Europe Tries To Kick The Can Down The Road But It Will Only Lead To Financial Disaster

Have you heard the good news?  Financial armageddon has been averted.  The economic collapse in Europe has been cancelled.  Everything is going to be okay.  Well, actually none of those statements is true, but news of the “debt deal” in Europe has set off a frenzy of irrational exuberance throughout the financial world anyway.  Newspapers all over the globe are declaring that the financial crisis in Europe is over.  Stock markets all over the world are soaring.  The Dow was up nearly 3 percent today, and this recent surge is helping the S&P 500 to have its best month since 1974.  Global financial markets are experiencing an explosion of optimism right now.  Yes, European leaders have been able to kick the can down the road for a few months and a total Greek default is not going to happen right now.  However, as you will see below, the core elements of this “debt deal” actually make a financial disaster in Europe even more likely in the future.

The two most important parts of the plan are a 50% “haircut” on Greek debt held by private investors and highly leveraging the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to give it much more “firepower”.

Both of these elements are likely to cause significant problems down the road.  But most investors do not seem to have figured this out yet.  In fact, most investors seem to be buying into the hype that Europe’s problems have been solved.

There is a tremendous lack of critical thinking in the financial community today.  Just because politicians in Europe say that the crisis has been solved does not mean that the crisis has been solved.  But all over the world there are bold declarations that a great “breakthrough” has been achieved.  An article posted on USA Today is an example of this irrational exuberance….

Investors — at least for now — don’t have to worry about a financial collapse like the one in 2008, after Wall Street investment bank Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy, sparking a global financial crisis.

“Financial Armageddon seems to have been taken off the table,” says Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Wow, doesn’t that sound great?

But now let’s look at the facts.

You can’t solve a debt problem with even more debt.  But that is what this debt deal is trying to do.

The politicians in Europe did not want to raise more money for the EFSF the “hard way”.  Voters in Germany (and other European nations) are overwhelmingly against contributing even more cash to a fund that many see as a financial black hole.

So what do you do when more money is needed but nobody wants to contribute?

You borrow it.

Essentially, this debt deal calls for the EFSF to become four or five times larger by “leveraging” the existing funds in the EFSF.

But isn’t that risky?

Of course it is.

There are some leaders in Europe that recognize this.  For example, an article in The Telegraph notes the reservations that the president of the Bundesbank has about this plan….

Jens Weidmann, the president of the Bundesbank and a member of the European Central Bank, sounded the alarm over the plan to “leverage” the fund by a factor of four to five times without putting any new money into the pot.

He warned that the scheme could be hit by market turbulence with taxpayers left holding the bill for risky investments in Italian and Spanish bonds.

So who is going to fund all of this new debt?

Well, it turns out that the Europeans are counting on the same folks that the U.S. government is constantly borrowing money from.

The Chinese.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already spoken directly with Chinese President Hu Jintao about funding this new bailout effort.

So is borrowing money from the Chinese to fund bailouts for Greece and other weak sisters in Europe sound policy?

Of course not.

And the sad thing is that this expanded EFSF is still not going to be enough to solve the financial problems in Europe.

According to an article in The Telegraph, a recent survey of economists found that most of them do not believe that this new plan is going to raise enough money….

The plan to increase the European Financial and Stability Facility to €1  trillion on paper was attacked by economists as not enough to “stave off” worsening debt problems in Italy and Spain.

In a survey of economists, 26 of 48 thought the firepower was not enough.

But the worst part of this new plan is the 50 percent “haircut” that private investors are being forced to take.

This is essentially a partial default by the Greek government.  A lot of folks are going to get hit really hard by losses from this.  Instead of making financial institutions in Europe stronger, these losses are going to make a lot of them even weaker.

Normally, in the event of a default, credit default swap contracts would be triggered.  But apparently because this was considered to be a “voluntary” haircut, that is not going to happen in this instance.

A Bloomberg article explained this in greater detail.  The following is a brief excerpt….

The EU agreement with investors for a voluntary 50 percent writedown on their Greek bond holdings means $3.7 billion of debt-insurance contracts won’t be triggered, according to the International Swaps & Derivatives Association’s rules.

That means that investors and financial institutions all over the world are just going to have to eat these losses.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is already acknowledging that a number of Greek banks will have to be nationalized because of the severity of this “haircut”.  A recent CNBC article detailed this….

The haircut is expected to impose big losses on the country’s banks and state-run pension funds, which are up their necks in toxic Greek government bonds of about 100 billion euros.

The government will replenish pension funds’ capital, but banks may face temporary nationalisation, Papandreou said.

“It is very likely that a large part of the banks’ shares will pass into state ownership,” Papandreou said. He pledged, however, that these stakes will be sold back to private investors after the banks’ restructuring.

So where will the Greek government get the funds to “replenish” the capital of those banks?

That is a very good question.

But we haven’t even discussed the worst part of this “debt deal” yet.

If you don’t remember any other part of this article, please remember this.

The debt deal in Europe sends a very frightening message to the market.

The truth is that Europe could have totally bailed out Greece without any sort of a “haircut” taking place.

But they didn’t.

So now investors all over the globe have got to be thinking that if they are holding Portuguese bonds, Italian bonds or Spanish bonds there is a really good chance that they will be forced to take a massive “haircut” at some point as well.

At this time last year, the yield on two year Italian bonds was about 2.5 percent.  Now it is about 4.5 percent.  As investors begin to price in the probability of having to take a future “haircut” on Italian debt, those bond yields are going to go much, much higher.

That means that it is going to become much more expensive for the Italian government to borrow money and that also means that it is going to become much more difficult for the Italians to get their financial house in order.

In essence, the haircut on Greek debt is a signal to investors that they should require a much higher rate of return on the debt of all of the PIIGS.  This is going to make the financial collapse of all of the PIIGS much more likely.

Remember, about this time last year the yield on two year Greek bonds was about 10 percent.  Today, it is over 70 percent.

As I wrote about in a previous article, the western world is in debt up to its eyeballs right now and trying to kick the can down the road is not going to solve anything.

Our leaders may succeed in delaying the pain for a while, but it most definitely is coming.

Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Italy all have debt to GDP ratios that are well over 100% right now.  Spain is in a huge amount of trouble as well.

When you add up all the debt, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about 3 trillion euros combined.

If Italy or Spain goes down, the rest of Europe is going to be helpless to stop it.  There simply is not going to be enough money to bail either one of them out.

That is why this “debt deal” is so alarming.  All investors in Italian or Spanish debt will now have to factor in the probability that they will be required to accept a 50 percent haircut at some point in the future.

If the markets behave rationally (and if the ECB does not manipulate them too much), it appears inevitable that bond yields over in Europe are going to rise substantially, and that will put tremendous additional financial strain on governments all over Europe.

Basically, we have got a huge mess on our hands, and this debt deal just made it a lot worse.

Yes, a financial collapse has been averted in Greece for the moment, but the truth is that there is no real reason to be celebrating this deal.

A massive financial storm is coming to Europe, and this “debt deal” has made that all the more certain.

Once again, politicians in Europe have tried to kick the can down the road, but in the end their efforts are only going to lead to complete and total financial disaster.

What Have We Gotten For The Trillion Dollars We Have Spent On Wars In Afghanistan, Iraq And Libya?

Over a trillion U.S. taxpayer dollars have been spent on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.  Whether you are for the wars or against the wars, it is important for all of us to step back and evaluate what we have really gotten for all of that money.  In Libya, we have actually helped al-Qaeda forces that were shooting at U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan take over the country.  Now they have announced that they will be imposing strict Sharia law on all of Libya.  After 10 years of having our boys shot up in Afghanistan, the Afghan government is so “grateful” that they are publicly saying that they will side with Pakistan in any future war against the United States.  In Iraq, Islamic radicals are beheading and murdering dozens and dozens of Christians and the new Iraqi government seemingly can’t wait to push the remaining U.S. soldiers out of the country.  We ran up well over a trillion dollars of new debt to “liberate” these countries, but are they really in better shape than they were before these wars?  Are we really in better shape than we were before these wars?

Today, the United States military has at least one base in more than half of all the nations on the planet.

The U.S. spends more than 7 times as much on the military as any other country on earth does.

Without a doubt, the United States will always need a strong military.  But with the national debt soaring to unprecedented heights, is it really wise for us to try to be the police of the entire globe?

We have poured well over a trillion dollars into Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and we have very little to show for it.

Are Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya safer places than before we went to war with them?

No.

Are Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya producing fewer “terrorists” than before we went to war with them?

No.

Are we safer than before we started all these wars?

No.

Our government has spent well over a trillion dollars and the blood of thousands upon thousands of U.S. soldiers has been spilled and in the final analysis very little has actually been accomplished.

Let’s take a closer look at these conflicts and see exactly what we have gotten for all of the money that we have spent….

Libya

In Libya, we have actually helped al-Qaeda take power.

In Afghanistan and Iraq we were supposedly fighting to do just the opposite.

So just what in the world is going on here?

The price tag for the first week of airstrikes on Libya alone was 600 million dollars.

Yes, Gaddafi was a tyrant, but have we invested a lot of time and effort only to watch as an even worse government takes power?

According to The Telegraph, the leader of the Libyan rebels was openly admitting that his “troops” included jihadists that were firing bullets at U.S. forces in Iraq….

Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

A recent article by Kurt Nimmo for Infowars.com discussed some of the other ways that al-Qaeda has been active in Libya during the fight against Gaddafi….

Despite Aujali’s assurance, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, the former head of LIFG, was appointed to run a military council in September. He fought with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In February, it was reported that al-Qaeda had set-up an Islamic emirate in Derna, in eastern Libya, headed by a former prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Abdelkarim al-Hasadi.

Now that they have won, the “rebels” have announced that they will be imposing strict Sharia law all over Libya.

According to a new article posted on The Telegraph, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of NATO’s National Transitional Council, has even announced plans to repeal polygamy laws because they are not compliant with Sharia law….

Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi’s era that he said was in conflict with Sharia – that banning polygamy.

Should we be cheering this?

Why would the U.S. government want to spend a single penny helping al-Qaeda take over Libya and set up Sharia law there?

There should not be a single American (conservative or liberal) that supports what has gone down in Libya.

Afghanistan

The U.S. military has now been in Afghanistan for 10 years.  World War II lasted less than 6 years.  The U.S. government has spent over 467 billion dollars on the war in Afghanistan, and thousands upon thousands of our troops have been killed or wounded there.

Even after all this time, a single day of the war in Afghanistan costs more money than it took to build the entire Pentagon.

So are the Afghans grateful that we have sacrificed so much to bring “democracy” to that nation?

Of course not.

Just check out what Afghan President Hamid Karzai said during one recent interview….

“God forbid, If ever there is a war between Pakistan and America, Afghanistan will side with Pakistan”

Did you catch that?

Karzai says that in a future war between Pakistan and the United States, Afghanistan is going to be fighting against us.

But didn’t we bring them freedom?

No, we did not.

Instead, one radical Islamic government replaced another.

Today, there are officially zero Christian churches left in Afghanistan.

The new constitution of Afghanistan says that that Islam is the “religion of the state“.

The new constitution of Afghanistan also states that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam”.

Earlier this year, I wrote about one Afghan man that was actually sentenced to death for converting to Christianity….

In Afghanistan right now, a one-legged Afghan Red Cross worker named Said Musa is sitting in a prison cell awaiting his execution.  Musa, a father of six children, was arrested by the Afghan government as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy last year.  He was sentenced to death by an Afghan court that was established by the new Afghan government that the United States worked so hard to set up.  He has been tortured and sexually abused for months.  An Afghan judge has told him that he will be hung within a matter of days.  So what was his crime?  He was a Muslim that has become a Christian.  Under Sharia law, that is punishable by death.  Is this is the “freedom” that we have sacrificed so many American lives to bring to Afghanistan?

Thankfully he was later released from prison and was able to get out of the country.

However, this just shows that the people of Afghanistan are currently experiencing a level of freedom that is quite comparable to what they experienced under the Taliban.

After all that the United States has done over there, very little positive change has taken place.

Iraq

Up to now, it is estimated that the U.S. government has spent over 800 billion dollars on the war in Iraq.

Thousands upon thousands of U.S. soldiers lost arms and legs in Iraq.

Thousands of U.S. soldiers will never be coming home at all.

But after all of our efforts, Iraq is still a far less safe place than it was before we invaded.

Christians and other religious minorities once were able to worship in peace, but now they are racing to get out of Iraq as fast as they can.

Why?

Well, because Christians and other religious minorities are being brutally targeted by Islamic radicals.

For example, about a year ago more than 80 Iraqi Christians were beheaded on a single day.  All that the Christians were trying to do was attend a church service.  One four-month-old baby was actually beheaded right in front of her parents.  You can see pictures of the shocking violence from that day right here.

Iraq is a complete and total disaster zone at this point.

The Iraqi government says that it is willing for U.S. military trainers to stay in the country, but they also say that there will be no more immunity for U.S. soldiers.

We have left the country in far worse shape than we found it, and Iraq is now a bigger breeding ground for terrorists than it ever was before.

You see, the truth is that the populations of these countries will continue to hold a grudge once we leave.  They are simply not going to forgive and forget.  There are millions of Islamic radicals in these countries that will never, ever, ever forgive the United States.  The hatred that they feel for us could be passed down for generations.

We have not brought freedom to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.  Instead, we have just replaced the tyranny that they were suffering under with new forms of tyranny.

Meanwhile, we continue to spend ourselves into oblivion.

Yes, the U.S. will always need a strong military.

Yes, there are areas where we actually need to spend more on the military.  For example, now that Barack Obama has completely gutted our strategic nuclear arsenal, that is one area that we desperately need to attend to.

However, we simply cannot continue to recklessly spend money like we are today.  We are in debt up to our eyeballs, and trying to be “the police of the world” is very expensive….

*Before the start of the “War on Terror”, the U.S. national debt was under 6 trillion dollars.  Today, it is getting very close to 15 trillion dollars.

*Right now, the U.S. military is in nearly 130 different nations and it has a total of approximately 700 military bases around the world.  It takes about 100 billion dollars a year to maintain these bases.

*U.S. military spending is greater than the military spending of China, Russia, Japan, India, and the rest of NATO combined.

*The United States accounts for 46.5% of all military spending on the planet.  China is in second place with only 6.6%.

Meanwhile, our national security just continues to deteriorate.  Millions of people have illegally poured across our border with Mexico and the federal government is actually suing border states such as Arizona to keep them from trying to stop this.

Our national security priorities are way, way out of whack.  We continue to waste money in some of the most bizarre ways imaginable and yet we continue to become less secure with each passing year.

Yes, the United States needs a very, very strong military.

Yes, national security needs to be a very, very high priority.

But what we have been doing over the past decade has not worked.  In fact, the Bush/Obama foreign policy has been an abject failure.  We have poured hundreds of billions of dollars down the drain and we are less secure today than at any point since World War II.

It is time to admit that Barack Obama and George W. Bush have been fundamentally wrong about these wars.  Because of their foolishness, we are less safe today and our allies are less safe today.

Afghanistan is not our friend now.  Neither is Iraq.  Libya looks like it is going to become an al-Qaeda paradise thanks to us.

There is very little “freedom” in those 3 nations today.  Instead, “Islamic law” is being shoved down the throats of the people living in those countries.

So, in the final analysis, what have we really accomplished?

Underemployed And Hating Life

Today, millions of smart, hard working Americans are flipping burgers, waiting tables or working dead end retail jobs not because they want to, but because they have no other options.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 14 million Americans are currently unemployed and another 9.3 million Americans are currently “underemployed”.  During this economic downturn, a lot of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs because they have been unable to find full-time jobs.  For many, this can be a soul-crushing experience.  It can be easy to become very bitter when you have worked very hard all your life and yet you find yourself having to take a job that only pays you a fraction of what you used to make.  A lot of young college graduates end up hating life because the only jobs that they can seem to find do not even require a college degree and don’t even come close to enabling them to keep up with their crippling student loan debt payments.  Sadly, the underemployment problem continues to grow even worse.  In September alone, the number of underemployed Americans rose by close to half a million.

There are other measurements that indicate that unemployment in America is even worse that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is indicating.

For example, a recent Gallup poll found that approximately one out of every five Americans that currently have a job consider themselves to be underemployed.

In addition, according to author Paul Osterman about 20 percent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages.

When you try as hard as you can and you still can’t pay the bills, it is easy to end up hating life.

What some Americans are going through is absolutely heart breaking.  Just consider the following story from a recent article on Fox News….

Damian Birkel, of Winston-Salem N.C., found himself in similar circumstances. He was a marketing manager at Sarah Lee in the early 1990s when he was downsized. Since then, he has been laid off from three other jobs, including one at a recruiting firm.

“I felt like I had ‘loser’ tattooed to my forehead, and ‘will work for food’ tattooed to my chest,” he says. 

The hardest part was telling his young daughter that there might not be enough money to pay the bills — among them, sending her to summer camp. “She brings her piggy bank and says, ‘Daddy, why don’t you break into the piggy bank so that you can pay some of the bills.’”

How would you feel if your little daughter said that to you?

Unfortunately, the number of good jobs just continues to decrease.

There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.

And the mix of jobs that our economy is producing continues to change.

Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

What that means is that the middle class is shrinking.

A lot of young people are coming out of college right now and are having their dreams absolutely crushed.  Large numbers of them are entering the “real world” with nightmarish student loan debt burdens and only a limited number of them can find decent jobs.

A recent USA Today article told the story of one of these very frustrated young Americans….

Kate Wolfe chased a dream when she moved to New York after college, looking to break into acting while working as a maître d’.

Her $50,000 worth of student loans were a distraction she could handle. Then the uninsured 25-year-old was mugged last year, and the final indignity was the $30,000 emergency room bill.

We are pumping out tons of college graduates, but we are not pumping out nearly enough jobs for all of them.

If you can believe it, in the United States today there are 317,000 waiters and waitresses that actually have college degrees.

That is an absolutely horrifying statistic.

But the truth is that the lack of good jobs is hitting every age level really hard.

For example, the average American family is under a tremendous amount of financial stress in this economy.  Once you adjust it for inflation, median household income in the United States has declined approximately 10 percent since December 2007.

Meanwhile, the cost of food, gas, health insurance and just about everything else a family needs has gone up significantly.

Our politicians keep talking about “jobs, jobs, jobs” but the number of decent jobs continues on a very clear downward trend.

Back in 1980, 52 percent of all jobs in the United States were middle income jobs.  Today, only 42 percent of all jobs in the United States are middle income jobs.

Sadly, it now looks like even the low income jobs are starting to dry up.

Mall vacancies recently hit a brand new all-time record.  Major retail chains all over the country are announcing layoffs.  Things do not look very promising for the upcoming holiday season.

So what are our leaders doing about all of this?

Well, unfortunately they continue to fumble the football very badly.

According to a recent ABC News report, the U.S. government actually gave a $529 million loan guarantee to an electric car company that decided to make its cars in Finland….

Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department’s $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the job of assembling the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland.

If we don’t figure out how to stop millions of jobs from leaving this country we are going to be in a world of hurt.

The trade policies of the federal government are neither “free” nor “fair” and they are causing the standard of living of American workers to rapidly sink toward the level of the rest of the world.

We are told that it is “inevitable” that we are going to be deindustrialized and that we are going to become a service economy.

But guess what?

Service jobs generally pay a lot less than manufacturing jobs do.

A “one world economy” where our labor force is merged with the labor forces of the rest of the globe is not a good thing for the average American worker and it is not a good thing for America.

But of course trade is not the only reason why we are losing good jobs.  There are a whole bunch of reasons why this is happening.  For many more reasons, just check out this article.

A lot of you that are reading this article are unemployed or underemployed right now.

Unfortunately, there is not much hope that the U.S. economy is going to experience a significant turnaround any time soon.

In fact, it is likely that things are going to be getting even worse.

Our economic system is dying.  Now is the time to try to get as independent of it as you can.

Don’t count on a job (“just over broke”) as your only source of income.  In this economy, no job is safe.

There are millions upon millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans that never dreamed that their lives would go so horribly wrong.

But they did.

Our nation is experiencing the consequences of decades of very bad decisions.

There is no help on the horizon and the cavalry is not on the way to rescue us.

You better prepare accordingly.

In Debt Up To Our Eyeballs

The entire financial system of the western world is designed to be a debt spiral.  The total amount of money and and the total amount of debt are supposed to continually expand.  Today, we are in debt up to our eyeballs and it seems like nearly everyone is talking about “deleveraging” and reducing government debt.  But in a world where the entire financial system is based on debt, is there any way for massive deleveraging to take place without plunging us all into a horrific worldwide depression?  The governments of the western world have had a lot of fun spending money as if there was no tomorrow, but now tomorrow has arrived and all of that debt is rapidly catching up with us.  Politicians in Europe and in the United States are running around trying to come up with a “plan”, but there is no “plan” that is going to fix the current debt-based system.  Over the next few years we are going to reap what we have sown.

For fiscal year 2011, the U.S. federal government had a budget deficit of nearly 1.3 trillion dollars.  That was the third year in a row that our budget deficit has topped a trillion dollars.

Sadly, most Americans simply have no idea how much money a trillion dollars is.

Perhaps an illustration or two would help.

If on the day when Jesus was born you began spending one million dollars every single day, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.

That is how large a trillion dollars is.

If you went out today and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you over 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.

Some people have suggested that we could solve our problems by taxing the rich.

Well, if Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for about 15 days.

No, the truth is that what we have is a spending problem.

The U.S. federal government is spending way, way too much money.  Total U.S. government debt will soon cross the 15 trillion dollar mark.

Should we do something to celebrate such a monumental national achievement?

It really takes a special effort to borrow 15 trillion dollars.

We have accumulated the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and yet our government continues to add to our debt at a blistering pace.

If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the national debt.

Unfortunately, we are not paying it off right now.  Instead, we are adding even more to it.

Back in the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan declared the national debt to be a national crisis.

Well, today our national debt is more than 14 times larger than it was when Reagan took office.

Something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Right now, spending by the federal government accounts for about 24 percent of GDP.  Back in 2001, it accounted for just 18 percent.

Spending is going in the wrong direction.

And most government spending goes into the pockets of individual Americans.

59 percent of all Americans now receive money from the federal government in one form or another.

We have got tens of millions of Americans that are completely and totally addicted to getting money from the federal government.

But wasn’t the Tea Party supposed to do something about all of this crazy government spending?

Unfortunately, the Tea Party has failed in this area.  In the mainstream media there is talk of “austerity” by the federal government, but the truth is that spending by the federal government has increased by about 5 percent so far this year.

We are hurtling toward a “debt wall” and the brakes don’t seem to work.

Europe is in a massive amount of debt trouble as well.  In fact, a financial meltdown is probably going to happen in Europe before it happens in the United States.

Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Italy all have debt to GDP ratios that are well above 100%.  Spain is in a massive amount of trouble as well.

Right now, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about 3 trillion euros combined.

Greece is on the verge of a default of one form or another, and Italy and Portugal look like they will not be far behind.

As the financial world braces for a Greek default, the yields on Greek bonds are going absolutely crazy.  The yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 70 percent.  The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 170 percent.

Sadly, it looks like Portuguese bonds are starting to go down the same path.  The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 17 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was about 4 percent.

European banks are also drowning in an ocean of debt.

According to renowned financial journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, banks in Europe need to reduce the amount of lending on their books by about 7 trillion dollars in order to get down to safe levels….

Europe’s banks face a $7 trillion lending contraction to bring their balance sheets in line with the US and Japan, threatening to trap the region in a credit crunch and chronic depression for a decade.

But can that be done safely?

Can that be done without plunging Europe into a financial nightmare?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is skeptical….

The risk is “Japanisation” without the benefits of Japan: without a single government, or a trade super-surplus, or 1pc debt costs, or unique social cohesion.

Already the financial crisis in Europe has pushed unemployment to frightening levels.  So what will happen if you add massive deleveraging to the equation?  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is very concerned about what might happen in some of the most troubled nations….

Even today, the jobless rate for youth is near 10pc in Japan. It is already 46pc in Spain, 43pc in Greece, 32pc in Ireland, and 27pc in Italy. We will discover over time what yet more debt deleveraging will do to these societies.

Major European banks not only have too many loans on their books – they have also borrowed way, way too much money themselves.

The truth is that most major European banks are leveraged to the hilt and are massively exposed to sovereign debt.  Before it fell in 2008, Lehman Brothers was leveraged 31 to 1.  Today, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are currently holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.

What all of this means is that we are on the verge of some really bad stuff.

The governments of the world are up to their eyeballs in debt.  According to the Economist, the governments of the world combined are more than 40 trillion dollars in debt.  But that total only counts government debt held by the public and it does not include any future obligations (such as Social Security, etc.) owed by national governments.

It would be hard to overstate how much of a crisis this is.

But just like with the subprime mortgage meltdown of a few years ago, a number of very savvy investors and economists can see what is coming.

For example, Texas investor Kyle Bass made millions and millions of dollars betting against subprime mortgages, and now he is warning that we are facing a crisis much greater than that.

Bass believes that the European debt crisis is soon going to explode.  In particular, he has been putting his money into investments that will pay off big if Greek debt collapses.

But that is not all Bass has been up to.  He has been stockpiling gold, guns and nickels (20 million nickels to be exact).

Bass appears to be well prepared for the coming economic collapse.  The following is how one writer described his visit to the 40,000 square foot “fort” owned by Bass….

“We hopped into his Hummer, decorated with bumper stickers (God Bless Our Troops, Especially Our Snipers) and customized to maximize the amount of fun its owner could have in it: for instance, he could press a button and, James Bond–like, coat the road behind him in giant tacks. We roared out into the Texas hill country, where, with the fortune he’d made off the subprime crisis, Kyle Bass had purchased what amounted to a fort: a forty-thousand-square-foot ranch house on thousands of acres in the middle of nowhere, with its own water supply, and an arsenal of automatic weapons and sniper rifles and small explosives to equip a battalion.”

If only the rest of us were so well prepared, eh?

So if this is the kind of thing that the “financial experts” are doing, then what is the message for us?

A great storm is coming, and most Americans are going to be totally unprepared for it.

Not that things are not really, really bad already.

According to Shadow Government Statistics, the “real” rate of unemployment in the United States is creeping up toward 25 percent.

So what is going to happen if a worldwide depression hits?

Things could get very, very interesting over the next few years.

A significant percentage of Americans have already lost faith in the system.  According to a new Gallup poll, 44 percent of all Americans say that our economic system is “unfair” to them on a personal level.

But sadly, most Americans don’t really understand the mechanics of our financial system.

They don’t understand what actually makes it unfair.

That is why we need to work so hard to educate the American people about the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve system is at the very heart of our financial system, and it was designed to get the U.S. government perpetually enslaved to debt.

At this point, the U.S. national debt is 4700 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913.

It looks like the creators of the Federal Reserve achieved their goal.

Posted below is a cartoon that was published one year before the creation of the Federal Reserve.  The intent of this cartoon was to criticize the “Aldrich plan” which was a precursor to the plan to create the Federal Reserve.

As you can see below, the creator of this cartoon had a good idea of what would happen if the plan put forward by Rhode Island Senator Nelson Aldrich was adopted.

Today, the Federal Reserve totally dominates our financial system just like this cartoon once warned would happen if we allowed a central bank to control our money….

The 9-9-9 Plan: Is The Herman Cain Tax Plan A Good Idea?

As he continues to heavily tout his “9-9-9 plan”, Herman Cain has seen his popularity soar.  But is the Herman Cain tax plan a good idea for America?  Without a doubt, the “9-9-9 plan” is simple and it is easy to remember.  To most Americans, it sounds like a low tax plan.  But is that the truth?  As you will see below, Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan will actually raise federal taxes on some middle income Americans to as high as 37 percent.  If the other Republican candidates understood this, they would be jumping all over Cain.  But instead the best that most of them seem to be able to do is to make jokes about it.  For example, Jon Huntsman said that he thought that the 9-9-9 plan “was the price of a pizza when I first heard about it.”  That is a funny line, but the reality is that the future of our tax system is very serious business.  Our economy is dying and our nation is drowning in debt.  We need some very real solutions to our very real problems.  So let’s take a closer look at the 9-9-9 plan that Herman Cain is proposing….

The one great thing about the 9-9-9 plan is that it would completely eliminate the current tax code.  That should be the starting point for any proposal for reforming our current system of taxation.

Under Herman Cain’s plan, all current federal taxes would be eliminated.  Social Security taxes would be eliminated, estate taxes would be eliminated and capital gains taxes would be eliminated.

All current tax deductions and loopholes would be eliminated as well.

So far so good.

Under the 9-9-9 plan, the current tax system would be replaced with a 9 percent personal income tax, a 9 percent business income tax and a 9 percent national sales tax.

Uh oh.

9 sounds like a low number, but when you add tax on top of tax on top of tax they can add up very quickly.  The truth is that some Americans would end up paying significantly more taxes under the Herman Cain tax plan.

Even Herman Cain is admitting this.  The following is what Cain said about his plan the other day on NBC’s Meet The Press….

“Some people will pay more”

So who will be paying more?

Will it be the those at the top of the food chain?

No, the reality is that the Herman Cain tax plan would represent a substantial tax hike for millions of middle income families.

According to ABC News, an average family of four with a yearly income of just under $50,000 (i.e. the median household income), would pay approximately $2,725 more to the federal government in taxes under the 9-9-9 plan.

Well, that doesn’t sound good.

That doesn’t sound like a recipe for economic recovery.

But if you are a middle income small business owner, the news is much worse than that.

Under Herman Cain’s tax plan, some small business owners could end up paying up to 37 percent of their incomes in taxes to the federal government.

Here is how that breaks down….

#1) First they would pay the 9 percent personal income tax.

#2) Secondly, they would pay 9 percent on all business income.  There would not even be a deduction for wages paid out.  This would hit some small businesses incredibly hard.  In fact, small businesses that have a very tight profit margin could be totally wiped out by this.

A lot of people have assumed that the 9 percent tax on businesses is only on corporations.  But that simply is not the case.

In a recent article, Paul Krugman of the New York Times explained what the 9-9-9 plan really says….

From comments I see that some readers believe that Cain’s second “9″ is a profits tax, which I’ve argued in the past probably falls on capital owners. But it isn’t: it’s a tax on all business income, defined as sales minus purchased inputs and dividends — but with no deduction for wages.

Ouch.

Okay, so now we are up to 18 percent for small business owners.

#3) The 9-9-9 plan also calls for a 9 percent national sales tax.  Of course the truth is that very few people will spend all of their money on things that the national sales tax is imposed upon, but theoretically this could add another 9 percent to an individual’s tax burden.

So now we are up to a potential total of 27 percent for small business owners.

The 9-9-9 plan would also make sales taxes absolutely crushing in some areas of the United States.  For example, it has been projected that once you throw in state and local sales taxes, some areas of the country could be facing a combined sales tax as high as 17 percent once the 9-9-9 plan is implemented.

Cain’s plan would also set the stage for a VAT tax to be implemented.  Many countries in Europe have already implemented a VAT tax, and quite a few liberal politicians in the U.S. have been eager to institute one here.

The potential dangers of a VAT tax were described in a recent article by Dean Clancy….

A VAT is a form of national sales tax that is collected at every stage of the process from the initial sale of raw materials to a manufacturer to the final sale of a finished product to an end-consumer. It’s the most insidious of all taxes, because it is built into the price of everything and consumers can’t see how much of the price is due to the tax. When taxes rise, prices rise, but consumers mistakenly assume that’s just market forces at work. Politicians love a VAT: it lets them take a lot more money out of our wallets. And VATs usually exist side by side with income taxes, not in lieu of them. Taxpayers should hate VATs for the same reasons politicians love them.

Politicians love “new revenue streams”, and once they get opened up they rarely ever get closed.

#4) Anyway, getting back to the main issue, so how do we get up to 37 percent for small business owners under the 9-9-9 plan?

Well, Herman Cain has also been heavily touting “the Chilean model” as a replacement for Social Security.

Under the Chilean model, all citizens are absolutely required to contribute 10 percent of all income to private pension plans.  Workers in Chile do not have the option to opt out of the system.

So if “the Chilean model” is adopted to replace the current Social Security system, that would mean that an extra 10 percent mandatory “tax” would be added on top of the 9-9-9 plan.

That would mean that many middle income small business owners could end up paying up to 37 percent of all of their income in taxes.

Is that something that you could afford to do?

When you add in state taxes, local taxes, property taxes and the dozens of other taxes that Americans pay each year, many middle income Americans would end up paying out over 50 percent of their incomes in taxes.

So much for a low tax plan.

So where in the world did Herman Cain get the idea for the 9-9-9 plan?

Well, there are some that are now claiming that he got the 9-9-9 plan from a video game.

Yes, seriously.

The following is an excerpt from a recent article in  The Daily Mail about the 9-9-9 plan….

Though he claims to have received the idea from a bank employee named Richard Lowrie Jr. in Ohio, observers are now questioning if the true inspiration is the tax code used on the SimCity video game.

The game, originally invented in 1989 allows players to plan and run virtual cities. The fourth version of the game, which came out in 2003, taxes players nine per cent for industrial taxes, nine per cent for residential taxes and nine per cent for commercial taxes.

Does that sound familiar?

Let us hope that this is not true.  Let us hope that Herman Cain did not get his tax plan from a video game.

But in any event, perhaps it is time to take a closer look at Herman Cain.

For example, did you know that he was once the chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Board?

That is not a good sign.

As I have written about so many times, the Federal Reserve is at the very heart of our economic problems.

But Herman Cain does not intend to abolish the Federal Reserve.  In fact, he is very fond of the Federal Reserve.  He is on record as saying that a comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve is not even needed.

The following is what Herman Cain once had to say about the need for an audit of the Federal Reserve….

Some people say that we ought to audit the Fed. Here’s what I do know. The Federal Reserve already has so many internal audits it’s ridiculous. I don’t know why people think we’re gonna learn this great amount of information by auditing the Federal Reserve.

I think a lot of people are calling for this audit of the Federal Reserve because they don’t know enough about it. There’s no hidden secrets going on in the Federal Reserve to my knowledge.

That is so sad.  There is a lot to like about Herman Cain.  But obviously his 9-9-9 plan is not well thought out, and he is a big time apologist for the Federal Reserve.

During the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve made $16 trillion in secret loans to the big Wall Street banks and to their friends.

That dollar figure is larger than the total value of all goods and services produced in the United States for an entire year.

If Congress had not passed a one time limited audit of the Federal Reserve we would have never learned about those loans.

So how in the world can Herman Cain claim that there is no need to audit the Fed?

Once again, there are definitely some things to like about Herman Cain, but when it comes to economics, taxation and the Federal Reserve, he is way out of his league.

So what is the alternative to the 9-9-9 plan?

The alternative should not be to go back to our current system of taxation.  It is broken beyond repair and needs to be abolished.

If we are going to tax income, we need a system that will be fair and not full of loopholes, that will not overly burden the poor, that will encourage businesses to stay in the United States, that will limit the size of the federal government and that will be easy to understand and implement.

But the truth is that until the federal government completely shuts down the Federal Reserve and the IRS we are going to be enslaved to debt and we are going to be paying much higher taxes than we should be.  We are operating in a debt-based monetary system which is designed to transfer wealth away from the American people.  We desperately need to change this.

It is entirely possible that we could have a system that did not tax income at all.  For much of U.S. history, that was the case in this nation.  It would certainly be possible to do it again.

So right now is definitely a time for some bold new ideas.

Unfortunately, the 9-9-9 plan is not going to be the solution to much of anything.

 

You Know That Your City Has Become A Hellhole When….

All across America there are cities and towns that were once prosperous and beautiful that are being transformed into absolute hellholes.  The scars left by the long-term economic decline of the United States are getting deeper and more gruesome.  The tax base in many areas of the nation has been absolutely devastated as millions of jobs have left this country.  Hundreds of cities are drowning in debt and are desperately trying to survive.  Last year, city government revenues in the United States fell by another 2.3 percent.  That was the fifth year in a row that we have seen a decline.  Meanwhile, costs associated with health care, pensions and virtually everything else continue to explode.  So what are cities doing to make ends meet?  Well, one big trend that we are now witnessing is that many U.S. cities have been getting rid of huge numbers of employees.  If you can believe it, 72 percent of all U.S. cities are laying workers off this year.  Social services and essential infrastructure programs are also being savagely cut back in many areas of the country.  The cold, hard truth is that most of our cities are flat broke and things are going to get even worse in the years ahead.

So how do you know if your own city has become a hellhole?

Well, a few potential “red flags” are posted below….

You know that your city has become a hellhole when most of the street lights get repossessed because of unpaid electric bills.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when it announces that it will no longer prosecute domestic violence cases in order to save money.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when it simply stops sending out pension checks to retired workers.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when it rips up asphalt roads and replaces them with gravel because gravel is cheaper to maintain.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when it eliminates the entire public bus system.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when nearly half of all the people living there can’t read.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when one out of every ten homes sells for under $10,000.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when you can literally buy a house for one dollar.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when you have hundreds of people living in the tunnels underneath your streets.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when three of your past five mayors have been sent to prison for corruption.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when nearly half of the public schools in the city get shut down because of a lack of money.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when you have dozens of young people rampaging in the streets that are thirsty for revenge and that are armed with bats, pipes and guns.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when it is considered to be one of the 10 most dangerous cities in the world.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when thieves defecate in the back seat after they have broken into your car and taken your things.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when prostitution and drug dealing are two of the only viable businesses that remain in the city.

You know that your city has become a hellhole when the police chief announces that the police department will no longer respond to calls about burglary and identity theft due to very deep budget cuts.

Many of the examples above may seem humorous at first glance, but the truth is that they reveal just how deeply tragic our economic decline really is.

This is one of the reasons why I write about our trade deficit over and over and over.  Every single month, tens of billions of dollars more wealth goes out of the United States than enters it.  Every single month, we are getting poorer as a nation.  Every single month, we lose more jobs and businesses.

Any politician that tells you that he or she can solve our economic problems without fundamentally addressing our horrific trade imbalance is lying to you.  That means that there are a whole lot of liars in both political parties.

If the number of good jobs continues to decline, the plight of the average American family is going to continue to get worse.  Home sales will continue to hover around record lows.  The American people will continue to become increasingly frustrated with the economy.

The signs of decline are all around us.

Quit listening to the politicians and just open up your eyes and look.

So do any of you have any additional signs that a city has become a hellhole to add to the list above?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….

LOL – This Stock Market Rally Is For Suckers

Hey, have you heard?  The stock market is absolutely soaring right now.  The Dow was up 330 points on Monday, and overall the Dow has risen by more than 10 percent since October 3rd.  So should we all be throwing our money into the stock market in order to take advantage of this tremendous rally?  Well, if you actually believe that the sovereign debt crisis has passed and that we are no longer on the verge of a massive worldwide financial crisis then I have a bridge that I would like to sell you.  The stock market may be soaring, but absolutely nothing has been solved.  The truth is that this stock market rally is for suckers.  The primary reason why stocks rose today was because German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised that they would reveal a “comprehensive response” to the European debt crisis by the end of this month.  When pressed for specifics, Sarkozy stated that “now is not the moment to go into the details.”  So do global financial markets really have a legitimate reason to be giddy about the super secret plan cooked up by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, or are Merkel and Sarkozy just blowing a bunch of smoke?

Merkel and Sarkozy have made bold promises in the past, but nothing ever got fixed.

So why should we believe them this time?

If they have real solutions, why don’t they just reveal them now?

Why keep us in suspense?

By making these vague promises, Merkel and Sarkozy certainly did give a boost to global financial markets, but they also seriously raised expectations.

Now many in the financial world are expecting something truly significant from Merkel and Sarkozy.  For example, CNN has quoted economist Scott Brown as saying the following about the announcement by Merkel and Sarkozy….

“The Europe debt crisis cloud has been hanging over the market for a year-and-a-half now,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James. “The risks and worries have been intensifying over the last couple of weeks, but after this weekend, the market is expecting something big and concrete that will put the crisis behind us.”

So can Merkel and Sarkozy deliver something big?

Of course not.

Merkel has already gotten all of the bailout money that she is going to get out of the Germans.  The political will for more bailouts is totally gone in Germany, and many of Germany’s top leaders have expressed this in no uncertain terms.

For example, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is publicly admitting that Germany will not be able to contribute any more money to the European bailout fund.

Also, the leader of Bavaria’s Social Christians, Horst Seehofer, said after the recent vote on the Greek bailout package that his party would go “this far, and no further“.

Recent opinion polls in Germany make it abundantly clear that the German people are overwhelmingly opposed to more bailouts.  Squeezing more money out of Germany simply is not going to happen, and that means that squeezing more money out of the rest of Europe is simply not going to happen.

In a recent editorial, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard described the current political situation in Europe in this manner….

Repeat after me:

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL UNION.

THERE WILL BE NO EUROBONDS.

THERE WILL BE NO DEBT POOL.

THERE WILL BE NO EU TREASURY.

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL TRANSFERS IN PERPETUITY.

THERE WILL BE A STABILITY UNION – OR NO MONETARY UNION.

Get used to it. This is the political reality of Europe, since nothing of importance can be done without Germany. All else is wishful thinking, clutching at straws, and evasion. If this means the euro will shed some members or blow apart – as it almost certainly does – then the rest of the world must prepare for the day.

So exactly what “big” solution do Merkel and Sarkozy have up their sleeves that does not involve more money?

Can they really produce the goods or are they just blowing smoke?

Perhaps global financial markets should be focusing on what we can see rather than on what we cannot see.

For example, the first major bank bailout in Europe has now happened.  Dexia is being bailed out, and it is going to cost more than 100 billion dollars.

The funny thing is that Dexia actually passed the banking stress test that was conducted a few months ago.

What does that say about all of the major European banks that did not pass the stress test?

Also, perhaps global financial markets should focus on all of the credit ratings that are being downgraded all over Europe.

Lately, we have seen a cascade of credit rating downgrades.

For example, Moody’s slashed Italy’s credit rating by three levels last Tuesday, and the other day S&P slashed the credit ratings of seven different major Italian banks.

The problems in Europe continue to grow worse, and yet the stock market is soaring.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

If Greece defaults, it is going to be a major disaster.

If Italy or Spain defaults, it is going to be financial armageddon.

The world truly is on the verge of a massive financial crisis.  If you don’t want to believe me, perhaps you might believe some of the top financial officials in the world….

*Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King: “This is the most serious financial crisis we’ve seen at least since the 1930s, if not ever”

*U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner recently stated that if something is not done quickly, Europe faces “cascading default, bank runs and catastrophic risk.”

*IMF advisor Robert Shapiro: “If they can not address [the financial crisis] in a credible way I believe within perhaps 2 to 3 weeks we will have a meltdown in sovereign debt which will produce a meltdown across the European banking system. We are not just talking about a relatively small Belgian bank, we are talking about the largest banks in the world, the largest banks in Germany, the largest banks in France, that will spread to the United Kingdom, it will spread everywhere because the global financial system is so interconnected.”

For many more shocking quotes about how bad things have gotten in Europe, just check out this article.

Merkel and Sarkozy are holding really weak cards but they have chosen to raise the stakes anyway.

Their bluff may calm financial markets for a month or two, but in the end they will not be able to stop what is coming.

A great financial collapse is coming to Europe.

Try to get out of the way of the coming avalanche while you still can.