The Sobering Reality Of What Life Is Like In Reno, Nevada

What do you do when the city where you live is dying?  All over the United States formerly great cities are crumbling, but some are definitely in worse shape than others.  One reader recently wrote to me about what she sees happening all around her in Reno, Nevada.  The unemployment rate in Reno is now up to 11.7 percent, which is well above the national average of 8.3 percent.  But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  The recent recession hit Nevada particularly hard and people have been moving out of the state in waves.  In fact, the labor force in Nevada has shrunk by close to 20 percent over the past year as workers have moved elsewhere in search of work.  But even though the labor force is now nearly 20 percent smaller, the unemployment rate is still well above 11 percent.  There simply are not enough jobs in large Nevada cities such as Reno and Las Vegas.  Unfortunately for Reno, it does not have the same kind of big corporate money pouring into it that Las Vegas does.  The good news is that you can buy a house very, very cheaply in Reno because homes were foreclosed on in droves during the housing crash.  Even today, some housing developments that were put up near the end of the boom times look like virtual ghost towns.  The main industry in Reno is “entertainment”, but many of Reno’s strip clubs and gambling establishments have aged so badly at this point that they just look kind of depressing.  I guess that is kind of fitting, because Nevada has the fifth highest suicide rate in the nation, and Reno has been ranked as one of the top 10 depressed cities in the entire country.  As the city has declined, gangs have moved in and the drug trade is flourishing.  Reno has been called the meth capital of America, and crime is on the rise.  Despite being surrounded by tremendous natural beauty, Reno has become a very unpleasant place in which to live.  But what is happening in Reno is also happening in hundreds of other communities across the United States.  Our economy is collapsing and our cities are crumbling right in front of our eyes, and it is only going to get worse from here.

A reader of my site named Heather who has been unemployed since November of last year recently shared the following with me….

I am living in Reno/Sparks Nevada and I feel like it is ground zero for collapse. There are a lot of people who are in denial right now and cannot see the larger picture. I keep also saying we are the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the country.  It is quite depressing driving around seeing empty office buildings with vacancies and retail areas just empty. Went to the stores and retail seems pretty slow also. I am volunteering at ProNet locally and it helps unemployed people finds jobs and skills. It has been depressing there too with very little jobs out there for many people who need one.

She said that I should share what is happening in Reno with my readers.  She wanted people to know what those living in Reno are going through.

You might think that since Reno is so sunny, so warm and surrounded by such natural beauty that it would be one of the happiest places in America.

Unfortunately it turns out that the opposite is true.

Reno is actually a very sad place.

In fact, last year Men’s Health ranked Reno as the ninth saddest city in the United States.

In response to this ranking, one resident of Reno wrote the following….

In light of this disheartening list-making, it is, of course, important for Nevadans to look on the bright side. Rather than allowing these statistics to depress us further, we can consider them a series of challenges that make living in places like Reno and Las Vegas all the more impressive. You don’t just live in Reno. You survive Reno! To dwell in Reno, you must triumph over the odds that are stacked against you—one of the things we’re supposed to do best here.

If we can withstand all of the emotional curveballs thrown at us because we have selected such a turbulent location in which to reside, we can probably survive anything.

As a lifelong Renoite, I am inclined to respond to these lists with defiance. Yeah, things can look pretty grim sometimes when no one can find a job, and there seems to be no way out.

And that is how many Americans are feeling these days.  They are broke, unemployed, depressed and out of options.

How can you pick up and start a new life somewhere else when you have no job and no money?

Sadly, a lot of younger Americans are turning to drugs in an attempt to escape the pain of their daily lives.

One article that I found attempted to find humor in the raging meth epidemic that is happening in Reno….

Reno has been affectionately called the meth capital of the nation. Some foolishly think mass drug usage can ravage a city as swiftly as it can ruin a user’s clear complexion. In all reality, drug addiction is no more than an endearing quirk, certainly not a cause for concern. Babies and adolescents with addiction-addled parents should stop being coddled and learn how to take care of themselves. I’ve been doing my own laundry since I was six months old­ — I’m sure they can do the same. If there is anything disturbing about the meth problem in Reno, it’s that it shows the lack of variety in this town. Why don’t you try some uppers like MDMA? Your teeth will thank me.

Unfortunately, Reno is far from alone.  In the past I have written about how formerly great cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Baltimore are completely falling apart as well.  This kind of thing is literally happening from coast to coast.

There is a very serious lack of decent jobs in America right now.  At this point only 24.6 percent of all jobs in the United States are good jobs.

This has made it increasingly difficult for Americans to be able to take care of themselves.

If you can believe it, more than 100 million Americans are on welfare at this point.

And that number does not even include the tens of millions of people that are on Social Security and Medicare.

What in the world has happened to us?

These days most Americans work really hard all of their lives but never end up reaching their dreams.

In fact, one recent study found that 46 percent of all Americans die with less than $10,000 worth of financial assets.

Talk about depressing.

But instead of having us focus on how bad the economic numbers are, the Federal Reserve wants to start measuring how “happy” everyone is.  The following is from a recent ABC News article….

Ben Bernanke wants to know if you are happy.

The Federal Reserve chairman said Monday that gauging happiness can be as important for measuring economic progress as determining whether inflation is low or unemployment high. Economics isn’t just about money and material benefits, Bernanke said. It is also about understanding and promoting “the enhancement of well-being.”

So what would you say if the Federal Reserve contacted you and asked if you are happy?

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

30 Statistics That Show That The Middle Class Is Dying Right In Front Of Our Eyes As We Enter 2012

Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most vibrant middle class that the world has ever seen.  Unfortunately, that is rapidly changing.  The statistics that you are about to read prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the U.S. middle class is dying right in front of our eyes as we enter 2012.  The decline of the middle class is not something that has happened all of a sudden.  Rather, there has been a relentless grinding down of the middle class over the last several decades.  Millions of our jobs have been shipped overseas, the rate of inflation has far outpaced the rate that our wages have grown, and overwhelming debt has choked the financial life out of millions of American families.  Every single day, more Americans fall out of the middle class and into poverty.  In fact, more Americans fell into poverty last year than has ever been recorded before.  The number of middle class jobs and middle class neighborhoods continues to decline at a staggering pace.  As I have written about previously, America as a whole is getting poorer as a nation, and as this happens wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated at the very top of the income scale.  This is not how capitalism is supposed to work, and it is not good for America.

Today I went over to Safeway and I was absolutely appalled at the prices.  I honestly don’t know how most families make it these days.  I ended up paying over 140 dollars for about two-thirds of a cart of food.  That was after I “saved” 67 dollars on sale items.

When the cost of the basic things that we need – housing, food, gas, electricity – go up faster than our incomes do, that means that we are getting poorer.

Sadly, if you look at the long-term numbers, some very clear negative trends emerge….

-The number of good jobs continues to decrease.

-The rate of inflation continues to outpace the rate that our wages are going up.

-American consumers are going into almost unbelievable amounts of debt.

-The number of Americans that are considered to be “poor” continues to grow.

-The number of Americans that are forced to turn to the government for financial assistance continues to go up.

After you read the information below, it should become abundantly clear that the U.S. middle class is in a whole heap of trouble.

The following are 30 statistics that show that the middle class is dying right in front of our eyes as we enter 2012….

#1 Today, only 55.3 percent of all Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 have jobs.

#2 In the United States today, there are 240 million working age people.  Only about 140 million of them are working.

#3 According to CareerBuilder, only 23 percent of American companies plan to hire more employees in 2012.

#4 Since the year 2000, the United States has lost 10% of its middle class jobs.  In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.

#5 According to the New York Times, approximately 100 million Americans are either living in poverty or in “the fretful zone just above it”.

#6 According to that same article in the New York Times, 34 percent of all elderly Americans are living in poverty or “near poverty”, and 39 percent of all children in America are living in poverty or “near poverty”.

#7 In 1984, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older was 10 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger.  Today, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older is 47 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger.

#8 Since the year 2000, incomes for U.S. households led by someone between the ages of 25 and 34 have fallen by about 12 percent after you adjust for inflation.

#9 The total value of household real estate in the U.S. has declined from $22.7 trillion in 2006 to $16.2 trillion today.  Most of that wealth has been lost by the middle class.

#10 Many formerly great manufacturing cities are turning into ghost towns.  Since 1950, the population of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has declined by more than 50 percent.  In Dayton, Ohio 18.9 percent of all houses now stand empty.

#11 Since 1971, consumer debt in the United States has increased by a whopping 1700%.

#12 The number of pages of federal tax rules and regulations has increased by 18,000% since 1913.  The wealthy know how to avoid taxes, but most of those in the middle class do not.

#13 The number of Americans that fell into poverty (2.6 million) set a new all-time record last year and extreme poverty (6.7%) is at the highest level ever measured in the United States.

#14 According to one study, between 1969 and 2009 the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 dropped by 27 percent after you account for inflation.

#15 According to U.S. Representative Betty Sutton, America has lost an average of 15 manufacturing facilities a day over the last 10 years.  During 2010 it got even worse.  Last year, an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day shut down in the United States.

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

#17 Most Americans are scratching and clawing and doing whatever they can to make a living these days.  Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

#18 Food prices continue to rise at a very brisk pace.  The price of beef is up 9.8% over the past year, the price of eggs is up 10.2% over the past year and the price of potatoes is up 12% over the past year.

#19 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

#20 The average American household will have spent a staggering $4,155 on gasoline by the end of 2011.

#21 If inflation was measured the exact same way that it was measured back in 1980, the rate of inflation in the United States would be well over 10 percent.

#22 If the number of Americans considered to be “looking for work” was the same today as it was back in 2007, the “official” unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11 percent.

#23 According to the Student Loan Debt Clock, total student loan debt in the United States will surpass the 1 trillion dollar mark at some point in 2012.  Most of that debt is owed by members of the middle class.

#24 Incredibly, more than one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps at this point.

#25 Since Barack Obama took office, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 14.3 million.

#26 In 2010, 42 percent of all single mothers in the United States were on food stamps.

#27 In 1970, 65 percent of all Americans lived in “middle class neighborhoods”.  By 2007, only 44 percent of all Americans lived in “middle class neighborhoods”.

#28 According to a recent report produced by Pew Charitable Trusts, approximately one out of every three Americans that grew up in a middle class household has slipped down the income ladder.

#29 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#30 The poorest 50 percent of all Americans now collectively own just 2.5% of all the wealth in the United States.

Sadly, this article could have been much, much longer.  There are so many other statistics about the middle class that could have been included.

For even more insane economic numbers that show just how dramatically the U.S. economy is declining, just check out this article: “50 Economic Numbers From 2011 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe“.

What is even more frightening is that this is about as good as things are going to get.

We have already had “the economic recovery”, such as it was.

Now we are heading for another major financial crisis.  Just like back in 2008, the entire world is going to feel the pain.

But we never recovered from the last financial crisis.  We are like a boxer that is not ready to handle another blow.

And who is going to get hurt the most?  It will be those at the bottom of the food chain of course.  Tens of millions of Americans that are living in poverty will experience a massive amount of pain, and millions more Americans will fall out of the middle class and will join them.

If you have a good job, do your best to hang on to it.  If you don’t have a job, do your best to get one while you still can.  Jobs will become very precious in the years ahead.

But also try to do what you can to become less dependent on the system.  Almost anyone can find ways to make some extra money on the side.  Yes, it will likely cut into your television time.  If someday you were to lose your job you don’t want to be left with zero income.

Right now, the U.S. economy is slowly dying and as time goes by the number of middle class Americans it will be able to support will continue to decrease.

Yes, it is like a perverse game of musical chairs, but this is where we are at.

I encourage all of you to think about how you plan to make it through the collapse that is ahead.

Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that everything is going to be okay is not going to help anyone.

But if we all start planning for the storm that is ahead, and if we get others around us to wake up as well, that is going to do a great deal of good in the long run.

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

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

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

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

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

So far so good.

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

Uh oh.

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

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

“Some people will pay more”

So who will be paying more?

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

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

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

Well, that doesn’t sound good.

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

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

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

Here is how that breaks down….

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

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

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

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

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

Ouch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that something that you could afford to do?

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

So much for a low tax plan.

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

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

Yes, seriously.

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

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

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

Does that sound familiar?

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

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

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

That is not a good sign.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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