Mega Fail: 17 Signs That The European Financial System Is Heading For An Implosion Of Historic Proportions

What happens when you attempt a cold shutdown of one of the biggest debt spirals that the world has ever seen?  Well, we are about to find out.  The politicians in Europe have decided that they are going to “take their medicine” and put strict limits on budget deficits.  They have also decided that the European Central Bank is not going to engage in reckless money printing to “paper over” the debts of troubled nations.  This may all sound wonderful to many of you, but the reality is that there is always a tremendous amount of pain whenever a massive debt spiral is interrupted.  Just look at what happened to Greece.  Greece was forced to raise taxes and implement brutal austerity measures.  That caused the economy to slow down and tax revenues to decline and so government debt figures did not improve as much as anticipated.  So Greece was forced to implement even more brutal austerity measures.  Well, that caused the economy to slow down even more and tax revenues declined again.  In Greece this cycle has been repeated several times and now Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic depression.  100,000 businesses have closed and a third of the population is living in poverty.  But now Germany and France intend to impose the “Greek solution” on the rest of Europe.  This is going to create the conditions needed for a “perfect storm” to develop and it means that the European financial system is heading for an implosion of historic proportions.

The easiest way to deal with a debt spiral is to let it keep going and going.  That is what the United States has done.  Sure, “kicking the can down the road” makes the crisis much worse in the long run, but bringing the pain into the present is not a lot of fun either.

Europe has decided to do something that is unprecedented in the post-World War II era.  They have decided to put very strict limits on budget deficits and to impose tough sanctions on any nations that break the rules.  They have also decided that they are not going to allow the European Central Bank to fund the debts of troubled nations with reckless money printing.

Without a doubt, this is a German solution for a German-dominated Europe.  Germany does not want to pay for the debt mistakes of other EU nations, and so they are shoving bitter austerity down the throats of those that have gotten into too much debt.

But this solution is not going to be implemented without a massive amount of pain.

In fact, this solution is going to make a massive financial collapse much more likely.  The following are 17 signs that the European financial system is heading for an implosion of historic proportions….

#1 As noted above, when you reduce government spending you also slow down the economy.  We have already seen what brutal austerity has done to Greece – 100,000 businesses have shut down, a third of the population is living in poverty and there is rioting in the streets.  Now that brand of brutal austerity is going to be imposed in almost every single nation in Europe.

#2 As the economy slows down in Europe, unemployment will rise.  There are already 10 different European nations that have an “official” unemployment rate of over 10 percent and the next recession has not even officially started yet.

#3 Before it is all said and done, the EU nations that are drowning in debt will likely need trillions of euros in bailout money just to survive.  But at this point Germany and the other wealthy nations of northern Europe are sick and tired of bailouts and do not plan to hand over trillions of euros.

#4 The European Central Bank could theoretically print up trillions of euros and buy up massive amounts of European sovereign debt, but this would go against existing treaties and most of the major politicians in Europe are steadfastly against this right now.  But without such intervention it is hard to see how the ECB will be able to keep bond yields from absolutely skyrocketing for long.  In fact, without massive ECB intervention it is hard to see how the eurozone is going to be able to stay together at all.  Graeme Leach, the chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said the following recently….

“Unless the ECB begins to operate as a sovereign lender of last resort function, with massive purchases of eurozone public debt, the inexorable logic is that the eurozone will break up.”

#5 European leaders are hoping that the new treaty that was just agreed to will be ratified by the end of the summer.  In reality, it will probably take much longer than that.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that the solution to this debt crisis is going to take a long time to implement….

“It’s a process, and this process will take years.”

Unfortunately, Europe does not have years.  Europe is rapidly running out of time.  A massive financial crisis is steamrolling right at them and they need solutions right now.

#6 Sadly, the cold, hard reality of the matter is that none of the fundamental problems that Europe is facing were fixed by this recent “agreement” as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recently noted in one of his columns….

There is no shared debt issuance, no fiscal transfers, no move to an EU Treasury, no banking licence for the ESM rescue fund, and no change in the mandate of the European Central Bank.

In short, there is no breakthrough of any kind that will convince Asian investors that this monetary union has viable governance or even a future.

Germany has kept the focus exclusively on fiscal deficits even though everybody must understand by now that this crisis was not caused by fiscal deficits (except in the case of Greece). Spain and Ireland were in surplus, and Italy had a primary surplus.

#7 Nobody wants to lend to European banks right now.  Everyone knows that there are dozens of European banks in danger of failing, and nobody wants to throw any more money into those black holes.  The U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have been lending them money, but a lot of European banks are already starting to run out of “acceptable forms of collateral” for those loans as one Australian news source recently explained….

“If anyone thinks things are getting better, they simply don’t understand how severe the problems are,” a London executive at a global bank said. “A major bank could fail within weeks.”

Others said many continental banks, including French, Italian and Spanish lenders, were close to running out of the acceptable forms of collateral, such as US Treasury bonds, that could be used to finance short-term loans.

Some have been forced to lend out their gold reserves to maintain access to US dollar funding.

So will the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank keep lending them money once they are out of acceptable collateral?

If not, we could start to see banks fail in rapid succession.

Charles Wyplosz, a professor of international economics at Geneva’s Graduate Institute, is absolutely certain that we are going to see some major European banks collapse….

“Banks will collapse, including possibly a number of French banks that are very exposed to Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain.”

#8 Not only does nobody want to lend money to them, major banks all over Europe are also dramatically cutting back on lending to consumers and businesses as they attempt to meet new capital-adequacy requirements by next June.

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

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

When nobody wants to lend to the banks, and when the banks severely cut back on lending to others, that is called a “credit crunch”.  In such an environment, it is incredibly difficult to avoid a major recession.

#9 European banks are absolutely overloaded with “toxic assets” that they are desperate to get rid of.  Just as we saw with U.S. banks back in 2008, major European banks are busy trying to unload mountains of worthless assets that have a book value of trillions of euros.  Unfortunately for the banks, virtually nobody wants to buy them.

#10 European bond yields are still incredibly high even though the European Central Bank has spent over 274 billion dollars buying up European government bonds.

Up until now, the European Central Bank has been taking money out of the system (by taking deposits or by selling assets for example) whenever it injects new money into the system by buying bonds.  That makes this different from the quantitative easing that the U.S. Federal Reserve has done.  But at some point the European Central Bank is going to run out of ways to take money out of the system, and when that happens either the Germans will have to allow the ECB to print money out of thin air to buy bonds with or we will finally see the market determine the true value of European government bonds.

#11 Bond yields are going to become even more important in 2012, because huge mountains of European sovereign debt are scheduled to be rolled over next year.  For example, Italy must roll over approximately 20 percent of its entire sovereign debt during 2012.

#12 Once the new treaty is ratified, eurozone governments will lose the power to respond to a major recession by dramatically increasing government spending.  So if the governments of Europe cannot spend more money in response to the coming financial crisis, and if the ECB cannot print more money in response to the coming financial crisis, then what is going to keep the coming recession from turning into a full-blown depression?

#13 Credit rating agencies are warning that more credit downgrades may be coming in Europe. For example, Moody’s recently stated the following….

“While our central scenario remains that the euro area will be preserved without further widespread defaults, shocks likely to materialise even under this ‘positive’ scenario carry negative credit and rating implications in the coming months. And the longer the incremental approach to policy persists, the greater the likelihood of more severe scenarios, including those involving multiple defaults by euro area countries and those additionally involving exits from the euro area.”

#14 S&P has put 15 members of the eurozone (including Germany) on review for a possible credit downgrade.

#15 The stock prices of many major European banks are in the process of collapsing.  If you doubt this, just check out the charts in this article.

#16 Bank runs have begun in some parts of Europe.  For example, a recent article posted on Yahoo News described what has been going on in Latvia….

Latvia’s largest bank scrambled Monday to head off a run among depositors who were gripped by rumours of the bank’s imminent ruin.

Weekend rumours that Swedbank was facing legal and liquidity problems in Estonia and Sweden sent thousands of Latvians to bank machines on Sunday, with some lines reaching as many as 50 people.

The Greek banking system is literally on the verge of collapse.  According to a recent Der Spiegel article, the run on Greek banks is rapidly accelerating….

He means that the outflow of funds from Greek bank accounts has been accelerating rapidly. At the start of 2010, savings and time deposits held by private households in Greece totalled €237.7 billion — by the end of 2011, they had fallen by €49 billion. Since then, the decline has been gaining momentum. Savings fell by a further €5.4 billion in September and by an estimated €8.5 billion in October — the biggest monthly outflow of funds since the start of the debt crisis in late 2009.

#17 There are already signs that European economic activisty (as well as global economic activity) is really starting to slow down.  Just consider the following statistics from a recent article by Stephen Lendman….

In November, French business confidence fell for the eighth consecutive month. In October, Japanese machinery orders dropped 6.9%, following an 8.2% plunge in September.

South Africa just reported a 5.6% drop in manufacturing activity. Britain recorded a 0.7% decline. China’s October exports fell 1.7% after dropping 3.8% in September.

Korea’s exports are down three consecutive months. Singapore’s were off in September and October. Indonesia’s plunged 8.5% in October after slipping 2% in September. India’s imploded 18.3% after being flat in September.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Europe is in a massive amount of trouble.

The equation is simple….

Brutal austerity + toxic levels of government debt + rising bond yields + a lack of confidence in the financial system + banks that are massively overleveraged + a massive credit crunch = A financial implosion of historic proportions

Unless something truly dramatic happens, the economy of Europe is a dead duck.

There is no way that Europe is going to be able to substantially reduce the flow of money coming from national governments and substantially reduce the flow of money coming from the banks and still be able to avoid a major recession.

Look, I want it to be very clear that I am in no way advocating government debt in this article.  It is just that under the debt-based monetary paradigm that we are all operating under, there is no way that you can dramatically reduce government spending without experiencing a whole lot of pain.

An economic “perfect storm” is developing in Europe.  All of the things that need to happen for a major recession to occur are falling into place.

So does anyone out there disagree with me?  Does anyone think that Europe is going to be just fine?

Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….

Barack Obama Is Taking A 17 Day Vacation Even As America Falls Apart All Around Him

What in the world is Barack Obama thinking?  The United States of America is falling apart all around him, and yet he decides to take a 17 day Hawaiian vacation.  Does he even understand that he is the leader of the free world?  Does he even understand that this country is mired in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression?  Last year, a similar Hawaiian vacation by the Obamas ending up costing more than 1 million dollars.  Other than when I was in school, I don’t remember ever taking a 17 day vacation.  In fact, most Americans do not even get 17 vacation days for an entire year.  Yet the Obamas seem to think that part of occupying the White House is to take as many vacations as possible.  It has been reported that Michelle Obama spent over 10 million dollars of U.S. taxpayer money on vacations during just one recent 12 month period alone.  It would be one thing if they were taking these vacations at a time when America was thriving, but the truth is that the U.S. is facing one crisis after another right now.  Our debt is now over 15 trillion dollars.  If you can believe it, the U.S. government has not been operating under an approved budget for over 900 days.  More Americans fell into poverty last year than ever before.  More Americans are on food stamps than ever before.  An average of 23 manufacturing facilities were shut down every single day in the United States last year.  According to one recent report, only 7 percent of Americans that lost their jobs during the recession have “made it back” to where they were before the recession.  So perhaps Barack Obama should spend more time doing his job rather than taking extended vacations.

During this holiday season, tens of millions of American families are suffering horribly.  Any sane president would realize that this is not the time to be gallivanting off to Hawaii again.  The following short excerpt comes from a recent article in the Daily Mail…..

While most Americans are lucky to get a few weeks of holiday every year, it seems the country’s leader gets a little more freedom in the matter.

President Barack Obama has announced his Christmas vacation to Hawaii – for a staggering 17-day trip.

Obama, who visited the island just two weeks ago for an economic summit, will head to Honolulu on Saturday December 17 until Monday January 2.

But this is not just one isolated incident.  Obama has taken a whole bunch of vacations since he moved into the White House.  According to the New York Post, Barack Obama enjoyed a total of 10 separate vacations that stretched over a total of 90 vacation days during the years of 2009 and 2010.

In addition, Obama managed to find time for 29 rounds of golf during his first two years in office.

But reportedly the biggest “vacation junkie” of all in the Obama family is Michele Obama.

The following shocking excerpt comes from a different Daily Mail article….

The First Lady is believed to have taken 42 days of holiday in the past year, including a $375,000 break in Spain and a four-day ski trip to Vail, Colorado, where she spent $2,000 a night on a suite at the Sebastian hotel.

And the first family’s nine-day stay in Martha’s Vineyard is also proving costly, with rental of the Blue Heron Farm property alone costing an estimated $50,000 a week.

The source continued: ‘Michelle also enjoys drinking expensive booze during her trips. She favours martinis with top-shelf vodka and has a taste for rich sparking wines.

‘The vacations are totally Michelle’s idea. She’s like a junkie. She can’t schedule enough getaways, and she lives from one to the next – all the while sticking it to hardworking Americans.’

During such hard economic times, how can Michelle Obama justify spending over 10 million dollars of U.S. taxpayer money on luxurious vacations?

The American people expect a president to be at the White House working night and day to solve the problems of this nation.

Sure, it would definitely be understandable to take a day or two off here and there, but the truth is that the president should be one of the hardest working people in the country.

Instead, Obama just seems to do less and less the longer that he is in the White House.  In fact, there have been numerous reports that Barack Obama barely even interacts with members of his own party in Congress anymore.

Our country is literally falling apart and we have a total lack of leadership at the top.

Sadly, there does not appear to be much hope on the horizon at the moment.

Right now, Newt Gingrich is leading the race for the Republican nomination.  If he wins the nomination, the American people will have a choice between two candidates that are almost identical in 2012.  The sad truth is that Newt Gingrich is not a conservative, and he never will be.  Rather, he is a big time establishment stooge that would keep marching America down the same road that Bush and Obama have been taking us.  When you sit down and really compare the Obama agenda to the Gingrich agenda, you will quickly find that they are almost entirely identical.  If the Republican Party nominates Newt Gingrich, it will be a complete and utter disgrace.

The reality is that we desperately need real leadership and real solutions.  Europe is on the verge of a massive financial meltdown.  If things take a wrong turn, we could easily be looking at a financial crisis even worse than the one we saw back in 2008.

Many in the mainstream media are using the word “recovery” now that the official unemployment has fallen to 8.6%, but as Mac Slavo recently pointed out, the real rate of unemployment is still up around 22 percent.

The official government numbers assume that 315,000 Americans “left the labor force” in November.  At a time when our population is constantly expanding, that seems like a shaky assumption at best.

The reality, as many of you out there are experiencing, is that times are hard and millions of Americans are becoming increasingly desperate.

For example, just check out what happened in the Sacramento area recently.  One church was hit by copper thieves three nights in row….

Members of a Carmichael church that had been targeted by copper thieves for two nights in a row managed to help nab the suspected thieves when the greedy pair returned for a third night.

Nobody is off limits for thieves these days.  If you can believe it, people are even stealing food from food pantries now.

This country is in a massive amount of economic trouble, and we desperately need some solutions.

But perhaps we should be thankful that Obama is taking so many vacations.

After all, just about everything he has done so far has ended up making things even worse.

Perhaps it is better if he simply does nothing at all.

But at some point this country is going to need real leadership and real solutions.

So what do all of you think?

Do you think that there is any hope for this country on the horizon?

In Debt Up To Our Eyeballs

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

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

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

Perhaps an illustration or two would help.

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

That is how large a trillion dollars is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

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

Spending is going in the wrong direction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

European banks are also drowning in an ocean of debt.

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

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

But can that be done safely?

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

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is skeptical….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that things are not really, really bad already.

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

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

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

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

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

They don’t understand what actually makes it unfair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too Big To Fail?: 10 Banks Own 77 Percent Of All U.S. Banking Assets

Back during the financial crisis of 2008, the American people were told that the largest banks in the United States were “too big to fail” and that was why it was necessary for the federal government to step in and bail them out.  The idea was that if several of our biggest banks collapsed at the same time the financial system would not be strong enough to keep things going and economic activity all across America would simply come to a standstill.  Congress was told that if the “too big to fail” banks did not receive bailouts that there would be chaos in the streets and this country would plunge into another Great Depression.  Since that time, however, essentially no efforts have been made to decentralize the U.S. banking system.  Instead, the “too big to fail” banks just keep getting larger and larger and larger.  Back in 2002, the top 10 banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Unfortunately, these giant banks are also colossal mountains of risk, debt and leverage.  They are incredibly unstable and they could start coming apart again at any time.  None of the major problems that caused the crash of 2008 have been fixed.  In fact, the U.S. banking system is more centralized and more vulnerable today than it ever has been before.

It really is difficult for ordinary Americans to get a handle on just how large these financial institutions are.  For example, the “big six” U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) now possess assets equivalent to approximately 60 percent of America’s gross national product.

These huge banks are giant financial vacuum cleaners.  Over the past couple of decades we have witnessed a financial consolidation in this country that is absolutely unprecedented.

This trend accelerated during the recent financial crisis.  While the big boys were receiving massive bailouts, the hundreds of small banks that were failing were either allowed to collapse or they were told that they should find a big bank that was willing to buy them.

As a group, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo held approximately 22 percent of all banking deposits in FDIC-insured institutions back in 2000.

By the middle of 2009 that figure was up to 39 percent.

That is not just a trend – that is a landslide.

Sadly, smaller banks continue to fail in large numbers and the big banks just keep growing and getting more power.

Today, there are more than 1,000 U.S. banks that are on the “unofficial list” of problem banking institutions.

In the absence of fundamental changes, the consolidation of the banking industry is going to continue.

Meanwhile, the “too big to fail” banks are flush with cash and they are getting serious about expanding.  The Federal Reserve has been extremely good to the big boys and they are eager to grow.

For example, Citigroup is becoming extremely aggressive about expanding….

Citigroup has been hiring dozens of investment bankers, dialing up advertising and drawing up plans to add several hundred branches worldwide, including more than 200 in major cities across the United States.

Hopefully the big banks will start lending again.  The whole idea behind the bailouts and all of the “quantitative easing” that the Federal Reserve did was to get money into the hands of the big banks so that they would lend it out to ordinary Americans and get the economy rolling again.

Well, a funny thing happened.  The big banks just sat on a lot of that money.

In particular, what they did was they deposited much of it at the Fed and drew interest on it.

Since 2008, excess reserves parked at the Fed have grown by nearly 1.7 trillion dollars.  Just check out the chart posted below….

The American people were promised that TARP and all of the other bailouts would enable the big banks to lend out lots of money which would help get the economy going for ordinary Americans again.

Well, it turns out that in 2009 (the first full year after Congress passed the bailout legislation) U.S. banks posted their sharpest decline in lending since 1942.

Lending has never fully recovered since the crash of 2008.  The big financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase have been able to get all the cash that they need, but they have not passed that generosity along to ordinary Americans.

In fact, the biggest U.S. banks have actually reduced small business lending by about 50 percent since the crash of 2008.

That doesn’t sound like what we were promised.

These “too big to fail” banks have been able to borrow gigantic amounts of money from the Fed for next to nothing and yet they still refuse to let credit flow to local communities.  Instead, the big banks have found other purposes for all of the super cheap money that they have been getting from the Fed as Ellen Brown recently explained….

It can be very profitable indeed for the big Wall Street banks, but the purpose of the near-zero interest rates was supposed to be to get banks to lend again. Instead, they are, indeed, paying “outrageous bonuses to their top executives;” using the money to engage in the same sort of unregulated speculation that nearly brought down the economy in 2008; buying up smaller banks; or investing this virtually interest-free money in risk-free government bonds, on which taxpayers are paying 2.5 percent interest (more for longer-term securities).

What makes things even worse is that these big banks often pay next to nothing in taxes.

For example, between 2008 and 2010, Wells Fargo made a total profit of 49.37 billion dollars.

Over that same time period, their tax bill was negative 681 million dollars.

Do you understand what that means?  Over that 3 year time period, Wells Fargo actually got 681 million dollars back from the U.S. government.

Isn’t that just peachy?

Meanwhile, the big financial giants have not learned their lessons and they continue to do business pretty much as they did it prior to 2008.

The big banks continue to roll up massive amounts of risk, debt and leverage.

Today, Wall Street has become one giant financial casino.  More money is made on Wall Street by making side bets (commonly referred to as “derivatives“) than on the investments themselves.

If the bets pay off for the big financial institutions, mind blowing profits can be made.  But if the bets go against the big financial institutions (as we saw in 2008), firms can collapse almost overnight.

In fact, it was derivatives that almost brought down AIG.  The biggest insurance company in the world almost folded in 2008 because of a whole bunch of really bad bets.

The danger from derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet once called them “financial weapons of mass destruction”.  It has been estimated that the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quadrillion dollars.

The largest banks have tens of trillions of dollars of exposure to derivatives.  When the next great financial collapse happens, derivatives will almost certainly be at the center of it once again.  These side bets do not create anything real for the economy – they just make and lose huge amounts of money.  We never know when the next great derivatives crisis will strike.  Derivatives are essentially like a “sword of Damocles” that perpetually hangs over the U.S. financial system.

When I start talking about derivatives I get a lot of people in the financial community mad at me.  On Wall Street today you can bet on just about anything you can imagine.  Almost everyone in the financial world has gotten so used to making wild bets that they couldn’t even imagine a world without them.  If anyone even tried to put significant limits on futures, options and swaps it would cause Wall Street to throw a hissy fit.

But someday the dominoes are going to start to fall and the house of cards is going to come crashing down.  It is an open secret that our financial system is fundamentally unsound.  Even a lot of people working on Wall Street will admit that.  It is just that people are so busy making such big piles of money that nobody wants the party to stop.

It is only a matter of time until some of these big banks get into a huge amount of trouble again.  When that happens, we might really find out whether they are “too big to fail” or whether we could get along just fine without them.

48 Percent Of Americans Believe Another Great Depression Is Likely In The Next 12 Months – 19 Reasons Why They Are Not Completely Crazy

Do you believe that the U.S. economy is steamrolling toward a depression?  If so, you are not alone.  According to a recent CNN poll, 48 percent of Americans believe that “another Great Depression” is likely within the next 12 months.  Americans have been waiting for almost three years for a “recovery” to materialize, but instead there are all kinds of signs that the economy is about to get worse yet again.  Inflation is rising but wages are not.  There are millions of Americans that would do just about anything to get a decent job.  The “misery index” is the highest it has been in almost 30 years.  All of the recent polls show that the American people are more pessimistic about the economy than at any other time in recent memory.  World financial markets are incredibly unstable right now and many analysts are expecting a repeat of 2008 (or worse).  Meanwhile, our state and local governments are drowning in debt, the federal government is drowning in debt and governments all over Europe are drowning in debt.  No, it is not crazy for 48 percent of Americans to believe that we are about to go into another Great Depression.

Just think about that statistic for a moment.  Nearly half of the country expects the economy to fall to pieces at some point over the next year.

So do I agree with them?

Yes, I certainly believe that an economic collapse is coming.  But that doesn’t mean that it will necessarily happen within the next year.  The United States is in the midst of a long-term economic decline, and the next big financial crisis could potentially happen in 2011 or 2012.

But it might not.

There are so many variables and it is so hard to predict with certainty the exact timing of how things will play out.

However, it is true that incredibly painful economic times are coming.  Our long-term economic future looks unbelievably bleak.

So anyone that believes that we are headed for another depression is certainly not crazy.  The following are 19 reasons why it is perfectly rational to be pessimistic about the U.S. economy right now….

#1 Today, 25 million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed.  6 million of those have been out of work for at least 6 months.  The average duration of unemployment in the U.S. is now close to 40 weeks.

#2 The unofficial misery index, which is calculated by combining unemployment and inflation, is now at a 28 year high.

#3 Sadly, if unemployment and inflation were calculated the same way that they were back in the 1970s, the misery index would actually be much, much higher.  According to John Williams of Shadow Government Statistics, the current “real” rate of inflation is approximately 11.2% instead of the 3.6% figure that the U.S. government wants us to believe.

#4 Greece is on the verge of complete and total financial collapse.  The yield on two year Greek bonds is up to 28 percent.  The European Central Bank and the German government have been fighting over what to do to solve the Greek crisis.  The truth is that without a bailout the Greek government will default.  If Greece defaults, it would be a huge nightmare for world financial markets.

#5 Neil MacKinnon, an analyst at VTB Capital, is warning that a Greek implosion could set off a 2008-style financial crisis….

“The risk of a ‘Lehman moment’ for the eurozone is increasing”

#6 Spain is also potentially a major problem.  The Spanish economy is more than twice the size of the Greek, Irish and Portuguese economies combined.  Over the past 12 months, the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds has been rising steadily, and many believe that Spain could be the tipping point that pushes the sovereign debt crisis in Europe over the edge.

#7 State and local governments all over the United States are cutting their budgets and are implementing brutal austerity measures.  For example, one small town in Alabama has actually decided that they are simply going to stop paying pension benefits to their retirees.  In other areas, teachers and police officers are being fired in massive numbers. UBS Investment Research is projecting that state and local governments in the U.S. will combine to slash a whopping 450,000 jobs by the end of next year.

#8 The middle class in the United States is being systematically ripped to shreds.  The poorest 50% of all Americans collectively own just 2.5% of all the wealth in the United States at this point.

#9 It is never a good sign when even the big Wall Street banks start laying off workers.  CNBC is reporting that Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and many other big firms on Wall Street are planning some large staff reductions in the months ahead.  That is a very bad sign for the economy.

#10 Things have gotten so bad that some mainstream media outlets are actually encouraging Americans to go out and start racking up credit card debt once again.  For example, one recent USA Today article was actually entitled “More credit card debt might be good for the economy“.  Of course the big banks are ready to suck the lifeblood out of anyone that does slip up on making their credit card payments.  One major bank has announced that a single late payment could result in a penalty rate as high as 29.99%.

#11 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the share of national income being taken home by American workers is at a post-war low and is rapidly declining.

#12 Reuters is reporting that many of Wall Street’s biggest banks plan to cut their use of U.S. Treasuries starting in August.  China has already been dumping short-term U.S. debt.  But if most of the big players abandon the market, who is going to buy up the massive amounts of debt that the U.S. government needs to issue?

#13 Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research apparently believes that we are already in a depression….

“At some point, the pain of high unemployment may lead to some new thinking in Washington – but until that time, welcome to the second Great Depression”

#14 The U.S. banking system could plunge into disaster at any moment.  The FDIC is backing up 7 trillion dollars in deposits with an insurance fund that barely has anything in it.

#15 It seems like almost everyone is talking about the next financial collapse.  Renowned investor Jim Rogers recently said the  following….

“I would expect to see some serious problems in the foreseeable future….By 2011, 2012, 2013, 2013, I don’t know when, we’re going to have an economic slowdown again.”

#16 Legendary hedge fund manager Mark Mobius is bracing for the worst.  Just consider the following quote from Mobius that recently appeared in Forbes magazine….

There is definitely going to be another financial crisis around the corner,” says hedge fund legend Mark Mobius, “because we haven’t solved any of the things that caused the previous crisis.”

#17 Between 2007 and 2010, U.S. GDP grew by only 4.26%, but the U.S. national debt soared by 61% during that same time period.  It is clearly unsustainable for our debt to be growing so much faster than our economy is.

#18 Peter Yastrow, a market strategist for Yastrow Origer, recently told CNBC the following….

“Interest rates are amazingly low and that, thanks to Ben Bernanke, is driving everything,” Yastrow said. “We’re on the verge of a great, great depression. The [Federal Reserve] knows it.”

#19 The American people are extremely pessimistic about the economy right now.  According to one recent poll, 56 percent of Americans have lost sleep due to the economy and about three-quarters of Americans believe that the nation is on the wrong track.

The nation is in a very sour mood right now, and this is causing even many in the mainstream media to ask some very hard questions.

For example, Jack Cafferty recently asked the following question to viewers on CNN….

“What are the chances the U.S. economy could eventually trigger violence in our country?”

You can view the video of Cafferty asking this question right here or you can just watch it below….

Sadly, we are already starting to see violence erupt all over North America.

Yesterday I highlighted the horrifying violence that we saw in Vancouver this week.

In previous articles I have discussed the insanity that has been going on in major U.S. cities such as Chicago.

Now even the mainstream media is being forced to report on the surge in violence.

A recent USA Today article described some of the most recent mob robberies that have been happening in Chicago….

A Chicago Tribune report tells of a 68-year-old man from Washington State who was set upon while he was smoking a cigar on a bench when youths surrounded him, attacked him and reportedly stole a phone and iPad. The report says a 42-year-old Japanese tourist also was beaten and robbed on a bicycle path by the lakefront. The paper says seven were arrested, but that the group participating in the felonies was estimated at 15 to 20 people strong. One 20something suburbanite told Chicago’s WGN TV that he was hit so hard in the head with a baseball that it knocked his motorcycle helmet off. he managed to fight his way out of trouble and hail police, he said.

When people don’t have hope, they get desperate.

There are millions of other Americans that are suffering through this economy quietly.

There are so many people out there that have worked hard and have followed all the rules and yet now find themselves struggling just to survive.

For example, a reader named Carolyn recently left a comment in which she shared her story with my readers….

My husband lost his long-term job in 2009 due to budget cuts. Don’t worry, I said. I’m still working, and we have a year of our salary in savings. You’re smart, you’re educated, you’re a hard worker. You’ll find a job soon.

Two months later, my long-term job was sent to India.

I still wasn’t worried. I’m smart, I’m educated, and I’m a smart worker.

A year and a half later, I haven’t found new career yet. I’m 50. No one is going to hire me. I am working – at a Home Depot. At a 79% pay cut from my prior position. But it doesn’t pay for anything. My husband found a new position in his field – at a 62% pay cut from his prior position.

We lived off unemployment and our savings, until both ran out. We put our house and investment property on the market the day after I lost my job.

We haven’t had one offer.

We just had our Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharged. Our foreclosure is still pending. No word yet when that will be done.

To add insult to injury, we owe Federal income taxes on the penalties we used to make withdrawals from our 401(k)’s to live off. My husband took a job in another state, and we were SHOCKED to learn that we owed NEW YORK STATE taxes on the income he earned in Mississippi – to New York state! Apparently there is some loophole that if you are a property owner in New York, but earn income in another state, you have to pay New York state income taxes on out of state earned income.

We’ve been told once our foreclosure is finalized, we may owe taxes on that as well.

What happened to our country?

It is so sad to see what is happening to America.

Things are so hard out there for so many millions of American families right now.

But the truth is that things are much better at the moment than they will be in a few years.

So what is America going to look like when there is no doubt that the economy has collapsed and people have no hope at all?

Losing Faith (In The U.S. Economy)

Are the American people losing faith in the U.S. economy?  The statistics that you are about to read might surprise you.  Not everyone believes that the U.S. economy is dying (there are still millions out there that will swallow anything that the mainstream media tells them), but the reality is that there is a growing chunk of the population that has completely lost faith in our leaders and in our economic system.  A brand new Gallup poll has found that the number of Americans that believe that we are in a “depression” is actually larger than the number of Americans that believe that the economy is “growing”.  That is absolutely shocking because according to official government figures, the U.S. economy is growing right now and virtually nobody in the mainstream media or the government has used the term “depression” to describe the economic downturn that we went through recently.  In fact, according to Gallup a total of 55% of the American people believe that we are either in a recession or a depression right now.  This is clear evidence that the American people are losing faith in U.S. government economic statistics and instead they are basing their opinions on what they see in their own communities.  Despite the pablum about an “economic recovery” constantly being spewed by Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama, faith in our economic system continues to decline.  The truth is that the American people are not stupid.  They can see what is happening to the economy.

Back when I was a teenager, one day I walked over to the local McDonald’s and filled out an application and was immediately hired.

But that is not how it works today.

Recently, McDonald’s made headlines when they held a National Hiring Day.  Some commentators pointed to that event as evidence that the economy was recovering.

Well, you know what?  McDonald’s ended up receiving approximately one million applications.

So how many of those people did McDonald’s hire?

They hired about 62,000 people.

That means that somewhere around 938,000 eager job applicants were turned away.

Just think about that.

Only about 6.2 percent of those that applied for a job at McDonald’s were accepted.

As Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider recently pointed out, that means that Harvard now has a higher acceptance rate than McDonald’s does.

Harvard accepts about 7% of those that apply to go to school there.

Who ever thought we would see the day when a higher percentage of applicants get accepted into Harvard than get hired at McDonald’s?

Sadly, the number of jobs continues to shrink.  The competition for good jobs has become absolutely crazy.

Only 66.8% of American men had a job last year.  That was the lowest level that has ever been recorded in all of U.S. history.

So why is this happening?  Well, there are a lot of reasons, but as I have written about previously, the fact that millions of our jobs are being shipped overseas is a huge factor.

Without good jobs, an increasing number of Americans are being forced to turn to government assistance in order to survive.

Today, more than 44 million Americans are on food stamps.  In addition, government transfer payments now make up 18 percent of all personal income in the United States.

That is frightening.

Things have gotten so bad that now even Wal-Mart is warning that their customers are running out of money.

A large percentage of Wal-Mart customers are just surviving month to month and Wal-Mart has been noticing a huge drop off in sales towards the end of the month when their customers run out of cash.  The following is what the CEO of Wal-Mart had to say about this phenomenon recently….

“Purchases are really dropping off by the end of the month even more than last year.”

People are starting to get desperate.  When economic times get tough, crime tends to increase.  Sadly, as a report in USA Today recently noted, thefts of gasoline are increasing all over the nation.

We never had this kind of a problem back when a gallon of gas only was about a dollar a gallon.

Do you remember those days?

They weren’t that long ago.

Now it takes some people over a hundred dollars to fill up their gas tanks.

Our leaders keep promising that they know what is happening and that they are going to fix things, but most Americans are not buying it.  Many Americans are completely losing faith in the system altogether.

Our economic decline has been one of the things that has fueled the growth of the prepper movement.  Millions of Americans have decided that they want to start becoming independent of the system.  One recent article described what some residents of Colorado are doing to prepare, but the truth is that this phenomenon is happening all over the nation….

A Black Forest resident has erected a geodesic dome on her 5-acre spread to grow vegetables, keeps horses for emergency transportation, in case she can’t get gasoline for her car, and plans to acquire chickens and goats as food sources.

A husband and wife who have a cabin on 100 acres of secluded land in Park County have weaned their property from the electric grid, acquired a three-year food supply and taken other measures to become self-sufficient.

Of course the mainstream media loves to portray preppers as “crazies”, but as the U.S. economy continues to die it would be a bit crazy not to prepare.

No job is completely safe today.  Millions of Americans that assumed that their “good jobs” would always be there have had their lives shattered over the past couple of years.

There is nothing wrong with trying to become more self-sufficient.

Everyone should be thinking about either starting up a business or developing alternative sources of income.  Yes, it can be exhausting to work on a side business during evening and weekends, but the time for loafing is over.  Those that are going to make it through the times ahead are those that are going to be willing to work really hard.

People need to start thinking about becoming less dependent on “the system” however they can.  One way to insulate yourself against rising food prices is to learn how to grow your own food.

Even if you only have a very small amount of room you can still grow your own food.  For example, there is one family that is actually producing 6000 pounds of produce on just 1/10th of an acre right in the middle of Pasadena, California.

Just because we have lost some of the basic skills that previous generations possessed doesn’t mean that we can’t get them back.  Back during World War II, “victory gardens” enabled Americans to grow 40 percent of all the vegetables that they needed.  Those gardens greatly contributed to the war effort and helped Americans get through some very difficult times.

There are a lot of preppers out there that are totally out of debt, that own their own land, that are entirely off the electrical grid and that grow most of their own food.  Many Americans would look at such people as “crazies” but those preppers will be in a much better position than most people when the economy totally collapses.

Don’t wait until it is too late to prepare.  Millions of Americans are completely losing faith in our economic system.  People are smart.  They can see that we are living in the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world.  They can see that the guts of our economic infrastructure are being ripped out and shredded.  They can see that the number of people living in poverty continues to increase year after year.  They can see the the number of good jobs continues to decrease year after year.

When you see a horrible storm coming the rational thing to do is to prepare.  Just think about all of those tornadoes that ravaged the southeast U.S. the other day.  Most of the people directly in the path of those tornadoes did whatever they could to survive when they realized the twisters were about to hit.

Well, a horrific economic storm is coming.  Every American will be affected by this economic storm at least to some extent.  We all need to prepare while we still can.

American Hellholes

The U.S. economy is dying and we are heading for the next Great Depression.  The talking heads in the mainstream media love to spin the economic numbers around and around and they love to make it sound like the economy is improving, but the truth is that it doesn’t take a genius to see what is happening to the U.S. economic system.  All over the nation many of our greatest cities are being slowly but surely transformed into post-apocalyptic wastelands.  All over the mid-Atlantic, all along the Gulf coast, all throughout the “rust belt” and all over the entire state of California cities that once had incredibly vibrant economies are being turned into rotting, post-industrial hellholes. In many U.S. cities, the “real” rate of unemployment is over 30 percent. There are some communities that will start depressing you almost the moment that you drive into them. It is almost as if all of the hope has been sucked right out of those communities.  If you live in one of those American hellholes you know what I am talking about.  Sadly, it is not just a few cities that are becoming hellholes.  This is happening in the east, in the west, in the north and in the south.  America is literally being transformed right in front of our eyes.

If you still live in an area of the United States that is prosperous, do not mock the cities that you are about to read about.  The cold, hard reality of the matter is that economic decline and economic despair are spreading rapidly and they will come to your area soon enough.  Right now we are still talking about “American hellholes”, but if the long-term economic trends that are destroying this nation are not turned around eventually we will just be talking about one gigantic “American hellhole”.  In the end, no area of the country will completely escape the economic hell that is coming.

Let’s take a closer look at what is currently happening in some of the worst areas of the country….

Detroit, Michigan

In the city of Detroit today, there are over 33,000 abandoned houses, 70 schools are being permanently closed down, the mayor wants to bulldoze one-fourth of the city and you can literally buy a house for one dollar in the worst areas.

During the boom days of the 1950s, Detroit was a teeming metropolis of approximately 2 million people, but today the current population is less than half that.  The city of Detroit, once a shining example of middle class America, is now a rotting cesspool of economic decline and it actually saw its population decline by 25 percent during the decade that recently ended.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Detroit lost a resident every 22 minutes between the years of 2000 and 2010.

So why are people leaving Detroit so rapidly?

There simply are no jobs.

At the height of the economic downturn, the mayor of Detroit admitted that while the “official” unemployment rate in Detroit was about 27 percent, the “real” unemployment rate in his city was actually somewhere around 50 percent.

Since there are not enough jobs, that also means that not enough tax money is coming in.  Detroit is essentially insolvent at this point.

Detroit officials are trying to implement some austerity measures in a desperate attempt to get city finances under control.

For example, the state of Michigan recently granted approval to a plan that would shut down nearly half of the public schools in Detroit.  Under the plan, 70 schools will be closed and 72 will continue operating.

It has been estimated that the remaining public schools will have class sizes of up to 60 students.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing also wants to cut off 20 percent of the entire city from police and trash services in order to save money.

Essentially that would mean abandoning 20 percent of the city of Detroit to the gangs and to the homeless.

The mayor of Detroit has also discussed a plan in which authorities would bulldoze one-fourth of the city in order to save money on services.

So with all of this going on, is Detroit a pleasant place to live at this point?

No way.

Today, Detroit is considered to be the third most violent city in the United States.

In fact, crime has gotten so bad and the citizens are so frustrated by the lack of police assistance that they have resorted to forming their own organizations to fight back.  One group, known as “Detroit 300”, was formed after a 90-year-old woman on Detroit’s northwest side was brutally raped in August.

If you want to see what the future of America looks like, just take a few hours and go driving through Detroit some time.  But please only do this during the day.  Do not do this at night.  Detroit is not a safe place anymore, and you cannot count on the police to help you in a timely manner.

Detroit was once one of the greatest cities in the world.

But today it is an absolute hellhole.

Camden, New Jersey

So is there any place in America that is worse than Detroit?

Well, many would nominate Camden, New Jersey.

Many years ago, Camden was actually thriving and prosperous.  But today the city of Camden is known as “the second most dangerous city in America”.

In a recent article entitled “City of Ruins“, Chris Hedges did an amazing job of documenting the horrific decline of Camden.  Hedges estimates that the real rate of unemployment in Camden is somewhere around 30 to 40 percent, and he makes it sound like nobody in their right mind would want to live there now….

Camden is where those discarded as human refuse are dumped, along with the physical refuse of postindustrial America. A sprawling sewage treatment plant on forty acres of riverfront land processes 58 million gallons of wastewater a day for Camden County. The stench of sewage lingers in the streets. There is a huge trash-burning plant that releases noxious clouds, a prison, a massive cement plant and mountains of scrap metal feeding into a giant shredder. The city is scarred with several thousand decaying abandoned row houses; the skeletal remains of windowless brick factories and gutted gas stations; overgrown vacant lots filled with garbage and old tires; neglected, weed-filled cemeteries; and boarded-up store fronts.

Gangs have stepped into the gaping void left by industry.  In Camden today, drugs and prostitution are two of the only viable businesses left – especially for those who cannot find employment anywhere else.  The following is how Hedges describes the current state of affairs….

There are perhaps a hundred open-air drug markets, most run by gangs like the Bloods, the Latin Kings, Los Nietos and MS-13. Knots of young men in black leather jackets and baggy sweatshirts sell weed and crack to clients, many of whom drive in from the suburbs. The drug trade is one of the city’s few thriving businesses. A weapon, police say, is never more than a few feet away, usually stashed behind a trash can, in the grass or on a porch.

But before we all start judging Camden for being such a horrible place to live, it is important to realize that this is happening in communities from coast to coast.  All over the United States industries are leaving and deep social decay is setting in.

Even the criminals in Camden are struggling.  Things have gotten so bad in Camden, New Jersey that not even the drug dealers are spending their money anymore.

So where are the police?

Unfortunately, there is very little money for police.  Authorities in Camden recently decided to lay off half of the city police force.

So now the gangs and the drug dealers have more room to operate.

Sadly, this is not just happening in Camden.  It is happening all over New Jersey.

Of 315 municipalities the New Jersey State Police union recently surveyed, more than half indicated that they were planning to lay off police officers.

So why doesn’t the state government step in and help out?

Well, the state of New Jersey is in such bad shape that they still are facing a $10 billion budget deficit for this year even after cutting a billion dollars from the education budget and laying off thousands of teachers.

New Jersey also has $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $65 billion in unfunded health care liabilities.  Nobody is quite sure how New Jersey is even going to come close to meeting those obligations.

Meanwhile, cities like Camden are rotting a little bit more every single day.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans had a struggling economy even before Hurricane Katrina struck back in 2005.  But that event changed everything.  It is now almost 6 years later and virtually the entire region is still a disaster zone.

New Orleans permanently lost 29% of its population after Hurricane Katrina.  There are many areas of New Orleans that still look as if they have just been bombed.

21.5 percent of all houses in New Orleans, Louisiana are currently standing vacant.  Many of those homes will never be inhabited again.

What made things even worse for New Orleans (and for residents all along the Gulf coast) was the horrific BP oil spill last year.  The mainstream news does not talk about the oil spill much anymore, but those living in the area have to deal with the effects every single day.

Some of the industries in the Gulf region were really starting to recover from Hurricane Katrina but the BP oil spill put a stop to that.

Before the oil spill, Louisiana produced more fish and seafood than anywhere in the United States except for Alaska.  But now the seafood industry has been absolutely devastated.  It has been estimated that the cost of the BP oil spill to the fishing industry in Louisiana alone could top 3 billion dollars.

Some local shrimpers in the region are projecting that it will be about seven years before they can set to sea again.

New Orleans keeps trying to bounce back from all of these disasters, but times are tough down there.

Today, New Orleans is the 13th most violent city in America.  That is actually an improvement.  Before Katrina New Orleans had even more violent crime.

The truth is that other areas along the Gulf coast are doing a lot worse than New Orleans is doing.  A ton of big corporate money has flowed into New Orleans.  Officials are trying to clean up the city and make it a huge tourist destination once again.

But in the surrounding areas things are not looking so bright.  There are areas along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida that are some of the most depressing places in the nation.

It is almost as if there are hundreds of thousands of people that time forgot.  In some rural areas along the Gulf coast the poverty is absolutely mind blowing.  There are very few jobs and there is very little hope.  Meanwhile, large numbers of people in the region continue to get sick from the toxic dispersants used to clean up the oil spill.

Let us hope that we don’t see another major disaster in the Gulf of Mexico any time soon.  As it is, it is going to take decades for that region to fully recover.  There are a lot of really good people that live down there, and they deserve our prayers.

Vallejo, California (And Virtually The Rest Of The State Of California)

Almost the entire state of California is an economic disaster zone. Austerity measures are being implemented in city after city as tax revenues have nosedived.

The following is an excerpt from a recent New York Times article that describes the brutal austerity that has been implemented in Vallejo, California….

Vallejo is still in bankruptcy. The police force has shrunk from 153 officers to 92. Calls for any but the most serious crimes go unanswered. Residents who complain about prostitutes or vandals are told to fill out a form. Three of the city’s firehouses were closed. Last summer, a fire ravaged a house in one of the city’s better neighborhoods; one of the firetrucks came from another town, 15 miles away. Is this America’s future?

Sadly, that is what the future of America is going to look like.  Public services are being slashed all over the nation due to budget crunches.

Unless there is a major jobs recovery, the situation in California is going to continue to degenerate.  The truth is that the state of California needs millions and millions of new jobs just to get back to “normal”.  For example, near the end of last year it was reported that 24.3 percent of the residents of El Centro, California were unemployed.  Not only that, as of the end of last year the number of people unemployed in the state of California was approximately equivalent to the entire populations of Nevada, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

Businesses are closing in California at an astounding pace.  At one point last year it was reported that in the area around Sacramento, California there was one closed business for every six that were still open.

As a result of all of this, home prices in many areas of California have completely fallen off a cliff.  For example, the average home in Merced, California has declined in value by 63 percent over the past four years.

California also had more foreclosure filings that any other U.S. state in 2010.  The 546,669 total foreclosure filings during the year means that over 4 percent of all the housing units in the state of California received a foreclosure filing at some point during 2010.

Sadly, things don’t look like they are going to turn around in California any time soon.  Forbes recently compiled a list entitled “Cities Where The Economy May Get Worse“.

Six of the top seven spots were held by cities in California.

California is becoming a very frightening place.  When you combine high unemployment with unchecked illegal immigration what you get is rampant poverty.

20 percent of the residents of Los Angeles County are now receiving public aid of one form or another.

In particular, the number of children that are considered to be in need of public assistance is truly scary.

Incredibly, 60 percent of all the students attending California public schools now qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

Poverty and illegal immigration have also caused a tremendous health care crisis in the state.  The hordes of illegal aliens taking advantage of “free” medical care at hospital emergency rooms have caused dozens of hospitals across the state of California to completely shut down.  As a result, the state of California now ranks dead last out of all 50 states in the number of emergency rooms per million people.

The bozos in Sacramento keep passing hundreds of new laws in an attempt to “fix” the state, but the truth is that for the poorest residents of the state all of those new laws don’t make a shred of difference.

The following is how Victor Davis Hansen describes what he saw during his recent tour of the “forgotten areas of central California”….

Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye no different from what I have seen in the Third World . There is a Caribbean look to the junked cars, electric wires crisscrossing between various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting for replacement shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bulls unleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards. The public hears about all sorts of tough California regulations that stymie business – rigid zoning laws, strict building codes, constant inspections – but apparently none of that applies out here.

Hansen also says that he observed that people in these areas are doing whatever they can to get by….

At crossroads, peddlers in a counter-California economy sell almost anything. Here is what I noticed at an intersection on the west side last week: shovels, rakes, hoes, gas pumps, lawnmowers, edgers, blowers, jackets, gloves, and caps. The merchandise was all new. I doubt whether in high-tax California sales taxes or income taxes were paid on any of these stop-and-go transactions.

In two supermarkets 50 miles apart, I was the only one in line who did not pay with a social-service plastic card (gone are the days when “food stamps” were embarrassing bulky coupons).

Are you frightened yet?

You know what they say – “as goes California, so goes the nation”.

What is happening in California now is eventually going to come to your area.

Right now California is also having a huge problem with gangs.  Gang violence in America is getting totally out of control.  According to authorities, there are now over 1 million members of criminal gangs operating inside the country, and those gangs are responsible for up to 80% of the violent crimes committed in the U.S. each year.

But instead of ramping up to fight crime and fight illegal immigration, police forces all over California are being cut back.

For example, because of extreme budget cuts and police layoffs, Oakland, California Police Chief Anthony Batts has announced that there are a number of crimes that his department simply will no longer respond to due to a lack of resources.  The following is a partial list of the crimes that police officers in Oakland will no longer be responding to….

  • burglary
  • theft
  • embezzlement
  • grand theft
  • grand theft: dog
  • identity theft
  • false information to peace officer
  • required to register as sex or arson offender
  • dump waste or offensive matter
  • loud music
  • possess forged notes
  • pass fictitious check
  • obtain money by false voucher
  • fraudulent use of access cards
  • stolen license plate
  • embezzlement by an employee
  • extortion
  • attempted extortion
  • false personification of other
  • injure telephone/power line
  • interfere with power line
  • unauthorized cable tv connection
  • vandalism

Not that Oakland wasn’t already a mess before all this, but now how long do you think it will be before total chaos and anarchy reigns on the streets of Oakland?

Today, Oakland is considered the 5th most violent city in the United States.

Will it soon become the most violent?

But Oakland is not the only major California city that is facing these kinds of issues.

Things have gotten so bad in Stockton, California that the police union put up a billboard with the following message: “Welcome to the 2nd most dangerous city in California. Stop laying off cops.”

Already the police force in Stockton has been stripped down to almost nothing.

A while back, the Stockton Police Department dropped this bombshell….

“We absolutely do not have any narcotics officers, narcotics sergeants working any kind of investigative narcotics type cases at this point in time.”

Do you think drug dealers will be flocking to Stockton after they hear that?

California was once the envy of the world.

Now it is becoming one gigantic hellhole.

During one recent 23 year period, the state of California built 23 prisons but just one university.

So is there any hope for California?

No, unfortunately there is not.

In another article, I wrote about some of the reasons why millions of people have been leaving California for good….

Meanwhile, the standard of living in California is going right into the toilet.  Housing values are plummeting.  Unemployment has risen above 20 percent in many areas of the state.  Crime and gang activity is on the rise even as police budgets are being hacked to the bone.  The health care system is an absolute disaster.  At this point California has the fewest emergency rooms per million people out of all 50 states.   While all of this has been going on, the state legislature in Sacramento has been very busy passing hundreds of new laws that are mostly about promoting one radical agenda or another.  The state government has become so radically anti-business that it is a wonder that any businesses have remained in the state.  It seems like the moving vans never stop as an endless parade of businesses and families leave California as quickly as they can.

But this is not just a “California thing”.  The truth is that what is happening in California, in Detroit, in Camden and in hundreds of other communities is also going to happen where you live.

The U.S. economy is slowly dying. Only 66.8% of American men had a job last year.  That was the lowest level that has ever been recorded in U.S. history.

People are getting desperate.  There are ten percent fewer middle class jobs than there were a decade ago and the competition for good jobs has become insane.  More than 44 million Americans are now on food stamps and that number grows every single month.  Millions more American families fall into poverty every single year.

It is time to face the truth about what is happening to America.  Our economy is not growing and becoming stronger.  Rather, the cold, hard reality of the matter is that our economy is very sick and it is dying.  The seemingly boundless prosperity that we have enjoyed for decade after decade is coming to an end.  Our communities are being transformed into absolute hellholes.

Those that are telling you that the U.S. economy will soon be better than ever are lying to you.  The U.S. economy is going to go down and it is going to go down hard.

You better get ready.

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