15 Economic Statistics That Just Keep Getting Worse

A little over a week ago, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner penned an article for the New York Times entitled “Welcome To The Recovery” in which he touted the great strides that the U.S. economy was making.  But with unemployment still dangerously high and with foreclosures and personal bankruptcies continuing to set all-time records, should we really be talking about a “recovery”?  The truth is that the numbers don’t lie, and statistic after statistic shows that the economic fundamentals continue to get progressively worse.  The U.S. government can continue to try to pump up with economy with more debt, but the reality is that there is not going to be a legitimate “recovery” until consumer spending rebounds.  Consumer spending makes up the vast majority of U.S. GDP.  But without good jobs, consumers are not going to be able to spend money.  Unfortunately, our jobs base continues to be erode as millions upon millions of middle class jobs are shipped over to China, India and dozens of third world nations by the global predator corporations that now dominate the world economy.

The U.S. government cannot create real wealth out of thin air.  It can borrow even more money and flood the economy with even more paper currency, but the short-term “buzz” that creates does absolutely nothing to solve our long-term economic problems.

It is the private sector that actually creates wealth.  But unfortunately, over the last several decades we have allowed that wealth to become highly concentrated.  Now the giant global predator corporations have decided that American workers aren’t really that desirable after all.  They are slowly taking away their factories and their offices and they are moving them to where people are willing to work for one-tenth the pay. 

So where does that leave middle class American “consumers”?

Well, it leaves us in a world of hurt.

The following are 15 key economic statistics that just keep getting worse and which reveal the horrific economic plight in which we now find ourselves…. 

1 – The number of Americans who are receiving food stamps rose to a new all-time record of 40.8 million in May.  The number of Americans receiving food stamps has set a new all-time record for 18 months in a row.  But there is every indication that things are going to get even worse.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that the number of Americans on food stamps will increase to 43 million in 2011. 

2 – The U.S. economy lost 131,000 more jobs during the month of July.  But the truth is that the U.S. economy has been bleeding jobs for a long time.  According to one analysis, the United States has lost 10.5 million jobs since 2007.  Meanwhile, immigrants (both legal and illegal) continue to pour into this nation in unprecedented numbers.

3 – Americans who are out of work are finding it incredibly difficult to get back into the workforce.  In the United States today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to an all-time record of 35.2 weeks.

4 – The U.S. government keeps trying to pump up the economy with debt, and in the process things are getting wildly out of control.  According to a U.S. Treasury Department report to Congress, the U.S. national debt will top $13.6 trillion this year and climb to an estimated $19.6 trillion by 2015.

5 – The interest on all of this debt is becoming increasingly oppressive.  As of July 1st, the U.S. government had spent $355 billion so far in 2010 on interest payments to the holders of the national debt.  The total for 2010 should be somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 billion.  According to Erskine Bowles, one of the heads of Barack Obama’s national debt commission, the U.S. government will be spending $2 trillion just on interest on the national debt by 2020.  Keep in mind that the entire U.S. government budget is less than $4 trillion for the entire year of 2010.

6 – If the U.S. government was forced to use GAAP accounting principles (like all publicly-traded corporations must), the annual U.S. government budget deficit would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 trillion to $5 trillion.

7 – Social Security will pay out more in benefits in 2010 than it receives in payroll taxes.  This was not supposed to happen until at least 2015.  In the years ahead, these new “Social Security deficits” are projected to be absolutely catastrophic

8 – There are simply far too many retirees and not nearly enough workers to support them.  Back in 1950 each retiree’s Social Security benefit was paid for by 16 workers.  Today, each retiree’s Social Security benefit is paid for by approximately 3.3 workers.  By 2025 it is projected that there will be approximately two workers for each retiree.

9 – Wealth continues to become highly concentrated at the top.  Since 1973, the average CEO’s salary has increased from 26 times the median income to over 300 times the median income.

10According to a poll taken in 2009, 61 percent of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck.  That was up significantly from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.

11 – The Mortgage Bankers Association recently announced that more than 10% of all U.S. homeowners with a mortgage had missed at least one mortgage payment during the January to March time period.  That was a new all-time record and represented an increase from 9.1 percent a year ago.

12 – A recent survey of last year’s college graduates found that 80 percent moved right back home with their parents after graduation.  That was up substantially from 63 percent in 2006.

13 – During the first quarter of 2010, the total number of loans that are at least three months past due in the United States increased for the 16th consecutive quarter.

14 – The total number of U.S. bank failures passed the 100 mark in July of this year.  In 2009, the total number of U.S. bank failures did not pass the century barrier until October.

15 – The U.S. dollar continues to rapidly decline in value.  An item that cost $20.00 in 1970 would cost you $112.35 today.  An item that cost $20.00 in 1913 would cost you $440.33 today.

Any rational observer (and clearly U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner does not qualify) can see that the foundations of the U.S. economy are coming apart.  The rapidly accumulating mountain of debt that has fueled our “prosperity” is impossible to repay and is going to progressively choke the life out of our economic system.  The good jobs that we have allowed to be shipped out of our country are never coming back.  Every single day, more wealth flows out of this country than flows into it.

Anyone who claims that things are getting “better” is either ignorant, completely deluded or is purposely lying. 

The U.S. economy is not getting “better”.

The U.S. economy is dying.

You should adjust your plans accordingly.

The Horrific Derivatives Bubble That Could One Day Destroy The Entire World Financial System

Today there is a horrific derivatives bubble that threatens to destroy not only the U.S. economy but the entire world financial system as well, but unfortunately the vast majority of people do not understand it.  When you say the word “derivatives” to most Americans, they have no idea what you are talking about.  In fact, even most members of the U.S. Congress don’t really seem to understand them.  But you don’t have to get into all the technicalities to understand the bigger picture.  Basically, derivatives are financial instruments whose value depends upon or is derived from the price of something else.  A derivative has no underlying value of its own.  It is essentially a side bet.  Originally, derivatives were mostly used to hedge risk and to offset the possibility of taking losses.  But today it has gone way, way beyond that.  Today the world financial system has become a gigantic casino where insanely large bets are made on anything and everything that you can possibly imagine. 

The derivatives market is almost entirely unregulated and in recent years it has ballooned to such enormous proportions that it is almost hard to believe.  Today, the worldwide derivatives market is approximately 20 times the size of the entire global economy.

Because derivatives are so unregulated, nobody knows for certain exactly what the total value of all the derivatives worldwide is, but low estimates put it around 600 trillion dollars and high estimates put it at around 1.5 quadrillion dollars. 

Do you know how large one quadrillion is?

Counting at one dollar per second, it would take 32 million years to count to one quadrillion.

If you want to attempt it, you might want to get started right now.

To put that in perspective, the gross domestic product of the United States is only about 14 trillion dollars.

In fact, the total market cap of all major global stock markets is only about 30 trillion dollars.

So when you are talking about 1.5 quadrillion dollars, you are talking about an amount of money that is almost inconceivable.

So what is going to happen when this insanely large derivatives bubble pops?

Well, the truth is that the danger that we face from derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet has called them “financial weapons of mass destruction”.

Unfortunately, he is not exaggerating.

It would be hard to understate the financial devastation that we could potentially be facing. 

A number of years back, French President Jacques Chirac referred to derivatives as “financial AIDS”.

The reality is that when this bubble pops there won’t be enough money in the entire world to fix it.

But ignorance is bliss, and most people simply do not understand these complex financial instruments enough to be worried about them.

Unfortunately, just because most of us do not understand the danger does not mean that the danger has been eliminated.

In a recent column, Dr. Jerome Corsi of WorldNetDaily noted that even many institutional investors have gotten sucked into investing in derivatives without even understanding the incredible risk they were facing….

A key problem with derivatives is that in the attempt to reduce costs or prevent losses, institutional investors typically accepted complex risks that carried little-understood liabilities widely disproportionate to any potential savings the derivatives contract may have initially obtained.

The hedge-fund and derivatives markets are so highly complex and technical that even many top economists and investment-banking professionals don’t fully understand them.

Moreover, both the hedge-fund and the derivatives markets are almost totally unregulated, either by the U.S. government or by any other government worldwide.

Most Americans don’t realize it, but derivatives played a major role in the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.

Do you remember how AIG was constantly in the news for a while there?

Well, they weren’t in financial trouble because they had written a bunch of bad insurance policies.

What had happened is that a subsidiary of AIG had lost more than $18 billion on Credit Default Swaps (derivatives) it had written, and additional losses from derivatives were on the way which could have caused the complete collapse of the insurance giant.

So the U.S. government stepped in and bailed them out – all at U.S. taxpayer expense of course.

But the AIG incident was actually quite small compared to what could be coming.  The derivatives market has become so monolithic that even a relatively minor imbalance in the global economy could set off a chain reaction that would have devastating consequences. 

In his recent article on derivatives, Webster Tarpley described the central role that derivatives now play in our financial system….

Far from being some arcane or marginal activity, financial derivatives have come to represent the principal business of the financier oligarchy in Wall Street, the City of London, Frankfurt, and other money centers. A concerted effort has been made by politicians and the news media to hide and camouflage the central role played by derivative speculation in the economic disasters of recent years. Journalists and public relations types have done everything possible to avoid even mentioning derivatives, coining phrases like “toxic assets,” “exotic instruments,” and – most notably – “troubled assets,” as in Troubled Assets Relief Program or TARP, aka the monstrous $800 billion bailout of Wall Street speculators which was enacted in October 2008 with the support of Bush, Henry Paulson, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the Obama Democrats.

But wasn’t the financial reform law that Congress just passed supposed to fix all this?

Well, the truth is that you simply cannot “fix” a 1.5 quadrillion dollar problem, but yes, the financial reform law was supposed to put some new restrictions on derivatives.

And initially, there were some somewhat significant reforms contained in the bill.  But after the vast horde of Wall Street lobbyists in Washington got done doing their thing, the derivatives reforms were almost completely and totally neutered.

So the rampant casino gambling continues and everybody on Wall Street is happy.

For now.

One day some event will happen which will cause a sudden shift in world financial markets and trillions of dollars of losses in derivatives will create a tsunami that will bring the entire house of cards down.

All of the money in the world will not be enough to bail out the financial system when that day arrives.

The truth is that we should have never allowed world financial markets to become a giant casino. 

But we did.

Soon enough we will all pay the price, and when that disastrous day comes, most Americans will still not understand what is happening.

11 Reasons Why The Federal Reserve Is Bad

Millions of Americans are waking up to the fact that the Federal Reserve is bad, but very few of them can coherently explain why this is true.  For decades, an unelected, privately-owned central bank has controlled America’s currency, run our economy and has driven the U.S. government to the brink of bankruptcy.  It operates in great secrecy, it has never been subjected to a comprehensive audit and yet the actions it takes have an impact on every single American.  It is an institution designed to drain wealth from the U.S. government (and ultimately from the American people) and transfer it to the ultra-wealthy.  Have you ever wondered why a sovereign nation such as the United States has to borrow United States dollars from anyone?  Have you ever wondered why a sovereign nation such as the United States does not even issue its own currency?  Have you ever wondered why we allow a group of unelected private bankers to run our economy?

Those are some very important questions.  Hopefully what you are about to read will open the eyes of many.  The truth is that our financial system is centrally-controlled and centrally-managed by a group of banking oligarchs who have constructed an ever-expanding debt spiral which has been efficiently designed to slowly transfer all wealth into their hands.

The following are 11 reasons why the Federal Reserve is not good for the United States….

1 – The Federal Reserve was created as a way to enslave the U.S. government with debt.  The truth is that the U.S. government only goes into debt if it chooses to.  Theoretically, one day that U.S. government could simply decide to print as many U.S. dollars as it wants and pay off all government debts.  But under the current system that is not allowed.  You see, today the U.S. government does not issue any money.  The Federal Reserve issues all money.  That is why they are called “Federal Reserve notes”.

Under the current regime, whenever the U.S. government wants more currency to be created it has to go into more debt.

In a previous article entitled “It Is Now Mathematically Impossible To Pay Off The U.S. National Debt” I explained how this insidious system works….

If you will pull a dollar bill out and take a look at it, you will notice that it says “Federal Reserve Note” at the top.

It belongs to the Federal Reserve.

The U.S. government cannot simply go out and create new money whenever it wants under our current system.

Instead, it must get it from the Federal Reserve.

So, when the U.S. government needs to borrow more money (which happens a lot these days) it goes over to the Federal Reserve and asks them for some more green pieces of paper called Federal Reserve Notes.   

The Federal Reserve swaps these green pieces of paper for pink pieces of paper called U.S. Treasury bonds. The Federal Reserve either sells these U.S. Treasury bonds or they keep the bonds for themselves (which happens a lot these days).

So that is how the U.S. government gets more green pieces of paper called “U.S. dollars” to put into circulation. But by doing so, they get themselves into even more debt which they will owe even more interest on.

So every time the U.S. government does this, the national debt gets even bigger and the interest on that debt gets even bigger.

Now, apologists for the Federal Reserve system are quick to point out that the Federal Reserve does not make much of a profit.   Once a “statutory dividend” of 6% is paid to member banks and a capital account surplus is “maintained”, the rest of the profits of the Federal Reserve go back to the U.S. Treasury.

Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

The point is not how much of a profit the Federal Reserve makes or does not make.

The point is that the Federal Reserve is a tool for creating U.S. government debt which slowly drains our national wealth and which ends up greatly enriching the global elite.

As of July 1st, the U.S. government had spent $355 billion so far in 2010 on interest payments to the holders of the national debt.

Have you ever wondered who gets all that money?

The truth is that the wealthiest individuals around the globe have been getting very rich for a very long time off of government debt.

2 – The Federal Reserve creates money out of thin air.  In a previous article, I noted how this fact comes out in congressional hearings and yet the American people just don’t seem to get too upset about it….

During a recent Joint Economic Committee hearing on Capital Hill, U.S. Representative Ron Paul directly confronted Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke about this 1.3 trillion dollars.  As Ron Paul described how this 1.3 trillion was just created out of thin air, all Bernanke could do was nod his head.  Why?  Because it was the truth.

3– The huge predator megabanks that now dominate the U.S. banking system use the Federal Reserve as a tool to make money.  One of the ways they do this is called the U.S. Treasury carry trade.  What happens is that the Federal Reserve lends huge amounts of money to the megabanks for next to nothing, and then these megabanks use all that cash to buy U.S. government debt.  This little “trick” helped enable four of the biggest U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup) to have a “perfect quarter” with zero days of trading losses during the first quarter of 2010.  Wouldn’t you like to have a perfect batting average?

4 – The Federal Reserve devalues our currency.  Since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913, the U.S. dollar has lost 96 percent of its purchasing power.  The truth is that just a two percent inflation rate will wipe out half of your purchasing power within a single generation.  In the chart below, you can clearly see that the beginning of the rapid rise of inflation in the United States coincided with the creation of the Federal Reserve….

5 – The Federal Reserve manipulates the U.S. economy by setting national interest rates.  By keeping rates high or low, the Federal Reserve has the power to create economic growth or to destroy it.  They have the power to inflate massive bubbles and to pop them.  Most Americans give way too much credit and blame to presidents like Bush or Obama for how the economy is doing.  The truth is that they really don’t have that much control over the economy compared to the Federal Reserve.

6 – The Federal Reserve also controls the  national money supply.  They can pump trillions into the economy or pull trillions out without being accountable to anyone.  This can have disastrous consequences.  For example, after the U.S. stock market crash of 1929, the Federal Reserve continued to contract the money supply.  Many analysts believe that this was one of the key things that precipitated the Great Depression.

7– The Federal Reserve is not part of the U.S. government.  The truth is that the Federal Reserve is about as “federal” as Federal Express is.  In defending itself against a Bloomberg request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Reserve objected by declaring that it was “not an agency” of the U.S. government and therefore it was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  It is kind of funny how Fed officials are always talking about how important their “independence” is, but whenever anyone starts criticizing them for being private they start stressing their ties with the government.

8 – The Federal Reserve has become far, far too powerful.  The reality is that those running the Federal Reserve are not elected and yet have an enormous amount of control.  In fact, Ron Paul recently told MSNBC that he believes that the Federal Reserve is more powerful than Congress…..

“The regulations should be on the Federal Reserve. We should have transparency of the Federal Reserve. They can create trillions of dollars to bail out their friends, and we don’t even have any transparency of this. They’re more powerful than the Congress.”

9– The Federal Reserve is dominated by Wall Street and the New York banks.  The New York representative is the only permanent member of the Federal Open Market Committee, while other regional banks rotate in 2 and 3 year intervals.  The former head of the New York Fed, Timothy Geithner, is now U.S. Treasury Secretary.  The truth is that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has always been the most important of the regional Fed banks by far, and in turn the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has always been dominated by Wall Street and the major New York banks.

10– Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to completely eliminate minimum reserve requirements for banks.  Fractional reserve banking has always been a way that the bankers have conned the public, but now Bernanke wants to get rid of the pretense of “reserves” altogether.

It is almost too bizarre to believe, but it is right there in black and white on the Federal Reserve’s own website….

The Federal Reserve believes it is possible that, ultimately, its operating framework will allow the elimination of minimum reserve requirements, which impose costs and distortions on the banking system.

11 – The Federal Reserve is not accountable to anyone.  The Federal Reserve has never undergone a true comprehensive audit since it was created back in 1913.  Ron Paul’s proposal to audit the Federal Reserve, which had previously been co-sponsored by 320 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, ultimately failed by a vote of 229-198.

But shouldn’t the American people be able to see what is going on inside the Federal Reserve?

Shouldn’t we have some way to keep them accountable?

After all, they have an incredible amount of power over us, shouldn’t we have at least a little bit of power over them?

Unfortunately, the truth is that they desperately do not want light to be shined on the elaborate “shell game” that they are running.

Have you ever wondered if it was just a coincidence that the personal income tax was implemented just about the same time that the Federal Reserve was created?

Why does the U.S. government have to tax us?

Why can’t the U.S. government just print up all the money that it needs?

Well, the way that our Congress spends money that would probably create horrific hyperinflation, but that is the subject for another article.

The point is that the U.S. government should not have to get U.S. dollars from someone else.

If you take a few minutes to stop and think about it, an America where there is no Federal Reserve, no personal income tax and no IRS is not that hard to imagine.

If the U.S. government functioned just fine without all of them at one time, then why couldn’t the U.S. government function just fine without all of them now?

The system we have now clearly is not working.  The Federal Reserve was supposed to guarantee that our financial system would be perfectly stable, but in reality our financial system has become much more unstable.

It is time for different thinking.  It is time for the U.S. government to take back control of our currency and of our economy.  It is time to start electing some people with common sense to represent us in Washington.

So what do you think of the Federal Reserve?  Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion….

Rare Earth Elements: The World Is Rapidly Running Out And China Has Most Of The Remaining Supply

Most people have no idea what rare earth elements are, but a wide array of the technologies that we use every single day are dependent on them.  Without rare earth elements, we would have no hybrid car batteries, flat screen televisions, cell phones or iPods.  Without rare earth elements, the entire “green economy” would not be able to function, because almost all emerging green technologies use them.  Not only that, but rare earth elements are used by the U.S. military in radar systems, missile-guidance systems, satellites and aircraft electronics.  Without rare earth elements, the U.S. military (and militaries all over the globe) would not be able to function.  There are 17 key rare earth elements that we rely on every day.  But there is a huge problem.  China owns more than 85 percent of the known global reserves of rare earth elements.  Right now, the rest of the world is absolutely dependent on China’s exports of these metals.  Without these Chinese exports, the western world would quickly run out of these precious resources.  But in just a few years, the rapidly expanding Chinese economy will gobble up the entire domestic production of Chinese rare earth elements.  So what will the rest of the world do at that point?

This is a major problem that you aren’t hearing a lot about in the mainstream news.

But analysts are now predicting that by 2012 this could be a tremendous crisis.

So exactly what are rare earth elements?

Well, rare earth elements are a group of 17 relatively rare chemical elements that you can find on the periodic table.  These rare metals have names you may not be familiar with such as lanthanum, cerium, tantalum, neodymium and europium.  As mentioned above, they are used in products that we use every day such as laptop computers, iPhones, magnets, catalytic converters, night vision goggles and wind turbines.  These metals are not well known, but they are absolutely crucial to our way of life.

So what is going to happen when we start running out of them?

According to The Independent, the move towards “green technology” will cause a dramatic increase in demand for rare earth metals in the years ahead.  In fact, it is being projected that the world will need 200,000 tons of rare earth elements by the year 2014.

But analysts fear that China may drop exports of rare earth elements to exactly zero tons by 2012.

Can anyone else see a problem forming?

Last summer, one leaked report indicated that Chinese authorities were already considering a complete export ban of the most critical of the rare earth elements.

But while we may speculate when the complete ban is coming, the truth is that China has already moved to dramatically cut back exports of the metals.

China recently announced that they have cut export quotas for rare earth elements by 72 percent for the second half of 2010.  The U.S. government reacted quite angrily to this news and warned that this could potentially cause a trade war. 

TechNewsDaily recently quoted W. David Menzie, chief of the international minerals section at the U.S. Geological Survey, regarding the coming shortage of rare earth elements….

“Countries and companies that have or plan to develop industries that need rare earth minerals to make products are concerned about China’s growing consumption, which they fear will eliminate China’s exports of rare earths.”

So what needs to be done?

Well, nations and corporations that use rare earth elements need to start weaning themselves off the supply coming from China.

But there is a huge problem.

That cannot be done overnight.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, building an independent U.S. supply chain for rare earth elements could take up to 15 years.

So what in the world will we do until then?

That is a very good question.

The truth is that those running the U.S. government are just not very good at thinking strategically.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office report mentioned above lists Mountain Pass, California as perhaps the largest non-Chinese rare earth deposit in the world. 

But it almost fell into Chinese hands unnoticed.

You see, the mine in Mountain Pass is owned by Unocal, and in 2005 a Chinese bid for Unocal almost succeeded.

Yes, the Chinese were trying to strengthen their monopoly on rare earth elements and it almost worked.

Not that they don’t have the rest of the world in a very difficult situation already.

The truth is that if China cut off the export of all rare earth elements to the rest of the world tomorrow, it would throw the global economy into absolute chaos.

That is a lot of power for China to have.

Let’s just hope they don’t use it any time soon.

Look What Surprises They Snuck Into The Financial Reform Bill

Even just a decade ago, major pieces of legislation in the U.S. Congress would be just a few dozen pages long.  But today, it seems like every time Congress passes an important bill it ends up being over a thousand pages long.  In fact, the final version of the new financial reform law was over 2,300 pages.  Overall, as we wrote about extensively in a previous article, this much-ballyhooed new law does a whole lot of nothing, but it turns out that lobbyists and special interests were able to insert a few nasty surprises that we are just now finding out about.  But it was the same thing with the health care reform law.  It was only after it was passed that most of us learned that it contained a provision that will force U.S. small businesses to collectively produce millions more 1099 tax forms each year.  Now small businesses from coast to coast are screaming bloody murder about that provision but it is too late – the law has already passed.  Unfortunately, there are some surprises in the recently passed financial reform law that are nearly just as bad.

So just what are those surprises?

Well, first let’s talk about what the financial reform law does not do.  The financial reform bill was supposed to “fix” Wall Street and the financial system, but it did not do much of anything….        

-It does nothing to address the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

-It does not eliminate “too big to fail”.

-It does absolutely nothing to eliminate the horrific bubble in the derivatives market.

-It does nothing to reform the organization most responsible for the recent financial crisis – the Federal Reserve.  In fact, this new law actually gives the Federal Reserve even more power.

But it does create a ton of new paperwork and a bunch of new government organizations.

Oh goody!

But was there any major law that Congress has passed over the last several years that did not increase the size and scope of government?

That is a good question.

In any event, let’s get to some of the nasty surprises contained in the new financial reform law….

*Barack Obama has been running around touting how this new law will “increase transparency” in the financial world, but it turns out that a little-noticed provision of the new law exempts the Securities and Exchange Commission from virtually all requests for information by the public, including those filed under the Freedom of Information Act.

Not that the SEC was doing much good anyway.

But now the SEC’s incompetence and the nefarious actions of those they are investigating will be hidden from public view.

So what makes the SEC so special that they get to block the public from seeing their records while other government agencies still have to comply with FOIA?

Talk about ridiculous.

But there is actually another little surprise contained in the new law that is even more nasty….

*Another little-noticed section deeply embedded in the financial reform law actually gives the federal government the authority to terminate government contracts with any “financial firm” that fails to ensure the “fair inclusion” of women and minorities in its workforce.

This section of the law, written by U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, is 1,261 words long and it establishes “Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion” in the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and more than a dozen other finance-related agencies.

The directors of these new departments are tasked with developing standards that “ensure, to the maximum extent possible, the fair inclusion and utilization of minorities, women, and minority-owned and women-owned businesses in all business and activities of the agency at all levels, including in procurement, insurance, and all types of contracts.”

The maximum extent possible?

That sounds pretty strong.

 So what kind of firms does this section apply to?

Well, according to Politico, this section is going to apply to just about anyone who has anything to do with the financial industry….

This applies to “services of any kind,” including investment firms, mortgage banking firms, asset management firms, brokers, dealers, underwriters, accountants, consultants and law firms, the legislation states. Every contractor and subcontractor must now certify that their workforces reflect a “fair inclusion” of women and minorities.

The truth is that this small section of the law represents a fundamental change in employment law in the United States.

And it is written so vaguely that firms are going to be tempted to go above and beyond in complying with it just so they are safe.  In fact, many analysts are already saying that it could lead to an unofficial quota system.

In any event, hundreds of new federal government bureaucrats will be watching to make certain that these vague new regulations are fully implemented.

*It also looks like the new financial reform law is going to end the era of free checking accounts.

Why?

Well, it turns out that the new law really limits the amount of fees that banks can charge and the way that they charge them.

So banks have got to make their money somewhere.  Wells Fargo and Bank of America have already announced new fees on checking accounts, and other banks are expected to follow their lead shortly.

What a mess.

Can’t Congress do anything right these days?

At this point Congress is so incompetent that if they would just sit there and do nothing that would be a vast improvement.

But that isn’t going to happen.

So what do you all think about this new financial reform law?  Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….

It’s A Great Time To Be A New College Graduate: High Unemployment, Crappy Service Jobs And Crippling Student Loan Debt

Today, America’s best and brightest are graduating from college full of hopes and dreams, but cold, hard economic reality is rapidly crushing many of them.  Record numbers of college graduates cannot find jobs.  Hordes of others have been forced to take very low paying service jobs.  At the same time, student loan debt loads have become more crushing than ever.  The truth is that it is a really, really bad time to be a fresh college graduate.  After spending tens of thousands of dollars and investing four (or more) years of their lives in an education, millions of recent college graduates find themselves waiting tables, tending bar, delivering pizzas and working next to (or subordinate to) people who never even went to college.  At one time, a college degree was an automatic ticket to the middle class, but now for many Americans all a college degree means is crushing loan payments, sleepless nights and mind-numbing frustration.   

We were always told that a college degree was supposed to prepare us for life in the real world.  But today, the vast majority of college graduates end up moving back in with their parents.

In fact, a recent survey of last year’s college graduates found that 80 percent moved right back home with their parents after graduation.  That was up substantially from 63 percent in 2006.

So why are 80 percent of our college graduates moving back in with their parents?

Well, because they can’t get jobs.

Two million recent college graduates are unemployed, and millions of others are working in fast food joints, at big box stores and in other very low paying service positions.

The stories that some recent college grads tell are so bizarre that they border on the unbelievable.

The Huffington Post recently featured the story of Kyle Daley – a highly qualified UCLA graduate who has been unemployed for 19 months….

I spent my time at UCLA preparing for the outside world. I had internships in congressional offices, political action committees, non-profits and even as a personal intern to a successful venture capitalist. These weren’t the run-of-the-mill office internships; I worked in marketing, press relations, research and analysis. Additionally, the mayor and city council of my hometown appointed me to serve on two citywide governing bodies, the planning commission and the open government commission. I used to think that given my experience, finding work after graduation would be easy.

At this point, however, looking for a job is my job. I recently counted the number of job applications I have sent out over the past year — it amounts to several hundred. I have tried to find part-time work at local stores or restaurants, only to be turned away. Apparently, having a college degree implies that I might bail out quickly when a better opportunity comes along.

The sad thing is that so many of these recent college graduates can’t even get hired for retail jobs.  A reader of my column on The American Dream blog named Kate is a recent college graduate who is experiencing the kind of extreme frustration that so many new graduates are going through right now….

I just graduated college in May… Moved to a new state and am now living with my boyfriend who should not and cannot continue to have to pay everything because i just plain can’t get a job.

I’m over qualified for retail survivor jobs… so I lie on my application. But then retail stores just plain don’t hire full time. So even if I could get a job as a cashier someplace… I’d only work enough hours to maybe pay for my car payment/ car insurance/ gas…. and my half of rent/electric and such is out of the question… not to mention charged to the limit credit cards from being unemployed and student loans that will hit in just a matter of months.

Any other jobs either don’t exist or they just ALL want 5 years professional experience…. which is impossible for someone who just graduated and has been working part time retail jobs since high school.

But it just isn’t college graduates that are suffering.  The truth is that this economic downturn has been hurting everyone….

*According to a recent Pew Research poll, approximately 37% of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have either been unemployed or underemployed at some point during the recession.

*A different Pew Research survey found that 55 percent of American workers have experienced either unemployment, a pay decrease, a reduction in hours or an involuntary move to part-time work since the recession began.

*According to another survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is currently looking for a full-time job.

For many U.S. households, the person looking for a job is a recent college graduate.

As you read this, hordes of highly qualified college grads are out applying for jobs as waitresses, pizza delivery men, grocery checkout clerks and hamburger flippers.

Even those who are able to get decent jobs are finding themselves disappointed.  Starting salaries for college graduates across the United States are down in 2010.

But why shouldn’t starting salaries be down?  It is the employers that hold all the leverage – not the new graduates.

Meanwhile, many of these college graduates are graduating with crushing student debt loads.  Today, many students borrow 10, 20 or even 30 thousands dollars per year while they are in school.

Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of the full-time students who began college in 2001 received a bachelor’s degree within four years.

That is a very sad statistic.

The truth is that college courses have become so “dumbed down” in 2010 that even the family dog should be able to graduate from most U.S. colleges in four years.

Even after 6 years, that same group’s graduation rate was still only 57 percent.

Very sad.

But getting back to the point, every single one of those years most college students are racking up huge amounts of debt.

Today, approximately two-thirds of all U.S. college students graduate with student loans

Student loan balances of over $50,000 are becoming quite common among our college grads.  In fact, some students end up with over $100,000 in student loan debt by the time they are done.

Unfortunately, student loan debt is some of the cruelest debt out there.

Federal bankruptcy law makes it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debts, and many recent grads end up with loan payments that absolutely devastate them financially at a time when they are struggling to get on their feet and make something of themselves.

So what do you think?  Can you identify with this article?  Are you a recent college graduate or do you have a recent college graduate living back at home?  If so, please feel free to share your story in the comments section below….

The American People Don’t Need More Handouts – What They Need Are Good Jobs

Without millions more good jobs, the U.S. economy is simply never, ever going to recover.  But at this point, there is every indication that the U.S. economy is going to continue to bleed jobs.  In the past, employment would bounce up and down as the economy went through various cycles.  But today what we are witnessing is something much different.  Over the past 30 or 40 years, literally millions of good jobs have been shipped off to China, India and to dozens of third world nations where half-starving workers are more than happy to slave away for big global corporations for less than a dollar an hour.  In the new “global economy” that we were promised would be so good for us, the expensive American worker is obsolete.  The giant global predator corporations that now dominate our economy do not exist to provide you and your family with a nice home, two cars and college educations for all your children.  No, their goal is to keep costs as low as possible so that their profits will be as high as possible.  For many of these giant global predator corporations, that means that paying workers as close to zero as possible is the best decision for the bottom line. 

The truth is that the American people were never told that “free trade” and a “global economy” would mean that they would soon be lumped into a giant global labor pool and would be forced to compete for jobs with people on the other side of the globe.

No, we were just told that we should enjoy all of the cheap plastic crap made overseas that all of the “big box” retail stores were pushing us to buy.

Well, the party was fun while it lasted.  Americans ran up unprecedented amounts of debt on their credit cards buying all this stuff, while our once great manufacturing cities degenerated into rotted-out war zones.

But isn’t it a good thing to get all these products at such a cheap price?

After all, who wants to pay substantially more for things?

Well, running an economy this way is kind of like tearing off pieces of your house in order to keep your fire going.  Sure the fire will burn brightly for a while, but eventually you will have torn down your entire house.

One way or another, we end up paying dearly for the jobs we have shipped overseas.

You see, the millions of Americans who are now chronically unemployed because of “free trade” have to be supported by the U.S. government.

That means that it is the U.S. taxpayers who end up footing the bill.

You didn’t think that we were going to let all of those unemployed workers starve in the streets, did you?

Without good jobs, an increasing number of Americans are becoming completely dependent on government handouts.

Already, state governments across the United States are going broke trying to pay out unemployment benefits to the hordes of Americans who don’t have a job and can’t find a job.

In addition, for the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.

Also, according to one new study, somewhere around 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010, which is the highest rate in 20 years.

The truth is that more Americans are dependent on direct payments from the federal government than ever before.

But how long can we afford to support the millions upon millions of Americans who have been impoverished by this new “global economy”?

The U.S. government budget deficit was a record $1.4 trillion in 2009.  Now the White House says that we will exceed that figure in 2010 and again in 2011.

So just how long can we afford to run deficits equivalent to 10 percent of GDP?

Anyone with half a brain knows that these kind of debts are not anywhere close to sustainable.

So where is the money going to come from to pay for these exploding government programs?

Well, from you of course.

Recently I dubbed 2011 “the year of the tax increase”.  A whole slew of new taxes is scheduled to go into effect starting next year that will impact every single American taxpayer.

It is almost enough to make you want to stop working and start collecting government handouts instead.

But the American people don’t need even more handouts.

Handouts are only a temporary solution to a long-term problem.

What the American people need are good jobs.

But where in the world are these jobs going to come from?

The reality is that in the new “global economy”, the United States is a very unattractive place to do business.

If you were a global corporation, would you rather open a new facility in the third world where there are very few rules and regulations and where people will work for less than a dollar an hour, or would you rather open a new facility in the United States where there are literally thousands of laws and regulations to comply with and where you are going to have to pay workers at least ten times as much?

It doesn’t take a genius to see where all of this is headed.

For decades, an increasing number of Americans have been forced into lower paying service jobs, but now there aren’t even nearly enough of those to go around. 

But it isn’t just the jobs that have been shipped overseas that are depressing wages and causing unemployment to skyrocket.  The millions of illegal immigrants that have flooded unchecked across the border have depressed wages and fundamentally changed the employment picture in industries such as construction and food service. 

Not only that, but in this environment not even high tech workers are safe.  In fact, there are some corporations in the high tech industry that have been openly abusing worker visas to ship in large numbers of foreign workers to replace more expensive American employees.

What all this means is that it is becoming much more difficult to live a middle class lifestyle in the United States.

Perhaps that is why one of my articles struck such a nerve recently.  An article that I originally wrote for The American Dream blog and adapted by Business Insider has gone mega-viral and has ended up on Yahoo Finance.  The article was entitled “The Middle Class In America Is Radically Shrinking – Here Are The Stats To Prove it” and it has received over 9000 comments on Yahoo.

So why did it provoke such an extraordinary response?

Well, because it hits people where they live.

Today, millions of American families are really struggling.  Record numbers of middle class Americans are receiving foreclosure notices and record numbers of middle class Americans are going bankrupt.

In fact, more Americans than ever find themselves just trying to survive.

According to a poll taken in 2009, 61 percent of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.

You see, the truth is that most American families are not concerned with saving for retirement or even with planning for next year.  In this economic environment, most American families are worried about how they are going to survive until next month.

So who has been doing well in the new global economy?

The very, very wealthy of course.

According to Harvard Magazine, 66% of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.

Now, the truth is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with making money, but by any reasonable standard an economic system that produces such skewed results is horribly broken.

So will “redistributing the wealth” solve things?

No, it won’t.

At best, “redistributing the wealth” is only a temporary solution and it always ends up creating a lot of long-term problems.

What the American people really need are millions more good jobs.

But as we have seen, the current imbalances in the new “global economy” make it more likely that the American people will continue to lose millions more good jobs rather than gaining them.

Unless something is done, the standard of living for middle class Americans will continue to be forced down as labor increasingly becomes a global commodity.

So are you just going to accept that, or are you going to start demanding that your representatives change things?

The choice is up to you.

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