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Credit Card Nation: Why The Facebook Killer And The U.S. Congress Have A Great Deal In Common

Most Americans have seemingly convinced themselves that as a society we will never pay a great price for going into so much debt and that we will never pay a great price for the horrendous crimes against humanity that we are committing on a daily basis.  If you don’t understand what I am talking about, just keep reading the rest of this article.  Just as there are consequences for our actions individually, so there are also consequences for our actions as a society.  And although our national day of reckoning has been put off for quite some time, when it does finally arrive the pain is going to be absolutely unimaginable.

Just recently, I was astounded to learn that the total amount of credit card debt in the United States has crossed the trillion dollar mark.  It boggles my mind that so many Americans could be so foolish, because credit card debt is one of the worst forms of debt in existence, and financial experts all over the country have spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy trying to get this message across to people.

But even though people know that going into credit card debt is bad, they just keep on doing it anyway.  We have become a “buy now, pay later” society that gives very little consideration to long-term consequences.

On a national level, we are now nearly 20 trillion dollars in debt, and a historic showdown over government spending and debt threatens to absolutely paralyze the federal government at the end of this month.  At this point many believe that it will be virtually impossible for Congress to avoid a government shutdown on April 29th, and once it begins Donald Trump’s entire agenda will come to a complete and total crashing halt until the crisis is resolved.  The following comes from David Stockman

In the meanwhile, everything else — health care reform, tax cuts, infrastructure — will become backed-up in an endless queue of legislative impossibilities. Accordingly, there will be no big tax cut in 2017 or even next year. For all practical purposes Uncle Sam is broke and his elected managers are paralyzed.

The Treasury will be out of cash and up against a hard stop debt limit of $19.8 trillion in a matter of months. But long before that there will be a taste of the Shutdown Syndrome on April 28 owing to the accumulating number of “poison pill” “riders” to the CR.

These include the virtual certainty of riders to the House bill to “defund” Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities. Other extraneous amendments will also possibly include funds demanded by the White House to start the Mexican Wall, enhance deportations and fund some of Trump’s $54 billion defense increase.

I am so glad that Stockman mentioned Planned Parenthood, because the decision whether or not to continue funding Planned Parenthood is going to be one of the central issues of this upcoming crisis.

Currently, the U.S. government gives Planned Parenthood roughly $500,000,000 a year.  By law, none of that money is supposed to be used to provide abortions, but everyone knows what the real deal is.

Some Planned Parenthood clinics do provide other services, but at the end of the day Planned Parenthood’s core business is abortion.  In fact, since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 they have killed far more babies than anyone else in the United States by a very wide margin.

And for decades, the U.S. government has been the number one source of funding for Planned Parenthood.  In fact, there are questions as to whether or not Planned Parenthood would be able to continue as a viable business without money from the federal government.

Over the years, when members of Congress have voted to shower Planned Parenthood with hundreds of millions of dollars a year, they have not done it in the heat of the moment.  Rather, their votes have been the result of cold, calculated decision-making processes.

In other words, the members of Congress that have been voting to keep funding Planned Parenthood year after year have the blood of millions of dead children on their hands, and there is very little difference between them and Facebook killer Steve Stephens.

When Stephens broadcast the cold-hearted murder of a 74-year-old man on Facebook on Sunday, he instantly became a worldwide celebrity.  And even though most people in the country have now seen his face, he continues to somehow elude authorities.

What Stephens has done is absolutely horrific, and when he is finally caught he will pay greatly for his crimes.

Just like Stephens, America is on the run today.  We keep thinking that we will never have to pay a price for the tens of millions of children that we have killed, and our government continues to fund the slaughtering of the innocents that goes on every single day in this nation.

But now Congress is going to be given one more chance to make the right decision.

The Republicans have control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.  They have the power to defund Planned Parenthood, but it is going to take a tremendous amount of resolve.

That is because under the current rules it is going to take 60 votes to get a spending agreement through the Senate, and so the Republicans will need at least 8 Democratic votes to get any bill to Trump’s desk.

Sadly, the Democrats are pledging to stretch out a government shutdown indefinitely if Republicans try to defund Planned Parenthood.

So what will the Republicans do?  Well, they could change the rules in the Senate to require only a simple majority vote on spending bills, and that would essentially be the “thermonuclear option”.

Or they could give in, but if they do that it would likely mean that Planned Parenthood will never be defunded, because the Republicans will never have a better opportunity than they do right now.

And I have a feeling that is what is going to happen.  I have a feeling that the Republicans are going to give in at some point and agree to keep giving Planned Parenthood half a billion dollars a year.

If that is indeed what happens, both the Democrats and the Republicans that help pass such a bill will be cold-blooded killers just like Facebook killer Steve Stephens, only those Democrats and those Republicans will have far more blood on their hands than Stephens does.

Most people do not realize this, but without a doubt this is one of the most critical moments in modern American history.  And if the funding of Planned Parenthood continues, I have a feeling that is going to mean that our national day of reckoning is much closer than most people would dare to imagine.

If we do not stop what we are doing, someday our crimes will catch up to us, and the debt that we will owe at that point will be far beyond what we can bear to pay.

The Next Subprime Crisis Is Here: 12 Signs That A Day Of Reckoning Has Arrived For The U.S. Auto Industry

In 2008, subprime mortgages almost single-handedly took down the entire financial system, and now a new subprime crisis is here.  In recent years, the auto industry has been able to boost sales by aggressively pushing people into auto loans that they cannot afford.  In particular, auto loans made to consumers with subprime credit have been accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of the market.  Unfortunately, when you make loans to people that should not be getting them, eventually a lot of those loans are going to start to go bad, and that is precisely what is happening now.  Meanwhile, automakers and dealers are starting to panic as sales have begun to fall and used car prices have started to crash.  If you work in the auto industry, you might remember how horrible the last recession was, and this new downturn could eventually turn out to be even worse.  The following are 12 signs that a day of reckoning has arrived for the U.S. auto industry…

#1 Seven out of the eight largest automakers in the United States fell short of their sales projections in March.

#2 Overall, U.S. auto sales so far in 2017 have been described as a “disaster” despite record spending on consumer incentives by automakers.

#3 Dealer inventories are now at the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis.  Why this is so troubling is because there are a whole lot of unsold vehicles just sitting there doing nothing, and this is becoming a major financial problem for many dealers.

#4 It now takes an average of 74 days before a dealer is able to sell a new vehicle.  This number is also the highest that it has been since the last financial crisis.

#5 Not only is Ford projecting that sales will fall this year, they are also projecting that sales will fall in 2018 as well.

#6 Used vehicle prices are already starting to decline dramatically

The used-vehicle price index from the National Automobile Dealers Association posted a 3.8% decline in February compared to the prior month. NADA also said wholesale prices fell 1.6%.

#7 As I discussed yesterday, Morgan Stanley is projecting that used car prices “could crash by up to 50%” over the next four or five years.

#8 Right now, more than a million Americans are behind on their payments on their auto loans.  This is something that has not happened since the last financial crisis.

#9 In 2017, U.S. consumers are more “underwater” on their auto loans than they have ever been before.

#10 Subprime auto loan losses have soared to their highest level since the last financial crisis, and the delinquency rate on those loans has risen to the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis.  By now, I am sure that you are starting to notice a pattern in these data points.

#11 At this moment, approximately $200,000,000,000 has been loaned out by auto lenders to consumers with subprime credit.

#12 Just like with subprime mortgages in the run up to the last financial crisis, subprime auto loans have been bundled together and sold as “securities” to investors.  And just like last time around, this has turned out to be a recipe for disaster

Many auto loans, including those considered subprime, are securitized and sold to investors. But Morgan Stanley recently reported that the share of auto securities tied to “deep subprime” loans – those given to borrowers with a FICO credit score below 550 — has risen from 5.1 percent in 2010 to 32.5 percent today. It said defaults on those bonds have risen significantly in the past five years.

Almost a quarter of the more than $1.1 trillion in U.S. auto loan debt is owed by subprime borrowers, and delinquency rates have hit their highest point in seven years.

In the old days, you could always count on the U.S. auto industry to bounce back eventually because of the economic strength of average U.S. consumers.

Unfortunately, the middle class in America is being systematically hollowed out by long-term economic trends that our leaders in Washington D.C. have consistently ignored.

We have become a nation of economic extremes.  There are more millionaires in this country than ever before, but meanwhile poverty is exploding in communities all over the country.

If you live in a prosperous area, things may be going great where you live for the moment.  But as Gallup has discovered, an all-time record high percentage of Americans are worrying “a great deal” about hunger and homelessness these days…

Over the past two years, an average of 67% of lower-income U.S. adults, up from 51% from 2010-2011, have worried “a great deal” about the problem of hunger and homelessness in the country. Concern has also increased among middle- and upper-income Americans, but they still worry far less than do lower-income Americans.

You may have plenty of money in your bank account, and so for you hunger and homelessness are not very big issues.  But for those that are just scraping by from month to month, having enough food and a place to sleep at night are top priorities.  Here is more from Gallup

Americans at all income levels are expressing greater concern about hunger and homelessness, and it is the top worry among lower-income Americans, who are most likely to struggle to pay for adequate food and housing.

In addition to the woes of the auto industry, the retail industry is going through the worst wave of store closings in modern American history, pension funds are melting down all over the nation, and stocks are primed for a crash of epic proportions.  Things are lining up just right for the kind of scenario that I laid out in The Beginning Of The End, but unfortunately most people are not listening to the warnings.

The same thing happened just before the great financial crisis of 2008.  All of the warning signs were there well in advance, and many of the experts were warning about what was coming as early as 2005.  But because it did not happen immediately, a lot of people greatly mocked the warnings.

But then the fall of 2008 arrived and all of the mockers suddenly went silent.

As you can see from the numbers that I shared above, a new crisis has already arrived.

The only question now is how bad it will ultimately turn out to be.

As always, let us hope for the best, but let us also get prepared for the worst.

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.

Day Of Reckoning: The Collapse Of The Too Big To Fail Banks In Europe Is Here

Europe Lightning - Public DomainThere is so much chaos going on that I don’t even know where to start.  For a very long time I have been warning my readers that a major banking collapse was coming to Europe, and now it is finally unfolding.  Let’s start with Deutsche Bank.  The stock of the most important bank in the “strongest economy in Europe” plunged another 8 percent on Monday, and it is now hovering just above the all-time record low that was set during the last financial crisis.  Overall, the stock price is now down a staggering 36 percent since 2016 began, and Deutsche Bank credit default swaps are going parabolic.  Of course my readers were alerted to major problems at Deutsche Bank all the way back in September, and now the endgame is playing out.  In addition to Deutsche Bank, the list of other “too big to fail” banks in Europe that appear to be in very serious trouble includes Commerzbank, Credit Suisse, HSBC and BNP Paribas.  Just about every major bank in Italy could fall on that list as well, and Greek bank stocks lost close to a quarter of their value on Monday alone.  Financial Armageddon has come to Europe, and the entire planet is going to feel the pain.

The collapse of the banks in Europe is dragging down stock prices all over the continent.  At this point, more than one-fifth of all stock market wealth in Europe has already been wiped out since the middle of last year.  That means that we only have four-fifths left.  The following comes from USA Today

The MSCI Europe index is now down 20.5% from its highest point over the past 12 months, says S&P Global Market Intelligence, placing it in the 20% decline that unofficially defines a bear market.

Europe’s stock implosion makes the U.S.’ sell-off look like child’s play. The U.S.-centric Standard & Poor’s 500 Monday fell another 1.4% – but it’s only down 13% from its high. Some individual European markets are getting hit even harder. The Milan MIB 30, Madrid Ibex 35 and MSCI United Kingdom indexes are off 29%, 23% and 20% from their 52-week highs, respectively as investors fear the worse could be headed for the Old World.

These declines are being primarily driven by the banks.  According to MarketWatch, European banking stocks have fallen for six weeks in a row, and this is the longest streak that we have seen since the heart of the last financial crisis…

The region’s banking gauge, the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Index FX7, -5.59% has logged six straight weeks of declines, its longest weekly losing stretch since 2008, when banks booked 10 weeks of losses, beginning in May, according to FactSet data.

The current environment for European banks is very, very bad. Over a full business cycle, I think it’s very questionable whether banks on average are able to cover their cost of equity. And as a result that makes it an unattractive investment for long-term investors,” warned Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank.

Overall, Europe’s banking stocks are down 23 percent year to date and 39 percent since the peak of the market in the middle of last year.

The financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is picking up speed over in Europe, and it isn’t just Deutsche Bank that could implode at any moment.  Credit Suisse is the most important bank in Switzerland, and they announced a fourth quarter loss of 5.8 billion dollars.  The stock price has fallen 34 percent year to date, and many are now raising questions about the continued viability of the bank.

Similar scenes are being repeated all over the continent.  On Monday we learned that Russia had just shut down two more major banks, and the collapse of Greek banks has pushed Greek stock prices to a 25 year low

Greek stocks tumbled on Monday to close nearly eight percent lower, with bank shares losing almost a quarter of their market value amid concerns over the future of government reforms.

The general index on the Athens stock exchange closed down 7.9 percent at 464.23 points — a 25-year-low — while banks suffered a 24.3-percent average drop.

This is what a financial crisis looks like.

Fortunately things are not this bad here in the U.S. quite yet, but we are on the exact same path that they are.

One of the big things that is fueling the banking crisis in Europe is the fact that the too big to fail banks over there have more than 100 billion dollars of exposure to energy sector loans.  This makes European banks even more sensitive to the price of oil than U.S. banks.  The following comes from CNBC

The four U.S. banks with the highest dollar amount of exposure to energy loans have a capital position 60 percent greater than European banks Deutsche Bank, UBS, Credit Suisse and HSBC, according to CLSA research using a measure called tangible common equity to tangible assets ratio. Or, as Mayo put it, “U.S. banks have more quality capital.”

Analysts at JPMorgan saw the energy loan crisis coming for Europe, and highlighted in early January where investors might get hit.

“[Standard Chartered] and [Deutsche Bank] would be the most sensitive banks to higher default rates in oil and gas,” the analysts wrote in their January report.

There is Deutsche Bank again.

It is funny how they keep coming up.

In the U.S., the collapse of the price of oil is pushing energy company after energy company into bankruptcy.  This has happened 42 times in North America since the beginning of last year so far, and rumors that Chesapeake Energy is heading that direction caused their stock price to plummet a staggering 33 percent on Monday

Energy stocks continue to tank, with Transocean (RIG) dropping 7% and Baker Hughes (BHI) down nearly 5%. But those losses pale in comparison with Chesapeake Energy (CHK), the energy giant that plummeted as much as 51% amid bankruptcy fears. Chesapeake denied it’s currently planning to file for bankruptcy, but its stock still closed down 33% on the day.

And let’s not forget about the ongoing bursting of the tech bubble that I wrote about yesterday.

On Monday the carnage continued, and this pushed the Nasdaq down to its lowest level in almost 18 months

Technology shares with lofty valuations, including those of midcap data analytics company Tableau Software Inc and Internet giant Facebook Inc, extended their losses on Monday following a gutting selloff in the previous session.

Shares of cloud services companies such as Splunk Inc and Salesforce.com Inc had also declined sharply on Friday. They fell again on Monday, dragging down the Nasdaq Composite index 2.4 percent to its lowest in nearly 1-1/2 years.

Those that read my articles regularly know that I have been warning this would happen.

All over the world we are witnessing a financial implosion.  As I write this article, the Japanese market has only been open less than an hour and it is already down 747 points.

The next great financial crisis is already here, and right now we are only in the early chapters.

Ultimately what we are facing is going to be far worse than the financial crisis of 2008/2009, and as a result of this great shaking the entire world is going to fundamentally change.

A Day Of Reckoning For The Euro Has Arrived – 26 TRILLION In Currency Derivatives At Risk

Yanis Varoufakis - posted to Twitter by Utopian FiremanThis is the month when the future of the eurozone will be decided.  This week, Greek leaders will meet with European officials to discuss what comes next for Greece.  The new prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, has already stated that he will not accept an extension of the current bailout.  Officials from other eurozone countries have already said that they expect Greece to fully honor the terms of the current agreement.  So basically we are watching a giant game of financial “chicken” play out over in Europe, and a showdown is looming.  Adding to the drama is the fact that the Greek government is rapidly running out of money.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Greece is “on course to run out of money within weeks if it doesn’t gain access to additional funds, effectively daring Germany and its other European creditors to let it fail and stumble out of the euro.”  We have witnessed other moments of crisis for Greece before, but things are very different this time because the new Greek government is being run by radical leftists that based their entire campaign on ending the austerity that has been imposed on Greece by the rest of Europe.  If they buckle under the demands of the European financial lords, their credibility will be gone and Syriza will essentially be finished in Greek politics.  But if they don’t compromise, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and we could potentially be facing the equivalent of “financial armageddon” in Europe.  If nobody flinches, the eurozone will fall to pieces, the euro will collapse and trillions upon trillions of dollars in derivatives will be in jeopardy.

According to the Bank for International Settlements, 26.45 trillion dollars in currency derivatives are directly tied to the value of the euro.

Let that number sink in for a moment.

To give you some perspective, keep in mind that the U.S. government spends a total of less than 4 trillion dollars a year.

The entire U.S. national debt is just a bit above 18 trillion dollars.

So 26 trillion dollars is an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.  And of course those are just the derivatives that are directly tied to the euro.  Overall, the total global derivatives bubble is more than 700 trillion dollars in size.

Over the past couple of decades, the global financial system has been transformed into the biggest casino in the history of the planet.  And when things are stable, the computer algorithms used by the big banks work quite well and they make enormous amounts of money.  But when unexpected things happen and markets go haywire, the financial institutions that gamble on derivatives can lose massive quantities of money very rapidly.  We saw this in 2008, and we could be on the verge of seeing this happen again.

If no agreement can be reached and Greece does leave the eurozone, the euro is going to fall off a cliff.

When that happens, someone out there is going to lose an extraordinary amount of money.

And just like in 2008, when the big financial institutions start to fail that will plunge the entire planet into another major financial crisis.

So at the moment, it is absolutely imperative that Greece and the rest of the eurozone find some common ground.

Unfortunately, that may not happen.  The new prime minister of Greece certainly does not sound like he is in a compromising mood

Greece’s new leftist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said on Sunday he would not accept an extension to Greece’s current bailout, setting up a clash with EU leaders – who want him to do just that – at a summit on Thursday.

Tsipras also pledged his government would heal the “wounds” of austerity, sticking to campaign pledges of giving free food and electricity to those who had suffered, and reinstating civil servants who had been fired as part of bailout austerity conditions.

Prior to the summit on Thursday, eurozone finance ministers are going to get together on Wednesday to discuss what they should do.  If these two meetings don’t go well this week, we could be looking at big trouble right around the corner.  In fact, Greece is being warned that they only have until February 16th to apply for an extension of the current bailout…

Euro zone finance ministers will discuss how to proceed with financial support for Athens at a special session next Wednesday ahead of the first summit of EU leaders with the new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, the following day.

However, the chairman of the finance ministers said the following meeting of the Eurogroup on Feb. 16 would be Greece’s last chance to apply for a bailout extension because some euro zone countries would need to consult their parliaments.

“Time will become very short if they (Greece) don’t ask for an extension (by then),” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

The current bailout for Greece expires on Feb 28. Without it the country will not get financing or debt relief from its lenders and has little hope of financing itself in the markets.

And as I mentioned above, the Greek government is quickly running out of money.

Most analysts believe that because of the enormous stakes that one side or the other will give in at some point.

But what if that does not happen?

Personally, I believe that the eurozone is doomed in the configuration that we see it today, and that it is just a matter of time before it breaks up.

And I am far from alone.  For example, just check out what former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan is saying

Mr Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, said: “I believe [Greece] will eventually leave. I don’t think it helps them or the rest of the eurozone – it is just a matter of time before everyone recognizes that parting is the best strategy.

The problem is that there there is no way that I can conceive of the euro of continuing, unless and until all of the members of eurozone become politically integrated – actually even just fiscally integrated won’t do it.”

The Greeks are using all of this to their advantage.  They know that if they leave it could break apart the entire monetary union.  So this gives them a tremendous amount of leverage.  Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has even gone so far as to compare the eurozone to a house of cards

The euro is fragile, it’s like building a castle of cards, if you take out the Greek card the others will collapse.” Varoufakis said according to an Italian transcript of the interview released by RAI ahead of broadcast.

The euro zone faces a risk of fragmentation and “de-construction” unless it faces up to the fact that Greece, and not only Greece, is unable to pay back its debt under the current terms, Varoufakis said.

“I would warn anyone who is considering strategically amputating Greece from Europe because this is very dangerous,” he said. “Who will be next after us? Portugal? What will happen when Italy discovers it is impossible to remain inside the straitjacket of austerity?”

After all this time and after so many bailouts, we have finally reached a day of reckoning.

There is a very real possibility that Greece could leave the eurozone in just a matter of months, and the elite know this.

That is why they are getting prepared for that eventuality.  The following is from a recent Wall Street Journal report

The U.K. government is stepping up contingency planning to prepare for a possible Greek exit from the eurozone and the market instability such a move would create, U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne said on Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury declined comment on the details of the contingency planning.

The U.K. government has said the standoff between Greece’s new anti-austerity government and the eurozone is increasing the risks to the global and U.K. economy.

“That’s why I’m going tomorrow to the G-20 [Group of 20] to encourage our partners to resolve this crisis. It’s why we’re stepping up the contingency planning here at home,” Mr. Osborne told the BBC in an interview. “We have got to make sure we don’t, at this critical time when Britain is also facing a critical choice, add to the instability abroad with instability at home.”

And if Greece does leave, it will cause panic throughout global financial markets as everyone wonders who is next.

Italy, Spain and Portugal are all in a similar position.  Every one of them could rapidly become “the next Greece”.

But of even greater concern is what a “Grexit” would do to the euro.  If the euro falls below parity with the U.S. dollar, the derivatives losses are going to be absolutely mind blowing.  And coupled with the collapse of the price of oil, we could be looking at some extreme financial instability in the not too distant future.

When big banks collapse, they don’t do it overnight.  But we often learn about it in a single moment.

Just remember Lehman Brothers.  Their problems developed over an extended period of time, but we only learned the full extent of their difficulties on one very disturbing day in 2008, and that day changed the world.

As you read this, big financial troubles are brewing in the background.  At some point, they are going to come to the surface.  When they do, the entire planet is going to be shocked.

 

The Japanese Financial System Is Beginning To Spin Wildly Out Of Control

Wildly Out Of ControlThe financial system of the third largest economy on the planet is starting to come apart at the seams, and the ripple effects are going to be felt all over the globe.  Nobody knew exactly when the Japanese financial system was going to begin to implode, but pretty much everyone knew that a day of reckoning for Japan was coming eventually.  After all, the Japanese economy has been in a slump for over a decade, Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of well over 200 percent and they are spending about 50 percent of all tax revenue on debt service.  In a desperate attempt to revitalize the economy and reduce the debt burden, the Bank of Japan decided a few months ago to start pumping massive amounts of money into the economy.  At first, it seemed to be working.  Economic activity perked up and the Japanese stock market went on a tremendous run.  Unfortunately, there is also a very significant downside to pumping your economy full of money.  Investors start demanding higher returns on their money and interest rates go up.  But the Japanese government cannot afford higher interest rates.  Without super low interest rates, Japanese government finances would totally collapse.  In addition, higher interest rates in the private sector would make it much more difficult for the Japanese economy to expand.  In essence, pretty much the last thing that Japan needs right now is significantly higher interest rates, but that is exactly what the policies of the Bank of Japan are going to produce.

There is a lot of fear in Japan right now.  On Thursday, the Nikkei plunged 7.3 percent.  That was the largest single day decline in more than two years.  Then on Monday the index fell by another 3.2 percent.

And according to Business Insider, things are not looking good for Tuesday at this point…

In post-close futures trading, the Nikkei has dropped by another couple hundred points, and has dropped below 14,000.

Are we witnessing the beginning of a colossal financial meltdown by the third largest economy on the planet?  The Bank of Japan is starting to lose control, and if Japan goes down hard the crisis could spread to Europe and North America very rapidly.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers

As Japan has indicated, when bonds start to plunge, it’s not good for stocks. Today the Japanese Bond market fell and the Nikkei plunged 7%. The entire market down 7%… despite the Bank of Japan funneling $19 billion into it to hold things together.

This is what it looks like when a Central Bank begins to lose control. And what’s happening in Japan today will be coming to the US in the not so distant future.

If you think the Fed is not terrified of this, think again. The Fed has pumped over $1 trillion into foreign banks, hoping to stop the mess from getting to the US. As Japan is showing us, the Fed will fail.

Investors, take note… the financial system is sending us major warnings…

If you are not already preparing for a potential market collapse, now is the time to be doing so.

And all of this money printing is absolutely crushing the Japanese yen.  Since the start of 2013, the yen has declined 16 percent against the U.S. dollar, even though the U.S. dollar is also being rapidly debased.   Just check out this chart of the yen vs. the U.S. dollar.  It is absolutely stunning…

Japanese Yen

The term “currency war” is something that you are going to hear a lot more over the next few years, and what you can see in the chart above is only the beginning.

What the Bank of Japan is doing right now is absolutely unprecedented.  It has announced that it plans to inject the equivalent of approximately $1.4 trillion into the Japanese economy in less than two years.

As Kyle Bass recently discussed, that dwarfs the quantitative easing that the Federal Reserve has been doing…

“What they’re doing represents 70% of what the Fed is doing here with an economy 1/3 the size of ours”

The big problem for Japan will come when government bond yields really start to rise.  The yield on 10 year government bonds has been creeping up over the past few months, and if they hit the 1.0% mark that will set off some major red flags.

Because Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of more than 200 percent, the only way that it can avoid a total meltdown of government finances is to have super low interest rates.  The video posted below does a great job of elaborating on this point…

It really is very simple.  If interest rates rise substantially, Japan will be done.

Investor Kyle Bass is one of those that have been warning about this for a long time…

There’s a fatalism, he says, in everyone he talks to in Japan. Their thinking is changing, and the way they talk to him about debt is changing. They already spend 50% of tax revenue on debt service.

“If rates go up, it’s game over.”

The financial problems in Cyprus and Greece are just tiny blips compared to what a major financial crisis in Japan would potentially be like.  The Japanese economy is larger than the economies of Germany and Italy combined.  If the house of cards in Japan comes tumbling down, trillions of dollars of investments all over the globe are going to be affected.

And what is happening right now in Japan should serve as a sober warning to the United States.  Like Japan, the money printing that the Federal Reserve has been doing has caused economic activity to perk up a bit and it has sent the stock market on an unprecedented run.

Unfortunately, no bubble that the Federal Reserve has ever created has been able to last forever.  At some point, we will pay a very great price for all of the debt that the U.S. government has been accumulating and all of the reckless money printing that the Fed has been engaged in.

So enjoy the calm before the storm while you still can.

It won’t last for long.

The Sovereign Debt Bubble Will Continue To Expand Until – BANG – The System Implodes

The Sovereign Debt Bubble Will Continue To Expand Until - BANG - The System Implodes - Photo by Jeff KubinaWhy are so many politicians around the world declaring that the debt crisis is “over” when debt to GDP ratios all over the planet continue to skyrocket?  The global economy has never seen anything like the sovereign debt bubble that we are experiencing today.  The United States, Japan, and nearly every major nation in Europe are absolutely drowning in debt.  We have heard a lot about “austerity” over in Europe in recent years, but debt to GDP ratios continue to rise in Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal.  In general, most economists consider a debt to GDP ratio of 100% to be a “danger level”, and most of the economies of the western world have either already surpassed that level or are rapidly approaching it.  Of course the biggest debt offender of all in many ways is the United States.  The U.S. debt to GDP ratio has risen from 66.6 percent to 103 percent since 2007, and the U.S. government accumulated more new debt during Barack Obama’s first term than it did under the first 42 U.S. presidents combined.  This insane sovereign debt bubble will continue to expand until a day of reckoning arrives and the system implodes.  Nobody knows exactly when that moment will be reached, but without a doubt it is coming.

But if you listen to the mainstream media in the United States, you would be tempted to think that this giant bubble of debt is not much of a concern at all.  For example, in a recent article in the Washington Post entitled “The case for deficit optimism“, Ezra Klein wrote the following…

“Here’s a secret: For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.”

How many times have we heard that before?

About a decade ago, government officials were projecting that we would be swimming in gigantic government surpluses by now.

Instead, we are running trillion dollar deficits.

But right now there is a lot of optimism about the economy.  The stock market recently hit a 5 year high and the business community is loving all of the false prosperity that all of this debt is buying us.

Even Warren Buffett does not really seem concerned about the exploding U.S. government debt.  He recently made the following statement

“It is not a good thing to have it going up in relation to GDP.  That should be stabilized. But the debt itself is not a problem.”

Oh really?

A debt of 16 trillion dollars “is not a problem”?

Perhaps we should all run our finances that way.

Why don’t we all go out and open up 20 different credit cards, run them all up to the max, and then tell the credit card companies that we can’t pay them back but that it “is not a problem”.

Of course real life does not work that way.

The truth is that government debt is becoming a monstrous problem all over the globe.  Just check out how debt to GDP ratios all over the planet have grown over the past five years

United States

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 66.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 103 percent

United Kingdom

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 43.4 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 85.0 percent

France

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 63.7 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 86 percent

Germany

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 67.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 80.5 percent

Spain

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 39.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 69.3 percent

Ireland

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 24.8 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 106.4 percent

Portugal

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 63.9 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 108.1 percent

Italy

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 106.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 120.7 percent

Greece

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 106.1 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 170.6 percent

The Eurozone As A Whole

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 68.4 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 87.3 percent

Japan

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 172.1 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 211.7 percent

So how does all of this end?

Well, it is going to be messy, but it is very difficult to say exactly when the system will collapse under the weight of too much debt.  Some nations, such as Japan, are able to handle very high debt loads because they have a very high level of domestic saving.  Up to this point, an astounding 95 percent of all Japanese government bonds have been purchased domestically.  But other nations collapse under the weight of government debt even before they reach a debt to GDP ratio of 100%.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Congressional Research Service report

It is hard to predict at what point bond holders would deem it to be unsustainable. A few other advanced economies have debt-to-GDP ratios higher than that of the United States. Some of those countries in Europe have recently seen their financing costs rise to the point that they are unable to finance their deficits solely through private markets. But Japan has the highest debt-to-GDP ratio of any advanced economy, and it has continued to be able to finance its debt at extremely low costs.

When a government runs up massive amounts of debt, it is playing with fire.  You can pile up mountains of government debt for a while, but eventually it catches up with you.

Over the past 10 years, the U.S. national debt has grown by an average of 9.3 percent per year, but the overall U.S. economy has only grown by an average of just 1.8 percent per year.  That is unsustainable by definition.

There is going to be a tremendous price to pay for the debt binge that the U.S. government has indulged in over the past decade.  During Barack Obama’s first term, the amount of new debt accumulated by the federal government breaks down to about $50,521 for every single household in the United States.  That is utter insanity.

If you can believe it, we have accumulated more new government debt under Obama than we did from the inauguration of George Washington to the end of the Clinton administration.

And most Americans realize that something is seriously wrong.  One recent poll found that only 34 percent of all Americans believe that the country is heading in the right direction, and 60 percent of all Americans believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction.

If we keep piling up so much debt, at some point a moment of great crisis will arrive.  When that moment arrives, we could see havoc throughout the entire global financial system.  For instance, most people don’t really understand the key role that U.S. Treasuries play in the derivatives market.  The following is from a recent article posted on Zero Hedge

This time around, things will be far worse if nothing is solved. If the US loses another AAA rating, then the financial markets could face systemic risk. The reason for this is that US Treasuries are one of the senior most forms of collateral used by the banks to backstop the $600+ trillion derivatives market.

As any trader who trades on margin can tell you, when the value of your collateral is called into question, those on the other side of the trade come looking for you to put up more capital on your trades. This can result in assets being sold en masse (similar to what happened after Lehman failed) and things can get very ugly very fast.

For much more on the danger that derivatives pose to our financial system, please see this article: “The Coming Derivatives Panic That Will Destroy Global Financial Markets“.

Once again, nobody knows exactly when the sovereign debt bubble will burst, but if we continue down the path that we are currently on, it will inevitably happen at some point.

And according to Professor Carmen Reinhart, when this bubble does burst things could unravel very rapidly…

“These processes are not linear,” warns Prof. Reinhart. “You can increase debt for a while and nothing happens. Then you hit the wall, and—bang!—what seem to be minor shocks that the markets would shrug off in other circumstances suddenly become big.”

At some point the global financial system will hit the wall that Professor Reinhart has warned about.

Are you ready?

When Will The Bubble Burst?

34 Signs That America Is In Decline

The United States is clearly in an advanced state of decline.  Many people around the world (and even inside America) rejoice at this, but not me.  I mourn for the country that I was born in and that I still love.  Yes, the United States has never been perfect, but the Republic that our Founding Fathers started truly has been a light to the rest of the world in a lot of ways over the centuries.  Unfortunately, our foundations are badly rotting and our nation is collapsing all around us.  Many Americans like to think that the United States is greater today than it has ever been before, but the truth is that America is like a patient that has stage 4 cancer that has spread to almost every area of the body.  Our nation is being destroyed in thousands of different ways, and more distressing news emerges with each passing day.  This article will mainly focus on the economic decline of America, but much could also be said about our social, political, moral and spiritual decline as well.  We are simply not the same country that we used to be.  Americans are proud, selfish, greedy, arrogant, ungrateful, treacherous and completely addicted to entertainment and pleasure.  Our country is literally falling apart all around us, but most Americans are so plugged into entertainment that they can’t even be bothered to notice what is happening.  Most Americans seem to assume that we will always have endless prosperity just because of who we are, but unfortunately that simply is not true.  We inherited the greatest economic machine the world has ever seen and we have wrecked it, and now a very painful day of reckoning is approaching.  But most people will not understand until it is too late.

The following are 34 signs that America is in decline…

#1 According to the World Bank, U.S. GDP accounted for 31.8 percent of all global economic activity in 2001.  That number dropped to 21.6 percent in 2011.  That is not just a decline – that is a freefall.  Just check out the chart in this article.

#2 According to The Economist, the United States was the best place in the world to be born into back in 1988.  Today, the United States is only tied for 16th place.

#3 The United States has fallen in the global economic competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum for four years in a row.

#4 According to the Wall Street Journal, of the 40 biggest publicly traded corporate spenders, half of them plan to reduce capital expenditures in coming months.

#5 More than three times as many new homes were sold in the United States in 2005 as will be sold in 2012.

#6 America once had the greatest manufacturing cities on the face of the earth.  Now many of our formerly great manufacturing cities have degenerated into festering hellholes.  For example, the city of Detroit is on the verge of financial collapse, and one state lawmaker is now saying that “dissolving Detroit” should be looked at as an option.

#7 In 2007, the unemployment rate for the 20 to 29 age bracket was about 6.5 percent.  Today, the unemployment rate for that same age group is about 13 percent.

#8 Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.

#9 If you can believe it, approximately one out of every four American workers makes 10 dollars an hour or less.

#10 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.

#11 Median household income in America has fallen for four consecutive years.  Overall, it has declined by over $4000 during that time span.

#12 The U.S. trade deficit with China during 2011 was 28 times larger than it was back in 1990.

#13 Incredibly, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have been shut down since 2001.  During 2010, manufacturing facilities were shutting down at the rate of 23 per day.  How can anyone say that “things are getting better” when our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted?

#14 Back in early 2005, the average price of a gallon of gasoline was less than 2 dollars a gallon.  During 2012, the average price of a gallon of gasoline has been $3.63.

#15 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.

#16 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”.

#17 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.

#18 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate for children living in the United States is about 22 percent.

#19 Back in 1983, the bottom 95 percent of all income earners in the United States had 62 cents of debt for every dollar that they earned.  By 2007, that figure had soared to $1.48.

#20 Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.

#21 Total credit card debt in the United States is now more than 8 times larger than it was just 30 years ago.

#22 The value of the U.S. dollar has declined by more than 96 percent since the Federal Reserve was first created.

#23 According to one survey, 29 percent of all Americans in the 25 to 34 year old age bracket are still living with their parents.

#24 Back in 1950, 78 percent of all households in the United States contained a married couple.  Today, that number has declined to 48 percent.

#25 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that receives direct monetary benefits from the federal government.  Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.

#26 In 1980, government transfer payments accounted for just 11.7 percent of all income.  Today, government transfer payments account for more than 18 percent of all income.

#27 In November 2008, 30.8 million Americans were on food stamps.  Today, 47.1 million Americans are on food stamps.

#28 Right now, one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#29 As I wrote about the other day, according to one calculation the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

#30 Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.  It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

#31 In 2001, the U.S. national debt was less than 6 trillion dollars.  Today, it is over 16 trillion dollars and it is increasing by more than 100 million dollars every single hour.

#32 The U.S. national debt is now more than 23 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.

#33 According to a PBS report from earlier this year, U.S. households that make $13,000 or less per year spend 9 percent of their incomes on lottery tickets.  Could that possibly be accurate?  Are people really that foolish?

#34 As the U.S. economy has declined, the American people have been downing more antidepressants and other prescription drugs than ever before.  In fact, the American people spent 60 billion dollars more on prescription drugs in 2010 than they did in 2005.

So what are our “leaders” doing about all of this?

Not much.

They just continue to insist that everything is “just fine”.

Sadly, the truth is that they live in a world that is very different from most of the rest of us.

Barack Obama is getting ready to take a 20 day vacation to Hawaii.

When was the last time you got to take a 20 day vacation?

And most of our “leaders” have no idea what it is like to struggle from month to month on a paycheck.

Overall, more than half of the members of Congress are millionaires.  We are led by wealthy men who are serving the interests of other wealthy men.

But the problem with our system is not limited to the president and the members of Congress.  The truth is that the political system in America has become a colossal beast that just continues to grow no matter who is in power.  The political establishment of both parties is totally dependent on this beast, and they will continue to feed it and serve it because it has been very good to them.  The following is from an outstanding article by Steve McCann

The Republican and Democratic political establishments are made up of the following: 

1) many current and nearly all retired national office holders whose livelihood and narcissistic demands depends upon fealty to Party and access to government largesse;

2) the majority of the media elite, including pundits, editors, writers and television news personalities based in Washington and New York whose proximity to power and access is vital to their continued standard of living;  

3) academia, numerous think-tanks, so-called non-government organizations, and lobbyists who fasten onto those in the administration and Congress for employment, grants, favorable legislation and ego-gratification;  

4) the reliable deep pocket political contributors and political consultants whose future is irrevocably tied to the political machinery of the Party; and

5) the crony capitalists, i.e. leaders of the corporate and financial community as well as unions whose entities are dependent on or subject to government oversight and/or benevolence .

Do you think that there is any chance that this insidious system will be uprooted any time soon?

Of course not.

We will continue on the same path that we are on right now and America will continue to decline.

Many will rejoice as America falls, but I will not.

I will mourn for a mighty Republic that has fallen and for a dream that has been lost.

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