Get 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.
Anyone that thinks that the U.S. economy can keep going along like this is absolutely crazy. We are in the terminal phase of an unprecedented debt spiral which has allowed us to live far, far beyond our means for the last several decades. Unfortunately, all debt spirals eventually end, and they usually do so in a very disorderly manner. The chart that you are about to see is one of my favorite economic charts. It compares the growth of U.S. GDP to the growth of total debt in the United States. Yes, U.S. GDP has certainly grown at a decent pace over the years, but our total debt has absolutely exploded. 40 years ago, the total amount of debt in our system (government debt + corporate debt + consumer debt, etc.) was about 2 trillion dollars. Today it has grown to more than 56 trillion dollars. Our debt has grown at a much, much faster rate than our economy has, and there is no way in the world that we will be able to continue to do that for long.
Posted below is the chart that I was talking about. The blue line is our total debt, and the red line is our GDP. As you can see, this chart kind of speaks for itself…
So how did we get here?
Well, of course the federal government has been the biggest offender. It would be a tremendous understatement to say that the politicians in Washington D.C. have been reckless. Since the year 2000, the size of the U.S. national debt has grown by more than 11 trillion dollars.
Posted below is a chart that demonstrates the dramatic growth of the national debt as a percentage of GDP. In particular, our debt has absolutely exploded as a percentage of GDP since the financial crisis of 2008…
Does that look sustainable to you?
Of course it isn’t.
Right now, the mainstream media is very excited that the federal budget deficit for this year might be less than a trillion dollars, but they are really missing the point. The debt of the U.S. government is still growing much, much faster than the economy is, and the United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain.
What we are doing to future generations is absolutely criminal. We are piling up mountains of debt that will haunt them for the rest of their lives just so that we can make the present a little bit more pleasant for ourselves.
As I noted in another article, during Obama’s first term the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined. And now we are entering a time period when demographic forces are going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the finances of the federal government.
The Baby Boomers have started to retire, and they are going to want to start collecting on all of the financial promises that we have made to them.
As I have written about previously, the number of Americans on Medicare is projected to grow from a little bit more than 50 million today to 73.2 million in 2025.
The number of Americans collecting Social Security benefits is projected to grow from about 56 million today to 91 million in 2035.
Where are we going to get the money to pay for all of that?
Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff has calculated that the U.S. government is facing unfunded liabilities of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.
There is no simply no way that the U.S. government is going to be able to meet those obligations without wildly printing up money.
And of course the federal government is not the only one with massive debt problems. We just saw the city of Detroit go bankrupt, and there are lots of other communities all over the nation that could soon follow.
Posted below is a chart that shows the growth of state and local government debt over the years. In particular, please take note that the total amount of state and local government debt has grown from about 1.2 trillion dollars in the year 2000 to about 3 trillion dollars today…
But the chart posted above does not even take into account the massive unfunded pension obligations that state and local governments are facing. According to the Detroit Free Press, state governments are facing unfunded pension obligations of nearly a trillion and a half dollars…
From Baltimore to Los Angeles, and many points in between, municipalities are increasingly confronted with how to pay for these massive promises. The Pew Center for the States, in Washington, estimated states’ public pension plans across the U.S. were underfunded by a whopping $1.4 trillion in 2010.
And many large cities are dealing with similar situations. Detroit was the first to go down, but could Chicago or Los Angeles eventually be forced to declare bankruptcy too?…
Chicago recently saw its credit rating downgraded because of a $19-billion unfunded pension liability that the ratings service Moody’s puts closer to $36 billion. And Los Angeles could be facing a liability of more than $30 billion, by some estimates.
According to a report that was released earlier this year, the largest U.S. cities are facing hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities at this point…
Early this year, the Pew Center released a survey showing that 61 of the nation’s largest cities — limiting the survey to the largest city in each state and all other cities with more than 500,000 people — had a gap of more than $217 billion in unfunded pension and health care liabilities. While cities had long promised health care, life insurance and other benefits to retirees, “few … started saving to cover the long-term costs,” the report said.
So where will all of that money come from?
That is a good question, and nobody has an easy answer at this point.
Meanwhile, U.S. consumers have been racking up staggering amounts of debt over the past several decades. Just consider the following numbers…
-Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.
-Car loans just keep getting longer and longer, and approximately 70 percent of all car purchases in the United States now involve an auto loan.
-The total amount of student loan debt in America recently surpassed the one trillion dollar mark.
-One study discovered that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt, and according to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States.
-Consumer debt in the United States has risen by a whopping 1700% since 1971, and 46% of all Americans carry a credit card balance from month to month.
Sadly, most people don’t realize how damaging credit card debt can be. If you just carry an “average balance” on your credit cards each month, and those credit cards have just an “average” interest rate, you could end up paying millions of dollars to the credit card companies by the end of your life…
Let’s say you are an average American household, and you carry an average balance of $15,956 in credit card debt.
Also, as an average American household, let’s assume you pay an average current rate of 12.83%.
Finally, let’s assume you carry this average balance for 40 years, between ages 25 and 65. How much did your credit card company make off of you and your extreme averageness?
Incredibly, a large percentage of the population does not seem to understand these things. An astounding 43 percent of all American families spend more than they earn each year.
Are you starting to understand why approximately half of all Americans die broke?
We are a nation that is completely and addicted to debt.
If you do not believe that it will ever catch up with us you are being delusional.
We have piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the planet, and a day of reckoning is fast approaching.
Did you know that the greatest period of economic growth in American history was during a time when there was absolutely no federal income tax? Between the end of the Civil War and 1913, there was an explosion of economic activity in the United States unlike anything ever seen before or since. Unfortunately, a federal income tax was instituted in 1913, and this year it turned 100 years old. But there was no fanfare, was there? There was no celebration because the federal income tax is universally hated. Sadly, most Americans just assume that there is no other option to an income tax. Most Americans just assume that it has always been with us and that it will always be with us. This year, the American people will shell out approximately $4.22 trillion in state and federal income taxes. That amount is equivalent to approximately 29.4 percent of all income that Americans will bring in this year, and that does not even take into account the dozens of other taxes that Americans pay each year. At this point, the U.S. tax code is about 13 miles long, and those that are honest and pay their taxes every year are being absolutely shredded by this system. But wouldn’t the federal government go broke if we didn’t have a federal income tax? No, actually the truth is that the federal government did just fine before there was an income tax. In fact, the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger since the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve were created by Congress back in 1913. As I have written about previously, the Federal Reserve system was actually designed to trap the United States in a debt spiral from which it could never possibly escape, and the federal income tax was needed to greatly expand the size of the federal government and to soak the American people of the funds necessary to service that debt. But it doesn’t have to be this way. America was once much better off before the income tax and the Federal Reserve were created, and we could easily go to such a system again.
What we desperately need to do is to teach the American people a little history lesson. The truth is that the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was between the Civil War and 1913 when there was no federal income tax at all. The following is from Wikipedia…
The Gilded Age saw the greatest period of economic growth in American history. After the short-lived panic of 1873, the economy recovered with the advent of hard money policies and industrialization. From 1869 to 1879, the US economy grew at a rate of 6.8% for real GDP and 4.5% for real GDP per capita, despite the panic of 1873. The economy repeated this period of growth in the 1880s, in which the wealth of the nation grew at an annual rate of 3.8%, while the GDP was also doubled.
Sadly, most Americans cannot even conceive of an economy like that. Most Americans cannot even imagine having a nation without a massively bloated federal government and without an unelected central bank centrally planning our financial system.
But you know what?
It worked. In fact, it worked fantastically well.
The period between the Civil War and 1913 propelled the United States to greatness. Just check out all of the good things that Wikipedia says happened for the U.S. economy during those years…
The rapid economic development following the Civil War laid the groundwork for the modern U.S. industrial economy. By 1890, the USA leaped ahead of Britain for first place in manufacturing output.
An explosion of new discoveries and inventions took place, a process called the “Second Industrial Revolution.” Railroads greatly expanded the mileage and built stronger tracks and bridges that handled heavier cars and locomotives, carrying far more goods and people at lower rates. Refrigeration railroad cars came into use. The telephone, phonograph, typewriter and electric light were invented. By the dawn of the 20th century, cars had begun to replace horse-drawn carriages.
Parallel to these achievements was the development of the nation’s industrial infrastructure. Coal was found in abundance in the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania south to Kentucky. Oil was discovered in western Pennsylvania; it was mainly used for lubricants and for kerosene for lamps. Large iron ore mines opened in the Lake Superior region of the upper Midwest. Steel mills thrived in places where these coal and iron ore could be brought together to produce steel. Large copper and silver mines opened, followed by lead mines and cement factories.
In 1913 Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, a step in the process that became known as mass-production.
But if we didn’t have an income tax, how did we fund the government? Well, we mostly did it with tariffs and excise taxes. The following is from a recent article by Thomas R. Eddlem…
Prior to ratification of the 16th (income tax) Amendment in February 1913, the federal government managed its few constitutional responsibilities without an income tax, except during the Civil War period. During peacetime, it did so largely — or even entirely — on import taxes called “tariffs.” Congress could afford to run the federal government on tariffs alone because federal responsibilities did not include welfare programs, agricultural subsidies, or social insurance programs like Social Security or Medicare. After the Civil War, tariff revenues sometimes suffered under a protectionist policy ushered in by the Republican Party that supplemented federal income via excises on alcohol, tobacco, and inheritances. But before the war, the need for tariff revenue to finance the federal government generally kept the tariff at reasonable levels. During wartime throughout early American history, the Founding Fathers were able to raise additional revenue employing a different method of direct taxation authorized by the U.S. Constitution prior to the 16th Amendment. These alternative taxing methods gave the young American nation embarrassing peacetime budget surpluses that several times came close to paying off the national debt.
So why didn’t we stick with that system?
Well, early in the 20th century the “progressives” and the social planners started to take control in Washington.
And one of the things that “progressives” and social planners love is an income tax. In fact, the second plank of the Communist Manifesto is a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax”.
Of course they promised us that income tax rates would always remain low. And at first they were quite low. The following is from an article by Adam Young…
The presidential election of 1912 was contested between three advocates of an income tax. The winner, Woodrow Wilson, after the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, called a special session of Congress in April 1913, which proceeded to pass an income tax of 1% on incomes above $3,000 and applied surcharges between 2% and 7% on income from $20,000 to $500,000.
But once the “progressives” and the social planners get their feet in the door, they always want more.
And we have seen how things have worked out. Today, the American people are being taxed into oblivion.
In a previous article entitled “Show This To Anyone That Believes That Taxes Are Too Low“, I listed dozens of other taxes that the American people pay each year in addition to federal and state income taxes…
#1 Building Permit Taxes
#2 Capital Gains Taxes
#3 Cigarette Taxes
#4 Court Fines (indirect taxes)
#5 Dog License Taxes
#6 Drivers License Fees (another form of taxation)
#7 Federal Unemployment Taxes
#8 Fishing License Taxes
#9 Food License Taxes
#10 Gasoline Taxes
#11 Gift Taxes
#12 Hunting License Taxes
#13 Inheritance Taxes
#14 Inventory Taxes
#15 IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
#16 IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
#17 Liquor Taxes
#18 Luxury Taxes
#19 Marriage License Taxes
#20 Medicare Taxes
#21 Medicare Tax Surcharge On High Earning Americans Under Obamacare
#22 Obamacare Individual Mandate Excise Tax (if you don’t buy “qualifying” health insurance under Obamacare you will have to pay an additional tax)
#23 Obamacare Surtax On Investment Income (a new 3.8% surtax on investment income that goes into effect next year)
#24 Property Taxes
#25 Recreational Vehicle Taxes
#26 Toll Booth Taxes
#27 Sales Taxes
#28 Self-Employment Taxes
#29 School Taxes
#30 Septic Permit Taxes
#31 Service Charge Taxes
#32 Social Security Taxes
#33 State Unemployment Taxes (SUTA)
#34 Tanning Tax (a new Obamacare tax on tanning services)
#35 Telephone Federal Excise Taxes
#36 Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Taxes
#37 Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Taxes
#38 Telephone State And Local Taxes
#39 Tire Taxes
#40 Tolls (another form of taxation)
#41 Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)
#42 Utility Taxes
#43 Vehicle Registration Taxes
#44 Workers Compensation Taxes
Yet even with all of these taxes, our local governments, our state governments and our federal government are all absolutely drowning in debt.
In another previous article entitled “24 Outrageous Facts About Taxes In The United States That Will Blow Your Mind“, I listed a number of reasons why our federal income tax system has become a complete and utter abomination that can never be fixed…
1 – The U.S. tax code is now 3.8 million words long. If you took all of William Shakespeare’s works and collected them together, the entire collection would only be about 900,000 words long.
2 – According to the National Taxpayers Union, U.S. taxpayers spend more than 7.6 billion hours complying with federal tax requirements. Imagine what our society would look like if all that time was spent on more economically profitable activities.
3 – 75 years ago, the instructions for Form 1040 were two pages long. Today, they are 189 pages long.
4 – There have been 4,428 changes to the tax code over the last decade. It is incredibly costly to change tax software, tax manuals and tax instruction booklets for all of those changes.
5 – According to the National Taxpayers Union, the IRS currently has 1,999 different publications, forms, and instruction sheets that you can download from the IRS website.
6 – Our tax system has become so complicated that it is almost impossible to file your taxes correctly. For example, back in 1998 Money Magazine had 46 different tax professionals complete a tax return for a hypothetical household. All 46 of them came up with a different result.
7 – In 2009, PC World had five of the most popular tax preparation software websites prepare a tax return for a hypothetical household. All five of them came up with a different result.
8 – The IRS spends $2.45 for every $100 that it collects in taxes.
9 – According to The Tax Foundation, the average American has to work until April 17th just to pay federal, state, and local taxes. Back in 1900, “Tax Freedom Day” came on January 22nd.
10 – When the U.S. government first implemented a personal income tax back in 1913, the vast majority of the population paid a rate of just 1 percent, and the highest marginal tax rate was just 7 percent.
11 – Residents of New Jersey pay $1.64 in taxes for every $1.00 of federal spending that they get back.
12 – The United States is the only nation on the planet that tries to tax citizens on what they earn in foreign countries.
13 – According to Forbes, the 400 highest earning Americans pay an average federal income tax rate of just 18 percent.
14 – Warren Buffett had an effective tax rate of just 17.4 percent for 2010.
15 – The top 20 percent of all income earners in the United States pay approximately 86 percent of all federal income taxes.
16 – Sadly, as Bill Whittle has shown, you could take every single penny that every American earns above $250,000 and it would only fund about 38 percent of the federal budget.
17 – The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world (35 percent). In Ireland, the corporate tax rate is only 12.5 percent. This is causing thousands of corporations to move operations out of the United States and into other countries.
18 – Some tax havens are doing a booming business in setting up sham headquarters for U.S. corporations. For example, the city of Zug, Switzerland only has a population of 26,000 people but it is the headquarters for 30,000 companies.
19 – In 1950, corporate taxes accounted for about 30 percent of all federal revenue. In 2012, corporate taxes will account for less than 7 percent of all federal revenue.
The wealthy have become absolute masters at avoiding taxes, and the poor are not able to pay much.
So who always gets squeezed?
The middle class does.
No matter what our politicians promise us, the hammer is always brought down on the middle class.
And now, according to The Huffington Post, the IRS says that it can even read our old emails without a warrant to make sure that we are paying all of the taxes that we should be…
The IRS apparently interprets that authority very broadly, the documents show: as long as you’ve stored your email in a cloud service like Google Mail, and as long as those emails haven’t been deleted after a few months, the agency thinks it doesn’t need a warrant to read them.
The idea of IRS agents poking through your email account might sound at the very least creepy, and maybe unconstitutional. But the IRS does have a legal leg to stand on: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 allows government agencies to in many cases obtain emails older than 180 days without a warrant.
That’s why an internal 2009 IRS document claimed that “the government may obtain the contents of electronic communication that has been in storage for more than 180 days” without a warrant.
It should be noted that the IRS is claiming that it does not use emails “to target” specific taxpayers, but notice that they are not promising not to use old emails against taxpayers once they are officially being audited or investigated…
“Contrary to some suggestions, the IRS does not use emails to target taxpayers. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”
In any event, the truth is that we have one of the most complicated and one of the most intrusive tax systems in the history of the world.
Don’t the American people deserve better?
What do you think?
Should America go back to a system where there is no income tax and no Federal Reserve?
Please feel free to share what you think by leaving a comment below…
Most Americans have no idea how much economic trouble is heading our way. Most of them just assume that everything will eventually “return to normal” just like it always has before and that those running our economy “know what they are doing” and that we should trust them to do their jobs. Unfortunately, these beliefs are being reinforced by the bubble of false hope that we are experiencing right now. For example, it is being reported that weekly unemployment claims in the United States have fallen to a four-year low. That is a very good thing. Let us hope that unemployment claims go even lower and that the current period of stability lasts for as long as possible. We should enjoy these last fleeing moments of tremendous prosperity for as long as we can, because when they are gone they won’t be coming back. As I noted the other day, all of this false prosperity in the United States has been financed by the 15 trillion dollar party that we have been enjoying. We are adding about 150 million dollars to our debt every single hour so that we can continue to enjoy an inflated standard of living. Unfortunately, nobody in the history of the world has ever been able to keep a debt spiral going indefinitely, and our debt bubble will burst eventually as well.
Sadly, when you attempt to end (or even slow down) a debt spiral the consequences can be extremely painful. Just look at what is happening in Greece. Several waves of austerity measures have been implemented, the Greek economy has been plunged into a full-blown depression and Greek debt is still going up.
The rest of the nations of the eurozone are also now implementing austerity measures, and most of them are also starting to fall into recession. The economic pain in Europe is just beginning and it will go on for quite a long time.
And eventually the United States is going to join the pain. Right now the U.S. government can still borrow trillions of dollars at super low interest rates thanks to games being played by the Federal Reserve. But it is simply not possible for this Ponzi scheme to last too much longer. When it ends, the pain will be extremely great.
And even in the short-term there are some extremely troubling signs for the U.S. economy.
The following are 19 signs of very serious economic trouble on the horizon….
#1 According to one new survey, approximately one-third of all Americans are not paying their bills on time at this point.
#2 The U.S. housing industry is bracing for another huge wave of foreclosures in 2012. The following is from a recent Reuters article….
“We are right back where we were two years ago. I would put money on 2012 being a bigger year for foreclosures than 2010,” said Mark Seifert, executive director of Empowering & Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP), a counseling group with 10 offices in Ohio.
#3 The Citigroup Economic Surprise Index, a key indicator watched by many economists, is on the verge of heading into negative territory.
#4 We are supposed to be in the middle of an economic recovery in the United States, but bad news just keeps pouring in from major companies. For example, Yahoo is firing thousands of workers and Best Buy is closing dozens of stores.
#5 Richard Russell says that the “big money” is starting to quietly exit from the financial markets….
“My guess is that this is the big money that has been holding off as long as it decently can — and then dumping their goods just before the close. I don’t think the big money likes this market, and I think they have been slowly exiting this market, as quietly as they can.”
#6 Goldman Sachs is projecting that the S&P 500 will fall by about 11 percent by the end of 2012.
#7 All over the country, local governments are going into default and we have not even entered the next recession yet.
#8 The U.S. government will add more to the national debt in 2012 than it did from the time that George Washington became president to the time that Ronald Reagan became president.
#9 The Federal Reserve is desperately trying to control interest rates. The Fed purchased approximately 61 percent of all government debt issued by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2011. This is the only thing that is keeping interest rates in the United States from soaring dramatically.
#10 German industrial production is falling at a pace that is far faster then expected.
#11 Italy’s debt-to-GDP ratio is now up to 120 percent.
#12 The Spanish government admitted on Tuesday that Spain’s debt-to-GDP ratio will rise by more than 11 percent this year alone.
#13 Yields on Spanish bonds are rising to dangerous levels.
#14 The Spanish government is projecting that the unemployment rate in Spain will exceed 24 percent by the end of the year.
#15 Unemployment in the eurozone as a whole has risen for 10 months in a row and is now at a 15 year high.
#16 In the aftermath of a 77-year-old retiree killing himself in front of the Greek parliament in protest over pension cuts, the economic rioting in Greece has flared back up dramatically.
#17 At this point, Greece is experiencing an economic depression with no end in sight. Some of the statistics coming out of Greece are really hard to believe. For example, one port town in Greece now has an unemployment rate of approximately 60 percent.
#18 The IMF is asking the United States to contribute more money for European bailouts.
#19 At this point, even some of our top scientists are projecting economic trouble. For example, researchers at MIT are projecting a “global economic collapse” by the year 2030 if current trends continue.
But the truth is that we will experience a “global economic collapse” long before 2030 comes rolling around.
Let us hope that we still have at least several more months of economic prosperity in the United States before things really fall apart.
The truth is that the vast majority of Americans need more time to prepare for what is coming.
Sadly, most Americans are not preparing. Most Americans have blind faith that those in positions of power are going to fix everything and set us on the path to even greater prosperity than ever before.
Unfortunately, all Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama have been doing is kicking the can down the road and making our eventual collapse much worse.
As many of us have painfully learned, you can run from debt for a while, but you can’t hide from it forever. Eventually debt catches up with you, and when it does it can be very cruel.
The 15 trillion dollar party is coming to an end, and the consequences of decades of very foolish decisions are going to fall on this generation.
What happens when you attempt a cold shutdown of one of the biggest debt spirals that the world has ever seen? Well, we are about to find out. The politicians in Europe have decided that they are going to “take their medicine” and put strict limits on budget deficits. They have also decided that the European Central Bank is not going to engage in reckless money printing to “paper over” the debts of troubled nations. This may all sound wonderful to many of you, but the reality is that there is always a tremendous amount of pain whenever a massive debt spiral is interrupted. Just look at what happened to Greece. Greece was forced to raise taxes and implement brutal austerity measures. That caused the economy to slow down and tax revenues to decline and so government debt figures did not improve as much as anticipated. So Greece was forced to implement even more brutal austerity measures. Well, that caused the economy to slow down even more and tax revenues declined again. In Greece this cycle has been repeated several times and now Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic depression. 100,000 businesses have closed and a third of the population is living in poverty. But now Germany and France intend to impose the “Greek solution” on the rest of Europe. This is going to create the conditions needed for a “perfect storm” to develop and it means that the European financial system is heading for an implosion of historic proportions.
The easiest way to deal with a debt spiral is to let it keep going and going. That is what the United States has done. Sure, “kicking the can down the road” makes the crisis much worse in the long run, but bringing the pain into the present is not a lot of fun either.
Europe has decided to do something that is unprecedented in the post-World War II era. They have decided to put very strict limits on budget deficits and to impose tough sanctions on any nations that break the rules. They have also decided that they are not going to allow the European Central Bank to fund the debts of troubled nations with reckless money printing.
Without a doubt, this is a German solution for a German-dominated Europe. Germany does not want to pay for the debt mistakes of other EU nations, and so they are shoving bitter austerity down the throats of those that have gotten into too much debt.
But this solution is not going to be implemented without a massive amount of pain.
In fact, this solution is going to make a massive financial collapse much more likely. The following are 17 signs that the European financial system is heading for an implosion of historic proportions….
#1 As noted above, when you reduce government spending you also slow down the economy. We have already seen what brutal austerity has done to Greece – 100,000 businesses have shut down, a third of the population is living in poverty and there is rioting in the streets. Now that brand of brutal austerity is going to be imposed in almost every single nation in Europe.
#2 As the economy slows down in Europe, unemployment will rise. There are already 10 different European nations that have an “official” unemployment rate of over 10 percent and the next recession has not even officially started yet.
#3 Before it is all said and done, the EU nations that are drowning in debt will likely need trillions of euros in bailout money just to survive. But at this point Germany and the other wealthy nations of northern Europe are sick and tired of bailouts and do not plan to hand over trillions of euros.
#4 The European Central Bank could theoretically print up trillions of euros and buy up massive amounts of European sovereign debt, but this would go against existing treaties and most of the major politicians in Europe are steadfastly against this right now. But without such intervention it is hard to see how the ECB will be able to keep bond yields from absolutely skyrocketing for long. In fact, without massive ECB intervention it is hard to see how the eurozone is going to be able to stay together at all. Graeme Leach, the chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said the following recently….
“Unless the ECB begins to operate as a sovereign lender of last resort function, with massive purchases of eurozone public debt, the inexorable logic is that the eurozone will break up.”
#5 European leaders are hoping that the new treaty that was just agreed to will be ratified by the end of the summer. In reality, it will probably take much longer than that. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that the solution to this debt crisis is going to take a long time to implement….
“It’s a process, and this process will take years.”
Unfortunately, Europe does not have years. Europe is rapidly running out of time. A massive financial crisis is steamrolling right at them and they need solutions right now.
#6 Sadly, the cold, hard reality of the matter is that none of the fundamental problems that Europe is facing were fixed by this recent “agreement” as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recently noted in one of his columns….
There is no shared debt issuance, no fiscal transfers, no move to an EU Treasury, no banking licence for the ESM rescue fund, and no change in the mandate of the European Central Bank.
In short, there is no breakthrough of any kind that will convince Asian investors that this monetary union has viable governance or even a future.
Germany has kept the focus exclusively on fiscal deficits even though everybody must understand by now that this crisis was not caused by fiscal deficits (except in the case of Greece). Spain and Ireland were in surplus, and Italy had a primary surplus.
#7 Nobody wants to lend to European banks right now. Everyone knows that there are dozens of European banks in danger of failing, and nobody wants to throw any more money into those black holes. The U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have been lending them money, but a lot of European banks are already starting to run out of “acceptable forms of collateral” for those loans as one Australian news source recently explained….
“If anyone thinks things are getting better, they simply don’t understand how severe the problems are,” a London executive at a global bank said. “A major bank could fail within weeks.”
Others said many continental banks, including French, Italian and Spanish lenders, were close to running out of the acceptable forms of collateral, such as US Treasury bonds, that could be used to finance short-term loans.
Some have been forced to lend out their gold reserves to maintain access to US dollar funding.
So will the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank keep lending them money once they are out of acceptable collateral?
If not, we could start to see banks fail in rapid succession.
Charles Wyplosz, a professor of international economics at Geneva’s Graduate Institute, is absolutely certain that we are going to see some major European banks collapse….
“Banks will collapse, including possibly a number of French banks that are very exposed to Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain.”
#8 Not only does nobody want to lend money to them, major banks all over Europe are also dramatically cutting back on lending to consumers and businesses as they attempt to meet new capital-adequacy requirements by next June.
According to renowned financial journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, European banks need to reduce the amount of lending on their books by about 7 trillion dollars in order to get down to safe levels….
Europe’s banks face a $7 trillion lending contraction to bring their balance sheets in line with the US and Japan, threatening to trap the region in a credit crunch and chronic depression for a decade.
When nobody wants to lend to the banks, and when the banks severely cut back on lending to others, that is called a “credit crunch”. In such an environment, it is incredibly difficult to avoid a major recession.
#9 European banks are absolutely overloaded with “toxic assets” that they are desperate to get rid of. Just as we saw with U.S. banks back in 2008, major European banks are busy trying to unload mountains of worthless assets that have a book value of trillions of euros. Unfortunately for the banks, virtually nobody wants to buy them.
#10 European bond yields are still incredibly high even though the European Central Bank has spent over 274 billion dollars buying up European government bonds.
Up until now, the European Central Bank has been taking money out of the system (by taking deposits or by selling assets for example) whenever it injects new money into the system by buying bonds. That makes this different from the quantitative easing that the U.S. Federal Reserve has done. But at some point the European Central Bank is going to run out of ways to take money out of the system, and when that happens either the Germans will have to allow the ECB to print money out of thin air to buy bonds with or we will finally see the market determine the true value of European government bonds.
#11 Bond yields are going to become even more important in 2012, because huge mountains of European sovereign debt are scheduled to be rolled over next year. For example, Italy must roll over approximately 20 percent of its entire sovereign debt during 2012.
#12 Once the new treaty is ratified, eurozone governments will lose the power to respond to a major recession by dramatically increasing government spending. So if the governments of Europe cannot spend more money in response to the coming financial crisis, and if the ECB cannot print more money in response to the coming financial crisis, then what is going to keep the coming recession from turning into a full-blown depression?
#13 Credit rating agencies are warning that more credit downgrades may be coming in Europe. For example, Moody’s recently stated the following….
“While our central scenario remains that the euro area will be preserved without further widespread defaults, shocks likely to materialise even under this ‘positive’ scenario carry negative credit and rating implications in the coming months. And the longer the incremental approach to policy persists, the greater the likelihood of more severe scenarios, including those involving multiple defaults by euro area countries and those additionally involving exits from the euro area.”
#14 S&P has put 15 members of the eurozone (including Germany) on review for a possible credit downgrade.
#15 The stock prices of many major European banks are in the process of collapsing. If you doubt this, just check out the charts in this article.
#16 Bank runs have begun in some parts of Europe. For example, a recent article posted on Yahoo News described what has been going on in Latvia….
Latvia’s largest bank scrambled Monday to head off a run among depositors who were gripped by rumours of the bank’s imminent ruin.
Weekend rumours that Swedbank was facing legal and liquidity problems in Estonia and Sweden sent thousands of Latvians to bank machines on Sunday, with some lines reaching as many as 50 people.
The Greek banking system is literally on the verge of collapse. According to a recent Der Spiegel article, the run on Greek banks is rapidly accelerating….
He means that the outflow of funds from Greek bank accounts has been accelerating rapidly. At the start of 2010, savings and time deposits held by private households in Greece totalled €237.7 billion — by the end of 2011, they had fallen by €49 billion. Since then, the decline has been gaining momentum. Savings fell by a further €5.4 billion in September and by an estimated €8.5 billion in October — the biggest monthly outflow of funds since the start of the debt crisis in late 2009.
#17 There are already signs that European economic activisty (as well as global economic activity) is really starting to slow down. Just consider the following statistics from a recent article by Stephen Lendman….
In November, French business confidence fell for the eighth consecutive month. In October, Japanese machinery orders dropped 6.9%, following an 8.2% plunge in September.
South Africa just reported a 5.6% drop in manufacturing activity. Britain recorded a 0.7% decline. China’s October exports fell 1.7% after dropping 3.8% in September.
Korea’s exports are down three consecutive months. Singapore’s were off in September and October. Indonesia’s plunged 8.5% in October after slipping 2% in September. India’s imploded 18.3% after being flat in September.
Are you starting to get the picture?
Europe is in a massive amount of trouble.
The equation is simple….
Brutal austerity + toxic levels of government debt + rising bond yields + a lack of confidence in the financial system + banks that are massively overleveraged + a massive credit crunch = A financial implosion of historic proportions
Unless something truly dramatic happens, the economy of Europe is a dead duck.
There is no way that Europe is going to be able to substantially reduce the flow of money coming from national governments and substantially reduce the flow of money coming from the banks and still be able to avoid a major recession.
Look, I want it to be very clear that I am in no way advocating government debt in this article. It is just that under the debt-based monetary paradigm that we are all operating under, there is no way that you can dramatically reduce government spending without experiencing a whole lot of pain.
An economic “perfect storm” is developing in Europe. All of the things that need to happen for a major recession to occur are falling into place.
So does anyone out there disagree with me? Does anyone think that Europe is going to be just fine?
Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….