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The Global Liquidity Squeeze Has Begun

Squeeze Globe - Public DomainGet ready for another major worldwide credit crunch.  Today, the entire global financial system resembles a colossal spiral of debt.  Just about all economic activity involves the flow of credit in some way, and so the only way to have “economic growth” is to introduce even more debt into the system.  When the system started to fail back in 2008, global authorities responded by pumping this debt spiral back up and getting it to spin even faster than ever.  If you can believe it, the total amount of global debt has risen by $35 trillion since the last crisis.  Unfortunately, any system based on debt is going to break down eventually, and there are signs that it is starting to happen once again.  For example, just a few days ago the IMF warned regulators to prepare for a global “liquidity shock“.  And on Friday, Chinese authorities announced a ban on certain types of financing for margin trades on over-the-counter stocks, and we learned that preparations are being made behind the scenes in Europe for a Greek debt default and a Greek exit from the eurozone.  On top of everything else, we just witnessed the biggest spike in credit application rejections ever recorded in the United States.  All of these are signs that credit conditions are tightening, and once a “liquidity squeeze” begins, it can create a lot of fear.

Over the past six months, the Chinese stock market has exploded upward even as the overall Chinese economy has started to slow down.  Investors have been using something called “umbrella trusts” to finance a lot of these stock purchases, and these umbrella trusts have given them the ability to have much more leverage than normal brokerage financing would allow.  This works great as long as stocks go up.  Once they start going down, the losses can be absolutely staggering.

That is why Chinese authorities are stepping in before this bubble gets even worse.  Here is more about what has been going on in China from Bloomberg

China’s trusts boosted their investments in equities by 28 percent to 552 billion yuan ($89.1 billion) in the fourth quarter. The higher leverage allowed by the products exposes individuals to larger losses in the event of stock-market drops, which can be exaggerated as investors scramble to repay debt during a selloff.

In umbrella trusts, private investors take up the junior tranche, while cash from trusts and banks’ wealth-management products form the senior tranches. The latter receive fixed returns while the former take the rest, so private investors are effectively borrowing from trusts and banks.

Margin debt on the Shanghai Stock Exchange climbed to a record 1.16 trillion yuan on Thursday. In a margin trade, investors use their own money for just a portion of their stock purchase, borrowing the rest. The loans are backed by the investors’ equity holdings, meaning that they may be compelled to sell when prices fall to repay their debt.

Overall, China has seen more debt growth than any other major industrialized nation since the last recession.  This debt growth has been so dramatic that it has gotten the attention of authorities all over the planet

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s finance minister says that “debt levels in the global economy continue to give cause for concern.”

Singling out China in particular, Schaeuble noted that “debt has nearly quadrupled since 2007″, adding that it’s “growth appears to be built on debt, driven by a real estate boom and shadow banks.”

According to McKinsey’s research, total outstanding debt in China increased from $US7.4 trillion in 2007 to $US28.2 trillion in 2014. That figure, expressed as a percentage of GDP, equates to 282% of total output, higher than the likes of other G20 nations such as the US, Canada, Germany, South Korea and Australia.

This credit boom in China has been one of the primary engines for “global growth” in recent years, but now conditions are changing.  Eventually, the impact of what is going on in China right now is going to be felt all over the planet.

Over in Europe, the Greek debt crisis is finally coming to a breaking point.  For years, authorities have continued to kick the can down the road and have continued to lend Greece even more money.

But now it appears that patience with Greece has run out.

For instance, the head of the IMF says that no delay will be allowed on the repayment of IMF loans that are due next month…

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde roiled currency and bond markets on Thursday as reports came out of her opening press conference saying that she had denied any payment delay to Greece on IMF loans falling due next month.

Unless Greece concludes its negotiations for a further round of bailout money from the European Union, however, it is not likely to have the money to repay the IMF.

And we are getting reports that things are happening behind the scenes in Europe to prepare for the inevitable moment when Greece will finally leave the euro and go back to their own currency.

For example, consider what Art Cashin told CNBC on Friday

First, “there were reports in the media [saying] that the ECB and/or banking authorities suggested to banks to get rid of any sovereign Greek debt they had, which suggests that maybe the next step will be Greece exiting,” Cashin told CNBC.

Also, one of Greece’s largest newspapers is reporting that neighboring countries are forcing subsidiaries of Greek banks that operate inside their borders to reduce their risk to a Greek debt default to zero

According to a report from Kathimerini, one of Greece’s largest newspapers, central banks in Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have all forced the subsidiaries of Greek banks operating in those countries to bring their exposure to Greek risk — including bonds, treasury bills, deposits to Greek banks, and loans — down to zero.

Once Greece leaves the euro, that is going to create a tremendous credit crunch in Europe as fear begins to spread like wildfire.  Everyone will be wondering which nation will be “the next Greece”, and investors will want to pull their money out of perceived danger zones before they get hammered.

In the past, other European nations have been willing to bend over backwards to accommodate Greece and avoid this kind of mess, but those days appear to be finished.  In fact, the finance minister of France openly admits that the French “are not sympathetic to Greece”

Greece isn’t winning much sympathy from its debt-wracked European counterparts as the country draws closer to default for failing to make bailout repayments.

“We are not sympathetic to Greece,” French Finance Minister Michael Sapin said in an interview at the International Monetary Fund-World Bank spring meetings here.

“We are demanding because Greece must comply with the European (rules) that apply to all countries,” Sapin said.

Yes, it is possible that another short-term deal could be reached which could kick the can down the road for a few more months.

But either way, things in Europe are going to continue to get worse.

Meanwhile, very disappointing earnings reports in the U.S. are starting to really rattle investors.

For example, we just learned that GE lost 13.6 billion dollars in the first quarter…

One week following the announcement that it would dismantle most of its GE Capital financing operations to instead focus on its industrial roots, General Electric reported a first quarter loss of $13.6 billion.

The results were impacted by charges relating to the conglomerate’s strategic shift. A year ago GE reported a first quarter profit of $3 billion.

That is a lot of money.

How in the world does a company lose 13.6 billion dollars in a single quarter during an “economic recovery”?

Other big firms are reporting disappointing earnings numbers too

In earnings news, American Express Co. late Thursday said its results were hurt by the strong U.S. dollar, which reduced revenue booked in other countries. Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault reiterated the company’s forecast that 2015 earnings will be flat to modestly down year over year. Shares fell 4.6%.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. said its first-quarter loss widened as revenue slumped. The company said it was exiting its dense server systems business, effective immediately. Revenue and the loss excluding items missed expectations, pushing shares down 13%.

And just like we saw just before the financial crisis of 2008, Americans are increasingly having difficulty meeting their financial obligations.

For instance, the delinquency rate on student loans has reached a very frightening level

More borrowers are failing to make payments on their student loans five years after leaving college, painting a grim picture for borrowers, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Student debt continues to increase, especially for people who took out loans years ago. Those who left school in the Great Recession, which ended in 2009, had particular difficulty with repayment, with many defaulting, becoming seriously delinquent or not being able to reduce their balances, the New York Fed said today.

Only 37 percent of borrowers are current on their loans and are actively paying them down, and 17 percent are in default or in delinquency.

At this point, the American consumer is pretty well tapped out.  If you can believe it, 56 percent of all Americans have subprime credit today, and as I mentioned above, we just witnessed the biggest spike in credit application rejections ever recorded.

We have reached a point of debt saturation, and the credit crunch that is going to follow is going to be extremely painful.

Of course the biggest provider of global liquidity in recent years has been the Federal Reserve.  But with the Fed pulling back on QE, this is creating some tremendous challenges all over the globe.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Telegraph

The big worry is what will happen to Russia, Brazil and developing economies in Asia that borrowed most heavily in dollars when the Fed was still flooding the world with cheap liquidity. Emerging markets account to roughly half of the $9 trillion of offshore dollar debt outside US jurisdiction.

The IMF warned that a big chunk of the debt owed by companies is in the non-tradeable sector. These firms lack “natural revenue hedges” that can shield them against a double blow from rising borrowing costs and a further surge in the dollar.

So what is the bottom line to all of this?

The bottom line is that we are starting to see the early phases of a liquidity squeeze.

The flow of credit is going to begin to get tighter, and that means that global economic activity is going to slow down.

This happened during the last financial crisis, and during this next financial crisis the credit crunch is going to be even worse.

This is why it is so important to have an emergency fund.  During this type of crisis, you may have to be the source of your own liquidity.  At a time when it seems like nobody has any cash, those that do have some will be way ahead of the game.

Huge Trouble Is Percolating Just Under The Surface Of The Global Economy

World On Fire - Public DomainDid you know that the number of publicly traded companies declaring bankruptcy has reached a five year high?  And did you know that Chinese exports are absolutely collapsing and that Chinese economic growth in 2014 was the weakest in over 20 years?  Even though things may seem to be okay on the surface for the global economy at the moment, that does not mean that big trouble is not percolating just under the surface.  On Wednesday, investors cheered as stocks soared to new highs, but almost all of the economic news coming in from around the planet has been bad.  The credit rating on Greek debt has been slashed again, global economic trade is really slowing down, and many of the exact same financial patterns that we saw just before the crash of 2008 are repeating once again.  All of this reminds me of the months leading up to the implosion of Lehman Brothers.  Most people were feeling really good about things, but huge trouble was brewing just underneath the surface.  Finally, one day we learned that Lehman Brothers had “suddenly” collapsed, and then all hell broke loose.

If the economy is actually “getting better” like we are being told by the establishment media, then why are so many big companies declaring bankruptcy?  According to CNBC, the number of publicly traded companies declaring bankruptcy has hit a five year high…

The number of bankruptcies among publicly traded U.S. companies has climbed to the highest first-quarter level for five years, according to a Reuters analysis of data from research firm bankruptcompanynews.com.

Plunging prices of crude oil and other commodities is one of the major reasons for the increased filings, and bankruptcy experts said a more aggressive stance by lenders may also be hurting some companies.

It is interesting to note that the price of oil is being named as one of the primary reasons why this is happening.

In an article entitled “Anyone That Believes That Collapsing Oil Prices Are Good For The Economy Is Crazy“, I warned about this.  If the price of oil does not bounce back in a huge way, we are going to see a lot more companies go bankrupt, a lot more people are going to lose their jobs, and a lot more corporate debt is going to go bad.

And of course this oil crash has not just hurt the United States.  All over the world, economic activity is being curtailed because of what has happened to the price of oil…

In the heady days of the commodity boom, oil-rich nations accumulated billions of dollars in reserves they invested in U.S. debt and other securities. They also occasionally bought trophy assets, such as Manhattan skyscrapers, luxury homes in London or Paris Saint-Germain Football Club.

Now that oil prices have dropped by half to $50 a barrel, Saudi Arabia and other commodity-rich nations are fast drawing down those “petrodollar” reserves. Some nations, such as Angola, are burning through their savings at a record pace, removing a source of liquidity from global markets.

If oil and other commodity prices remain depressed, the trend will cut demand for everything from European government debt to U.S. real estate as producing nations seek to fill holes in their domestic budgets.

But it isn’t just oil.  We appear to be moving into a time when things are slowing down all over the place.

In a recent article, Zero Hedge summarized some of the bad economic news that has come in just this week…

Mortgage Apps tumble, Empire Fed slumps, and now Industrial Production plunges… Against expectations of a 0.3% drop MoM, US Factory Output was twice as bad at -0.6% – the worst since August 2012 (and lamost worst since June 2009). This is the 4th miss in a row.

If we are indeed heading into another economic downturn, that is really bad news, because at the moment we are in far worse shape than we were just prior to the last recession.

To help illustrate this, I want to share with you a couple of charts.

This first chart comes from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and it shows that after you adjust for inflation, median income for the middle class is the lowest that it has been in decades

Median Income St. Louis Fed

This next chart shows that median net worth for the middle class is also the lowest that it has been in decades after you adjust for inflation…

Median Net Worth St. Louis Fed

The middle class is being systematically destroyed.  For much more on this, please see this recent article that I published.  And now we are on the verge of another major economic slowdown.  That is not what the middle class needs at all.

We are also getting some very disturbing economic news out of China.

In 2014, economic growth in China was the weakest in more than 20 years, and Chinese export numbers are absolutely collapsing

China’s monthly trade data shows exports fell in March from a year ago by 14.6% in yuan terms, compared to expectations for a rise of more than 8%.

Imports meanwhile fell 12.3% in yuan terms compared to forecasts for a fall of more than 11%.

This is a clear sign that global economic activity is slowing down in a big way.

In addition, Chinese home prices are now falling at a faster pace then U.S. home prices fell during the subprime mortgage meltdown

It appeared as though things went from bad to worse nearly overnight; China’s National Bureau of Statistics said that contrary to hopes that there would be a modest rebound, the average new home price in China fell at the fastest pace on record in February, from the previous year.

Reuters reported that average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities fell 5.7 percent, year to year, in February – marking the sixth consecutive drop after January’s decline of 5.1 percent.

Things continue to get worse in Europe as well.

This week we learned that the credit rating for Greek government debt has been slashed once again

Standard & Poor’s has just cut Greece’s credit rating to “CCC+” from “B-” with a negative outlook.

S&P said it expected Greece’s debt to be “unsustainable.” It cited the potential for dissolving liquidity in the government, banks and economy.

And according to the Financial Times, we could actually be on the verge of witnessing a Greek debt default…

Greece is preparing to take the dramatic step of declaring a debt default unless it can reach a deal with its international creditors by the end of April, according to people briefed on the radical leftist government’s thinking.

The government, which is rapidly running out of funds to pay public sector salaries and state pensions, has decided to withhold €2.5bn of payments due to the International Monetary Fund in May and June if no agreement is struck, they said.

So I hope that those that are euphoric about the performance of their stock portfolios are taking their profits while they still can.

Huge trouble is percolating just under the surface of the global economy, and it won’t be too long before the financial markets start feeling the pain.

The Six Too Big To Fail Banks In The U.S. Have 278 TRILLION Dollars Of Exposure To Derivatives

Bankers - Public DomainThe very same people that caused the last economic crisis have created a 278 TRILLION dollar derivatives time bomb that could go off at any moment.  When this absolutely colossal bubble does implode, we are going to be faced with the worst economic crash in the history of the United States.  During the last financial crisis, our politicians promised us that they would make sure that “too big to fail” would never be a problem again.  Instead, as you will see below, those banks have actually gotten far larger since then.  So now we really can’t afford for them to fail.  The six banks that I am talking about are JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.  When you add up all of their exposure to derivatives, it comes to a grand total of more than 278 trillion dollars.  But when you add up all of the assets of all six banks combined, it only comes to a grand total of about 9.8 trillion dollars.  In other words, these “too big to fail” banks have exposure to derivatives that is more than 28 times greater than their total assets.  This is complete and utter insanity, and yet nobody seems too alarmed about it.  For the moment, those banks are still making lots of money and funding the campaigns of our most prominent politicians.  Right now there is no incentive for them to stop their incredibly reckless gambling so they are just going to keep on doing it.

So precisely what are “derivatives”?  Well, they can be immensely complicated, but I like to simplify things.  On a very basic level, a “derivative” is not an investment in anything.  When you buy a stock, you are purchasing an ownership interest in a company.  When you buy a bond, you are purchasing the debt of a company.  But a derivative is quite different.  In essence, most derivatives are simply bets about what will or will not happen in the future.  The big banks have transformed Wall Street into the biggest casino in the history of the planet, and when things are running smoothly they usually make a whole lot of money.

But there is a fundamental flaw in the system, and I described this in a previous article

The big banks use very sophisticated algorithms that are supposed to help them be on the winning side of these bets the vast majority of the time, but these algorithms are not perfect.  The reason these algorithms are not perfect is because they are based on assumptions, and those assumptions come from people.  They might be really smart people, but they are still just people.

Today, the “too big to fail” banks are being even more reckless than they were just prior to the financial crash of 2008.

As long as they keep winning, everyone is going to be okay.  But when the time comes that their bets start going against them, it is going to be a nightmare for all of us.  Our entire economic system is based on the flow of credit, and those banks are at the very heart of that system.

In fact, the five largest banks account for approximately 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks account for approximately 67 percent of all assets in our financial system.

So that is why they are called “too big to fail”.  We simply cannot afford for them to go out of business.

As I mentioned above, our politicians promised that something would be done about this.  But instead, the four largest banks in the country have gotten nearly 40 percent larger since the last time around.  The following numbers come from an article in the Los Angeles Times

Just before the financial crisis hit, Wells Fargo & Co. had $609 billion in assets. Now it has $1.4 trillion. Bank of America Corp. had $1.7 trillion in assets. That’s up to $2.1 trillion.

And the assets of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s biggest bank, have ballooned to $2.4 trillion from $1.8 trillion.

During this same time period, 1,400 smaller banks have completely disappeared from the banking industry.

So our economic system is now more dependent on the “too big to fail” banks than ever.

To illustrate how reckless the “too big to fail” banks have become, I want to share with you some brand new numbers which come directly from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report (see Table 2)

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,573,126,000,000 (about 2.6 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $63,600,246,000,000 (more than 63 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,842,530,000,000 (more than 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $59,951,603,000,000 (more than 59 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $856,301,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $57,312,558,000,000 (more than 57 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,106,796,000,000 (a little bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $54,224,084,000,000 (more than 54 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $801,382,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $38,546,879,000,000 (more than 38 trillion dollars)

Wells Fargo

Total Assets: $1,687,155,000,000 (about 1.7 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $5,302,422,000,000 (more than 5 trillion dollars)

Compared to the rest of them, Wells Fargo looks extremely prudent and rational.

But of course that is not true at all.  Wells Fargo is being very reckless, but the others are being so reckless that it makes everyone else pale in comparison.

And these banks are not exactly in good shape for the next financial crisis that is rapidly approaching.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Business Insider article

The New York Times isn’t so sure about the results from the Federal Reserve’s latest round of stress tests.

In an editorial published over the weekend, The Times cites data from Thomas Hoenig, vice chairman of the FDIC, who, in contrast to the Federal Reserve, found that capital ratios at the eight largest banks in the US averaged 4.97% at the end of 2014, far lower than the 12.9% found by the Fed’s stress test.

That doesn’t sound good.

So what is up with the discrepancy in the numbers?  The New York Times explains…

The discrepancy is due mainly to differing views of the risk posed by the banks’ vast holdings of derivative contracts used for hedging and speculation. The Fed, in keeping with American accounting rules and central bank accords, assumes that gains and losses on derivatives generally net out. As a result, most derivatives do not show up as assets on banks’ balance sheets, an omission that bolsters the ratio of capital to assets.

Mr. Hoenig uses stricter international accounting rules to value the derivatives. Those rules do not assume that gains and losses reliably net out. As a result, large derivative holdings are shown as assets on the balance sheet, an addition that reduces the ratio of capital to assets to the low levels reported in Mr. Hoenig’s analysis.

Derivatives, eh?

Very interesting.

And you know what?

The guys running these big banks can see what is coming.

Just consider the words that JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon wrote to his shareholders not too long ago

Some things never change — there will be another crisis, and its impact will be felt by the financial market.

The trigger to the next crisis will not be the same as the trigger to the last one – but there will be another crisis. Triggering events could be geopolitical (the 1973 Middle East crisis), a recession where the Fed rapidly increases interest rates (the 1980-1982 recession), a commodities price collapse (oil in the late 1980s), the commercial real estate crisis (in the early 1990s), the Asian crisis (in 1997), so-called “bubbles” (the 2000 Internet bubble and the 2008 mortgage/housing bubble), etc. While the past crises had different roots (you could spend a lot of time arguing the degree to which geopolitical, economic or purely financial factors caused each crisis), they generally had a strong effect across the financial markets

In the same letter, Dimon mentioned “derivatives moved by enormous players and rapid computerized trades” as part of the reason why our system is so vulnerable to another crisis.

If this is what he truly believes, why is his firm being so incredibly reckless?

Perhaps someone should ask him that.

Interestingly, Dimon also discussed the possibility of a Greek exit from the eurozone

“We must be prepared for a potential exit,”  J. P. Morgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said. in his annual letter to shareholders. “We continually stress test our company for possible repercussions resulting from such an event.”

This is something that I have been warning about for a long time.

And of course Dimon is not the only prominent banker warning of big problems ahead.  German banking giant Deutsche Bank is also sounding the alarm

With a U.S. profit recession expected in the first half of 2015 and investors unlikely to pay up for stocks, the risk of a stock market drop of 5% to 10% is rising, Deutsche  Bank says.

That’s the warning Deutsche Bank market strategist David Bianco zapped out to clients today before the opening bell on Wall Street.

Bianco expects earnings for the broad Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to contract in the first half of 2015 — the first time that’s happened since 2009 during the financial crisis. And the combination of soft earnings and his belief that investors won’t pay top dollar for stocks in a market that is already trading at above-average valuations is a recipe for a short-term pullback on Wall Street.

The truth is that we are in the midst of a historic stock market bubble, and we are witnessing all sorts of patterns in the financial markets which also emerged back in 2008 right before the financial crash in the fall of that year.

When some of the most prominent bankers at some of the biggest banks on the entire planet start issuing ominous warnings, that is a clear sign that time is running out.  The period of relative stability that we have been enjoying has been fun, and hopefully it will last just a little while longer.  But at some point it will end, and then the pain will begin.

 

19 Signs That American Families Are Being Economically Destroyed

19 - Public DomainThe systematic destruction of the American way of life is happening all around us, and yet most people have no idea what is happening.  Once upon a time in America, if you were responsible and hard working you could get a good paying job that could support a middle class lifestyle for an entire family even if you only had a high school education.  Things weren’t perfect, but generally almost everyone in the entire country was able to take care of themselves without government assistance.  We worked hard, we played hard, and our seemingly boundless prosperity was the envy of the entire planet.  But over the past several decades things have completely changed.  We consumed far more wealth than we produced, we shipped millions of good paying jobs overseas, we piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and we kept electing politicians that had absolutely no concern for the long-term future of this nation whatsoever.  So now good jobs are in very short supply, we are drowning in an ocean of red ink, the middle class is rapidly shrinking and dependence on the government is at an all-time high.  Even as we stand at the precipice of the next great economic crisis, we continue to make the same mistakes.  In the end, all of us are going to pay a very great price for decades of incredibly foolish decisions.  Of course a tremendous amount of damage has already been done.  The numbers that I am about to share with you are staggering.  The following are 19 signs that American families are being economically destroyed…

#1 The poorest 40 percent of all Americans now spend more than 50 percent of their incomes just on food and housing.

#2 For those Americans that don’t own a home, 50 percent of them spend more than a third of their incomes just on rent.

#3 The price of school lunches has risen to the 3 dollar mark at many public schools across the nation.

#4 McDonald’s “Dollar Menu & More” now includes items that cost as much as 5 dollars.

#5 The price of ground beef has doubled since 2009.

#6 In 1986, child care expenses for families with employed mothers used up 6.3 percent of all income.  Today, that figure is up to 7.2 percent.

#7 Incomes fell for the bottom 80 percent of all income earners in the United States during the 12 months leading up to June 2014.

#8 At this point, more than 50 percent of all American workers bring home less than $30,000 a year in wages.

#9 After adjusting for inflation, median household income has fallen by nearly $5,000 since 2007.

#10 According to the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.

#11 47 percent of all Americans do not put a single penny out of their paychecks into savings.

#12 One survey found that 62 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck.

#13 According to the U.S. Department of Education, 33 percent of all Americans with student loans are currently behind on their student loan debt repayments.

#14 According to one recent report, 43 million Americans currently have unpaid medical debt on their credit reports.

#15 The rate of homeownership in the U.S. has been declining for seven years in a row, and it is now the lowest that it has been in 20 years.

#16 For each of the past six years, more businesses have closed in the United States than have opened.  Prior to 2008, this had never happened before in all of U.S. history.

#17 According to the Census Bureau, 65 percent of all children in the United States are living in a home that receives some form of aid from the federal government.

#18 If you have no debt at all, and you also have 10 dollars in your wallet, that you are wealthier than 25 percent of all Americans.

#19 On top of everything else, the average American must work from January 1st to April 24th just to pay all federal, state and local taxes.

All of us know people that once were doing quite well but that are now just struggling to get by from month to month.

Perhaps this has happened to you.

If you have ever been in that position, you probably remember what it feels like to have people look down on you.  Unfortunately, in our society the value that we place on individuals has a tremendous amount to do with how much money they have.

So if you don’t have much money, there are a lot of people out there that will treat you like dirt.  The following excerpt comes from a Washington Post article entitled “The poor are treated like criminals everywhere, even at the grocery store“…

Want to see a look of pure hatred? Pull out an EBT card at the grocery store.

Now that my kids are grown and gone, my Social Security check is enough to keep me from qualifying for government food benefits. But I remember well when we did qualify for a monthly EBT deposit, a whopping $22 — and that was before Congress cut SNAP benefits in November 2013. Like 70 percent of people receiving SNAP benefits, I couldn’t feed my family on that amount. But I remember the comments from middle-class people, the assumptions about me and my disability and what the poor should and shouldn’t be spending money on.

Have you ever seen this?

Have you ever experienced this yourself?

These days, most people on food stamps are not in that situation because they want to be.  Rather, they are victims of our long-term economic collapse.

And this is just the beginning.  When the next major economic crisis strikes, the suffering in this country is going to go to unprecedented levels.

As we enter that time, we are going to need a whole lot more love and compassion than we are exhibiting right now.

As a nation, we have made decades of incredibly bad decisions.  As a result, we are experiencing bad consequences which are going to become increasingly more severe.

The numbers that I just shared with you are not good.  But over the next several years they are going to get a whole lot worse.

Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, and life in America is about to change in a major way.

 

33 Strange Facts About America That Most Americans Would Be Shocked To Learn

33 SignDid you know that about one-fourth of the entire global prison population is in the United States?  Did you know that Apple has more money than the U.S. Treasury?  Did you know that if you have no debt and also have 10 dollars in your wallet that you are wealthier than 25 percent of all Americans?  Did you know that by the time an American child reaches the age of 18, that child will have seen approximately 40,000 murders on television?  There are some things that are great about the United States, and there are definitely some things that are not so great.  Once upon a time we were the most loved and most respected nation on the entire planet, but those days are long gone.  We have wrecked our economy, we have lost our values and we have fumbled away our future.  But if you look close enough, you can still see many of the things that once made this country a shining beacon to the rest of the world.  This article includes some weird facts, some fun facts, but also some very troubling facts.  It has been said that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and hopefully as people enjoy reading the fun facts in this article they will also take note of the more serious facts.  If we are ever going to change course as a nation, we need to come to grips with just how far we have fallen.  The following are 33 strange facts about America that most Americans would be shocked to learn…

#1 The amount of cement that China used from 2011 to 2013 was greater than the total amount of cement that the United States used during the entire 20th century.

#2 In more than half of all U.S. states, the highest paid public employee in the state is a football coach.

#3 It costs the U.S. government 1.8 cents to mint a penny and 9.4 cents to mint a nickel.

#4 Almost half of all Americans (47 percent) do not put a single penny out of their paychecks into savings.

#5 In 2014, police in the United States killed 1,100 people.  During that same year, police in Canada killed 14 people, police in China killed 12 people and police in Germany didn’t kill anyone at all.

#6 The state of Alaska is 429 times larger than the state of Rhode Island is.  But Rhode Island has a significantly larger population than Alaska does.

#7 Alaska has a longer coastline than all of the other 49 U.S. states put together.

#8 The city of Juneau, Alaska is about 3,000 square miles in size.  It is actually larger than the entire state of Delaware.

#9 When LBJ’s “War on Poverty” began, less than 10 percent of all U.S. children were growing up in single parent households.  Today, that number has skyrocketed to 33 percent.

#10 In 1950, less than 5 percent of all babies in America were born to unmarried parents.  Today, that number is over 40 percent.

#11 The poverty rate for households that are led by a married couple is 6.8 percent.  For households that are led by a female single parent, the poverty rate is 37.1 percent.

#12 In 2013, women earned 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees that were awarded that year in the United States.

#13 According to the CDC, 34.6 percent of all men in the U.S. are obese at this point.

#14 The average supermarket in the United States wastes about 3,000 pounds of food each year.

#15 Right now, more than 200 million people around the planet are officially considered to be unemployed.  Meanwhile, approximately 20 percent of the garbage that goes into our landfills is food.

#16 There is a city in Bangladesh called Dhaka where workers are paid just one dollar for every 1,000 bricks that they carry.  Meanwhile, the “inactivity rate” for men in their prime working years in the United States is hovering near record high levels.

#17 According to one recent survey, 81 percent of Russians now have a negative view of the United States.  That is much higher than at the end of the Cold War era.

#18 Montana has three times as many cows as it does people.

#19 The grizzly bear is the official state animal of California.  But no grizzly bears have been seen there since 1922.

#20 One recent survey discovered that “a steady job” is the number one thing that American women are looking for in a husband, and another survey discovered that 75 percent of women would have a serious problem dating an unemployed man.

#21 According to a study conducted by economist Carl Benedikt Frey and engineer Michael Osborne, 47 percent of the jobs in the United States could soon be lost to computers, robots and other forms of technology.

#22 The only place in the United States where coffee is grown commercially is in Hawaii.

#23 The original name of the city of Atlanta was “Terminus“.

#24 The state with the most millionaires per capita is Maryland.

#25 There are more than 4 million adult websites on the Internet, and they get more traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.

#26 86 percent of men include “having children” in their definition of success.  For women, that number is only 73 percent.

#27 One survey of 50-year-old men in the U.S. found that only 12 percent of them said that they were “very happy”.

#28 The United States has 845 motor vehicles for every 1,000 people.  Japan only has 593 for every 1,000 people, and Germany only has 540 for every 1,000 people.

#29 The average American spends more than 10 hours a day using an electronic device.

#30 48 percent of all Americans do not have any emergency supplies in their homes whatsoever.

#31 There are three towns in the United States that have the name “Santa Claus“.

#32 There is actually a town in Michigan called “Hell“.

#33 There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.  If they were stretched out in a single line, they could go around the planet more than twice.

 

Why Does Maryland Have The Most Millionaires Per Capita? The Answer Might Make You Angry

Raining MoneyThe fat cats in Washington D.C. are living the high life, and they are doing it at your expense.  Over the past decade, there has been one area of the country which has experienced a massive economic boom.  Thanks to wildly out of control government spending, the Washington D.C. region is absolutely swimming in cash.  In fact, at this point the state of Maryland has the most millionaires per capita in the entire nation and it isn’t even close.  If you have never lived there, it is hard to describe what the D.C. area is like.  Every weekday morning, hordes of lawyers, lobbyists and government bureaucrats descend upon D.C. from the surrounding suburbs.  And at the end of the day, the process goes in reverse.  Everyone is just trying to get their piece of the pie, and it is a pie that just keeps on growing as government salaries, government contracts and government giveaways just get larger and larger.  Of course our founders never intended for this to happen.  They wanted a very small and simple federal government.  Sadly, today we have the most bloated central government in the history of the planet and it gets worse with each passing year.

If you were to ask most Americans, they would tell you that the wealthiest Americans probably live in cities such as New York or San Francisco.  But thanks to the Obama administration (and before that the Bush and Clinton administrations), the state of Maryland is packed with millionaires.  In particular, the Maryland suburbs immediately surrounding D.C. are absolutely overflowing with government fat cats that make a living at our expense.  Every weekday morning, huge numbers of them leave their mini-mansions in places such as Potomac and Rockville and drive their luxury vehicles to work in the city.  As the Washington Post has detailed, at this point approximately 8 percent of all households in the entire state of Maryland contain millionaires, and the rest of the area is not doing too shabby either…

In Maryland, nearly 8 out of every 100 households in 2014 had assets topping $1 million, giving the state more millionaires per capita than any other in the country, according to a new report from Phoenix Marketing International.

The rest of the Beltway isn’t lacking in millionaires either: The District and Virginia ranked in the top 10 among those with the highest number of millionaire households per capita in 2014. In Virginia, which was No. 6 on the list, 6.76 percent of the state’s 3.17 million households are millionaires. And in the District, which rounds out the top 10, 6.25 percent of its more than 292,000 households are millionaires.

And while not too many of them are millionaires, your average federal workers that toil in D.C. are doing quite well too.

Once upon a time, it was considered to be a “sacrifice” to go into “government service”.

Not anymore.

If you can believe it, approximately 17,000 federal employees made more than $200,000 last year.

Overall, compensation for federal employees comes to a grand total of close to half a trillion dollars every 12 months.

In fact, there are tens of thousands of federal employees that make more than the governors of their own states do.

Does that seem right to you?

If you want to live “the American Dream” these days, the Washington area is the place to go.  Just check out the following description of the region from the Washington Post

Washingtonians now enjoy the highest median household income of any metropolitan area in the country, and five of the top 10 jurisdictions in America — Loudoun, Howard and Fairfax counties, and Falls Church and Fairfax City — are here, census data shows.

The signs of that wealth are on display all over, from the string of luxury boutiques such as Gucci and Tory Burch opening at Tysons Galleria to the $15 cocktails served over artisanal ice at the W Hotel in the District to the ever-larger houses rising off River Road in Potomac.

And of course let us not forget the fat cats in Congress.

According to CNN, our Congress critters are now wealthier than every before…

The typical American family is still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, but Congress is getting wealthier every year.

The median net worth of lawmakers was just over $1 million in 2013, or 18 times the wealth of the typical American household, according to new research released Monday by the Center for Responsive Politics.

And while Americans’ median wealth is down 43% since 2007, Congress members’ net worth has jumped 28%.

Not only that, there are nearly 200 members of Congress that are actually multimillionaires

Nearly 200 are multimillionaires. One hundred are worth more than $5 million; the top-10 deal in nine digits. The annual congressional salary alone—$174,000 a year—qualifies every member as the top 6 percent of earners. None of them are close to experiencing the poverty-reduction programs—affordable housing, food assistance, Medicaid—that they help control. Though some came from poverty, a recent analysis by Nicholas Carnes, in his book White Collar Government: The Hidden Role of Class in Economic Policymaking, found that only 13 out of 783 members of Congress from 1999 to 2008 came from a “blue-collar” upbringing.

Incredible.

But even though almost all of them are quite wealthy, they don’t hesitate to spend massive amounts of taxpayer money on their own personal needs.

For example, according to the Weekly Standard, more than five million dollars was spent on the hair care needs of U.S. Senators alone over one recent 15 year period…

Senate Hair Care Services has cost taxpayers about $5.25 million over 15 years. They foot the bill of more than $40,000 for the shoeshine attendant last fiscal year. Six barbers took in more than $40,000 each, including nearly $80,000 for the head barber.

And in one recent year, an average of $4,005,900 was spent on “personal” and “office” expenses per U.S. Senator.

So the grand total would have been over 400 million dollars for a single year.

That seems excessive, doesn’t it?

And even when they end up leaving Washington, our Congress critters have ensured that they will continue to collect money from U.S. taxpayers for the rest of their lives

In 2011, 280 former lawmakers who retired under a former government pension system received average annual pensions of $70,620, according to a Congressional Research Service report. They averaged around 20 years of service. At the same time, another 215 retirees (elected in 1984 or later with an average of 15 years of service) received average annual checks of roughly $40,000 a year.

If you can believe it, there are quite a few former lawmakers that are collecting federal pensions for life worth at least $100,000 annually.  The list includes Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Trent Lott, Dick Gephardt and Dick Cheney.

Of course the biggest windfalls of all are for our ex-presidents.  Most Americans would be shocked to learn that the U.S. government is spending approximately 3.6 million dollars a year to support the lavish lifestyles of former presidents such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

So does this make you angry?

Or are you okay with these fat cats living the high life at our expense?

Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

14 Signs That Most Americans Are Flat Broke And Totally Unprepared For The Coming Economic Crisis

14 Signs Americans Are Flat BrokeWhen the coming economic crisis strikes, more than half the country is going to be financially wiped out within weeks.  At this point, more than 60 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and a whopping 24 percent of the country has more credit card debt than emergency savings.  One of the primary principles that any of these “financial experts” that you see on television will teach you is to have a cushion to fall back on.  At the very least, you never know when unexpected expenses like major car repairs or medical bills will come along.  And in the event of a major economic collapse, if you do not have any financial cushion at all you will be a sitting duck.  Yes, I know that there are millions upon millions of families out there that are just trying to scrape by from month to month at this point.  I hear from people that are deeply struggling in this economy all the time.  So I don’t blame them for not being able to save lots of money.  But if you are in a position to build up an emergency fund, you need to do so.  We have been experiencing an extended period of relative economic stability, but it will not last.  In fact, the time for getting prepared for the next great economic downturn is rapidly running out, and most Americans are not ready for it at all.  The following are 14 signs that most Americans are flat broke and totally unprepared for the coming economic crisis…

#1 According to a survey that was just released, 24 percent of all Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings.

#2 That same survey discovered that an additional 13 percent of all Americans do not have any credit card debt, but they do not have a single penny of emergency savings either.

#3 At this point, approximately 62 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

#4 Adults under the age of 35 in the United States currently have a savings rate of negative 2 percent.

#5 More than half of all students in U.S. public schools come from families that are poor enough to qualify for school lunch subsidies.

#6 A study that was conducted last year found that more than one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is “in collections“.

#7 One survey discovered that 52 percent of all Americans really cannot even financially afford the homes that they are living in right now.

#8 According to research conducted by Atif Mian of Princeton University and Amir Sufi of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 40 percent of Americans could not come up with $2000 right now without borrowing it.

#9 That same study found that 60 percent of Americans could not say yes to the following question…

“Do you have 3 months emergency funds to cover expenses in case of sickness, job loss, economic downturn?”

#10 A different study discovered that less than one out of every four Americans has enough money stored away to cover six months of expenses.

#11 Today, the average American household is carrying a grand total of 203,163 dollars of debt.

#12 It is estimated that less than 10 percent of the entire U.S. population owns any gold or silver for investment purposes.

#13 48 percent of all Americans do not have any emergency supplies in their homes whatsoever.

#14 53 percent of all Americans do not even have a minimum three day supply of nonperishable food and water in their homes.

Perhaps none of this concerns you.

Perhaps you think that this bubble economy can persist indefinitely.

Well, if you won’t listen to the more than 1200 articles that set out the case for the coming economic collapse on my website, perhaps you will listen to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.  The following is what he recently told one interviewer

We asked him where he thought the gold price will be in five years and he said “measurably higher.”

In private conversation I asked him about the outstanding debts… and that the debt load in the U.S. had gotten so great that there has to be some monetary depreciation. Specially he said that the era of quantitative easing and zero-interest rate policies by the Fed… we really cannot exit this without some significant market event… By that I interpret it being either a stock market crash or a prolonged recession, which would then engender another round of monetary reflation by the Fed.

He thinks something big is going to happen that we can’t get out of this era of money printing without some repercussions – and pretty severe ones – that gold will benefit from.

And as I have stressed so frequently, the signs that the next crisis is almost here are all around us.

For example, the Baltic Dry Index has just plunged to a fresh record low, and things have already gotten so bad that some global shippers are now filing for bankruptcy

The unintended consequences of a money-printed, credit-fueled, mal-investment-boom in commodities (prices – as opposed to physical demand per se) and the downstream signals that sent to any and all industries are starting to bite. The Baltic Dry Index has plunged once again to new record lows and the collapse of the non-financialized ‘clean’ indicator of the imbalances between global trade demand and freight transport supply has the real-world effects are starting to be felt, as Reuters reports the third dry-bulk shipper this month has filed for bankruptcy… in what shippers call “the worst market conditions since the ’80s.”

Perhaps you do see things coming.

Perhaps you do want to get prepared.

If you are new to all of this, and you don’t quite know how to get started preparing, please see my previous article entitled “89 Tips That Will Help You Prepare For The Coming Economic Depression“.  It will give you some basic tips that you can start implementing right away.

And of course one of the most important things is something that I talked about at the top of this article.

If at all possible, you have got to have an emergency fund.  When the coming economic storm strikes, your family is going to need something to fall back on.

If you are trusting in the government to save you when things fall apart, you will be severely disappointed.

Most Americans Are Slaves And They Don’t Even Know It

Chain - Public DomainMost Americans spend their lives working for others, paying off debts to others and performing tasks that others tell them that they “must” do.  These days, we don’t like to think of ourselves as “servants” or “slaves”, but that is what the vast majority of us are.  It is just that the mechanisms of our enslavement have become much more sophisticated over time.  It has been said that the borrower is the servant of the lender, and most of us start going into debt very early into our adult years.  In fact, those that go to college to “get an education” are likely to enter the “real world” with a staggering amount of debt.  And of course that is just the beginning of the debt accumulation.  Today, when you add up all mortgage debt, all credit card debt and all student loan debt, the average American household is carrying a grand total of 203,163 dollars of debt.  Overall, American households are more than 11 trillion dollars in debt at this point.  And even though most Americans don’t realize this, over the course of our lifetimes the amount of money that we will repay on our debts is far greater than the amount that we originally borrowed.  In fact, when it comes to credit card debt you can easily end up repaying several times the amount of money that you originally borrowed.  So we work our fingers to the bone to pay off these debts, and the vast majority of us are not even working for ourselves.  Instead, our work makes the businesses that other people own more profitable.  So if we spend the best years of our lives building businesses for others, servicing debts that we owe to others and making others wealthier, what does that make us?

In 2015, the words “servant” and “slave” have very negative connotations, and we typically don’t use them very much.

Instead, we use words like “employee” because they make us feel so much better.

But is there really that much of a difference?

This is how Google defines “servant”…

“a person who performs duties for others, especially a person employed in a house on domestic duties or as a personal attendant.”

This is how Google defines “slave”…

“a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.”

This is how Google defines “employee”…

“a person employed for wages or salary, especially at nonexecutive level.”

Yes, most of us might not be “legal property” of someone else in a very narrow sense, but in a broader sense we all have to answer to someone.

We all have someone that we must obey.

And we all have obligations that we must meet or else face the consequences.

At this point, Americans are more dependent on the system than ever before.  Small business ownership in the U.S. is at a record low, and the percentage of Americans that are self-employed has fallen to unprecedented levels in recent years.  From a very early age, we are trained to study hard so that we can get a good “job” (“just over broke”) and be good cogs in the system.

But is that what life is about?

Is it about being a cog in a system that ultimately benefits others?

Perhaps you don’t think that any of this applies to you personally.

Well, if someone came up to you and asked you what you truly own, what would you say?

Do you own your vehicle?

Most Americans don’t.

In fact, today the average auto loan at signing is approximately $27,000, and many of them stretch on for six or seven years.

What about your home?

Do you own it?

Most Americans don’t.

In fact, overall the banks have a much greater “ownership” interest in our homes and our land than we do.

But even if you have your home totally “paid off”, does that mean that you actually “own” it?

Well, no, not really.

Just see what happens if you quit paying your property taxes (rent) to the proper authorities.

So if they can take your home away from you for not paying rent (property taxes), do you really own it?

That is something to think about it.

What about all of your stuff?

Do you own it?

Perhaps.

But a very large percentage of us have willingly enslaved ourselves in order to acquire all of that stuff.

Today, the typical U.S. household that has at least one credit card has approximately $15,950 in credit card debt.

And if you do not pay off those credit card balances, the credit card companies will unleash the hounds on you.

Have you ever had an encounter with a debt collector?

They can be absolutely brutal.  And they use those tactics because they work.  In fact, they are so good at what they do that many of those that own debt collection companies have become exceedingly wealthy.  The following is from a recent CNN article

Yachts. Mansions. Extravagant dinner parties. Life is good for the founders of one of the nation’s biggest government debt collectors.

That firm, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, rakes in big money from government contracts that allow it to pursue debtors over toll violations, taxes and parking tickets. While the debts often start small, the Austin-based firm charges high fees, which can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the bill.

After growing this business from a small Texas law firm in the late 1970’s to a nationwide debt collection powerhouse, the firm’s founders and top brass have walked away with millions of dollars.

And I haven’t even mentioned our collective debts yet.

We have willingly chosen to collectively enslave ourselves on a local, a state and a national level.

It is bad enough that we are doing this to ourselves.  But we are also cruelly saddling future generations of Americans with the largest mountain of debt in the history of the planet.  The following is from my previous article entitled “Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt“…

When Barack Obama took the oath of office, the U.S. national debt was 10.6 trillion dollars.  Today, it has surpassed the 18 trillion dollar mark.  And even though we are being told that “deficits are going down”, the truth is that the U.S. national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal 2014.  But that isn’t good enough for Obama.  He says that we need to come out of this period of “mindless austerity” and steal money from our children and our grandchildren even faster.  In addition, Obama wants to raise taxes again.  His budget calls for 2 trillion dollars in tax increases over the next decade.  He always touts these tax increases as “tax hikes on the rich”, but somehow they almost always seem to end up hitting the middle class too.  But whether or not Congress ever adopts Obama’s new budget is not really the issue.  The reality of the matter is that the “tax and spend Democrats” and the “tax and spend Republicans” are both responsible for getting us into this mess.  Future generations of Americans are already facing the largest mountain of debt in the history of the planet, and both parties want to make this mountain of debt even higher.  The only disagreement is about how fast it should happen.  It is a national disgrace, but most Americans have come to accept this as “normal”.  If our children and our grandchildren get the opportunity, they will curse us for what we have done to them.

So can we really call ourselves the “home of the brave and the land of the free”?

Isn’t the truth that the vast majority of us are actually deeply enslaved?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

 

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