Stock Prices Are Surging Because Corporations Are Spending More Money On Stock Buybacks Than Anything Else

The primary reason why stock prices have been soaring in recent months is because corporations have been buying back their own stock at an unprecedented pace.  In fact, the pace of stock buybacks is nearly double what it was at this time last year.  According to Goldman Sachs, S&P 500 companies spent 384 billion dollars buying back stock during the first half of 2018.  That is an absolutely astounding number.  And in many cases, corporations are going deep into debt in order to do this.  Of course this is going to push up stock prices, but corporate America will not be able to inflate this bubble indefinitely.  At some point a credit crunch will come, and the pace of stock buybacks will fall precipitously.

Prior to 1982, corporations were not permitted to go into the market and buy back stock.

The reason for this is obvious – stock buybacks are a really easy way for corporations to manipulate stock prices.

But these days it is expected that most large corporations will engage in this practice.  Large stockholders love to see the price of the stock go up, and they are never going to complain when smaller shareholders are bought out and their share of the company is increased.  And corporate executives love buybacks because so much of their compensation often involves stock options or bonuses related to key metrics such as earnings per share.

So in the end, stock buybacks are often all about greed.  It is a way to funnel money to those at the very top of the pyramid, and those stock market gains are taxed at capital gains rates which are much lower than the rates on normal income.

Normally, you would expect successful companies to invest most of their available cash back into operations so that they can make even more money in the future.  And for 19 of the past 20 years, corporations have spent more on capital investments than anything else.  But now, share buybacks have actually surpassed capital spending.  The following comes from CNN

But that doesn’t mean companies aren’t spending on job-creating investments, like new equipment, research projects and factories. Business spending is up 19% — it’s just that buybacks are growing much faster.

In fact, Goldman Sachs said that buybacks are garnering the largest share of cash spending by S&P 500 firms. It’s a milestone because capital spending had represented the single largest use of cash by corporations in 19 of the past 20 years.

And this trend seems to be accelerating during the second half of 2018.  It is being projected that firms will spend more than 600 billion dollars on stock buybacks during the second half of this year, and that will bring the grand total for 2018 to more than a trillion dollars

And the trend may not be done yet. Goldman Sachs predicted that share buyback authorizations among all US companies in all of 2018 will surpass $1 trillion for the first time ever.

Wow.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more than a trillion dollars that we could put toward reducing the national debt?

This is the reason why stocks hit another new all-time record high this week.  Stock buybacks have reached absolutely insane levels, and what we are witnessing is essentially a giant orgy of greed.

To give you some perspective, the previous annual record for stock buybacks was just 589 billion dollars in 2007.

This year, we may come close to doubling the previous record.

And let us not forget that the year after 2007 was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

So what corporations are the worst offenders?  Here is more from CNN

Apple (AAPL) alone spent a whopping $45 billion on buybacks during the first half of 2018, triple what it did during the same time period last year, the firm said. That included a record-shattering sum during the first quarter.

Amgen (AMGN), Cisco (CSCO), AbbVie (ABBV) and Oracle (ORCL) have also showered investors with big boosts to their buyback programs.

As I noted earlier, corporate insiders greatly benefit from stock buybacks, and they took advantage of massively inflated stock prices by selling off $10.3 billion worth of their shares during the month of August.

Inflating your stock price by cannibalizing your own shares is not a good long-term strategy for any corporation, but without a doubt it is making a lot of people very wealthy.

But in the process, the size of the stock market as a whole has been steadily shrinking.  In fact, the number of shares on the S&P 500 has fallen by almost 8 percent since the beginning of 2011…

According to Ed Yardeni, the number of S&P 500 shares has shrunk by 7.7% since the start of 2011. This tends to increase the earnings per remaining share and the dividends available per remaining share.

This is yet another example that shows why the stock market has become completely disconnected from economic reality.  Wall Street is inhabited by con men that are promoting Ponzi scheme after Ponzi scheme, and it is only a matter of time before the entire system collapses under its own weight.

But for now, the euphoria on Wall Street continues as stock prices continue to march higher.  Meanwhile, we continue to get more signs of trouble from the real economy.  For instance, this week we learned that the third largest bank in the entire country is going to lay off thousands of workers

Wells Fargo, the third-biggest U.S. bank, plans to lower its employee headcount by 5 percent to 10 percent in the next three years as part of its ongoing turnaround plan, the company announced Thursday.

The bank has 265,000 employees, meaning the reduction would result in a loss of between 13,250 and 26,500 jobs.

Why would they do that if the economy was in good shape?

And globally, the emerging market currency crisis has continued to escalate.  According to one source, more than 80 percent of all global currencies have fallen in value so far this year…

A review of the values of 143 global currencies indicates that so far this year, more than 80 percent have fallen in value.

Another eleven appear to be pegged to the dollar and 13 have risen in value. Of the 13 that have increased in value, only six are up more than 1 percent versus the dollar.

There have been outsized declines in countries like Venezuela (down 99 percent), Argentina (53 percent) and Turkey (38 percent). However, Brazil is down 20 percent, Russia 15 percent, India 11 percent, Sweden 10 percent, and the Philippines 8 percent. Big economies like China are experiencing a 5 percent currency value decline while the Euro is off by 3 percent.

I applaud those that have made lots of money in the stock market, but the party will not last forever.

In 2007 corporations were pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into stock buybacks, and it propped up the market for a time.  But eventually the bubble burst and the crisis of 2008 was so dramatic that it will be remembered forever.

Now we are facing a similar scenario, and it is just a matter of time before this bubble bursts as well.

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Destroying America: It Is Being Projected That The U.S. National Debt Will Hit 99 Trillion Dollars By 2048

Temporary prosperity that is created by exploding levels of debt is not actually prosperity at all.  At this moment, the U.S. government is 21.4 trillion dollars in debt, and we have been adding an average of more than a trillion dollars a year to that debt since 2009.  And if we stay on the path that we are currently on, the trajectory of our debt will soon accelerate dramatically.  In fact, as you will see below, the Congressional Budget Office is now projecting that the U.S. national debt will reach 99 trillion dollars by 2048 if nothing changes.  Congressional Budget Office projections always tend to be overly optimistic, and so the reality will probably be much worse than that.  Of course we will never actually see the day when our national debt reaches 99 trillion dollars.  Our government (and our entire society along with it) will collapse long before we ever get to that point.  In our endless greed, we are literally destroying America, and emergency action must be taken immediately if we are to survive.

Debt always makes things seem better in the short-term, and it is always destructive in the long-term.

When we go into debt as a nation, we are literally stealing from the bright future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have.  Through the first 11 months of this fiscal year, the official U.S. budget deficit was $895,000,000,000, which means that we continue to steal more than 100 million dollars from future generations of Americans every single hour of every single day.

And it is important to remember that not all additions to the national debt are included in the official budget deficit.  One year ago, our national debt was sitting at 20.1 trillion dollars, and that means that we have added an astounding 1.3 trillion dollars to the debt over the past 12 months.

This is complete and utter insanity, and it must stop now.

Let me try to put this into perspective.  Not too long ago, Venezuela was once one of the wealthiest countries in South America.  These days, many Americans like to laugh at them, but we are on the exact same path that Venezuela has gone down.  Eventually, the day comes when there is not enough of someone else’s money to spend, and suffocating levels of debt make the option of printing giant mountains of money too tempting to resist.  At that point it is just a matter of time before the currency is destroyed and society devolves into chaos.

If current Congressional Budget Office projections area anywhere close to accurate, America’s date with destiny is rapidly approaching.  The following comes from CBS News

Under the new baseline incorporating recent changes in law, the national debt reaches $99 trillion in 2048 — equivalent to 152 percent of GDP.

And the CBO is also projecting that our yearly budget deficit will go from one trillion dollars today to 6 trillion dollars by 2048…

The federal budget deficit is expected to break through a trillion dollars in 2020 and never look back, reaching $2 trillion in 2032 and $6 trillion in 2048.

But like I said, we will never actually get there, because our society will collapse by then.

So we only have a limited amount of time to save America, and the clock is ticking.

At this point, the total amount of U.S. government debt held by the public has already surpassed all household debt

Debt held by the public will top $127,000 per household by the end of the year, according to JPMorgan. Personal debt per household will average about $126,000.

“This is an astonishing statistic,” said David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Funds. “Americans have a lot of debt. I always feel nervous signing a mortgage or a car loan. I think, can I afford all this debt? Then you realize the government is busy borrowing even more money on your behalf.”

I wish that I could get more people to understand just how serious this is.

Do you know what the inflation rate will be in Venezuela this year?

The IMF is projecting that it will be more than a million percent.

Chaos is everywhere, crime is out of control and people are starving, and yet we refuse to learn from what has happened to them.

We just keep spending and spending, and we think that we have found the key to prosperity.

But what we have really found is an accelerated path to economic hell.

And it isn’t just the U.S. that is in deep trouble.  The entire globe has been on a massive debt binge, and it is only a matter of time before this gigantic debt bubble implodes.  The following comes from an excellent piece by Larry Elliott

The BIS says in its latest annual report that there are already material risks to financial stability. “In some respects, the risks mirror the unbalanced post-crisis recovery and its excessive reliance on monetary policy. Where financial vulnerabilities exist, they have been building up, in their usual gradual and persistent way. More generally, financial markets are overstretched … and we have seen a continuous rise in the global stock of debt, private plus public, in relation to GDP. This has extended a trend that goes back to well before the crisis and that has coincided with a long-term decline in interest rates.”

Behind the dry official language, the message is clear. A recovery that is based around high and rising levels of debt is really no recovery at all. The world economy is, in all material respects, the same as it was in the run-up to the 2008 crisis. The necessary reforms to a flawed model have not taken place, which is why the BIS warning should not be ignored.

On a personal level, have you ever gotten into debt trouble?

At first, it was a lot of fun enjoying all of the new things that all of that debt bought, but the pain afterwards greatly outweighed the initial temporary prosperity.

The same principle is going to also apply on a global scale.  The U.S. government is now more than 20 trillion dollars in debt, and the entire globe is now more than 250 trillion dollars in debt, and a day of reckoning is coming.  The following comes from David Stockman

And it’s that $20 trillion, built up over the last two decades, that has basically distorted everything – falsified prices, repressed interest rates, caused an explosion of debt. Twenty years ago there was $40 trillion of debt in the world today there is $250 trillion worth of debt in the world. The leverage of the world has gone from 1.3 times which is stable…to 3.3 times, which basically means the world has created a huge temporary prosperity by burying itself in debt.

It would take an unprecedented effort to turn things around, but right now hardly anyone seems concerned about bringing all of this debt under control.

So we continue to roll on toward our date with financial disaster, and most people are completely oblivious to what is about to happen to us.

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

This Story Is A Perfect Example Of The Economic Despair That Most American Families Are Enduring In This “Booming” Economy

The middle class in America is being systematically eviscerated right in front of our eyes.  I don’t normally do this, but today I want to share with you an email that was recently sent to me by a reader.  I asked for permission to share her story with all of you, because I think that it will be encouraging for a lot of people out there to understand that they aren’t alone.  In this supposedly “booming” economy, millions upon millions of American families are barely making it from month to month even though they are working as hard as they possibly can.  But because the mainstream media has been endlessly touting “good economic news” for the last several years, many of those that are struggling end up believing that something must be wrong with them since they aren’t participating in all of the “prosperity”.  But of course the truth is that almost all of the economic rewards have been going to the very top of the economic pyramid.  Meanwhile, the middle class continues to shrink and more families fall into poverty with each passing month.

As you read the email that I am about to share with you, there are several things that I want you to notice.

#1 These people are not lazy.  The husband has a good job for the area in which they live, and the wife is working very hard to bring in some online income as she takes care of the kids.  So neither of them would be considered to be “unemployed”.

#2 They are also very frugal.  They have cut expenses as far as they can, and they are still not able to make ends meet.

#3 They are being crushed by medical bills.  Our healthcare system is a completely and total nightmare, and there are no solutions in sight.  Thanks to the Democrats, soaring health insurance premiums are absolutely crushing middle class families.  And the Republicans have had almost two years to try to fix things, and they have completely failed to get anything done.  Shame on all of them.

#4 Almost everyone that they know is on government assistance, and so far they have resisted the urge to follow suit.  Right now, more than 100 million Americans receive assistance from the government every month, and we are rapidly being transformed into a full-blown socialist nation.

I could say so much more, but let me get right to the email.  This story really touched my heart, and I know that it will touch your heart as well…

I and my husband have been reading your blog for five or six years now. So many of your articles sound just like us, and I just wanted to share our situation and perspective as conservative Christians who were actually taught Biblical handling of money. Hopefully it will help you with your writing!

Unlike most millennials, we came into marriage with no debt and a decent savings. We have always lived on a strict budget that usually doesn’t include clothing or eating out; most of the time it doesn’t even include saving! We have never used credit cards. I am very frugal, shopping by what’s on sale, buying in bulk, cooking from scratch, and often doing without. We eat beans more than anything else. We own one vehicle, and half the time have to borrow a car from family because ours breaks down and we don’t have the money to fix it.

We work hard. My husband works for the county more than full time, and makes quite a bit more than most jobs in our area (minimum wage is 8.25 here), but a third of his check goes straight to taxes. I worked outside the home before we had children, and now have a blog and an online business that make a few hundred a month on average. We also work hard growing a large garden and keeping a few animals for food.

Unfortunately we just can’t make ends meet. We’ve used up all of our savings and haven’t been able to replace it. Family members are giving us $500-$1000 every month. We’ve both been in the hospital a few times for injury and illness, and each time costs thousands of dollars. We spent our tax return this year on medical bills, and still owe thousands to the local hospital.

We see what is going on in this country, and around the world, and we want to be prepared, but instead of getting ahead we just get more and more behind. We’ve already sold everything that was worth anything.

After taxes, the biggest expense that is killing us is insurance. All the types of insurance that are mandatory or just seem like a necessity now – health insurance, car insurance, insurance for our mobile home and rental property (required by our landlord), life insurance that is necessary with my husband’s job.

Medical bills are next on the list – who can afford to go to a doctor nowadays, even with insurance? We do everything possible to avoid doctor visits, even having our last child at home without a midwife even though I am considered high risk. Sometimes emergencies happen though, and going to the doctor just isn’t avoidable.

Pretty much all of our friends and co-workers are getting government help every month. Honestly we’d be a lot better off if we did to, but we don’t want to. It’s not the government’s job to take care of everybody.

But really, what are we supposed to do? Is there anything we can do to fix the mess our economy is in? Is there anything people like us can do to get out of this situation, or is it just a hopeless downward spiral that’s going to get worse and worse till we are living under a bridge?

I wrote her back and tried to encourage her.  No matter how bad things seem to be in life, there is always a way to turn things around if you just keep on fighting.

And things could turn around for America too, but we would have to be willing to fundamentally change our ways, and at this moment there are no indications that this will happen any time soon.

I get accused of being all about “doom and gloom”, but in my latest book I set forth a detailed prescription for what we need to do to turn things around.  And I ran for Congress on a platform of positive solutions, but that message didn’t resonate enough with the voters.

Inexplicably, most Americans seem to like the status quo even though the system is literally coming apart at the seams all around us.

What we have been doing as a nation does not work, it is not sustainable, and it has become exceedingly clear that a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching.  At this point it is so obvious that even the mainstream media is starting to warn of imminent economic disaster.

For years, many of us have been warning what would happen if we did not change our ways, and we have been trying to offer alternative solutions, but most Americans continue to embrace the current system and believe that it will be able to survive despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

In the end, it is probably going to take a complete and utter collapse of the current system before most people will wake up, and that is something that nobody will enjoy.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The 11th Hour: 8 Examples Of Mainstream Media Sources Warning Us Of Imminent Economic Disaster

Are we on the verge of another great financial crisis, a devastating recession and a horrific implosion of the global debt bubble?  On my website I have been relentlessly warning my readers about the inevitable consequences of our very foolish actions, but now the mainstream media is beginning to sound just like The Economic Collapse Blog.  The coming crisis is so close now that a lot of them are starting to see it, and of course economic disaster is already a reality for much of the rest of the planet.  For years, the mainstream media told us that things would get better, and in a lot of ways we did see some improvement.  But now the tone of the mainstream media has become quite ominous, and that is definitely not a positive sign.  The following are 8 examples of mainstream media sources warning us of imminent economic disaster…

#1 Forbes: “Disaster Is Inevitable When America’s Stock Market Bubble Bursts”

As shown in this report, the U.S. stock market is currently trading at extremely precarious levels and it won’t take much to topple the whole house of cards. Once again, the Federal Reserve, which was responsible for creating the disastrous Dot-com bubble and housing bubble, has inflated yet another extremely dangerous bubble in its attempt to force the economy to grow after the Great Recession. History has proven time and time again that market meddling by central banks leads to massive market distortions and eventual crises. As a society, we have not learned the lessons that we were supposed to learn from 1999 and 2008, therefore we are doomed to repeat them.

The purpose of this report is to warn society of the path that we are on and the risks that we are facing.

#2 CNBC: “Tech stock sell-off could be just beginning if trade war with China worsens”

Congressional scrutiny of social media companies and fears of new regulation pummeled their stocks, but other tech names could also soon be vulnerable to a new round of selling pressure if President Donald Trump goes through with new tariffs on Chinese goods.

#3 Bloomberg: “Emerging-market rout is longest since 2008 as confidence cracks”

For stocks, it’s 222 days. For currencies, 155 days. For local government bonds, 240 days.

This year’s rout in emerging markets has lasted so long that it’s taken even the most ardent bears by surprise. Not one of the seven biggest selloffs since the financial crisis — including the so-called taper tantrum — inflicted such pain for so long on the developing world.

#4 CNN: “Emerging Markets Look Sick. Will They Infect Wall Street?”

Chinese stocks are is in a bear market. Turkey’s currency has collapsed. South Africa has stumbled into a recession. Not even an IMF bailout has stemmed the bleeding in Argentina.

The storm rocking emerging markets has its origins in Washington. Vulnerable currencies plunged as the US Federal Reserve steadily raised interest rates. And President Donald Trump’s trade crackdown added gasoline to the fire.

The trouble could spread, infecting other emerging markets or even Wall Street.

#5 The Motley Fool: “6 signs the next recession might be closer than we realize”

To be perfectly clear, trying to predict when recessions will occur is pure guesswork. Top market analysts have called for pullbacks in the market, unsuccessfully, in pretty much every year since the Great Recession ended. But the economic cycle doesn’t lie: recessions are inevitable. And in my estimation, we’re probably closer to the next recession than you realize.

How can I be so certain? Well, I can’t. Remember, I just noted there’s virtually no certainty when it comes to predicting when recessions will occur. There are, however, six warning signs that suggest a recession could be, in relative terms, around the corner.

#6 Forbes: “U.S. Household Wealth Is Experiencing An Unsustainable Bubble”

Since the dark days of the Great Recession in 2009, America has experienced one of the most powerful household wealth booms in its history. Household wealth has ballooned by approximately $46 trillion or 83% to an all-time high of $100.8 trillion. While most people welcome and applaud a wealth boom like this, my research shows that it is actually another dangerous bubble that is similar to the U.S. housing bubble of the mid-2000s. In this piece, I will explain why America’s wealth boom is artificial and heading for a devastating bust.

#7 Savannah Now: “Global debt soars, along with fears of crisis ahead”

“We were supposed to correct a debt bubble,” said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, a wealth-management firm. “What we did instead was create more debt.”

#8 CNBC: “The emerging market crisis is back. And this time it’s serious”

But markets are feeling a sense of deja vu. Blame it on a stronger dollar, escalating tensions since President Donald Trump came to power, worries over a full-fledged trade war with China or rising interest rates in the U.S., this time around the crisis seems to have entered a new phase.

The damage is far more widespread. The crisis has engulfed countries across the globe — from economies in South America, to Turkey, South Africa and some of the bigger economies in Asia, such as India and China. A number of these countries are seeing their currency fall to record levels, high inflation and unemployment, and in some cases, escalating tensions with the United States.

I don’t think that we have seen such ominous declarations from the mainstream media since the last global financial crisis in 2008.

And the mainstream media is not alone.  Yesterday, I discussed the fact that tech executives on the west coast are setting up luxury survival bunkers in New Zealand in order to prepare for what is ahead.

They all know what is coming, and they also know that it is approaching very rapidly.

This chapter in American history is not going to end well.  On some level, all of us understand this.  Storm clouds have been building on the horizon for quite some time and the warning signs are all around us.

Our day of reckoning may have been delayed, but it was not canceled.  America has a date with destiny, and it is going to be exceedingly painful.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Major Currencies All Over The World Are In “Complete Meltdown” As The $63 Trillion EM Debt Bubble Implodes

The wait for the next global financial crisis is over.  Major currencies all over the planet are in a “death spiral”, many global stock markets are crashing, and economic activity is beginning to decline at a stunning rate in quite a few nations.  Over the past 16 years, the emerging market debt bubble has grown from 9 trillion dollars to 63 trillion dollars.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Now that emerging market debt bubble is imploding, and as a result emerging market currencies all over the globe are in “complete meltdown”.  In fact, at least 20 different currencies have fallen by double-digit percentages against the U.S. dollar so far in 2018, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.

You may be tempted to think that this must be a good thing for the United States since the value of the U.S. dollar has been rising, but it is not.

During the “boom years”, trillions of dollars were borrowed by emerging market economies, and a high percentage of those loans were denominated in U.S. dollars.  Now that their currencies are crashing, it is going to take much more local currency to service those U.S.-denominated debts, and a whole lot of them are going to start going bad.

That means that many financial institutions here in the United States and over in Europe are going to end up holding enormous piles of bad debt, and the losses could potentially be astronomical.

The dominoes are starting to fall, and even the mainstream media is admitting that what we are facing is really bad.  For example, the following comes from a CNBC article entitled “The emerging market crisis is back. And this time it’s serious”

The crisis has engulfed countries across the globe — from economies in South America, to Turkey, South Africa and some of the bigger economies in Asia, such as India and China. A number of these countries are seeing their currency fall to record levels, high inflation and unemployment, and in some cases, escalating tensions with the United States.

When I say that the world has been on the greatest debt binge in human history since the last financial crisis, I am not exaggerating one bit.

The emerging market debt bubble is now three times larger than it was in 2007, and it is seven times larger than it was in 2002.  Here is more from CNBC

Emerging markets are also heavily plagued by debt and a stronger dollar makes it tougher for them to pay this debt. The latest data from the Institute of International Finance shows that debt in emerging markets including China increased from $9 trillion in 2002 to $21 trillion in 2007 and finally to $63 trillion in 2017.

Of course this bubble was going to burst.

Anyone with half a brain should have been able to see that.

Now we have a full-blown crisis on our hands, and nobody seems to have any idea how to solve it.

As Charles Hugh Smith has observed, emerging market currencies all over the globe “are in complete meltdown”…

As the chart below illustrates, a great many currencies around the world are in complete meltdown. This is not normal. Nations that over-borrow, over-spend and print too much of their currency to generate an illusion of solvency eventually experience a currency crisis as investors and traders lose faith in the currency as a store of value, i.e. the faith that it will have the same (or more) purchasing power in a month that it has today.

This is the chart that Charles Hugh Smith referenced in that quote…

I am not sure that I even have the words to describe financial carnage of that magnitude.

Since the financial markets are not crashing here in the United States yet, most Americans do not really seem to be concerned about this crisis at this point.  But that is a mistake.  This meltdown has started with the weaker nations, but ultimately what we are witnessing is an “unraveling” of the entire global financial system

The fact that so many currencies are melting down at the same time is telling us the global financial system is unraveling, and unraveling fast. This is a symptom of a fatal disease. Currencies reflect all sorts of financial information; they’re akin to taking an economy’s pulse: trade balances, debt levels, interest rates, central bank policies, fiscal policies, and so on.

The global financial system is inter-connected, but this is not a viable excuse for the meltdown. The general explanation floating around is that currency weakness is like the flu: one currency gets it, and then it spreads to other weak currencies.

This diagnosis is misleading. What’s actually happening is the unprecedented global bubble of debt and assets of the past decade is popping, and it’s laying waste to the most indebted, over-leveraged and mismanaged nations first, either via stock market declines or meltdowns in currencies.

Earlier today, we learned that the South African economy has officially plunged into a new recession.  This crisis is spreading very quickly, and the United States won’t be immune from what is happening.  This is a point that Charles Hugh Smith made very well as he wrapped up his most recent article

The illusion that the U.S. is immune to the unraveling of debt and asset valuations won’t last. When the defaults start piling up, so will the losses, and when asset bubbles pop, incomes and spending decline. Although few seem to notice, almost half the profits of the S&P 500 corporations are earned overseas.

The belief that U.S. markets are somehow disconnected from global markets and immune to the repricing of risk, debt, assets and currencies is magical thinking.

I am entirely convinced that we have reached a major turning point.

For several years it has seemed like things have been getting “better”, but it was largely an illusion.  Our ridiculously high standard of living was financed by the greatest debt binge in the history of the world, and it was inevitable that a day of reckoning would arrive.

Now that day of reckoning is knocking on the door, and our society is completely and utterly unprepared for what is going to happen next.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The American Dream Is Getting Smaller, And The Reason Why Is Painfully Obvious…

Over the past decade, an unprecedented stock market boom has created thousands upon thousands of new millionaires, and yet the middle class in America has continued to shrink.  How is that even possible?  At one time the United States had the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the planet, but now the gap between the wealthy and the poor is the largest that it has been since the 1920s.  Our economy has been creating lots of new millionaires, but at the exact same time we have seen homelessness spiral out of control in our major cities.  Today, being part of the middle class is like playing a really bizarre game of musical chairs.  Each month when the music stops playing, those of us still in the middle class desperately hope that we are not among the ones that slip out of the middle class and into poverty.  Well over 100 million Americans receive money or benefits from the federal government each month, and that includes approximately 40 percent of all families with children.  We are losing our ability to take care of ourselves, and that has frightening implications for the future of our society.

One of the primary reasons why our system doesn’t work for everyone is because virtually everything has been financialized.  In other words, from the cradle to the grave the entire system has been designed to get you into debt so that the fruits of your labor can be funneled to the top of the pyramid and make somebody else wealthier.  The following comes from an excellent Marketwatch article entitled “The American Dream is getting smaller”

More worrying, perhaps: 33% of those surveyed said they think that dream is disappearing. Why? They have too much debt. “Americans believe financial security is at the core of the American Dream, but it is alarming that so many think it is beyond their reach,” said Mike Fanning, head of MassMutual U.S.

Almost everyone that will read this article will have debt.  In America today, we are trained to go into debt for just about everything.

If you want a college education, you go into debt.

If you want a vehicle, you go into debt.

If you want a home, you go into debt.

If you want that nice new pair of shoes, you don’t have to wait for it.  Just go into more debt.

As a result, most Americans are currently up to their necks in red ink

Some 64% of those surveyed said they have a mortgage, 56% said they had credit-card debt and 26% said they have student-loan debt. Many surveyed said they don’t feel financially secure. More than a quarter said they wish they had better control of their finances.

You would have thought that we would have learned from the very hard lessons that the crisis of 2008 taught us.

But instead, we have been on the greatest debt binge in American history in recent years.  Here is more from the Marketwatch article

It makes sense that debt is on Americans’ minds. Collectively, Americans have more than $1 trillion in credit-card debt, according to the Federal Reserve. They have another $1.5 trillion in student loans, up from $1.1 trillion in 2013. Motor vehicle loans are now topping $1.1 trillion, up from $878.5 billion in 2013. And they have another nearly $15 trillion in mortgage debt outstanding.

That is one huge pile of debt.

We criticize the federal government for running up 21 trillion dollars in debt, and rightly so, but American consumers have been almost as irresponsible on an individual basis.

As long as you are drowning in debt, you will never become wealthy.  In order to build wealth, you have got to spend less than you earn, but most Americans never learn basic fundamentals such as this in our rapidly failing system of public education.

Many Americans long to become financially independent, but they don’t understand that our system is rigged against them.  The entire game is all about keeping consumers on that debt wheel endlessly chasing that piece of proverbial cheese until it is too late.

Getting out of debt is one of the biggest steps that you can take to give yourself more freedom, and hopefully this article will inspire many to do just that.

To end this article today, I would like to share 14 facts about how the middle class in America is shrinking that I shared in a previous article

#1 78 million Americans are participating in the “gig economy” because full-time jobs just don’t pay enough to make ends meet these days.

#2 In 2011, the average home price was 3.56 times the average yearly salary in the United States.  But by the time 2017 was finished, the average home price was 4.73 times the average yearly salary in the United States.

#3 In 1980, the average American worker’s debt was 1.96 times larger than his or her monthly salary.  Today, that number has ballooned to 5.00.

#4 In the United States today, 66 percent of all jobs pay less than 20 dollars an hour.

#5 102 million working age Americans do not have a job right now.  That number is higher than it was at any point during the last recession.

#6 Earnings for low-skill jobs have stayed very flat for the last 40 years.

#7 Americans have been spending more money than they make for 28 months in a row.

#8 In the United States today, the average young adult with student loan debt has a negative net worth.

#9 At this point, the average American household is nearly $140,000 in debt.

#10 Poverty rates in U.S. suburbs “have increased by 50 percent since 1990”.

#11 Almost 51 million U.S. households “can’t afford basics like rent and food”.

#12 The bottom 40 percent of all U.S. households bring home just 11.4 percent of all income.

#13 According to the Federal Reserve, 4 out of 10 Americans do not have enough money to cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing the money or selling something they own.

#14 22 percent of all Americans cannot pay all of their bills in a typical month.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

11 Rage-Inducing Facts About America’s Wildly Out Of Control Student Loan Debt Bubble

Higher education has become one of the biggest money-making scams in America.  We tell all of our young people that if they want to have a bright future, they must go to college.  This message is relentlessly pounded into their heads for their first 18 years, and so by the time high school graduation rolls around for many of them it would be unthinkable to do anything else.  And instead of doing a cost/benefit analysis on various schools, we tell our young people to go to the best college that they can possibly get into and to not worry about what it will cost.  We assure them that a great job will be there after they graduate and that great job will allow them to easily pay off any student loans that they have accumulated.  Of course most college graduates don’t end up getting great jobs, but many of them do end up being financially crippled for decades by student loan debt.

In all of American history, we have never seen anything quite like this student loan debt bubble.  Since 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in America has nearly tripled.

Let me repeat that again.

Since 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in America has nearly tripled.

But of course the quality of college education has not tripled over that time.  Instead, it has progressively gotten worse.  At this point most college courses have been so “dumbed down” that the family pet could pass them.  If you would like to look into this more, you can find a list of 37 of the most idiotic college courses in America right here.

These days, most college courses do not require any actual writing.  Instead, your performance is judged by a series of “tests” consisting of multiple choice, fill in the blank, and true/false questions.  And the questions are usually ridiculously easy, because most of our high school graduates need to take remedial courses in basic skills when they get to college.

I spent eight years at public universities, and the quality of education that I received was a joke, and that was many years ago.  Now the quality of education has deteriorated so dramatically that most college degrees are essentially worthless from a practical standpoint, but for many professions you still need that “piece of paper” in order to “qualify” for certain jobs.

So the scam continues, and thousands upon thousands of “administrators”, “diversity specialists”, “career counselors” and “college presidents” are taking home massively bloated salaries at our expense.  Beautiful new lecture halls, residential complexes and sports stadiums are going up at colleges and universities all over the country, and textbook publishers are laughing all the way to the bank.

If everything but the basics was stripped away, the cost of actually delivering a college education to students would be quite low.  In fact, most learning could be done over the Internet.

But instead, the “college education industry” has convinced all of us that we desperately need their services, and that we shouldn’t care about the price.

Of course many of our young people are filled with regret once they get out into the real world and they realize that student loan debt is going to financially cripple them for the rest of their lives.

At this moment, America is drowning in more student loan debt than ever before.  The following are 11 rage-inducing facts about America’s wildly out of control student loan debt bubble…

#1 The student loan debt bubble has now grown to 1.4 trillion dollars.

#2 In 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. was just 545 billion dollars.

#3 Over the previous ten years, student loan debt has grown by a staggering 176 percent.

#4 Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.

#5 In 2003, student loan debt accounted for just 3.3 percent of all household debt.  Today, that number has grown to 10.5 percent.

#6 The current student loan 90-day delinquency rate is 11.2 percent.

#7 30 percent of all student loans in the United States are either in “deferment” or “forbearance”.  The most common reason a loan is placed into one of those categories is because the borrower cannot pay.

#8 It is being projected that a whopping 40 percent all student loan borrowers will default on their loans by 2023.

#9 From 2007 through 2017, “college tuition costs jumped 63 percent, school housing surged 51 percent and the price of textbooks by 88 percent.”

#10 In 2001, 18.6 percent of all U.S. households led by someone in the 18 to 34 age bracket were carrying household debt.  Today, that number has jumped to 44.8 percent.

#11 Each year, more than a million Americans default on their student loans.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.