Tent Cities, Homelessness And Soul-Crushing Despair: The Legacy Of Decades Of Government Debt And Mismanagement Of The Economy

For decades, our politicians have been deeply addicted to government debt, they have stood idly by as millions of our jobs have been shipped overseas and they have passed countless business-crushing regulations and they never thought that it would catch up with us.  Well, it has.  America has been living in the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world, and now that bubble is starting to pop.  There has never been such an extended period of unemployment in the United States since the Great Depression, and millions of Americans are losing their homes.  Homelessness is skyrocketing, tent cities are popping up everywhere and countless numbers of American families are experiencing the soul-crushing despair that comes from desperately trying to hang on for month after month after month.

Now, because of the horrific hole that our politicians have dug for us, we are faced with some heartbreaking choices.  For example, right now the U.S. Congress is deciding whether or not to extend long-term unemployment benefits for the nation’s jobless.

Extending those benefits through the end of February would add another $12.5 billion to the U.S. national debt.  But not doing it would cut off the only lifeline that many Americans have just in time for the holidays.

The extension of jobless benefits that was passed last summer expires on December 1st.  If these long-term benefits are not renewed, approximately 2 million unemployed Americans will lose their checks.

But what can the U.S. Congress do?  Just keep going into endless amounts of debt?  As I have written about previously, the United States is never going to see another balanced budget ever again under the current system.  The U.S. government is flat out broke.  Somehow our politicians desperately need to find a way for the federal budget to stop hemorrhaging red ink.

There is no more “extra money” to spend.  The U.S. government has piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world and we are headed for a complete and total economic disaster because of it.

But what are we going to do?  Are we going to let millions of Americans starve in the streets?

It’s not just the rapidly rising number of homeless Americans that is the problem.  Millions of Americans are not going to be able to heat their homes this winter.  Millions of others are going to have to choose between buying medicine and buying food because they will not be able to afford both.

How would you like to be at a point where you could not go to the doctor because you knew that you could not pay the deductible?

How would you like to be at a point where you had to decide whether to buy diabetes medicine or to buy macaroni and cheese to feed your family?

More than 42 million Americans are now on food stamps, and that number keeps going up month after month after month.

Just think about that.

42 million Americans would not be able to eat if the U.S. government did not give them handouts.

The safety net is getting awfully crowded.

If you really want to see some soul-crushing desperation, go check out the flood tunnels under the city of Las Vegas.  But do not do this alone – it is very dangerous down there.  Today, there are hordes of “tunnel people” who call those dark tunnels home.  Nobody knows for sure how many people are down there (some people say that it is well into the thousands), but everyone agrees that the number is rapidly growing.

But in many major U.S. cities there are no flood tunnels to go to.  Instead, in many areas of the United States huge tent cities have sprouted.  The following is a video news report from the BBC about the tent cities that are popping up all over America….

But it is not just “drug addicts” and the “mentally ill” that are going to these tent cities.  One anonymous unemployed woman identified only as “Kaynonymous” is a highly educated professional who figures that she will end up in a tent city soon….

“I’m a 99er too. 53, female, single and once on track with an IT career. No one in their right mind would consider me for an IT position after being gone from the field for over 2 years. I have officially been a 99er since May 2010. In Aug. 2010 all of my savings and retirement funds were finally depleted–not only can I no longer make my mortgage payment, I can no longer afford utilities either. I’m just not sure that the 99ers ever had a voice outside of union organizers and even with them it was too little too late. Guess I’ll be seeing ya’ll in the soup kitchens and tent cities. I do still have my tent…”

So we should just extend the long-term unemployment benefits, right?  Well, according to a recent poll commissioned by the National Employment Law Project, 73 percent of Americans want Congress to continue paying out extended unemployment benefits.

But it is not just that simple.

America is broke.

The entire financial system is dying.

The U.S. government desperately needs to stop spending so much money.

But how can we turn our backs on people who are desperately hurting?

There are millions of Americans that have just about reached the end of their ropes.  For example, one 43-year-old woman named Jacqueline recently expressed some of the extreme frustration that she is experiencing on her blog….

I am one of the 6 million poor, unemployed middle-aged Americans struggling without any safety net or income other than food stamps. I have resorted to salvaging scrap metal just to survive while keeping up an increasingly hopeless job search. On May 4th, 2010 just three weeks before my 43rd birthday ago I got slapped with a diagnosis of very early stage glaucoma when I had a six year long overdue optical exam for badly needed new glasses. Without treatment — including ophthalmologist’s glaucoma monitoring exams — I will end up blind and permanently disabled. It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of when.

As a society, we will be judged by how we treat those who are the most vulnerable.  It can seem easy to bash those who have lost everything, but someday you might end up in that position.  In the following video, police in St. Petersburg, Florida are seen using box cutters to slice up the tents that the homeless were sleeping in….

Hopefully you were deeply disturbed by that video.

We have gotten ourselves into a giant mess, and things are only going to get worse.

Unfortunately, some extremely painful decisions are going to have to be made.

The truth is that we are so deeply in debt that the U.S. government just cannot be spending any extra money right now.

However, we also cannot turn our backs on millions of American families that are going to lose their homes and go hungry if we do not help them.

So what do we do?

What hurting Americans need most of all are not handouts – what they really need are good jobs.

But good jobs are being shipped overseas at a breathtaking pace.  The United States has lost approximately 42,400 factories since 2001.  The greatest economic machine in the history of the world is literally having its guts ripped out, and most of you kept voting in jokers who supported all of this deindustrialization.

For decades, our politicians kept telling us how wonderful globalization would be for America.  We didn’t listen when Ross Perot warned us about “the great sucking sound” that these “free trade” agreements would bring about.

Well, look how all of that turned out.  In 1985, the U.S. trade deficit with China was 6 million dollars for the entire year.  In the month of August alone, the U.S. trade deficit with China was over 28 billion dollars.

In case you can’t figure it out, that means that 28 billion dollars of our national wealth was transferred to China in just one month.

This is happening month after month after month.

And yet Barack Obama continues to get up and tell us how wonderful globalism is.  During his recent trip to India, Barack Obama made the following statement….

“This will keep America on its toes. America is going to have to compete. There is going to be a tug-of-war within the US between those who see globalization as a threat and those who accept we live in a open integrated world, which has challenges and opportunities.”

Yes, globalization is a threat.  We should have never merged our economy with the economy of China where workers make less than a tenth of what an American worker makes.

Jobs are flooding out of the U.S. and they are flooding into places like India and China where labor is far, far cheaper.

But without good jobs, how in the world are average Americans going to pay the bills?

The answer is that an increasing number of them are not.  1.41 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009 – a 32 percent increase over 2008.

Incomes are going down.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States fell from $51,726 in 2008 to $50,221 in 2009.

Things are getting worse instead of getting better.

And things are going to continue to get worse because the U.S. government goes into more debt every single month, most state and local governments go into more debt every single month, and thanks to America’s exploding trade deficit, tens of billions of our national wealth gets transferred out of the United States every single month.

The U.S. economy is dying.  There are going to be even more tent cities and even more hungry Americans.  The scale of the economic nightmare that we are facing in the years ahead is going to be unimaginable.

So if you get to enjoy a warm dinner and you get to sleep in a warm bed tonight, please consider yourself to be very fortunate.  Someday soon you also may find those things cruelly stripped away from you.

12 Facts That Will Blow Your Mind – Federal Employees And Members Of Congress Are Getting Rich While Those Of Us Who Pay Their Salaries Suffer

Do you remember the days when getting elected to Congress or choosing to work for the government was referred to as “public service”?  The idea was that you would be making a sacrifice for the greater good of the country.  Well, those days are long gone.  Today, getting elected to Congress or working for the federal government is a good way to get rich.  Median household income in the United States fell from $51,726 in 2008 to $50,221 in 2009, and yet the personal wealth of members of Congress and the salaries of federal workers (especially at the higher levels) continue to explode.  A lot of corrupt politicians and federal fat cats are raking in stunning amounts of cash, and we are the ones paying the bill.  There is certainly nothing wrong with making a lot of money, but does it seem right that so many of our “public servants” are getting filthy rich while so many of the rest of us are barely getting by?

Posted below are 12 facts that will blow your mind.  Most Americans have no idea just how obscenely wealthy many members of Congress are, and most Americans are totally clueless about how cushy some of these U.S. government jobs are.  If there is one place in America where the good times are still rolling (other than Wall Street), it would have to be Washington D.C.

Members of Congress and employees of the government are supposed to work for us.  We are the ones who pay their salaries.  But today, they are the ones “living the dream” while most of the rest of us scramble just to survive from month to month….

#1 According to an article in the Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s net worth soared from $13.7 million in 2008 to $21.7 million in 2009.

#2 In 2005, 7420 federal workers were making $150,000 or more per year.  In 2010, a whopping 82,034 federal workers are making $150,000 or more per year.  That is more than a tenfold increase in just five years.

#3 More than half of the members of the U.S. Congress are millionaires.

#4 The total compensation that the U.S. government workforce is going to take in this year is approximately 447 billion dollars.

#5 Today, all members of Congress earn at least $175,000.  This is far, far more than the average American makes.

#6 60 percent of the federal government workforce is represented by labor unions.

#7 The median wealth of a U.S. Senator in 2009 was 2.38 million dollars.

#8 In 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense had just nine civilians earning $170,000 or more.  When Barack Obama took office, the U.S. Department of Defense had 214 civilians earning $170,000 or more.  In June 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense had 994 civilians earning $170,000 or more.

#9 Insider trading is perfectly legal for members of the U.S. Congress – and they refuse to pass a law that would change that.

#10 According to a recent study conducted by the Heritage Foundation, federal workers earn 30 to 40 percent more money on average than their counterparts in the private sector.

#11 When you factor in such things as retirement and health care benefits, the compensation gap between federal workers and private sector employees gets even larger.  Just consider the following quote from the Heritage Foundation study mentioned above….

“Including non-cash benefits adds to this disparity. The average private-sector employer pays $9,882 per employee in annual benefits, while the federal government pays an average of $32,115 per employee.”

#12 The personal wealth of members of the U.S. Congress collectively increased by more than 16 percent from 2008 to 2009.

So can the U.S. government continue to afford to shell out nearly half a trillion dollars to federal employees every single year?

Of course not.

The truth is that the U.S. government is flat broke and yet most of our politicians still seem extremely resistant to consider anything that would even slow down the wild spending that has been going on.

So what do we get for the $447 billion that we are spending on federal workers every single year?

Not a whole lot – unless you consider paperwork, bureaucracy and a gigantic pile of ridiculous regulations to be a good thing.

America needs a fundamental shift in attitude.  Instead of expecting a “nanny state” to take care of us, we should desperately try to reshape the federal government into a much smaller entity that will finally get off our backs.

We have been living beyond our means for decades, and we cannot afford to pay for this bloated behemoth of a government for much longer.

Hopefully Americans will wake up and do something about this nonsense before it is too late.  Because right now the federal government has become an out of control monster that is gobbling up everything in sight.

Could The Financial Crisis Erupting In Ireland, Portugal, Greece And Spain Lead To The End Of The Euro And The Break Up Of The European Union?

The Irish banking system is melting down right in front of our eyes.  Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain are all drowning in debt.  It is becoming extremely expensive for all of those nations to issue new debt.  Officials all over Europe are begging Ireland to accept a bailout.  Portugal has already indicated that they will probably be next in line.  Most economists are now acknowledging that without a new round of bailouts the dominoes could start to fall and we could see a wave of debt defaults by European governments.  All of this is pushing the monetary union in Europe to its limits.  In fact, some of Europe’s top politicians are now publicly warning that this crisis may not only mean the end of the euro, but also the end of the European Union itself.

Yes, things really are that serious in Europe right now.  In order for the euro and the European Union to hold together, two things have got to happen.  Number one, Germany and the other European nations that are in good financial condition have got to agree to keep bailing out nations such as Ireland, Portugal and Greece that are complete economic basket cases.  Number two, the European nations receiving these bailouts have got to convince their citizens to comply with the very harsh austerity measures being imposed upon them by the EU and the IMF.

Those two things should not be taken for granted.  In Germany, many taxpayers are already sick and tired of pouring hundreds of billions of euros into a black hole.  The truth is that the Germans are not going to accept carrying weak sisters like Greece and Portugal on their backs indefinitely.

In addition, we have already seen the kinds of riots that have erupted in Greece over the austerity measures being implemented there.  If there is an overwhelming backlash against austerity in some parts of Europe will some nations actually attempt to leave the EU?

Right now the focus is on Ireland.  The Irish banking system is a basket case at the moment and the Irish government is drowning in red ink.  European Union officials are urging Ireland to request a bailout, but so far Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen is not taking the bait.  The Irish government does not seem too keen on having even more austerity measures imposed upon it by the EU and the IMF.

According to Nadeem Walayat, the harsh austerity measures that Ireland has endured during this past year have only made Ireland’s financial problems even worse….

The people of Ireland having endured over a year of austerity on the promise that it was all necessary to suffer pain today by cutting public spending so as to reduce the annual budget deficit to sustainable level for economic gains tomorrow. Instead the exact opposite is taking place as the Irish economy contracts due to economic austerity whilst its bankrupt banks are sending the countries debt and liabilities soaring, thus resulting in a far worse budgetary position than where Ireland was before the austerity measures were implemented as the bond markets are waking up to evitable debt default which is sending interest rates demanded to hold Irish debt soaring to new credit crisis highs.

But the big Irish banks are bleeding cash fast.  For example, the Bank of Ireland recently reported “a 10 billion euro outflow of deposits from early August until the end of September.”  Irish banks and the Irish government need help whether they are willing to admit it or not.

But Ireland is not the only one in trouble.  Portugal became the latest European nation to push the panic button when Portuguese Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos announced that his country was in such bad financial shape that it might have to seek a bailout package.

Things are so bleak in Portugal right now that Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Amado says that his nation “faces a scenario of exit from the euro zone” if a solution is not found for this financial mess.

On top of all this, word is coming out that Greece is in even worse financial condition than initially believed.  The statistics agency for the EU, Eurostat, revealed on Tuesday that Greece’s deficit for 2009 was actually 15.4% of GDP rather than 13.6% of GDP as originally thought.

The Greek national debt is now well over 120 percent of GDP.  It seems inevitable at this point that Greece will need more bailouts if they are to remain part of the EU.

Spain is also starting to feel the heat.  Spain’s short-term debt financing costs jumped sharply on Tuesday, and officials in Spain are begging the Irish government to accept the bailout they are being offered so that the “contagion” does not spread.

But could a few mid-size countries in Europe really cause the next great global financial crisis?

Yes.

In the UK, veteran Conservative MP Peter Tapsell is warning that a total collapse in Ireland “could pose as great a threat to the world economy as did Lehman Brothers, AIG and Goldman Sachs in September 2008”.

Already we are seeing world financial markets getting rattled by all this news.

Fears regarding what is happening in Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal helped push the Dow Jones industrial average down nearly 200 points on Tuesday.

But the real story is that this financial crisis in Europe could potentially cause the break up of the euro and of the European Union.

The truth is that the euro and the European Union are inseparably linked at this point.  In fact, EU President Herman Van Rompuy is warning that if some of the weaker countries in Europe are forced to abandon the euro it will likely cause the total destruction of the European Union….

“We’re in a survival crisis. We all have to work together in order to survive with the euro zone, because if we don’t survive with the euro zone we will not survive with the European Union.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also warning that a failure of the euro could bring down the entire European Union….

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails.”

But officials in Europe are not going to let the dream of a united Europe slip away easily.  Right now they are working really hard to keep Europe together, and that means some “tough love” has to be imposed on the “weak sisters”.  As these weaker European economies collapse, they are being forced to accept harsh EU mandates in exchange for bailouts.  As Ambrose Evans Pritchard recently pointed out, “forced austerity” is quite similar to serfdom….

Greece is now under an EU protectorate, or the “Memorandum” as they call it. This has prompted pin-prick terrorist attacks against anybody associated with EU rule. Ireland and Portugal are further behind on this road to serfdom, but they are already facing policy dictates from Brussels, but will soon be under formal protectorates as well in any case. Spain has more or less been forced to cut public wages by 5pc to comply with EU demands made in May. All are having to knuckle down to Europe’s agenda of austerity, without the offsetting relief of devaluation and looser monetary policy.

In the end, Europe is going to move in one of two directions.  Either this financial crisis will finally be the thing that breaks up the euro and the European Union, or it will result in a Europe that is ruled even more strongly by EU bureaucrats.

As this crisis unfolds over the next couple of years, the EU is going to try to grab more power and more control.  They are going to ask national governments to give up substantial amounts of power and sovereignty in exchange for bailouts.  So far it is working.

But at some point will one nation say that enough is enough?

Perhaps that one nation could be Ireland.  The citizens of Ireland actually voted “no” on the EU Constitution, but then the EU forced them to vote a second time so that they could “get it right”.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if it is Ireland that ends up lighting the fuse that breaks up the euro and the European Union?  The Irish are a fiercely independent people, and they have a history of resisting tyranny.

In any event, this is going to be an extremely interesting winter across the EU.  If things go badly, the entire global financial system could be plunged into mayhem.  Let us hope that does not happen.

How In The World Did We Get To The Point Where The Federal Reserve Is Printing Money Out Of Thin Air Whenever It Wants?

Ben Bernanke and the rest of the folks over at the Federal Reserve did not just wake up one day and decide that they wanted to start printing hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air.  The truth is that the economic forces that have brought us to this point have taken decades to develop.  In the post-World War 2 era, when the U.S. economy has fallen into a recession, either the Federal Reserve would lower interest rates or the U.S. government would indulge in even more deficit spending to stimulate the economy.  But now, as you will see below, both of those alternatives have been exhausted.  In addition, we are now rapidly reaching the point where there are simply not enough lenders out there to feed the U.S. government’s voracious appetite for debt.  So now the Federal Reserve is openly printing hundreds of billions of dollars that will enable them to finance U.S. government borrowing, and (they hope) stimulate the U.S. economy at the same time.  Unfortunately, the rest of the world is not amused.  Nations such as China, Japan and many of the oil-exporting nations of the Middle East have accumulated a lot of U.S. dollars and a lot of U.S. Treasuries and they are not pleased that those investments are now being significantly devalued.

So how did we get to this point?  Why is the Federal Reserve printing money out of thin air in a desperate attempt to stimulate the economy?

Well, the Federal Reserve has more or less exhausted all of the other tools that it has traditionally used to help the economy during an economic downturn.  As you can see from the chart below, the Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates during past recessions.  The goal of lowering interest rates is to make it less expensive to borrow money and thus spark more economic activity.  Well, as you can see, the Federal Reserve has no place else to go with interest rates.  Over the past 30 years, rates have consistently been pushed down, down, down and now they are kissing the floor….

Another way that the U.S. economy has been “stimulated” over the past 30 years is through increased government spending.  The theory is that if the government spends more money, that will get more cash into the hands of the people and spark more economic activity.  That was the whole idea behind the “economic stimulus packages” that were pushed through Congress.  However, increased government spending always comes at a very high cost under our current system.  Government debt is now totally out of control.  As you can see below, the U.S. national debt has exploded from about one trillion dollars in 1980 to over 13 trillion dollars today.  Currently, there is very little appetite in Congress for more government spending to stimulate the economy, especially after the results of the November election.

Most Americans don’t realize it, but much of our incredible “prosperity” over the last 30 years has been fueled by the mountains of debt that we have accumulated.  Now U.S. government debt is exploding at an exponential rate….

Sadly, the U.S. government has absolutely no self-control when it comes to spending money.  Our politicians are absolutely addicted to debt.

The truth is that the U.S. government just can’t seem to stop wasting money. One of the most comical news stories of the past few days involved the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel, which is a sub-committee of the larger Recovery Accountability and Transparency board.  This panel will be holding a meeting on November 22nd to discuss how to prevent “fraud, waste, and abuse” of economic stimulus funds.

So where will this meeting be held?

It is going to be held at the ultra-luxurious Ritz Carlton Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona.

Yes, seriously.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

So if the Federal Reserve cannot stimulate the economy through lower interest rates and the U.S. government cannot stimulate the economy by spending even more money, what does that leave us with?

Unfortunately, that leaves us with either doing nothing or with having the Federal Reserve print money out of thin air and shovel it into the economy.

Sadly, even after months of news headlines about quantitative easing, most Americans still do not understand what it is.  The following is a short video that is very humorous but that also does a good job of simply explaining what quantitative easing is and why it is bad for the U.S. economy….

Quantitative Easing Explained

For much more on why quantitative easing is so destructive, please see an article that I previously authored entitled “9 Reasons Why Quantitative Easing Is Bad For The U.S. Economy“.  The truth is that in an all-out effort to give the U.S. economy a short-term boost, the Federal Reserve is putting the entire world financial system in peril.

One group of prominent economists was so alarmed by this new round of quantitative easing that they recently wrote an open letter to Ben Bernanke warning of the dangers that flooding the economy with new money could create.  The following is an excerpt from the text of that open letter which was also posted on the website of the Wall Street Journal…..

We believe the Federal Reserve’s large-scale asset purchase plan (so-called “quantitative easing”) should be reconsidered and discontinued.  We do not believe such a plan is necessary or advisable under current circumstances.  The planned asset purchases risk currency debasement and inflation, and we do not think they will achieve the Fed’s objective of promoting employment.

We subscribe to your statement in the Washington Post on November 4 that “the Federal Reserve cannot solve all the economy’s problems on its own.”  In this case, we think improvements in tax, spending and regulatory policies must take precedence in a national growth program, not further monetary stimulus.

We disagree with the view that inflation needs to be pushed higher, and worry that another round of asset purchases, with interest rates still near zero over a year into the recovery, will distort financial markets and greatly complicate future Fed efforts to normalize monetary policy.

The Fed’s purchase program has also met broad opposition from other central banks and we share their concerns that quantitative easing by the Fed is neither warranted nor helpful in addressing either U.S. or global economic problems.

But it isn’t just a few prominent economists that are expressing disapproval for this new round of quantitative easing.  The truth is that almost every major industrialized nation has spoken out against all of this money printing by the Fed.  Meanwhile, Barack Obama continues to publicly defend Ben Bernanke and this new round of quantitative easing at every opportunity.

That is some “change you can believe in”, eh?

Unfortunately, the danger that quantitative easing poses to our financial system is much greater than most Americans realize.

In order for the world financial system to operate smoothly, the rest of the world much have a great deal of faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. Treasuries.  Ben Bernanke had promised Congress (and the rest of the globe) that the Federal Reserve would not monetize U.S. government debt and that he was going to keep the U.S. dollar strong.  But now Bernanke has broken his promises once again.  At this point Bernanke has lost a ton of credibility.  Unfortunately, Barack Obama and many of the key members of Congress continue to express unwavering support for him.

The rest of the world can see what is going on.  They are not stupid.  They are not going to keep pouring hundreds of billions into U.S. Treasuries if the Federal Reserve is going to “cheat” whenever economic conditions get a little tough.

If the day arrives when the rest of the globe completely loses faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. Treasuries, it is going to create a complete and total financial disaster – especially for the United States.

111 Obamacare Waivers And Counting – Can The Rest Of Us Get Waivers From Having To Comply With Obamacare Please?

In a stunning admission of just how job-killing and business-crushing the new health care law really is, the Obama administration has issued a staggering total of 111 Obamacare waivers (and counting) so far. The list of the dozens of companies and organizations that have been approved for a waiver is very, very deeply buried on the website of the Department of Health & Human Services.  In fact, it takes six separate clicks to get to the list.  Some of the companies that have been granted waivers include McDonald’s, Darden Restaurants (owners of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurant chains), Aetna, the United Federation of Teachers Welfare Fund in New York, and Dish Network.  These Obamacare waivers cover a total of 1.2 million Americans.  However, as news of these waivers spreads, it is inevitable that thousands more companies will want to apply.  In the end, tens of millions of Americans may be covered by health plans that have been exempted from Obamacare.  So can the rest of us get in on this action or is the Obama administration going to play favorites with these waivers?

So far, the Obamacare waivers have primarily been granted to companies that offer very limited health plans.  The Obama administration has apparently been afraid of the public relations nightmare that would result if dozens of companies suddenly started dropping health coverage for their employees.  The following is how the New York Times recently described what is going on with these waivers….

Last month, federal officials granted dozens of one-year waivers that were aimed at sparing certain employers, including McDonald’s, insurers and unions who offer plans that sharply limit the coverage they provide. These limited-benefit plans, also known as “minimeds,” fail to comply with new rules phasing out limits on how much policies will provide in medical care each year.

So do you want to get an Obamacare waiver for your own company?  Well, just over a week ago the Department of Health & Human Services published a set of new guidelines for those seeking to apply for a waiver.  As news of these waivers starts to spread they will likely get absolutely swamped with applications, so you better get yours in early.  In fact, it is being reported that the number of approved applications has tripled in just the last month alone.

But these waivers raise some very important questions.

-If Obamacare is such a great law, shouldn’t it apply equally to everybody?

-If Obamacare is going to cause firms to drop their “mini-med” health plans, shouldn’t all firms with “mini-med” plans be given a blanket exemption?

-Are all firms that apply for an Obamacare exemption going to be given one or will the Obama administration be playing favorites?

-Won’t firms that are granted these Obamacare waivers be given a very substantial competitive advantage over other firms in the same industry that do not have an exemption?

-What does it say about an administration when they grant dozens upon dozens of exemptions from a law that they spent months upon months selling to the American people as the ultimate solution to our health care problems?

The following is a recent video news report about these Obamacare exemptions…..

The truth is that the U.S. health care system was deeply broken before Obamacare, and after the new health care law the U.S. health care system is still deeply broken.

Before Obamacare, the U.S. health care system was all about making as much money as possible for health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry.  After Obamacare, the U.S. health care system is still about making as much money as possible for health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry, only now we all have to deal with more suffocating layers of government bureaucracy and much higher health insurance premiums.

The entire health care system in the United States should be dismantled and built again from scratch.  It was a complete and total nightmare before Obamacare and it is still a complete and total nightmare.

But perhaps you disagree.  Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, and if you have a different perspective feel free to express it below….

Suffocated By Red Tape – 12 Ridiculous Regulations That Are Almost Too Bizarre To Believe

Even with all of the massive economic problems that the United States is facing, if the government would just get off our backs most of us would do okay.  In America today, it is rapidly getting to the point where it is nearly impossible to start or to operate a small business.  The federal government, the state governments and local governments are cramming thousands upon thousands of new ridiculous regulations down our throats each year.  It would take a full team of lawyers just to even try to stay informed about all of these new regulations.  Small business in the United States is literally being suffocated by red tape.  We like to think that we live in “the land of the free”, but the truth is that our lives and our businesses are actually tightly constrained by millions of rules and regulations.  Today there is a “license” for just about every business activity.  In fact, in some areas of the country today you need a “degree” and multiple “licenses” before you can even submit an application for permission to start certain businesses.  And if you want to actually hire some people for your business, the paperwork nightmare gets far worse.  It is a wonder that anyone in America is still willing to start a business from scratch and hire employees.  The truth is that the business environment in the United States is now so incredibly toxic that millions of Americans have simply given up and don’t even try to work within the system anymore.

Today, the U.S. government has an “alphabet agency” for just about everything.  The nanny state feels like it has to watch, track and tightly control virtually everything that we do.  The Federal Register is the main source of regulations for U.S. government agencies.  In 1936, the number of pages in the Federal Register was about 2,600.  Today, the Federal Register is over 80,000 pages long.  That is just one example of how bad things have gotten.

But it is not just the federal government that is ramming thousands of ridiculous regulations down our throats.  The truth is that in many cases state and local governments are far worse.  We have become a nation that is run and dominated by bureaucrats.  Yes, there always must be rules in a society, but we have gotten to the point where there are so many millions of rules that the game has become unplayable.

The following are 12 examples of ridiculous regulations that are almost too bizarre to believe….

#1 The state of Louisiana says that monks must be fully licensed as funeral directors and actually convert their monasteries into licensed funeral homes before they will be allowed to sell their handmade wooden caskets.

#2 The city of Philadelphia now requires all bloggers to purchase a $300 business privilege license.  The city even went after one poor woman who had earned only $11 from her blog over the past two years.

#3 In the state of Massachusetts, all children in daycare centers are mandated by state law to brush their teeth after lunch.  In fact, the state even provides the fluoride toothpaste for the children.

#4 If you attempt to give a tour of our nation’s capital without a license, you could be put in prison for 90 days.

#5 A reader named Gene recently shared his regulatory horror story with us….

Started a new business this year in AZ. Paid over $10,000 in fees for permitting, $10,000 in fee for elec hookup, $10,000 in fees for gas hook up and an extra $200 fee per month just for the “privilige” of having gas. Adding up all the fees to start our business, I don’t think we would do it again. We are now just getting to the point that we are making our bills each month, and so we are not taking a paycheck, and don’t anticipate one for at least another year. Our family has been in business for ourselves for decades,and we know what we are doing, but the rising fees caught us off guard. Cities, municipalities, counties and states are raising all fees at astronomical rates to help offset the slump in their real estate income (since banks apparently don’t have to pay real estate taxes)…I’m telling you every business person I know is on their last leg. In a few more years, if things don’t turn out better for the BUSINESS PEOPLE THAT SUPPORT THE GOV, then the last ones standing will go down, and the GOV with it. Not counting the other bubbles that could blow, this one is just common sense. People talk about TAXES. This has nothing to do with taxes, or the blatent disregard for taking my money and giving it to someone else. This is just about the issue of actually getting a business started and keeping a business going. The fees are feeing us all out of business.

#6 Federal agents recently raided an Amish farm at 5 A.M. in the morning because they were selling “unauthorized” raw milk.

#7 In Lake Elmo, Minnesota farmers can be fined $1,000 and put in jail for 90 days for selling pumpkins or Christmas trees that are grown outside city limits.

#8 A U.S. District Court judge slapped a 5oo dollar fine on Massachusetts fisherman Robert J. Eldridge for untangling a giant whale from his nets and setting it free.  So what was his crime?  Well, according to the court, Eldridge was supposed to call state authorities and wait for them do it.

#9 In the state of Texas, it doesn’t matter how much formal interior design education you have – only individuals with government licenses may refer to themselves as “interior designers” or use the term “interior design” to describe their work.

#10 Deeply hidden in the 2,409-page health reform bill passed by Congress was a new regulation that will require U.S. businesses to file millions more 1099s each year.  In fact, it is estimated that the average small business will now have to file 200 additional 1099s every single year.  Talk about a nightmare of red tape!  But don’t try to avoid this rule – it is being reported that the IRS has hired approximately 2,000 new auditors to audit as many of these 1099s as possible.

#11 The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin makes it incredibly difficult to go out of business.  In order to close down a business, Milwaukee requires you to purchase an expensive license, you must submit a huge pile of paperwork to the city regarding the inventory you wish to sell off, and you must pay a fee based on the length of your “going out of business sale” plus a two dollar charge for every $1,000 worth of inventory that you are attempting to sell off.

#12 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is projecting that the food service industry will have to spend an additional 14 million hours every single year just to comply with new federal regulations that mandate that all vending machine operators and chain restaurants must label all products that they sell with a calorie count in a location visible to the consumer.

The following short video produced by the Institute for Justice examines some more examples of completely ridiculous regulations across the United States.  The video is very funny, but please keep in mind that all of this red tape is absolutely killing many very real businesses….

So is this what “free enterprise” is supposed to look like?

Over and over again I have written about the dangers of globalization, but no matter what changes are made a lot of companies will still not want to set up shop in the United States until something is done about all of these ridiculous regulations.

As mentioned earlier, the U.S. economy is facing a vast array of incredibly serious problems, but if government would just get off our backs at least we would have a fighting chance.

Instead, it gets worse every single year.  Each new wave of bureaucrats just seems to get worse than the wave before it.  They always seem to think that if they just write more regulations and impose more fees and require more licenses and raise more revenue that they will be able to “fix” things.

But the truth is that they always make things worse.  Our economy is literally being suffocated by red tape.  A “total control grid” is being erected all around us and most Americans are so numb that they don’t even realize that it is happening.

15 Reasons Why Barack Obama’s Debt Commission Is An Exercise In Futility – The U.S. Government Will Never Have A Balanced Budget Ever Again

In a surprise move, the co-chairs of Barack Obama’s national debt commission released their preliminary proposals to the media on Wednesday.  The proposals are actually quite modest – they recommend that nothing be implemented until 2012 because of the weak economy, and their plan would not balance the federal budget until 2037 – but almost as soon as it was released Democrats and Republicans both started screaming bloody murder about how they would not support it.  The truth is that virtually none of our politicians are willing to make the hard choices that would be necessary to get the national debt under control.  Today, the U.S. national debt is rapidly approaching 14 trillion dollars and it is growing at an exponential rate. It is the single largest debt in the history of the world, and it has increased in size for 53 years in a row.  It would be very difficult to understate the true horror of the debt that the U.S. federal government has accumulated.  So what is the solution?  As you will see below, there isn’t one.  In fact, it will be an absolute miracle if our leaders are able to even slow down the rate at which the debt is growing in the years ahead.

The deficit reduction plan put forward by Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, and Alan Simpson, a former Republican Senator from Wyoming does not even have support from the rest of Barack Obama’s national debt commission.  There is no way that either most Democrats or most Republicans in Congress will ever accept it.  But at least the Bowles-Simpson plan is making headlines around the world and has brought the national debt back to the center of the political debate in this country.

In some ways, the Bowles-Simpson plan is a complete and total fantasy.  For example, it assumes that the U.S. economy is going to fully recover and will experience solid growth for many years to come.  That simply is not going to happen.  The prosperity of the last couple of decades has been fueled by the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world, and there is no way that is going to continue.  At some point the U.S. economy is going to fall apart like a house of cards.

But even if the U.S. economy could magically meet the projections contained in the Bowles-Simpson plan, it still contains a whole host of “poison pills” which make it completely and totally unacceptable to both political parties….

*The plan calls for deep cuts to U.S. military spending.  The Republicans will never go for that.

*The plan reduces Social Security benefits to most retirees in future decades.  The Democrats will never go for that.

*The plan raises the Social Security payroll tax cap to $190,000.  The Republicans will never go for that.

*The plan envisions a very slow rise in the retirement age from 67 to 68 by 2050 and finally to 69 by 2075.  The Democrats will never go for that.

*The plan includes a “less generous” annual cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits.  Considering the fact that Social Security benefits are already not going to see an increase this upcoming year, this proposal is likely to upset a large number of seniors.

*The plan calls for the federal tax on gasoline to approximately double by 2015.  The Republicans would never go for that, and if that was ever implemented it would have a very serious negative impact on the economy.

*The plan would eliminate the deductibility of mortgage interest payments.  Millions upon millions of homeowners would be absolutely furious.

*The plan would tax health benefits provided by employers.  That would make millions of people very angry.

*The plan also calls for huge cuts in farm subsidies.  There are a lot less farmers than there used to be, but that would still be extremely unpopular.

But the truth is that hard choices need to be made.  The national debt is spinning wildly out of control.  The U.S. government is essentially bankrupt.

Unfortunately, the majority of the federal budget is made up of entitlement programs.  Entitlement programs are not subject to budget freezes or budget cuts – unless Congress changes the underlying laws.  But any change to major entitlement programs would potentially upset millions of voters.

Not that there are not other areas that could be cut.  Today, the average federal worker earns far more than the average private sector worker.  In fact, wages for federal workers have been escalating at a frightening pace.  In 2005, 7420 federal employees were making $150,000 or more per year.  Today, 82,034 federal employees are making $150,000 or more per year.  That is more than a tenfold increase in just five years.

But any major cuts to federal spending are going to really upset a lot of voters, and our politicians really, really like to get re-elected.  The kinds of cuts that are really needed will never get through the Democrats in Congress and the Republicans in Congress and signed into law by Barack Obama.  There are just way too many things that both major political parties consider to be “untouchable”.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government debt continues to explode.  The debt is already so big, interest on that debt is scheduled to escalate so dramatically, and we have made so many unsustainable promises regarding Social Security and Medicare that it is basically impossible to balance the federal budget at this point.  If serious attempts were actually made to balance the budget in 2011, it would likely create a financial panic, and suddenly sucking over a trillion dollars in federal spending out of the system would crash the economy.

The following are 15 facts that reveal just how obscene the U.S. national debt has become, and why it is now basically impossible to balance the budget of the U.S. government at this point….

#1 On average, the U.S. government accumulates about 4 billion dollars more debt each day.

#2 In just the last 30 years the U.S. government has accumulated 12 trillion dollars more debt.

#3 According to a U.S. Treasury Department report to Congress, the U.S. national debt will climb to an estimated $19.6 trillion by 2015.

#4 The U.S. government has to borrow 41 cents of every dollar that it currently spends.

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

#6 The Congressional Budget Office projects that the health care bill recently passed by Congress will add an additional trillion dollars to our debt over the next ten years.

#7 Approximately 57 percent of Barack Obama’s 3.8 trillion dollar budget for 2011 consists of direct payments to individual Americans or is money that is spent on their behalf.  Any attempt to reduce those payments will make a lot of people very angry.

#8 According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2010 the Social Security system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes.  That was not supposed to happen until at least 2016.

#9 Back in 1950, each retiree’s Social Security benefit was paid for by approximately 16 workers.  Today, each retiree’s Social Security benefit is paid for by approximately 3.3 workers.  By 2025 it is projected that there will be approximately two workers for each retiree.

#10 According to an official U.S. government report, rapidly growing interest costs on the U.S. national debt together with spending on major entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare will absorb approximately 92 cents of every dollar of federal revenue by the year 2019.  That is before a single penny is spent on anything else.

#11 Right now, interest on the U.S. national debt and spending on entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare falls somewhere between 10 percent and 15 percent of GDP each year.  By 2080, they are projected to eat up approximately 50 percent of GDP.

#12 The present value of projected scheduled benefits exceeds earmarked revenues for entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare by about 46 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.

#13 After analyzing Congressional Budget Office data, Boston University economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff concluded that the U.S. government is facing a “fiscal gap” of $202 trillion dollars.

#14 At our current pace, the Congressional Budget Office is projecting that U.S. government public debt will hit 716 percent of GDP by the year 2080.

#15 Sometimes we forget just how big a trillion dollars is.  If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.  The U.S. national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars last year, it will increase by more than a trillion dollars this year and it is being projected to increase by more than a trillion dollars the following year.

We are literally drowning in debt.  We have been living beyond our means for decades, and most Americans do not understand that eventually that is really, really going to start catching up with us.

Already, the United States is fading as an economic power.  According to the Conference Board, China will surpass the United States and will become the biggest economy in the world by the year 2012.

That is just two years away.

So how did we get into such a mess?  Well, it all goes back to the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.  The Federal Reserve was created to enslave the United States government in an endlessly growing spiral of debt from which it would never be able to escape.

That is exactly what has happened.  Our money is actually debt-based.  That is why they are called “Federal Reserve notes”.  When the Federal Reserve creates more money for the U.S. government to borrow, it does not also create money for the interest to be paid on that debt.  Eventually the U.S. government is forced to borrow even more money just to keep up with the game.

Today, if you gathered up all of the physical currency from every bank, every business and every individual in the United States, you would not even put much of a dent in the national debt.  That is how bad things have gotten.

A lot of people got elected to Congress by promising to balance the federal budget and by promising to start reducing the U.S. national debt.  But those ships have sailed.  The U.S. government will always have a national debt under the Federal Reserve system, and things have gotten so bad financially for our government that it is now virtually impossible to even balance the budget for a single year.

In the 90s, the Clinton administration and the Republican Congress briefly balanced the federal budget by “borrowing” massive amounts of money from the Social Security surplus.  Using GAAP accounting, the budget was not even close to balanced at that point, but many point to that time as a moment when the U.S. government was at least somewhat fiscally responsible.

Well, the Social Security surplus is gone forever.  Now we have a Social Security deficit which is only going to explode in size in future years.

In addition, the financial condition of the U.S. government has deteriorated enormously over the past 10 years, and things only look worse the further you look into the future.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is falling to pieces all around us.  We are experiencing our longest bout of serious long-term unemployment since the Great Depression, 42 million Americans are on food stamps and the United States is being deindustrialized at a pace that is mind blowing.

As America continues to get poorer, the U.S. government is going to really struggle to raise revenue.  But interest payments and financial obligations are projected to escalate wildly.  At this point it is really hard to envision a scenario that does not lead to the eventual financial collapse of the U.S. government.

So do you think that you have a solution to this gigantic mess?  If so, feel free to post it in the comments section below….

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