every dollar of their operating earnings over the next eight and a half years, more than twice as long as it would have taken during the 2008 crisis, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Are you starting to get the picture?

And I haven’t even started talking about our national debt yet.  When Barack Obama entered the White House, we were 10.6 trillion dollars in debt.  Today, we are 19.4 trillion dollars in debt.  That means that we have added 8.8 trillion dollars to the national debt under Obama, which breaks down to an average of 1.1 trillion dollars of additional debt a year.

We have been taking more than 100 million dollars of future consumption and bringing it into the present every single hour of every single day during the Obama administration.  That is why I am constantly referring to our “debt-fueled standard of living”.  We do not deserve to live the way that we do, but since we are able to steal from our children and our grandchildren we are able to enjoy a standard of living that most people in the world can only dream about.

Of course we are literally destroying the future of America in the process, but very few people seem to care about that these days.

Without all of this debt, we would be in a very deep economic depression right now.

But even with all of this “stimulus”, we are still mired in the worst economic “recovery” since 1949.  In fact, Barack Obama is actually on track to be the very first president in all of American history to not have one single year when U.S. GDP grew by 3 percent or better, and he has had two terms in which to try to get that accomplished.  The percentage of working age Americans that actually have a job is way down from where it was just prior to the last recession, and in this video I explain why the employment numbers put out by the government are not nearly as good as the administration would have us believe…

If the American people would have been willing to sacrifice and make some very hard choices a long time ago, maybe we could have gotten a handle on all of this debt.

But instead we continue to rack up debt as if there is no tomorrow, and in the process we are literally destroying tomorrow.

Every dollar of debt that we accumulate now makes life worse for our children and our grandchildren.

Unfortunately, we are a bunch of debt pigs, and we just can’t help ourselves.  We have come to believe that it is “normal” to go into so much debt, and as a society we continue to race toward economic oblivion.

Credit Card Companies Specifically Target Less Educated And Less Sophisticated Americans

Credit Cards - Public DomainThe big credit card companies don’t make much money off of those that pay their bills on time, and so they often specifically target less educated and less sophisticated consumers that don’t really understand the dangers of credit card debt.  The goal is to find people that will carry credit card balances from month to month, because that is where the real money can be made.  The average U.S. household that carries balances from month to month has approximately $15,310 in credit card debt right now.  At an average interest rate of about 15 percent, the profits pile up very quickly for the big credit card companies.  After all these years, so many of us still have not learned the truth about credit cards, and so credit card debt is absolutely crippling tens of millions of American families.

In 2015, the total amount of credit card debt in this country increased by a staggering 71 billion dollars.  In a previous article, I explained to my readers that American consumers accumulated more new credit card debt during the fourth quarter of 2015 than they did during the entire years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.

Many analysts are forecasting that the total amount of credit card debt will surpass a trillion dollars by the end of 2016.  This is why there is such a crying need for financial education in this nation.  Millions upon millions of us are being taken for a ride, and as I mentioned above, the big credit card companies often target those of us that are the least sophisticated about financial matters.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Credit-card companies need people to spend more than they can afford, but not so much that they default on their payments. So they could benefit from targeting individuals who are more likely to have cognitive failings. This is the dark side of behavioral finance.

Some new research by economists Antoinette Schoar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Hong Ru of Nanyang Technological University claims to find exactly such a result. The authors use data from a private company that tracks credit-card offers. They find that less educated consumers — who are likely to be less financially sophisticated — are more frequently given offers that include back-loaded costs. Those are plans that start with low rates, but increase later, with extra-high over-limit and late-payment fees. In other words, those are likely to be the borrowers who make bad financial decisions — racking up debt and eventually paying much more in interest. Meanwhile, more educated households tend not to be offered these plans.

Do you understand what that is saying?

The large credit card companies want to find those of us that are the most vulnerable, because that is where their biggest profits can be made.

And of course most of us have gotten into trouble with credit card debt at some point.  They don’t teach us how to manage our finances in high school or in college, and so most of us are very financially naive when we first get out into the real world.  Card offers are being showered on our young people, and cash-strapped young adults can find it very easy to “buy now and pay later”

Psychologically, it can be easier for people to pay using a credit card because no paper money is involved, Danford said. A Dun & Bradstreet study found that people spend an average of 12 to 18 percent more when using a credit card instead of cash.

I think that’s one of the traps. It’s almost too easy to use a credit card,” Danford said. “You don’t have to think of the consequences.”

According to 2015 data from Experian, the average American had 2.24 credit cards, up from 2.18 in 2014.

Of all credit card users, what percentage do you think carries a balance from month to month?

30 percent?

40 percent?

Well, according to Time Magazine only 35 percent of those that use credit cards completely pay them off every single month.  That means that 65 percent of those that use credit cards do carry a balance…

Only 35% of credit card users don’t carry a balance–they pay off their bill every month, like you’re supposed to. They use credit cards for convenience, and perhaps to generate bonus points and rewards, not because they need to borrow. If you’re a member of this group, you’re known as a “convenience user.” (Go ahead and pat yourself on the back for not being on the hook for high interest rates, but don’t gloat.) The other, more typical credit card users are known as “revolvers” because they don’t pay off their bills in full so the debt revolves. To them, credit limit increases are essentially invitations to spend more. It’s unsettling: “for revolvers, a 10% increase in credit is followed by a 1.3 percent increase in debt within one quarter and a 9.99% increase in debt over the long term,” the study found.

Unfortunately for the big credit card companies and the overall U.S. economy, it appears that U.S. consumers are starting to get tapped out.

Retail sales fell 2.9 percent in April, and then they dropped by 3.9 percent in May.  As a result of these declining sales, corporate profits are suffering, and it is being projected that the final numbers for the second quarter of 2016 will show that corporate profits in the U.S. have now fallen for five quarters in a row.

That is not an “economic recovery”.  Rather, that is what normally happens at the beginning of a major recession.

And don’t expect this to turn around any time soon, because Americans just don’t have the kind of discretionary income that they once did.  The following comes from a New York Post article entitled “A staggering percentage of Americans are too poor to shop“…

Retailers have blamed the weather, slow job growth and millennials for their poor results this past year, but a new study claims that more than 20 percent of Americans are simply too poor to shop.

These 26 million Americans are juggling two to three jobs, earning just around $27,000 a year and supporting two to four children — and exist largely under the radar, according to America’s Research Group, which has been tracking consumer shopping trends since 1979.

So much of what is happening right now is very reminiscent of 2008.  There was an explosion of credit card debt just before that crash as well.

We should have learned some very hard lessons the last time around, but we didn’t, and so now the pain for American families will be even greater this time.

If you are in credit card debt at this moment, it would be wise to try to eliminate it as soon as you can, because you definitely don’t want to be drowning in debt when times get really, really hard.

The Financial Crisis Of 2008 Was Just A Warm Up Act For The Economic Horror Show That Is Coming

The people out there that believe that the U.S. economy is experiencing a permanent recovery and that very bright days are ahead for us should have their heads examined.  Unfortunately, what we are going through right now is simply just a period of “hopetimism” between two financial crashes.  Things may seem relatively stable right now, but it won’t last long.  The truth is that the financial crisis of 2008 was just a warm up act for the economic horror show that is coming.  Nothing really got fixed after the crash of 2008.  We are living in the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world, and it has gotten even bigger since then.  The “too big to fail” banks are larger now than they have ever been.  Americans continue to run up credit card balances like there is no tomorrow.  Tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities and millions of jobs continue to leave the country.  We continue to consume far more than we produce and we continue to become poorer as a nation.  None of the problems that caused the crisis of 2008 have been solved and we are even weaker financially than we were back then.  So why in the world are so many people so optimistic about the economy right now?

Just take a look at the chart posted below.  It shows the growth of total debt in the United States.  During the financial crisis of 2008 there was a little “hiccup”, but the truth is that not much deleveraging really took place at all.  And since the recession “ended”, total credit market debt has gone on to even greater heights….

So what does this mean for the future?

Well, if a small “hiccup” in the debt bubble caused so much chaos back in 2008, what is going to happen when this debt bubble finally bursts?

That is something to think about.

Sadly, most Americans seem oblivious to all of this.

If you go out to malls in the wealthy areas of America today, people are charging up a storm.  In all, Americans charged a whopping 2.5 trillion dollars on their credit cards during 2011.  Way too many people have already forgotten the lessons that we all learned back in 2008.

Of course some Americans pay off their credit cards every month, but way too many Americans are not doing that.  Today, Americans are carrying 793 billion dollars in revolving credit balances.

And student loan debt is an even bigger bubble than credit card debt is.  As I have written about previously, total student loan debt in America is rapidly approaching a trillion dollars.

So it looks like U.S. consumers have not learned to stay away from debt.

That is not good.

Well, what about the banks?

Has the financial system learned any lessons since 2008?

No, not really.

Sadly, the “too big to fail” banks are now even bigger than ever.  The total assets of the six largest U.S. banks increased by 39 percent between September 30, 2006 and September 30, 2011.  If they were to fail today, they would be even more of a threat to our financial system than they were back in 2008.

And our major banks continue to be very highly leveraged.  In fact, major banks all over the world are absolutely swamped with debt.

The following statistics come from Zero Hedge….

The U.S. banking system is leveraged 13 to 1.

The Japanese banking system is leveraged 23 to 1.

The French banking system is leveraged 26 to 1.

The German banking system is leveraged 32 to 1.

These are insane levels of leverage, and they are just inviting another major financial crisis.

Do you all remember Lehman Brothers?  The fact that they were leveraged so highly is what did them in back in 2008.  When the value of their holdings declined by just a little bit they were totally wiped out.

Well, during this next financial crisis large financial institutions are going to be wiped out all over the world.  Major banks all over the globe are going to be crying out for more bailouts when things take a turn against them.

They are making the exact same mistakes that they made before, and they are going to be expecting more government handouts when things go bad.

Will we ever learn?

So obviously the banking system has not learned any lessons.

What about the federal government?

Well, if you follow my blog regularly, you know that I love to write about how horrific U.S. government debt is.

Unfortunately, over the past four years things have gotten so much worse.

Back in 2008, the U.S. national debt crossed the 10 trillion dollar mark.

Just recently, it crossed the 15 trillion dollar mark.

So now we are in a much weaker position financially to respond to another major financial crisis.

Just check out the chart posted below.  This is a recipe for national financial suicide….

During fiscal 2011, the Obama administration stole close to 150 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour.

At the moment, the legacy of debt that we are passing on to future generations is sitting a grand total of $15,351,406,294,640.49.

But keep in mind that it is going up every single hour.

Meanwhile, our ability to service that debt is declining.  We are rapidly getting poorer as a nation.

During 2011, the amount of money that left the United States exceeded the amount of money that entered the United States by more than a half a trillion dollars.

This gap is called a trade deficit, and it is absolutely ripping our economy to shreds.

For a moment, imagine Uncle Sam standing next to a giant pile of money on a map of the United States.  Then imagine a half a trillion dollars being taken out of that pile every single year.

So why haven’t we totally run out of money yet?

Well, it is because we borrow those dollars back.  In order to maintain our false standard of living, our federal government, our state governments and our local governments have to go out and beg the rest of the world to lend us our dollars back.

Sadly, our government schools have “dumbed-down” the population so much that most of them don’t even know what a “trade deficit” is anymore.

Meanwhile, our economic infrastructure is being gutted like a fish.

Look, I know that I go over this point over and over and over, but it is absolutely imperative that we all understand this.

The half a trillion dollars a year that leaves this country every year could have gone to support businesses and jobs inside the United States.

But instead it is going to support businesses and jobs on the other side of the world.

The consequences of this are absolutely devastating.

According to U.S. Representative Betty Sutton, an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day closed down in the United States during 2010.  Overall, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have shut down since 2001.

Even many so-called “American companies” have been bought up by the rest of the world.  The following comes from a recent article posted on Economy In Crisis….

RCA is now a French company, Zenith is a Korean company. Frigidaire is a Swedish company. IBM’s Personal Computer Division—with its 500 patents—is now a Chinese company. Westinghouse Nuclear Energy’s major shareholder is Toshiba—a Japanese Company. Lucent Technologies, a former research division of AT&T, along with all the patents acquired from the beginning of the phone system, is now a French company. In 2008, Brazilian-Belgian brewing company InBev purchased the iconic American brewer Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser. With the sale of these manufacturing companies, the future profit and technologies all belong to foreign entities.

We once had the greatest economic machine in the history of the world.

Now it is being dismantled and bought up by foreigners.

When America’s economic infrastructure declines, that means that there are less jobs available for all of us.

As I wrote about the other day, the employment situation in this country is not getting better and we have never even come close to recovering from the recession that started back in 2008.

During 2008 and 2009, the U.S. economy lost millions of jobs.  Since the beginning of 2010, the percentage of the U.S. population that has had a job has remained very stable….

Normally, when a recession ends the percentage of Americans that have a job bounces back pretty dramatically.

So considering the fact that the employment situation has never recovered from the last financial crisis, what is going to happen when the next financial crisis hits?

And most of the jobs that have been “created” during this so-called “recovery” have been low income jobs.  In fact, if you look closely at the employment numbers that were released last Friday, you will find that the vast majority of the “new jobs” were part-time jobs.

But you cannot pay a mortgage and support a family on a part-time job.

Sadly, the truth is that median household income in America has been steadily dropping over the past several years.  Tens of millions of American families are deeply struggling and more Americans than ever are falling into poverty.

Back in the year 2000, about one out of every nine Americans was living in poverty.  Today, about one out of every seven Americans is living in poverty.

All of this is causing a great deal of anxiety in America today.  Large numbers of Americans know that something has fundamentally changed, even if they don’t understand the specifics.  That is one reason why sites such as this one have become so popular.  People want some answers.

And once people get some answers about what is really happening, they tend to want to prepare for the hard times that are coming.

In a few days, a new series on National Geographic entitled “Doomsday Preppers” premieres.  The mainstream media is starting to take notice of the growing “prepper” movement in America today.  It is estimated that there are at least 2 million “preppers” in the United States at this point.  Of course people are “prepping” for a whole host of reasons, but the number one concern among most groups of preppers is the economy.

As the economy crumbles, more Americans than ever have decided that it is not a good thing to be 100% dependent on the system.

Back in 2008 and 2009, millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs.  Because they did not have any finances stored up, large numbers of them also lost their homes.  Many went from being solidly middle class to being out on the street in a matter of months.

That doesn’t have to happen to you.  Instead of blowing your money on frivolous things, do what you can to set something aside for the difficult times that are on the horizon.

A lot of those “in the know” are quietly making their own preparations.  For example, legendary film director James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic and Terminator) has purchased more than 2600 acres of farmland in New Zealand and he is getting out of the U.S. for good apparently.

Unfortunately, most of us do not have the resources for something like that.  But what most of us can do is we can change our priorities and start focusing on the things that will help us survive the hard times that are coming.

So are you ready?

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