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June 23, 2016: The Brexit Vote Could Change EVERYTHING And Plunge Europe Into Financial Chaos

Brexit - Public DomainOn June 23rd, a vote will be held in the United Kingdom to determine if Britain will stay in the European Union or not.  This is most commonly known as the “Brexit” vote, and that term was created by combining the words “Britain” and “exit”.  If the UK votes to stay in the European Union, things over in Europe will continue on pretty much as they have been.  But if the UK votes to leave, it will likely throw the entire continent into a state of economic and financial chaos.  And considering how bad the European economy is already, this could be the trigger that plunges Europe into a full-blown depression.

So if things will likely be much worse in the short-term if Britain leaves the EU, then it makes sense for everyone to vote to stay, right?

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.  Because this choice is not about short-term economics.  Rather, the choice is about long-term freedom.

The EU is a horribly anti-democratic bureaucratic monstrosity that is suffocating the life out of most of Europe a little bit more with each passing year.  So if I was British, I would most definitely be voting to leave the EU.

And in recent days, the campaign to leave has been rapidly picking up steam.  In fact, two of the latest major surveys show that “leave” has taken the lead

An ORB poll for the Telegraph showed 48 percent of Britons would vote to remain in the European Union, while 49 percent would vote to leave.

A YouGov poll for the Times of London showed 46 percent preferred to leave, while 39 percent wanted to remain.

Two other recent polls have “leave” ahead by 10 points, and there is another that actually has “leave” winning by 19 points.

The “leave” movement got a big boost just recently when the Sun officially endorsed that position.  The following is an excerpt from the editorial that announced this decision…

WE are about to make the biggest ­political decision of our lives. The Sun urges everyone to vote LEAVE.

We must set ourselves free from dictatorial Brussels.

Throughout our 43-year membership of the European Union it has proved increasingly greedy, wasteful, bullying and breathtakingly incompetent in a crisis.

Next Thursday, at the ballot box, we can correct this huge and ­historic mistake.

It is our last chance. Because, be in no doubt, our future looks far bleaker if we stay in.

I must say that I agree entirely with the Sun.  However, everyone needs to understand that a Brexit would be incredibly painful for the UK and for the rest of Europe in the short-term.  I think that Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph made this point very well in his recent column…

Let there be no illusion about the trauma of Brexit. Anybody who claims that Britain can lightly disengage after 43 years enmeshed in EU affairs is a charlatan or a dreamer, or has little contact with the realities of global finance and geopolitics.

So what could we potentially see happen?

Well, for one thing big banks like Morgan Stanley are warning that the euro and the British pound could take big hits

The pound and the euro will be hit on a Leave vote, but even if Britain decides to stay in the EU, there will be only “modest gains.” Morgan Stanley expects the pound “to weaken immediately on a vote to Leave, but by year-end we think Euro could weaken even more.”

Secondly, there is a very strong probability that financial markets all over Europe could horribly crash, and the European Central Bank and the Bank of England are already promising to provide artificial support for the markets if that happens.  The following comes from Reuters

The European Central Bank would publicly pledge to backstop financial markets in tandem with the Bank of England should Britain vote to leave the European Union, officials with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The preparations illustrate the heightened state of alert ahead of the June 23 referendum, which will help determine Britain’s future in trade and world affairs and also shape the EU. The pound and euro have lost value on fears a Brexit could tip the 28-member bloc into recession.

Such an announcement from the ECB would come on June 24 if an early-morning result showed that British voters had chosen to leave the EU, according to the sources.

But no matter what the consequences are, British voters should do what is right for their future and for the future of their children.

If that means leaving the EU, then so be it.

Needless to say, the prospect of “leave” winning has many among the European elite in full-blown panic mode.  For instance, just consider what the current chairman of the Bilderberg Group is saying

Just day after their mysterious annual meeting in Dresden, it appears The Bilderberg Group’s gravest concern is Brexit. While everything from The Middle East to Donald Trump was on the agenda, the remarks this week from AXA CEO (and Chairman of The Bilderberg Group) Henri de Castries that there is an “extremely high” probability that the U.K. will vote to leave the European Union and investors will face “a true landscape of uncertainties,” suggest the establishment is concerned.

If you are not familiar with the Bilderberg Group, please see my recent article on them.  Certainly the potential of a coming “Brexit” was high on the list of priorities during their recent conference, and it has been documented that the Bilderberg Group played a key role in the creation of the European Union in the first place.  So of course they are not exactly pleased that their grand experiment may now be unraveling right in front of their eyes.

Meanwhile, even without taking into account a potential “Brexit” things just continue to steadily get worse over in Europe.  On Tuesday, European stocks hit their lowest levels since the stock market crash that ended in February, and the stocks of both Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse hit all-time record lows

The truth is that those extremely prominent European banks are headed for a collapse even without a “Brexit”.  But if there is a “leave” vote, that will just accelerate the process.

And let us not forget that major stock indexes all over Europe are already in a bear market

Meanwhile, German stocks are in a bear-market, with the DAX down 23.2% from its April 2015 peak. The French CAC 40 is down 21.8%. The Spanish Ibex 35 and the Italian MIB are down 31.4% and 32.6% respectively.

Here in the United States, the smart money is dumping stocks like crazy right now, and major investors such as George Soros are feverishly buying gold.

So why are these things happening?

Do those “in the know” have some information regarding what is about to happen over in Europe?

For a long time, I have been sounding the alarm about Europe.  If the British people vote to stay in the European Union on June 23rd, the crisis in Europe will certainly continue to escalate, it will just be at a slower pace.  But if the British people vote to leave (which they should) that could be the trigger that changes everything.

I don’t know exactly what is going to happen on the 23rd, but without a doubt we should all be watching the outcome very, very closely…

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

Rail Traffic Depression: 292 Union Pacific Engines Are Sitting In The Arizona Desert Doing Nothing

Union Pacific Engines - Google EarthWe continue to get more evidence that the U.S. economy has entered a major downturn.  Just last week, I wrote about how U.S. GDP growth numbers have been declining for three quarters in a row, and previously I wrote about how corporate defaults have surged to their highest level since the last financial crisis.  Well, now we are getting some very depressing numbers from the rail industry.  As you will see below, U.S. rail traffic was down more than 11 percent from a year ago in April.  That is an absolutely catastrophic number, and the U.S. rail industry is feeling an enormous amount of pain right now.  This also tells us that “the real economy” is really slowing down, because less stuff is being shipped by rail all over the nation.

One of the economic commentators that I have really come to respect is Wolf Richter of WolfStreet.com.  He has a really sharp eye for what is really going on in the economy and in the financial world, and I find myself quoting him more and more as time goes by.  If you have not checked out his site yet, I very much encourage you to do so.

On Wednesday, he posted a very alarming article about what is happening to our rail industry.  The kinds of numbers that we have been seeing recently are the kinds of numbers that we would expect if an economic depression was starting.  The following is an excerpt from that article

Total US rail traffic in April plunged 11.8% from a year ago, the Association of American Railroads reported today. Carloads of bulk commodities such as coal, oil, grains, and chemicals plummeted 16.1% to 944,339 units.

The coal industry is in a horrible condition and cannot compete with US natural gas at current prices. Coal-fired power plants are being retired. Demand for steam coal is plunging. Major US coal miners – even the largest one – are now bankrupt. So in April, carloads of coal plummeted 40% from the already beaten-down levels a year ago.

Because rail traffic is down so dramatically, many operators have large numbers of engines that are just sitting around collecting dust.  In his article, Wolf Richter shared photographs from Google Earth that show some of the 292 Union Pacific engines that are sitting in the middle of the Arizona desert doing absolutely nothing.  The following is one of those photographs…

Union Pacific Engines - Google Earth

As Wolf Richter pointed out, it costs a lot of money for these engines to just sit there doing nothing…

These engines are expensive pieces of equipment. When they just sit there, not pulling trains, they become “overcapacity,” and they get very expensive. Then there are engineers and other personnel who suddenly become unproductive. Some of them have already been laid off or are getting laid off.

All over the world, similar numbers are coming in.  For example, the Baltic Dry Index fell 30 more points on Wednesday after falling 21 on Tuesday.  Global trade is really, really slowing down during the early portion of 2016.  What this means on a practical level is that a lot less stuff is being bought, sold and shipped around the planet.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for authorities to deny that a new global recession has begun, and at this moment we are only in the very early chapters of this new crisis.

Another thing that I watch very closely is the velocity of money.  When an economy is healthy, people feel pretty good about things and money tends to circulate fairly rapidly.  For example, I may buy something from you, then you may buy something from someone else, etc.

But when times get tough, people tend to hold on to their money more tightly, and that is why the velocity of money goes down when recessions hit.  In the chart below, the shaded areas represent recessions, and you can see that the velocity of money has declined during every single recession in the post-World War II era…

M2 Velocity Of Money

During the last recession, the velocity of money declined precipitously, and that makes perfect sense.  But then a funny thing happened.  There was a slight bump up once the recession was over, but then it turned down again and it has kept going down ever since.

In fact, the velocity of money has now dropped to an all-time low.  The velocity of M2 just recently dipped below 1.5 for the first time ever.

This is not a sign of an “economic recovery”.  What this tells us is that our economy is very, very sick.

And we can see evidence of this sickness all around us.  For instance, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that homelessness in Los Angeles increased by 11 percent last year, and this marked the fourth year in a row that homelessness in the city has increased…

Homelessness rose 11% in the city of Los Angeles and 5.7% in the county last year despite an intensive federal push that slashed the county ranks of homeless veterans by nearly a third, according to a report released Wednesday.

The increase marks the fourth consecutive year of rising homelessness in L.A., as local officials struggle to identify funding for billion-dollar plans they approved to solve the nation’s most intractable homeless problem.

Let us also not forget that about half the country is basically flat broke at this point.

Just recently, the Federal Reserve found that 47 percent of all Americans could not pay an unexpected $400 emergency room bill without selling something or borrowing the money from somewhere.

With numbers such as these being reported, how in the world can anyone possibly claim that the U.S. economy is in good shape?

It boggles the mind, and yet there are people out there that would actually have you believe that everything is just fine.

The current occupant of the White House is one of them.

With each passing month, the real economy is getting even worse.  We may not have slipped into a full-blown economic depression just yet, but it is coming.

For now, let us be thankful for whatever remains of our debt-fueled prosperity, because we don’t deserve the massively inflated standard of living that we have been enjoying.

We have been consuming far more than we produce for decades, but it won’t last for much longer.  And when those days are gone for good, we will mourn them bitterly.

Depressing Survey Results Show How Extremely Stupid America Has Become

No Thinking - Public DomainTen years ago, a major Hollywood film entitled “Idiocracy” was released, and it was an excellent metaphor for what would happen to America over the course of the next decade.  In the movie, an “average American” wakes up 500 years in the future only to discover that he is the most intelligent person by far in the “dumbed down” society that he suddenly finds himself in.  Sadly, I truly believe that if people of average intellect from the 1950s and 1960s were transported to 2016, they would likely be considered mental giants compared to the rest of us.  We have a country where criminals are being paid $1000 a month not to shoot people, and the highest paid public employee in more than half the states is a football coach.  Hardly anyone takes time to read a book anymore, and yet the average American spends 302 minutes a day watching television.  75 percent of our young adults cannot find Israel on a map of the Middle East, but they sure know how to find smut on the Internet.  It may be hard to believe, but there are more than 4 million adult websites on the Internet today, and they get more traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.

What in the world has happened to us?  How is it possible that we have become so stupid?  According to a brand new report that was recently released, almost 10 percent of our college graduates believe that Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court…

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni publishes occasional reports on what college students know.

Nearly 10 percent of the college graduates surveyed thought Judith Sheindlin, TV’s “Judge Judy,” is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Less than 20 percent of the college graduates knew the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation. More than a quarter of the college graduates did not know Franklin D. Roosevelt was president during World War II; one-third did not know he was the president who spearheaded the New Deal.

It can be tempting to laugh at numbers like these until you realize that survey after survey has come up with similar results.

Just consider what Newsweek found a few years ago…

When NEWSWEEK recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.

Even worse were the extremely depressing results of a study conducted a few years ago by Common Core…

*Only 43 percent of all U.S. high school students knew that the Civil War was fought some time between 1850 and 1900.

*More than a quarter of all U.S. high school students thought that Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean after the year 1750.

*Approximately a third of all U.S. high school students did not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

*Only 60 percent of all U.S. students knew that World War I was fought some time between 1900 and 1950.

Of course survey results can be skewed, and much hinges on how the questions are asked.

However, even studies that are scientifically conducted confirm how stupid America has become.  In fact, a report from the Educational Testing Service found that Americans are falling way behind much of the rest of the industrialized world.  The following comes from CBS News

Americans born after 1980 are lagging their peers in countries ranging from Australia to Estonia, according to a new report from researchers at the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The study looked at scores for literacy and numeracy from a test called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, which tested the abilities of people in 22 countries.

The results are sobering, with dire implications for America. It hints that students may be falling behind not only in their early educational years but at the college level. Even though more Americans between the ages of 20 to 34 are achieving higher levels of education, they’re still falling behind their cohorts in other countries. In Japan, Finland and the Netherlands, young adults with only a high school degree scored on par with American Millennials holding four-year college degrees, the report said.

Out of 22 countries that were part of the study, the Educational Testing Service found that Americans were dead last in tech proficiency, dead last in numeracy and only two countries performed worse than us when it came to literacy proficiency

Half of American Millennials score below the minimum standard of literacy proficiency. Only two countries scored worse by that measure: Italy (60 percent) and Spain (59 percent). The results were even worse for numeracy, with almost two-thirds of American Millennials failing to meet the minimum standard for understanding and working with numbers. That placed U.S. Millennials dead last for numeracy among the study’s 22 developed countries.

So why has this happened?

Why have we become such an extremely stupid nation?

Well, at least a portion of the blame must be directed at our system of education.  The following is an excerpt from an article written by reporter Mark Morford.  In this article, he shared how one of his friends which had served for a very long time as a high school teacher in Oakland, California was considering moving out of the country when he retired due to the relentless “dumb-ification of the American brain”

It’s gotten so bad that, as my friend nears retirement, he says he is very seriously considering moving out of the country so as to escape what he sees will be the surefire collapse of functioning American society in the next handful of years due to the absolutely irrefutable destruction, the shocking — and nearly hopeless — dumb-ification of the American brain. It is just that bad.

Now, you may think he’s merely a curmudgeon, a tired old teacher who stopped caring long ago. Not true. Teaching is his life. He says he loves his students, loves education and learning and watching young minds awaken. Problem is, he is seeing much less of it.

And of course things don’t get much better when it comes to our college students.  In a previous article, I shared some statistics from USA Today about the rapidly declining state of college education in the United States…

-“After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.”

-“Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago”

-“35% of students report spending five or fewer hours per week studying alone.”

-“50% said they never took a class in a typical semester where they wrote more than 20 pages”

-“32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”

I spent eight years studying at some of the finest public universities in the country, and I can tell you from personal experience that even our most challenging college courses have been pathetically dumbed down.

And at our “less than finest” public universities, the level of education can be something of a bad joke.  In another previous article, I shared some examples of actual courses that have been taught at U.S. universities in recent years…

-“What If Harry Potter Is Real?

-“Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame

-“Philosophy And Star Trek

-“Learning From YouTube

-“How To Watch Television

Could you imagine getting actual college credit for a course entitled “What If Harry Potter Is Real?”

This is why many of our college graduates can barely put two sentences together.  They aren’t being challenged, and the quality of the education most of them are receiving is incredibly poor.

But even though they aren’t being challenged, students are taking longer to get through college than ever.  Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of all full-time students receive a bachelor’s degree within four years, and only 77 percent of all full-time students have earned a bachelor’s degree by the end of six years.

Of course our system of education is not entirely to blame.  The truth is that young Americans spend far more time consuming media than they do hitting the books, and what passes for “entertainment” these days is rapidly turning their brains to mush.

According to a report put out by Nielsen, this is how much time the average American spends consuming media on various devices each day…

Watching live television: 4 hours, 32 minutes

Watching time-shifted television: 30 minutes

Listening to the radio: 2 hours, 44 minutes

Using a smartphone: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Using Internet on a computer: 1 hour, 6 minutes

When you add it all up, the average American spends more than 10 hours a day plugged into some form of media.

And if you allow anyone to pump “programming” into your mind for 10 hours a day, it is going to have a dramatic impact.

In the end, I truly believe that we all greatly underestimate the influence that the mainstream media has on all of us.  We willingly plug into “the Matrix” for endless hours, but then somehow we still expect “to think for ourselves”.

There are very few of us that can say that we have not been exposed to thousands upon thousands of hours of conditioning.  And all of that garbage can make it very, very difficult to think clearly.

It is not because of a lack of input that we have become so stupid as a society.  The big problem is what we are putting into our minds.

If we continue to put garbage in, we are going to continue to get garbage out, and that is the cold, hard reality of the matter.

Are You Kidding Me? Chinese Exports Plunge 25.4 Percent Compared To Last Year

Exports Declining - Public DomainWe just got more evidence that global trade is absolutely imploding.  Chinese exports dropped 25.4 percent during the month of February compared to a year ago, and Chinese imports fell 13.8 percent compared to a year ago.  For Chinese exports, that was the worst decline that we have seen since 2009, and Chinese imports have now fallen for 16 months in a row on a year over year basis.  The last time we saw numbers like this, we were in the depths of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  China accounts for more global trade than any other nation (including the United States), and so this is a major red flag.  Anyone that is saying that the global economy is in “good shape” is clearly not paying attention.

If someone would have told me a year ago that Chinese exports would be 25 percent lower next February, I would not have believed it.  This is not just a slowdown – this is a historic implosion.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

Things are not getting better in China as Exports crashed 25.4% YoY (the 3rd largest drop in history), almost double the 14.5% expectation and Imports tumbled 13.8%, the 16th month of YoY decline – the longest ever. Altogether this sent the trade surplus down to $32.6bn (missing expectations of $51bn) to 11-month lows.

Chinese Exports - Zero Hedge

So much for that whole “devalue yourself to export growth” idea…

I don’t know how anyone can possibly dismiss the importance of these numbers.  As you can see, this is not just a one month aberration.  Chinese trade numbers have been declining for months, and that decline appears to be accelerating.

Another very interesting piece of news that has come out in recent days regards the massive layoffs that are coming at state industries in China.  According to Reuters, five to six million Chinese workers are going to be losing their jobs during this transition…

China aims to lay off 5-6 million state workers over the next two to three years as part of efforts to curb industrial overcapacity and pollution, two reliable sources said, Beijing’s boldest retrenchment program in almost two decades.

China’s leadership, obsessed with maintaining stability and making sure redundancies do not lead to unrest, will spend nearly 150 billion yuan ($23 billion) to cover layoffs in just the coal and steel sectors in the next 2-3 years.

 

For years, the Chinese economic miracle has been fueling global economic growth, but now things are changing dramatically.

Another factor that we should discuss is the fact that the relationship between the United States and China is going downhill very rapidly.  This is something that I wrote about yesterday.  China has seized control of several very important islands in the South China Sea, and in response the Obama administration has been sailing military vessels past the islands in a threatening manner.  Most recently, Obama decided to have an aircraft carrier task force cruise past the islands, and this provoked a very angry response from the Chinese

The four-ship U.S. strike group that patrolled the disputed South China Sea was followed by Chinese warships, a show of force that prompted a hard-line response from China doubling down on its claim to nearly all of the resource-rich sea.  

China’s foreign minister said his country’s sovereignty claims are supported by history and made a veiled reference to the 5-day patrol by the Stennis Carrier Strike Group, as well as recent passes by China’s man-made islands by destroyers Lassen and Curtis Wilbur in recent months.

“The South China Sea has been subject to colonial invasion and illegal occupation and now some people are trying to stir up waves, while some others are showing off forces,” Wang Yi said, according to an Associated Press report, a day after the Stennis CSG departed the South China Sea.  “However, like the tide that comes and goes, none of these attempts will have any impact. History will prove who is merely the guest and who is the real host.”

Most Americans are not even paying attention to this dispute, but in China there is talk of war.  The Chinese are absolutely not going to back down, and it does not look like Obama is going to either.  Needless to say, a souring of the relationship between the largest economy on the planet and the second largest economy on the planet would not be a good thing for the global economy.

And of course China is far from the only country that is having economic problems.  Yesterday, I discussed how Italy’s banking system is on the verge of completely collapse.  A few days before that I discussed the economic depression that has gripped much of South America.  A new global economic crisis has already begun, and just because the United States is feeling less pain than the rest of the world so far does not mean that everything is going to be okay.

There are huge red flags in Europe, Asia and South America right now.  In addition, our neighbor to the north (Canada) is experiencing a very significant slowdown.  The irrational optimists can continue to believe that the U.S. economy will somehow escape relatively unscathed if they would like, but that is not going to be what happens.

Just like virtually everyone else on the planet, we are heading into hard times too, and this is going to become a dominant theme in the presidential campaign as we move forward into the months ahead.

Thanks To The Republican Civil War, Every Scenario Ends With Hillary Clinton Winning The Election

Hillary Clinton_Testimony_to_House_Select_Committee_on_Benghazi - Public DomainWhat is the worst possible outcome for the presidential election of 2016?  Assuming that an election will actually take place, that is an easy question to answer – Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next president of the United States.  She is truly evil in every sense of the word, and the implications of what four (or eight) years of Hillary would mean for our nation are almost too terrible to imagine.  That is why it is so depressing watching what is happening to the Republican Party right now.  The civil war in the Republican Party is ripping it to shreds, and as a result of all this warfare every plausible scenario for what will happen the rest of the way ends with Hillary Clinton winning the 2016 election.

According to the Associated Press, here is how the Republican delegate count stands as of right now…

Donald Trump: 384

Ted Cruz: 300

Marco Rubio: 151

John Kasich: 37

Ted Cruz looks like he is within shooting distance of Trump, but that is an illusion.  The early part of the schedule was full of states where Cruz was expected to do well, but now the map is going to work very much against him.

At this point, the only candidate that looks like he may be able to accumulate 1,237 delegates before the convention is Trump, and that is far from guaranteed.  So far, Trump has won approximately 44 percent of the delegates during the caucuses and primaries.  By the time it is all said and done, he will need to have slightly more than 60 percent of all the delegates awarded during the caucuses and primaries to guarantee himself the nomination before the Republican convention.  That is because there are hundreds of delegates that are not awarded during the caucuses and the primaries, and almost all of those delegates are members of the Republican establishment.

Trump can still get there by racking up large delegate totals in winner-take-all states such as California, but it will be a challenge.  The entire Republican Party establishment, Fox News, Glenn Beck and a significant number of other prominent conservative voices have all declared war on Trump.  In fact, there are super PACs that are going to spend tens of millions of dollars doing nothing but trying to destroy Trump.

If the Republican Party actually wanted to beat Hillary Clinton in November, they should be rallying around Trump and trying to help him, because he would definitely need a lot of help to win the general election.

According to Real Clear Politics, the latest three polls all have Trump losing to Clinton by at least 5 points.  In key states such as Michigan, the numbers are quite a bit more dismal.  Over the next few months, those numbers are likely to get even worse as Trump is savagely assaulted by the Republican establishment and relentlessly bombarded by tens of millions of dollars of negative attack ads.  Meanwhile, Clinton is cruising along virtually unscathed.

Of course in a just world Hillary Clinton would have already been arrested and put in prison.  There is no possible way that she should be running for president of the United States.  Unfortunately, we live in a deeply corrupt society, and this is the way that things work.

If by some miracle he does survive to become the nominee, a significantly weakened Trump would then have to face the full power of the Clinton political machine.  It is estimated that a billion dollars could be spent on the Democratic side this time around, and Trump does not have the resources to match that.  Normally big Republican donors rally around the nominee, but in this case the big money is fighting like crazy to defeat Trump.  In a general election matchup, it really would be David vs. Goliath, and Trump would not be Goliath.

If Donald Trump does not accumulate 1,237 delegates before the convention, then we would be headed for what is known as a “brokered convention“.  The rules are very complicated, but the key thing to remember is that the delegates are only bound for the first vote.  After that, they can vote for whoever they want.

And it is very important to note that the campaigns don’t pick their delegates.  Becoming a delegate is a long and tedious process in most states, and most of them are party loyalists.

In the end, a “brokered convention” would almost certainly result in an establishment candidate being chosen as the nominee.  Needless to say, the names “Trump” and “Cruz” would not be on that list.

Have you noticed that Mitt Romney has started to put himself out there lately?  His verbal attacks on Trump have been absolutely scathing, and he told Fox News that he would not say no if he was “drafted” to become the nominee at the Republican convention…

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee, repeated remarks from last week, telling “Fox News Sunday” that he wouldn’t launch an eleventh-hour campaign for president. But he declined to reject being “drafted” at the GOP convention in July to be the party’s general election candidate.

It would be absurd to say that if I were drafted I’d say no,” Romney said.

Behind the scenes, much more is going on.  In fact, CNN is reporting that Romney’s team is actively working on a plan to steal the nomination from Trump at the convention…

Mitt Romney has instructed his closest advisers to explore the possibility of stopping Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, a source close to Romney’s inner circle says.

The 2012 GOP nominee’s advisers are examining what a fight at the convention might look like and what rules might need revising.

It sounds like the plan is to lock the convention,” said the source.

If Romney does emerge as the nominee, does anyone actually believe that he will defeat Clinton?

Of course not.  Trump’s millions of supporters will be absolutely infuriated, and many of them would absolutely refuse to cast a vote for Romney in the general election.

In the end, it would be the same result – a victory for Hillary Clinton.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.  If Trump wins Florida and Ohio, there is going to be a lot of pressure on Marco Rubio and John Kasich to get out of the race, and the path to 1,237 delegates would appear to be clear.

However, Mitt Romney could attempt to derail the Trump bandwagon by jumping in the race after March 15th.  Romney’s goal would be to capture enough delegates in winner-take-all states such as California to keep Trump from getting to the magic number of 1,237.  If Romney could do that, he knows that he would likely come out of a brokered convention as the nominee.

But no matter what happens on the Republican side from this point forward, it is going to take a miracle of epic proportions to keep Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency.  Every plausible scenario ends with her in the White House, and that is a truly horrible thing to imagine.

The Economic Collapse Of South America Is Well Underway

Earth - Our World - Public DomainThe 7th largest economy on the entire planet is completely imploding.  I have written previously about the economic depression that is plaguing Brazil, but since my last article it has gotten much, much worse.  During 2015, Brazil’s economy shrank by 3.8 percent, but for the most recent quarter the decline was 5.89 percent on a year over year basis.  Unemployment is rising rapidly, the inflation rate is up over 10 percent, and Brazilian currency has lost 24 percent of its value compared to the U.S. dollar over the past 12 months.

At this point, Brazil is already experiencing its longest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and things are getting worse for ordinary Brazilians every single day.  The following comes from CNN

But with Brazil plunging into its worst recession in over two decades — hopes for a brighter future are fading. The Brazilian economy shrank 3.8% in 2015, according to government data published Thursday. That’s the biggest annual drop since 1990 and the country is in its longest recession since the 1930s.

I have never seen anything like this,” said Alves, 24, as he stood on his balcony overlooking Rocinha, a massive lower middle class neighborhood or favela in Rio de Janeiro where he grew up. “My parents would tell me about hard times, but today it is really tough. Prices are going up every day.”

So how did this happen?

Well, there are a couple of factors that are really hurting South American economies.

Number one, during the “boom years” governments and businesses in South America absolutely gorged on debt.  Unfortunately, many of those loans were denominated in U.S. dollars, and now that the U.S. dollar has appreciated greatly against local South American currencies it is taking far more of those local currencies to service and pay back those debts.

Number two, collapsing prices for oil and other commodities have been absolutely brutal for South American economies.  They rely very heavily on exporting commodities to the rest of the world, and so at the same time their debt problems are exploding they are getting a lot less money for the oil and industrial commodities that they are trying to sell to North America, Asia and Europe.

I want you to pay close attention to the following chart and analysis from Zero Hedge.  As you can see, the economic problems in Brazil appear to be greatly accelerating…

“The Brazilian economic downturn took a real turn for the worse in February,” according to Markit’s Composite PMI, which collapsed to record lows at 39.0. Despite a slightly less bad than expected GDP print this morning (still down a record 5.89% YoY), hope was quickly extinguished as PMIs showed economic activity continuing to contract at a record pace, job losses accelerating, and manufacturing’s collapse accelerating. As Market sums up, “With the global economy also showing signs of slowing, which will impact on external demand, it looks as if the downturn is set to continue to run its course in the coming months.”

GDP was a disaster (but better than expected)

Brazil GDP - Zero Hedge

And of course Brazil is not the only South American economy that is a basket case right now.  In fact, things in Venezuela are far worse.  In 2015, the Venezuelan economy shrunk by 10 percent, and the official rate of inflation was a staggering 181 percent.

Could you imagine living in an economy with a 181 percent inflation rate?

As prices have escalated out of control, citizens have attempted to hoard basic supplies in advance, and this has resulted in food shortages that are absolutely frightening

Cardboard signs on the door warning of “No bread” have become increasingly common at Venezuelan bakeries.

Venezuela gets 96 percent of its foreign currency from oil exports, and as crude prices have plunged, so have the country’s imports — among them wheat.

The leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro has tightly controlled access to hard currency, and this has affected imports ranging from medicine to toilet paper. Now it is seriously affecting imports of wheat, which Venezuela does not grow.

Add to this the soaring inflation rate — 181 percent in 2015, the world’s highest — and you see why customers are mainly interested in buying basic food items such as bread.

Here in the United States, there are still people who doubt that an economic crisis is happening.

But in Venezuela and Brazil there is no debate.

Unfortunately, what is happening in Venezuela and Brazil is also slowly starting to happen to most of the rest of the planet as well.  It is just that they are a little farther down the road.  Economic and financial bubbles are bursting all over the world, and I like how author Vikram Mansharamani described this phenomenon during a recent interview with CNBC

Deflationary tides are lapping the shores of countries across the world and financial bubbles are set to burst everywhere, Vikram Mansharamani, a lecturer at Yale University, told CNBC on Thursday.

I think it all started with the China investment bubble that has burst and that brought with it commodities and that pushed deflation around the world and those ripples are landing on the shore of countries literally everywhere,” the high-profile author and academic said at the Global Financial Markets Forum in Abu Dhabi.

And of course the evidence of what Mansharamani was talking about is all around us.

Just this week we found out that Chinese state industries plan to lay off five to six million workers, U.S. factory orders have now fallen for 15 months in a row, and the corporate default rate in the United States has now risen above where it was at when Lehman Brothers collapsed.

There are some people that would like to point to the fact that stocks have bounced back a bit over the past couple of weeks as evidence that the crisis is over.

If they want to believe that, they should go ahead and believe that.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the hard economic numbers that are coming in from all over the world tell us very clearly that global economic activity is slowing down significantly.

A new global recession has already begun, and the pain that is already being felt all over the planet is just the beginning of what is coming.

Cities Of Refuge: Why Are People Creating Hundreds Of Places Of Refuge All Over America?

Place Of Refuge - Public DomainAll over the United States, cities of refuge are being created.  Now when I say “cities”, I don’t mean vast areas of land that can hold hundreds of thousands or millions of people.  Rather, I am talking about much smaller places of refuge that can accommodate dozens or hundreds of people.  In a few cases, I know of places of refuge that will be able to take in thousands of people, but that is about as big as they get.  There are individuals all across America that have specifically felt called to build communities where large numbers of people will be able to gather when society totally collapses.  So why is this happening?  Why do so many people feel such an urgency to create cities of refuge that would presumably never be used if we don’t ever see full-blown societal breakdown?

In the headline, I claimed that hundreds of these “cities of refuge” are being created, but the truth is that it could easily be thousands.  I have personally talked to countless numbers of people that are like my wife and I and are planning to be able to take in members of their own extended families when things get really crazy.  But there are others that are taking things to an entirely different level.

I was recently contacted by a man in New York state that plans to convert a hotel and surrounding facilities into a place of refuge that could potentially accommodate hundreds of people for an extended period of time.  I know of a ranch in southern Idaho where the staff has been feverishly preparing to take in thousands of people when society starts completely falling apart.  And I have corresponded with so many others both inside the United States and outside the country that are creating these types of communities.

It has been estimated that there are three million preppers in America today.  But those that are creating these places of refuge are not just “prepping” for themselves.  Instead, they feel called to prepare a place of safety where others will be able to gather when times get really crazy.

Due to the wide reach of my articles, I have had a lot of people involved in these communities reach out to me over time.  Some have graciously let my wife and I know that there is a place for us if needed during a major emergency, and others have wanted for us to become personally involved in what they are doing.  I wish that I could get involved in all of them, but there is a limit to what any one of us can do.  But I always encourage people to keep pressing forward with their preparations, because without a doubt they will be needed someday.

In addition to what is happening inside the United States, there are others that have already left this country and are creating places of refuge abroad.  There are people that are doing this in South America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East.

And of course every “place of refuge” looks different.  As I mentioned above, some plan on transforming existing hotels or ranches into places of refuge.  Others plan to use open land to host large numbers of RVs or to construct vast tent cities.

But there are five big things that all places of refuge need to be thinking about…

1. Food – It is going to take vast quantitites of food to even feed dozens of people.  When you are talking about hundreds or thousands of people, the amount of food required for a place of refuge will be off the charts.

2. Water – None of us can live without water, and it has been estimated that the average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water every single day.  Of course we would all use a lot less during an emergency situation, but if your “place of refuge” does not have easy access to water that could become a major problem very rapidly.

3. Shelter – It is nice to think that you are going to take in a lot of people, but where are all of them going to sleep?  Most people don’t think of mattresses or cots as “survival items”, but the truth is that they are going to be greatly in demand when things get crazy.

4. Power – If the electricity goes off and stays off for an extended period of time, what are you going to do?  How will people stay warm, how will you cook food, and how will your community function without any artificial light whatsoever?  Having an alternative source of power for your place of refuge is very important.

5. Security – If there was a full-blown collapse of society, any place that still has ample resources is automatically going to become a target.  So it is great if you have everything that your community will need, but if you have no way to protect it you can end up losing it all very quickly.

For even more tips on preparing for what is ahead, please see my recent article entitled “70 Tips That Will Help You Survive What Is Going To Happen To America“.

There are a lot of preppers out there that are only preparing for themselves and their immediate families, and anyone else that comes looking for assistance when things get really hard will end up looking down the barrel of a shotgun.

But there are so many others that feel called by God to prepare a place for large numbers of people to gather during the coming storm.  They are doing this by faith, because such places have never been needed before in modern American history.  Perhaps if you go all the way back to the Great Depression of the 1930s you could find large groups of people that needed somewhere to go, but since that time we have generally been regarded as the wealthiest and most prosperous nation on the entire planet.

Unfortunately, things are rapidly changing in this country.  Our economy is in the process of crumbling, there is evidence of social decay all around us, natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity, and World War 3 could erupt in the Middle East at any time.

If I am right, the time when these cities of refuge will be needed is not that far away.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans are not preparing for what is ahead, and so most of them will be absolutely devastated by the great trials that are directly ahead of us.

Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Plunged Below 38 Dollars A Barrel?

Question Mark Burning - Public DomainOn Monday, the price of U.S. oil dropped below 38 dollars a barrel for the first time in six years.  The last time the price of oil was this low, the global financial system was melting down and the U.S. economy was experiencing the worst recession that it had seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  As I write this article, the price of U.S. oil is sitting at $37.65.  For months, I have been warning that the crash in the price of oil would be extremely deflationary and would have severe consequences for the global economy.  Nations such as Japan, Canada, Brazil and Russia have already plunged into recession, and more than half of all major global stock market indexes are down at least 10 percent year to date.  The first major global financial crisis since 2009 has begun, and things are only going to get worse as we head into 2016.

The global head of oil research at Societe Generale, Mike Wittner, says that his “head is spinning” after the stunning drop in the price of oil on Monday.  Just like during the last financial crisis, we have broken the psychologically important 40 dollar barrier, and there are concerns that we could go much lower from here…

Price Of Oil - Public Domain

One analyst told CNBC that he believes that we could soon see the price of U.S. oil go all the way down to 32 dollars a barrel…

“We’re in a tug-of-war between a heavily shorted market and a glut of oil in the U.S. and globally, as Saudi Arabia continues to produce oil at elevated levels to maintain market share,” said Chris Jarvis at Caprock Risk Management, an energy markets consultancy in Frederick, Maryland.

“Couple this with a strengthening dollar as the market anticipates a U.S. rate hike this month, oil is heading lower with a near term target of $32 for WTI.”

Analysts at Goldman Sachs are even more pessimistic than that.  According to Business Insider, they are saying that we could eventually see the price of oil go below 20 dollars a barrel…

At OPEC’s meeting on Friday, member countries decided to set its production level at 31.5 million barrels per day, and did not agree on what the new limit should be.

After OPEC’s meeting, commodity strategists at Goldman put out a note saying that oil prices could plunge another 50% in the coming months, as the oil market tries to rebalance the supply and demand situation.

That may sound really good to you, especially if you fill up your gas tank frequently.  But the truth is that plunging oil prices are exceedingly bad for the U.S. economy as a whole.  In recent years, the energy industry has been the primary engine for the creation of good jobs in this country, and now those firms are having to lay off people at a frightening pace.  Not only that, CNBC’s Jim Cramer is warning that many of these firms may actually start going under if the price of oil doesn’t start going back up soon…

“This is not ‘longer and lower;’ this is ‘longer and much lower.’ There’s companies that are not going to be able to fund with futures; there’re companies that are not going to be able to get credit,” Cramer said on “Squawk on the Street.”

Cramer made his remarks after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided not to lower production on Friday.

This was a devastating blow for the U.S. oil industry,” Cramer said.

On Monday, we witnessed another benchmark that we have not seen since the last financial crisis.

I watch a high yield bond ETF known as JNK very closely.  On Monday, JNK broke below 35 for the first time since the financial crisis of 2008.  Just like 40 dollar oil, this is a key psychological barrier.

So why is this important?

As I discussed last week, junk bonds crashed before stocks did in 2008, and now it is happening again.  If form holds true, we should expect U.S. stocks to start tumbling significantly very shortly.

Meanwhile, another notable expert has come forward with a troubling forecast for the global economy in 2016.  Just like Citigroup, Raoul Pal believes that there is a very significant chance that we will see a recession next year…

Former global macro fund manager Raoul Pal says there’s now a 65% chance of a global recession.

In July, Pal predicted that the Institute of Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index would break the key level of 50 late in 2015.

On December 1, the ISM broke the 50 level for the first time since the 2008 recession, reaching 48.6.

“I use the ISM as a guide to the global business cycle, not just the US cycle,” Pal told Business Insider.

What amazes me is that so many people out there cannot see what is happening even though the next great crisis has already started.  The evidence is all around us, and yet so many choose to be willingly blind.

Instead of fixing our problems after the last crisis, we just papered them over with lots of money printing and lots more debt.  And of course all of this manipulation just made our long-term problems even worse.  I really like how Peter Schiff put it recently…

What’s happening is pretty much what we would anticipate. I don’t see from the data any real economic recovery, certainly not in the United States.

We’re spending more money, but it’s not because we’re generating more wealth. We’re generating more debt. We’re using that borrowed money to consume and so temporarily it feels that we’re wealthier because we get to spend all that money… but we have to come to terms with paying the bill.

The bills are going to come due. Right now interest rates are being kept at zero which makes it possible to service the debt even though it’s impossible to repay it… at least we can service it. But once interest rates go up then we can’t even service it let alone repay it. 

And then the party is going to come to an end.

Indeed – the party is coming to an end, and a new financial crisis is playing out in textbook fashion right in front of our eyes.

Hopefully you are already prepared for what is coming next, because it is going to be extremely painful for the U.S. economy.

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