The Beginning Of The End
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There Is Hope In Understanding That A Great Economic Collapse Is Coming

Hope Despair - Public DomainIf you were about to take a final exam, would you have more hope or more fear if you didn’t understand any of the questions and you had not prepared for the test at all?  I think that virtually all of us have had dreams where we show up for an exam that we have not studied for.  Those dreams can be pretty terrifying.  And of course if you were ever in such a situation in real life, you probably did very, very poorly on that test.  The reason I have brought up this hypothetical is to make a point.  My point is that there is hope in understanding what is ahead of us, and there is hope in getting prepared.  Since I started The Economic Collapse Blog back in 2009, there have always been a few people that have accused me of spreading fear.  That frustrates me, because what I am actually doing is the exact opposite of that.  When a hurricane is approaching, is it “spreading fear” to tell people to board up their windows?  Of course not.  In fact, you just might save someone’s life.  Or if you were walking down the street one day and you saw someone that wasn’t looking and was about to step out into the road in front of a bus, what would the rational thing to do be?  Anyone that has any sense of compassion would yell out and warn that other person to stay back.  Yes, that other individual may be startled for a moment, but in the end you will be thanked warmly for saving that person from major injury or worse.  Well, as a nation we are about to be slammed by the hardest times that any of us have ever experienced.  If we care about those around us, we should be sounding the alarm.

Since 2009, I have published 1,211 articles on the coming economic collapse on my website.  Some people assume that I must be filled with worry, bitterness and fear because I am constantly dealing with such deeply disturbing issues.

But that is not the case at all.

There is nothing that I lose sleep over, and I don’t spend my time worrying about anything.  Yes, my analysis of the global financial system has completely convinced me that an absolutely horrific economic collapse is in our future.  But understanding what is happening helps me to calmly make plans for the years ahead, and working hard to prepare for what is coming gives me hope that my family and I will be able to weather the storm.

I do not believe in living my life in a state of fear, and I do not want anything that I write to ever cause fear in my readers.  The ancient Hebrew greeting “Shalom” is roughly translated as “peace” or “completeness”, and that is what we are constantly pursuing in my household.  My wife and I know that incredibly challenging times are coming, but we also know who we are, what our purpose is, and where we are headed.  We also believe that the greatest chapters of our lives are ahead even in the midst of all the chaos that is coming.

When times are the darkest, that is when light is needed the most.  Just think about it.  When you look back over history, what heroes do you admire the most?  If you truly think about it, almost all of those heroes arose during times of great adversity and conflict.

The years ahead can be a time of great adventure for you, or they can seem like hell on Earth.  It all depends on how you respond to your circumstances.

Do you want to know who is going to respond to the years ahead with fear, panic and depression?

The millions of people that have absolutely no idea what is coming and have made absolutely no preparations are going to be absolutely blindsided by the coming economic collapse.  Just like the 1930s, we are going to see people jumping out of windows and jumping in front of trains.  Others will sink into a state of despair so deep that nobody will ever be able to shake them out of it.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Over the past five years I have spent thousands of hours studying the coming economic collapse.  In my articles you can find tens of thousands of facts and statistics that prove that the U.S. economy is hurtling toward oblivion.

It is not always the most pleasant thing to write about, but it is the truth.  And that is what matters.  If you believe that I am wrong, prove it to me.  I work very hard to put out the most accurate information that I possibly can.  So if you can prove that I am wrong, I will change my mind.

But of course that is not going to happen.  As I have stated previously, anyone with half a brain should be able to see that we are living in the greatest debt bubble in human history.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that the “too big to fail” banks are being extraordinarily reckless (derivatives, etc.).  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that our formerly great manufacturing cities are being transformed into crime-infested hellholes.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that the middle class is dying.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that the exact same patterns that led up to the great financial crisis of 2008 are happening again.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that we simply cannot consume far more wealth than we produce as a nation indefinitely.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that the incredibly foolish decisions that our politicians have been making for decades have placed us on a road to utter disaster.

So it doesn’t take anyone special to do what I am doing.  I am just a “watchman on the wall” sounding the alarm the best that I can.  And there are lots of others that are doing the same thing.  We are deeply concerned about where this nation is heading, and we have been pleading with our leaders to do something about it for a long time but they have not listened to us.

Since our leaders just continue doing “business as usual”, there is not going to be a solution to our problems on the national level.

So that is why I am encouraging people to get prepared for the hard times that are coming on a family level and a community level.

Unfortunately, it seems like some people always have an excuse for not getting prepared.  In fact, a few have even gone so far as to accuse me of being “anti-faith” for suggesting that people actually get off their couches and do something to help their families deal with the nightmare on the horizon.  They seem to have the attitude that we should all just sit back and wait for God to do everything for us.

So I am not quite sure why those people get up in the morning and go to work, since they should just “trust God” to deposit paychecks into their banks.  And I am not quite sure why they ever fill up the tanks of their vehicles with gasoline, because they should be able to “trust God” to put more gas there when they need it.

I covered all of this in much more detail in my previous article entitled “Is It ‘Anti-Faith’ To Prepare For The Coming Economic Collapse?

For now, let me just state that what those people are suggesting is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches.  Trusting God is not about sitting back and doing nothing.  In the Scriptures, we are told that faith is about stepping out and taking action on what God has revealed to us.  That includes working hard, being wise and providing for our families.  For example, just check out Proverbs 6:6-11…

Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise. Which, having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provides her bread in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.

How long will you sleep, O sluggard? When will you arise out of your sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep— so will your poverty come upon you like a stalker, and your need as an armed man.

In the end, each one of us needs to make the decisions that we feel are best for our own families.

So that is why it is so incredibly important not to let someone else do your thinking for you.

In America today, the average person watches 153 hours of television a month.  In addition to that, we also spend countless hours watching movies, playing video games, listening to music, reading books and surfing the Internet.

What most Americans don’t realize is that there are just six giant corporations that control almost all of that content, and that makes them immensely powerful.

These giant media corporations are constantly manipulating our attitudes, opinions and beliefs.  And at this point most Americans seem quite content to remain “plugged into the matrix” and to allow corrupt corporate executives somewhere to do their thinking for them.

I urge you to break free from that system.

Do your own research and do your own thinking.

Don’t take what I say or what anyone else says as truth without critically examining it yourself.  This can be difficult at first, because in this nation our young people are no longer trained to think critically.  Instead, we are trained to just blindly accept whatever information the system feeds us.

George Orwell once said that “during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act“.

That perfectly describes the era that we are currently living in.

The truth does not bring fear and despair.

Rather, the truth brings hope and it sets people free.

Share the truth with as many people as you can, because we live in a world that desperately needs it.

A Full-Blown Economic Crisis Has Erupted In Russia

Vladimir PutinThe 8th largest economy on the entire planet is in a state of turmoil right now.  The shocking collapse of the price of oil has hit a lot of countries really hard, but very few nations are as dependent on energy production as Russia is.  Sales of oil and natural gas account for approximately two-thirds of all Russian exports and approximately 50 percent of all government revenue. So it should be no surprise that the fact that the price of oil has declined by almost 50 percent since June is absolutely catastrophic for the Russian economy.  And when you throw in international sanctions, wild money printing by the Central Bank of Russia and unprecedented capital flight, you get the ingredients for an almost perfect storm.  But those of us living in the western world should not be too smug about what is happening in Russia, because the nightmare that is unfolding over there is just a preview of the economic chaos that will soon envelop the whole world.

So far this year, the Russian ruble has fallen nearly 50 percent against the U.S. dollar.  That is a monumental shift.  And as the collapse of the ruble has accelerated in recent days, we are seeing scenes in Russia that are reminiscent of the Weimar Republic.  For example, just consider the following excerpt from an article that just appeared in the New York Times

Scenes that Russians hoped had receded into the past reappeared on the streets: Currency exchange signs blinked ever-changing digits, and Russians rushed to appliance stores to buy washing machines or televisions to unload rubles.

“We are seeing an economic crisis,” Natalia V. Akindinova, a professor at the Higher School of Economics, said in a telephone interview. “We are seeing a sharp devaluation of the ruble at a time when the central bank doesn’t have the reserves to influence the market, as it did in the past crises.”

In a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding, the Central Bank of Russia made an astounding move.  Last night it raised its key interest rate from 10.5 percent all the way up to 17 percent.

It was hoped that this desperate move would keep the ruble from plummeting any further.

And it did work for a few minutes, but then the collapse of the ruble resumed.  This is how Zero Hedge described the carnage…

For those wondering if the CBR’s intervention in the Russian FX market with its shocking emergency rate hike to 17% overnight calmed things, the answer is yes… for about two minutes. The USDRUB indeed tumbled nearly 10% to 59 and then promptly blew right back out, the Ruble crashing in panic selling and seemingly without any CBR market interventions, and at last check was freefalling through 72 74, and sending the Russian stock market plummeting by over 15%.

So why is this happening now?

Well, the biggest reason for the freefall of the ruble is the fact that the Central Bank of Russia just printed up about 625 billion rubles and gave it to their friends at Rosneft.

Rosneft is an absolutely massive oil company that is controlled by the Russian government.  For months, Rosneft has been asking for a bailout (sound familiar?) to refinance loans that can no longer be rolled over with western banks because of economic sanctions.

And on Friday they got one.

In an attempt to quietly slip this massive injection of new money past everyone, Rosneft issued 625 billion rubles worth of new bonds just before the weekend and the Central Bank of Russia gobbled most of those new bonds up with freshly created money.  Unfortunately for Rosneft and the Central Bank of Russia, the rest of the world took notice

With the oil giant in a bind, the central bank ruled that it would accept Rosneft bonds held by commercial banks as collateral for loans.

Rosneft issued 625 billion rubles, about $10.9 billion at the exchange rate at the time, in new bonds on Friday. The identities of the buyers were not publicly disclosed, but analysts say that large state banks bought the issue.

When these banks deposit the bonds with the central bank in exchange for loans, Rosneft will have been financed, in effect, with an emission of rubles from the central bank.

So that is what led to the panic selling that we witnessed on Monday.

Meanwhile, money is being pulled out of Russia at an absolutely staggering pace.  As confidence in the ruble and in the Russian financial system disappears, wealthy people are feverishly trying to protect their wealth by moving it somewhere else.  The following is an excerpt from an editorial that Mohamed A. El-Erian recently penned for Business Insider…

Rather than bring in buyers at these substantially cheaper levels, Russian currency weakness is inducing more selling, including by a growing number of worried bank depositors who, instead of holding their savings in ruble, are opting for safer dollars. The larger the extent of this “currency substitution,” the bigger the scope for capital flight out of Russia. This puts even greater pressure on the currency, aggravating the output contraction, imported inflation, and the general sense economic and financial instability.

It has been estimated that total capital outflows for 2015 will reach an astounding $128 billion.

And this could just be the beginning of the economic troubles for Russia.

If the price of oil stays this low or goes even lower, the Russian economy will shrink.  The only question is how much it will contract

The Bank of Russia said Monday that the country could sink into a deep recession next year if oil prices remain at $60 a barrel. GDP could contract by as much as 4.7% in 2015, and then by a further 1.1% in 2016 unless oil prices pick up.

Sadly, it isn’t just oil producing nations such as Russia that are going to be devastated by the coming crisis.

Eventually, the entire globe is going to feel the pain.

Last week was the worst week for global financial markets in three years, and so many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to the great financial crisis of 2008 are happening once again.  We have been living in a false bubble of relative stability for the past couple of years, but now time is running out.  The next great financial crisis is rapidly approaching, and 2015 promises to be the most “interesting” year that we have seen in ages.

If Everything Is Just Fine, Why Are So Many Really Smart People Forecasting Economic Disaster?

Apocalyptic Disaster - Public DomainThe parallels between the false prosperity of 2007 and the false prosperity of 2014 are rather striking.  If we go back and look at the numbers in the fall of 2007, we find that the Dow set an all-time high in October, margin debt on Wall Street had spiked to record levels, the unemployment rate was below 5 percent and Americans were getting ready to spend a record amount of money that Christmas season.  But then the very next year the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression shook the entire planet and everyone wondered why most people never saw it coming.  Well, now a similar pattern is unfolding right before our eyes.  The Dow and the S&P 500 both hit record highs on Monday, margin debt on Wall Street is hovering near record levels, the unemployment rate has ticked down a little bit and Americans are getting ready to spend more than 600 billion dollars this Christmas season.  The truth is that the economy seems pretty stable for the moment, and most people cannot even imagine that an economic collapse is coming.  So why are so many really smart people forecasting economic disaster in the near future?

For example, just consider what the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center is saying.  This is an organization with a tremendous economic forecasting record that goes all the way back to the Great Depression.  In fact, it predicted ahead of time the financial trouble and the recession that would happen in 2008.  Well, now this company is forecasting that there is a 65 percent chance that there will be a global recession by the end of next year…

In 1929, a businessman and economist by the name of Jerome Levy didn’t like what he saw in his analysis of corporate profits. He sold his stocks before the October crash.

Almost eight decades later, the consultancy company that bears his name declared “the next recession will be caused by the deflating housing bubble.” By February 2007, it predicted problems in the subprime-mortgage market would spread “to virtually all financial markets.” In October 2007, it saw imminent recession — the slump began two months later.

The Jerome Levy Forecasting Center, based in Mount Kisco, New York, and run by Jerome’s grandson David, is again more worried than its peers. Its half-dozen analysts attach a 65 percent probability of a worldwide recession forcing a contraction in the U.S. by the end of next year.

Could they be wrong?

It’s certainly possible.

But I wouldn’t bet against them.

John Hussman is another expert that is warning of financial disaster on the horizon.  He believes that we are experiencing a massive stock market bubble right now and that stocks are approximately double the value that they should be

If you look at corporate profits and especially corporate profit margins, they’re one of the most cyclical and mean-reverting series in economics. Right now, we have corporate profits that are close to about 11% of GDP, but if you look at that series you will find that corporate profits as a share of GDP have always dropped back to about 5.5% or below in every single economic cycle including recent decades, including not only the financial crisis but 2002 and every other economic cycle we have been in.

Right now stocks as a multiple of last year’s expected earnings may look only modestly over valued or modestly richly valued. Really if you look at the measures of valuation that are most correlated to the returns that stocks deliver over time say over seven years or over the next 10 years the S&P 500 in our estimation is about double the level of valuation that would give investors a normal rate of return.

Could you imagine the chaos that would ensue if stocks really did drop by 50 percent?

Well, Hussman says that this is precisely what must happen in order for stock prices to return to historical norms…

Right now, like I say, we are looking at stocks that have been pressed to long-term expected returns that are really dismal. But more important than that, in every market cycle that we’ve seen with the mild exception of 2002, we’ve seen stocks price revert back to normal rates of return. In order to get to that point from here, we would have to have equities drop by about half.

If that does happen, it will make the crisis of 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

Meanwhile, other very prominent thinkers are also warning that an economic nightmare is rapidly approaching.

Economic cycle theorist Martin Armstrong foresees major economic problems in 2015 which will ultimately lead to “civil unrest”  in 2016

It looks more and more like a serious political uprising will erupt by 2016 once the economy turns down. That is the magic ingredient. Turn the economy down and you get civil unrest and revolution.

And of course there are a whole lot of other economic cycle theorists that are forecasting that we are about to experience a massive economic downturn as well.  For much more on this, please see this article and this article.

What is truly frightening is that we have never even come close to recovering from the last economic crisis.  One poll that was taken just prior to the recent election found that only 28 percent of Americans said that their families were doing better financially.  In addition, here are some more survey numbers about how Americans are feeling about the economy

According to voter exit polls conducted by CNN, 78% said they are worried about the economy, with 69% saying that, in their view, economic conditions are not good. 65% responded that the country is on the wrong track vs. only 31% who believed that it is headed in the right direction.

Even though we are repeating so many of the same patterns that we experienced back in 2007, we are doing so with a fundamentally weaker economy.  The last crisis did a tremendous amount of permanent damage to us.  For an extensive look at this, please see my previous article entitled “12 Charts That Show The Permanent Damage That Has Been Done To The U.S. Economy“.

And there are lots of signs that much of the planet is already entering another major economic slowdown.  In a recent article, Brandon Smith summarized some of these.  He says that we are currently witnessing “the last gasp of the global economy“…

Global exports, and thus consumer demand, are plunging. Germany, the only pillar left to prop up the failing European Union, has experienced a severe decline in exports not seen since 2009.

China, the largest exporter and importer in the world, and Chinese companies, have been caught in a number of instances using fraudulent invoices to artificially inflate their own export numbers, in some cases reporting 50% more exported goods than had actually existed.

China’s manufacturing has also declined for the past five months, exposing the nature of its inflated export stats and indicating a global slowdown.

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of global shipping rates for raw goods, and thus a measure of demand for shipping, continues to drag along near historic lows.

The U.S. consumer (the only economic asset the U.S. has besides the dollar’s world reserve status), has seen declines in spending as well as wages.

In the meantime, long term jobless Americans continue to fall off welfare rolls by the millions, making unemployment numbers look good, but the overall future picture look terrible as participation rates dissolve into the ether of government statistics.

How is such poverty being hidden? Foodstamps. Plain and simple. Nearly 50 million Americans now subsist on food stamp programs today, and this number shows no signs of dropping. In states like Illinois, two people sign up for food assistance for every citizen that happens to find a job.

From time to time, I get accused of “spreading fear” and of being obsessed with “doom and gloom”.

But that is not the case at all.

I actually want our economy to stay stable for as long as possible.  Many Americans don’t realize this, but even the poorest of us live in luxury compared to much of the rest of the world.  It would be wonderful if we could all live out our lives in peace and quiet and safety.

Unfortunately, it is simply not going to happen.

And it does not take an expert to see what is coming.

Anyone with half a brain should be able to see the economic disaster that is approaching.

There is hope in understanding what is happening and there is hope in getting prepared.  Millions of Americans that are willingly blind to our problems are going to have their lives absolutely destroyed when they get blindsided by the coming crisis.  So please use this brief period of relative stability to get prepared and to warn others.

Once this false bubble of hope runs out, all of our lives are going to dramatically change.

National Economic Suicide: The U.S. Trade Deficit With China Just Hit A New Record High

Economics - Public DomainDid you know that we buy nearly five times as much stuff from the Chinese as they buy from us?  According to government numbers that were just released, we imported 44.9 billion dollars worth of stuff from China in September but we only exported 9.3 billion dollars worth of stuff to them.  And this is not happening because our economy is so much larger than China’s.  In fact, the IMF says that China now has the largest economy on the entire planet on a purchasing power basis.  No, the truth is that this is happening because our economy is broken.  Every month, we consume far more wealth than we produce.  Because the outflow of money is far greater than the inflow, we have to go to major exporting nations and beg them to lend our dollars back to us so that we can pay our bills.  Meanwhile, the quality of the jobs in this country continues to go down and our formerly great manufacturing cities are rotting and decaying.  We are committing national economic suicide, and most Americans don’t seem to care.

Barack Obama is constantly hyping a “manufacturing resurgence” in America, but the numbers don’t lie.  In September, our manufactured goods trade deficit with the rest of the world soared to a new all-time record high of 69.16 billion dollars.  For the year, we are nearly 12 percent ahead of last year’s record pace.

When we buy far more things than we sell, we get poorer as a nation.

How do you think that we ever got into a position of owing China more than a trillion dollars?

We just kept buying far more from them than they bought from us, and their money just kept piling up.  Now it has gotten to the point where our politicians literally beg them to lend our money back to us.  They are the head and we are the tail.

And we did this to ourselves.

Once upon a time, the United States was the greatest manufacturing powerhouse that the world had ever seen.  But now China manufactures more stuff than us and China also accounts for more total global trade (imports plus exports) than us.

This should never have happened.  Several decades ago, the Chinese economy was a complete joke.  But decades of incredibly foolish decisions by our politicians have resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities, millions of good paying jobs and the destruction of vast stretches of our economic infrastructure.

During the same time frame, gleaming new manufacturing facilities have gone up all over China.

China is literally wiping the floor with us on the global economic stage and most Americans don’t even understand what is happening.  Here is more on the trade deficit numbers that were just released from the RealityChek Blog

>The China goods deficit of $35.56 billion blew past the old mark of $30.86 billion, set in July, by 15.23 percent. The new deficit also represented a 17.77 percent increase over the August level of $30.20 billion.

>U.S. goods exports to the still strongly growing Chinese economy fell on month in September from $9.63 billion to $9.33 billion (3.12 percent). U.S. merchandise imports from China jumped by 12.70 percent over August levels, from $39.83 billion to $44.89 billion – itself an all-time high.

>The U.S. goods deficit with China this year is now so far running 5.62 percent ahead of 2014’s record pace.

>The longstanding U.S. manufacturing trade shortfall shot up from $59.10 billion in August to $69.16 billion in September. This 17.02 percent jump resulted in a beat of the old record of $67.33 billion, also set in July, by 2.72 percent.

And it isn’t just cheap plastic trinkets that China is selling to us.

In fact, their number one export to us is computer equipment.

Meanwhile, one of our main exports to them is “scrap and trash”.

For much more on how China is absolutely dominating us, please see my previous article entitled “Not Just The Largest Economy – Here Are 26 Other Ways China Has Surpassed America“.

Sadly, there are a couple of factors that will probably make our trade deficit with the rest of the world even worse in the months ahead.

Number one, the currency war that I wrote about earlier this week will probably push the U.S. dollar even higher against the yen and the euro.

You might think that a rising dollar sounds good, but the truth is that it will make our exports less competitive in the global marketplace.

Nations such as Japan devalue their currencies so that they can sell more stuff to us.  But that hurts our own domestic industries.  And when our own domestic industries suffer, that means less jobs for American workers.

Secondly, the collapse in the price of oil could have very serious implications for the shale oil industry.

In recent years, the shale oil revolution has caused local economic booms in states such as Texas and North Dakota.  But shale oil tends to be quite expensive to extract.  As I write this, the price of U.S. oil has fallen to about 77 dollars a barrel.  If it stays at that level or keeps going down, shale oil production in the United States will slow down dramatically.

In other words, a lot of these shale oil “boom towns” could go “bust” very rapidly.

If that happens, the amount of oil that we import will rise substantially and that will add to our overall trade deficit.

But of course the biggest factor fueling our trade deficit is that the vast majority of Americans simply do not care that we are committing national economic suicide.

When we buy products made in America, we support American businesses and American workers.

When we buy products made overseas, we hurt American businesses, we kill American jobs and we make ourselves poorer as a nation.

Of course there is nothing wrong with buying a foreign-made product once in a while.  But this holiday season, most people will fill their shopping carts to the brim with foreign-made goods without even thinking twice about it.

The next time that you go into a huge retail establishment such as Wal-Mart, start picking up products and look to see where they were made.

I think that you will be shocked at how few of them are actually made inside the United States.

When are Americans going to get sick and tired of making China wealthier at our expense?

We are willing participants in the destruction of the U.S. economy, and yet only a small minority of people seem to care.

What is it going to take for people to finally wake up?

Small Business Ownership In America Is At An All-Time Low

Small Business - Public DomainAccording to the Federal Reserve, the percentage of American families that own a small business is at the lowest level that has ever been recorded.  In a report that was just released entitled “Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2010 to 2013: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances“, the Federal Reserve revealed that small business ownership in America “fell substantially” between 2010 and 2013.  Even in the midst of this so-called “economic recovery”, small business ownership in America has now fallen to an all-time low.  If the economy truly was healthy, this would not be happening.  And it isn’t as if Americans are flooding the labor market either.  As I detailed yesterday, the labor force participation rate in this country is at a 36 year low.  That would not be happening if the economy was actually healthy either.  The truth is that the middle class in America is dying, and this new report from the Federal Reserve is more evidence of this very harsh reality.

In order to build wealth, middle class Americans either need to have their own businesses or they need good jobs.  Sadly, the percentage of Americans that own a business continues to decline steadily.  In the report that I mentioned above, the Federal Reserve says that the proportion of U.S. families that have an ownership interest in a small business fell from 13.3 percent in 2010 to a brand new all-time low of 11.7 percent in 2013.

This is one of the factors that is increasing the gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us in this country.  And of course another of the major factors is the steady decline in good paying jobs.

The U.S. Competitiveness Project at Harvard Business School is chaired by professors Michael E. Porter and Jan W. Rivkin.  It just released a new report entitled “An Economy Doing Half Its Job”, and it addressed the fact that the middle class is deeply struggling even though many large U.S. corporations have been thriving.  The following is an excerpt from an article in the Boston Globe about this report…

In a statement, Porter added: “Shortsighted executives may be satisfied with an American economy where firms operating here are winning without lifting US living standards. But leaders with longer perspectives understand that companies can’t thrive for long while their workers and their communities struggle.”

Unfortunately, this is not likely to change any time soon.  In fact, that same report discovered that Harvard Business School alumni foresee “falling pay and fewer openings for full-time jobs” for American workers in the years ahead…

U.S. workers face a dim future, with stagnant or falling pay and fewer openings for full-time jobs.

That’s the picture that emerges from a survey of Harvard Business School alumni.

More than 40 percent of the respondents foresee lower pay and benefits for workers. Roughly half favor outsourcing work over hiring staffers. A growing share prefer part-time employees. Nearly half would rather invest in new technology than hire or retain workers.

The Obama administration continues to tell us that the unemployment rate is “going down” and that the economy is recovering, but that does not match the reality of what most Americans are experiencing on a day to day basis.

As David Stockman recently so aptly put it, outside of health and education the U.S. economy has not produced a single job since mid-2000 even though our population has grown greatly since that time…

In a few deft seconds, a “no jobs” nobody who apparently doesn’t actually have one himself,  essentially explained the contents of the chart below to his silenced CNBC hosts. Over the course of 170 “jobs Fridays” since mid-2000, the latter have apparently never noticed the single most stunning fact embedded in the monthly BLS report. Namely, that outside of health and education there has not been one net new job created in the American economy since July 2000! Yes, not a single new job—as in none, nein, nichts, nada, zip!

In addition, most of the new jobs that are being “added to the economy” each month are part-time jobs.  Right now, we still have 1.4 million fewer full-time jobs than we did in 2008 even though more than 100,000 people are added to the population each month.

What this means is that the middle class is shrinking.

We are witnessing an increasing concentration of wealth among the ultra-wealthy, and most of the rest of us are getting poorer.  As a recent CNN article detailed, the Federal Reserve has also discovered that the gap between the rich and the poor in America is larger than the Fed has ever recorded before…

In its Study of Consumer Finances, released every three years, the Fed found that the wealthiest 3% of American households controlled 54.4% of the nation’s wealth in 2013, a slight increase from its last survey in 2010. It’s also substantially higher from the 44.8% they held in 1989, showing how quickly the income divide has been growing over the past decade or so.

At the same time, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 24.7% in 2013. That’s compared to 33.2% in 1989.

How close does the share of wealth for the bottom 90 percent have to go before we admit that we have a major problem on our hands?

Is there anyone out there that would be okay with it hitting zero percent?

One of the big reasons why the wealthy have been doing so well is because the stock market has been soaring.  The money printing policies of the Federal Reserve have sent stock prices to unprecedented heights.  This has overwhelmingly benefited the extremely wealthy

According to recent data from the Federal Reserve, America has the lowest level of stock ownership in 18 years. Yet stock ownership for the wealthy is at a new high—and that has accounted for most of their good fortune compared to the rest of America.

In fact, the Fed says that the wealthiest top 10 percent of all Americans now own 81 percent of all stocks…

Stock ownership is even more concentrated when it comes to share of total stock holdings. In 2010, the latest period available, the top 10 percent of Americans by net worth held 81 percent of all directly held or indirectly held stocks, according to Edward N. Wolff, an economics professor at New York University who specializes in inequality and Federal Reserve data.

Wolff said that share—which has not been released yet for 2013—has probably gone even higher than 81 percent since 2010.

Since the last financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has been very good to the elite.

But most of the rest of us have had a really hard time.

Until more Americans start getting good jobs and building small businesses, things are not going to turn around for the middle class.

But the policies being pursued by our politicians continue to kill good jobs and continue to kill small businesses, so I wouldn’t expect significant changes any time soon.

Why so much anger in Ferguson? 10 facts about the massive economic gap between white America and black America

U.S. Map Money - Public DomainWhen people feel like they don’t have anything else to lose, they are likely to do just about anything.  Many in the mainstream media seem absolutely mystified as to why there is so much anger in Ferguson, but as I pointed out yesterday, all of this anger did not erupt out of a vacuum.  Economic conditions in Ferguson, and for African-Americans as a whole, have been deteriorating for years.  Sadly, many white Americans are totally oblivious to any of this.  Many of them have absolutely no idea that the unemployment rate for black Americans is more than twice as high as it is for white Americans or that the average white household has 22 times as much wealth as the average black household.  But these are things that black communities are acutely aware of.  Many African-Americans that live in poor neighborhoods deeply resent the fact that most of the people that live in the “good neighborhoods” are white while most of the people that live in “bad neighborhoods” are people of color.  In fact, in America today a black child is nearly four times as likely to live in an impoverished neighborhood as a white child is.  And when you throw endless police brutality and growing racial division in America into the mix, it is easy to understand why so many black Americans are so angry and frustrated these days.

Things didn’t have to turn out this way.  If we had all learned how to love one another and not judge one another by skin color, we could have had the kind of society that Martin Luther King once dreamed about

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”

But instead we have allowed ourselves to become increasingly divided.  And I am sure that fact will once again be reflected in the comments following this article.  There is so much anger and hatred in America today, and people seem to love to express their anger and hatred on the Internet.

For white Americans (myself included), I think that it would be good for us to put ourselves in the shoes of the people of Ferguson for a few moments.  For years, the economy of Ferguson has been declining.  The following is how Brookings summarized the current economic situation

The city’s unemployment rate rose from less than 5 percent in 2000 to over 13 percent in 2010-12. For those residents who were employed, inflation-adjusted average earnings fell by one-third. The number of households using federal Housing Choice Vouchers climbed from roughly 300 in 2000 to more than 800 by the end of the decade.

Amid these changes, poverty skyrocketed. Between 2000 and 2010-2012, Ferguson’s poor population doubled. By the end of that period, roughly one in four residents lived below the federal poverty line ($23,492 for a family of four in 2012), and 44 percent fell below twice that level.

And as the New York Times recently detailed, racial tensions have been rising in the city for a very long time

As African-Americans moved into the city and whites moved out, real estate agents and city leaders, in a pattern familiar elsewhere in the country, conspired to keep blacks out of the suburbs through the use of zoning ordinances and restrictive covenants. But by the 1970s, some of those barriers had started to fall, and whites moved even farther away from the city. These days, Ferguson is like many of the suburbs around St. Louis, inner-ring towns that accommodated white flight decades ago but that are now largely black. And yet they retain a white power structure.

Although about two-thirds of Ferguson residents are black, its mayor and five of its six City Council members are white. Only three of the town’s 53 police officers are black.

So it is understandable why a lot of Ferguson residents are so angry and so frustrated.

However, there is absolutely no excuse for the looting and the property destruction that have taken place.

Alternatively, there is absolutely no excuse for how brutally the (mostly white) police have handled peaceful protesters and the media.  The police have been using smoke bombs, tear gas, flash bang grenades, rubber bullets and LRAD sound cannons against protesters that are not even armed.  Meanwhile, the police have been doing next to nothing to stop criminals from looting stores and businesses all over Ferguson.  It has pretty much been a textbook case of what not to do during a period of civil unrest.

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and things will calm down in Ferguson soon.

But that doesn’t mean that the underlying problems will have been fixed.  The truth is that I believe that this is just a preview of what is coming to America in the years ahead.  And much of the anger and frustration that is bubbling just under the surface in our communities has an economic element to it.  The following are 10 startling facts about the massive economic gap between white America and black America that we see in our country today…

#1 For decades, the unemployment rate for black Americans has consistently been more than twice as high as the unemployment rate for white Americans.  In July 2014, the official unemployment rate for white Americans was 5.3 percent.  Meanwhile, the official unemployment rate for black Americans was 11.4 percent.

#2 A report released earlier this year discovered that the “underemployment rate” for African-American workers was 20.5 percent.  But for white Americans it was only 11.8 percent.

#3 A study released back in 2012 found that the average white household has 22 times as much wealth as the average black household.

#4 African-American households make up only about 13 percent of the population, but they receive more than 26 percent of the food stamp benefits.

#5 One study discovered that 82 percent of white students graduate from high school but only 63.5 percent of black students do.

#6 Pew Research found that the income gap between white Americans and black Americans has continued to grow ever since the late 1960s

The difference in median household incomes between whites and blacks has grown from about $19,000 in 1967 to roughly $27,000 in 2011 (as measured in 2012 dollars).

#7 In the United States today, 12 percent of white children live in areas of concentrated poverty, but 45 percent of African-American children do.

#8 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.9 percent of white children live in single parent homes.  But for black children, the number is an astounding 52.1 percent.

#9 Since 1960, the percentage of white American adults that are married has declined from 74 percent to 55 percent.  But for African-Americans the decline has been even more dramatic.  Since 1960, the percentage of black American adults that are married has declined from 61 percent to 31 percent.

#10 In the United States, the incarceration rate for black men is more than six times higher than it is for white men.

So how do we solve these problems?  People have been debating this for years, but nothing ever seems to actually get accomplished.

Meanwhile, the middle class continues to collapse and things continue to get even tougher for African-American communities.  The following is an excerpt from a recent piece that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote for Time magazine entitled “The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race“…

Dystopian books and movies like Snowpiercer, The Giver, Divergent, Hunger Games, and Elysium have been the rage for the past few years. Not just because they express teen frustration at authority figures. That would explain some of the popularity among younger audiences, but not among twentysomethings and even older adults. The real reason we flock to see Donald Sutherland’s porcelain portrayal in Hunger Games of a cold, ruthless president of the U.S. dedicated to preserving the rich while grinding his heel into the necks of the poor is that it rings true in a society in which the One Percent gets richer while our middle class is collapsing.

That’s not hyperbole; statistics prove this to be true. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center report, just half of U.S. households are middle-income, a drop of 11 percent since the 1970s; median middle-class income has dropped by 5 percent in the last ten years, total wealth is down 28 percent. Fewer people (just 23 percent) think they will have enough money to retire. Most damning of all: fewer Americans than ever believe in the American Dream mantra that hard work will get them ahead.

I wish that I could be more optimistic about the future of this country.

I wish that I could believe that we won’t see a tremendous amount of chaos in the streets of America in the years ahead.

Unfortunately, the truth is that what is happening in Ferguson right now is just the tip of the iceberg.  Once we hit the next major wave of our ongoing economic collapse, unemployment and economic despair in our major cities are going to grow rapidly.  This will fuel more anger, more frustration, more protests, more looting and more rioting.

It has been said that desperate people do desperate things.  And in the years ahead, ordinary Americans are going to become increasingly desperate.

I hope that you are getting ready for that.

Stone Cold Proof That Government Economic Numbers Are Being Highly Manipulated

Detective - Public DomainHow in the world does the government expect us to trust the economic numbers that they give us anymore?  For a long time, many have suspected that they were being manipulated, and as you will see below we now have stone cold proof that this is indeed the case.  But first, let’s talk about the revised GDP number for the first quarter of 2014 that was just released.  Initially, they told us that the U.S. economy only shrank by 0.1 percent in Q1.  Then that was revised down to a 1.0 percent contraction, and now we are being informed that the economy actually contracted by a whopping 2.9 percent during the first quarter.  So what are we actually supposed to believe?  Sometimes I almost get the feeling that government bureaucrats are just throwing darts at a dartboard in order to get these numbers.  Of course that is not actually true, but how do we know that we can actually trust the numbers that they give to us?

Over at shadowstats.com, John Williams publishes alternative economic statistics that he believes are much more realistic than the government numbers.  According to his figures, the U.S. economy has actually been continually contracting since 2005.  That would mean that we have been in a recession for the last nine years.

Could it be possible that he is right and the bureaucrats in Washington D.C. are wrong?

Before you answer that question, read the rest of this article.

It just might change your thinking a bit.

Another number that many have accused of being highly manipulated is the inflation rate.

But we don’t have to sit around and wonder if that figure is being manipulated.  The truth is that even those that work inside the Federal Reserve admit that it is being manipulated.

As Robert Wenzel recently pointed out, Mike Bryan, a vice president and senior economist in the Atlanta Fed’s research department, has been very open about the fact that the way inflation is calculated has been changed almost every month at times…

The Economist retells a conversation with Stephen Roach, who in the 1970s worked for the Federal Reserve under Chairman Arthur Burns. Roach remembers that when oil prices surged around 1973, Burns asked Federal Reserve Board economists to strip those prices out of the CPI “to get a less distorted measure. When food prices then rose sharply, they stripped those out too—followed by used cars, children’s toys, jewellery, housing and so on, until around half of the CPI basket was excluded because it was supposedly ‘distorted'” by forces outside the control of the central bank. The story goes on to say that, at least in part because of these actions, the Fed failed to spot the breadth of the inflationary threat of the 1970s.

I have a similar story. I remember a morning in 1991 at a meeting of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s board of directors. I was welcomed to the lectern with, “Now it’s time to see what Mike is going to throw out of the CPI this month.” It was an uncomfortable moment for me that had a lasting influence. It was my motivation for constructing the Cleveland Fed’s median CPI.

I am a reasonably skilled reader of a monthly CPI release. And since I approached each monthly report with a pretty clear idea of what the actual rate of inflation was, it was always pretty easy for me to look across the items in the CPI market basket and identify any offending—or “distorted”—price change. Stripping these items from the price statistic revealed the truth—and confirmed that I was right all along about the actual rate of inflation.

Right now, the Federal Reserve tells us that the inflation rate is sitting at about 2 percent.

But according to John Williams, if the inflation rate was calculated the same way that it was in 1990 it would be nearly 6 percent.

And if the inflation rate was calculated the same way that it was in 1980 it would be nearly 10 percent.

So which number are we supposed to believe?

The one that makes us feel the best?

And without a doubt, “2 percent inflation” sounds a whole lot better than “10 percent inflation” does.

But anyone that does any grocery shopping knows that we are definitely not in a low inflation environment.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Inflation? Only If You Look At Food, Water, Gas, Electricity And Everything Else“.

Of course the unemployment rate is being manipulated as well.  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent New York Post article

In case you are just joining this ongoing drama, the Labor Department pays Census to conduct the monthly Household Survey that produces the national unemployment rate, which despite numerous failings is — inexplicably — still very important to the Federal Reserve and others.

One of the problems with the report is that Census field representatives — the folks who knock on doors to conduct the surveys — and their supervisors have, according to my sources, been shortcutting the interview process.

Rather than collect fresh data each month as they are supposed to do, Census workers have been filling in the blanks with past months’ data. This helps them meet the strict quota of successful interviews set by Labor.

That’s just one of the ways the surveys are falsified.

The Federal Reserve would have us believe that the unemployment rate in the U.S. has fallen from a peak of 10.0 percent during the recession all the way down to 6.3 percent now.

But according to shadowstats.com, the broadest measure of unemployment is well over 20 percent and has kept rising since the end of the last recession.

And according to the Federal Reserve’s own numbers, the percentage of working age Americans with a job has barely increased over the past four years…

Employment Population Ratio 2014

The chart above looks like a long-term employment decline to me.

But that is not the story that the government bureaucrats are selling to us.

So where does the truth lie?

What numbers are we actually supposed to believe?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

 

De-Dollarization: Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar

The U.S. Dollar - Photo by Pen WaggenerIs the petrodollar monopoly about to be shattered?  When U.S. politicians started slapping economic sanctions on Russia, they probably never even imagined that there might be serious consequences for the United States.  But now the Russian media is reporting that the Russian Ministry of Finance is getting ready to pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” plan.  For decades, virtually all oil and natural gas around the world has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars.  As I will explain below, this has been a massive advantage for the U.S. economy.  In recent years, there have been rumblings by nations such as Russia and China about the need to change to a new system, but nobody has really had a big reason to upset the status quo.  However, that has now changed.  The struggle over Ukraine has caused Russia to completely reevaluate the financial relationship that it has with the United States.  If it starts trading a lot of oil and natural gas for currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will be a massive blow for the petrodollar, and it could end up dramatically changing the global economic landscape.

The fact that the Russian government has held a meeting to discuss “getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations” should be front page news on every mainstream news website in the United States.  That is how big this is.  But instead, we have heard nothing from the big mainstream news networks about this so far.  Instead, we have only heard about this from Russian news sources such as the Voice of Russia

Russian press reports that the country’s Ministry of Finance is ready to greenlight a plan to radically increase the role of the Russian ruble in export operations while reducing the share of dollar-denominated transactions. Governmental sources believe that the Russian banking sector is “ready to handle the increased number of ruble-denominated transactions”.

According to the Prime news agency, on April 24th the government organized a special meeting dedicated to finding a solution for getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations. Top level experts from the energy sector, banks and governmental agencies were summoned and a number of measures were proposed as a response for American sanctions against Russia.

The “de-dollarization meeting” was chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Igor Shuvalov, proving that Moscow is very serious in its intention to stop using the dollar.

So will Russia go through with this?

After all, this wouldn’t just be a slap in the face.  This would essentially be like slamming an economic fist into our nose.

You see, Russia is not just a small player when it comes to trading oil and natural gas.  The truth is that Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil in the world.

If Russia starts asking for payment in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will essentially end the monopoly of the petrodollar.

In order to do this, Russia will need trading partners willing to go along.  In the article quoted above, the Voice of Russia listed Iran and China as two nations that would potentially be willing to make the switch…

Of course, the success of Moscow’s campaign to switch its trading to rubles or other regional currencies will depend on the willingness of its trading partners to get rid of the dollar. Sources cited by Politonline.ru mentioned two countries who would be willing to support Russia: Iran and China. Given that Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing on May 20, it can be speculated that the gas and oil contracts that are going to be signed between Russia and China will be denominated in rubles and yuan, not dollars.

And the reality of the matter is that China has seemed ready to move away from the U.S. dollar for quite some time.  In a previous article, I included a quote from a French news source that discussed how China’s official news agency has even called for a “new international reserve currency… to replace the dominant US dollar”…

For decades the US has benefited to the tune of trillions of dollars-worth of free credit from the greenback’s role as the default global reserve unit.

But as the global economy trembled before the prospect of a US default last month, only averted when Washington reached a deal to raise its debt ceiling, China’s official Xinhua news agency called for a “de-Americanised” world.

It also urged the creation of a “new international reserve currency… to replace the dominant US dollar”.

For much more on what China is thinking, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.

So why is the petrodollar so important?

Well, it creates a tremendous amount of demand for the U.S. dollar all over the globe.  Since everyone has needed it to trade with one another, that has created an endless global appetite for the currency.  That has kept the value of the dollar artificially high, and it has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of super cheap products from other countries.  If other nations stopped using the dollar to trade with one another, the value of the dollar would plummet dramatically and we would have to pay much, much more for the trinkets that we buy at the dollar store and Wal-Mart.

In addition, since the U.S. dollar is essentially the de facto global currency, this has also increased demand for our debt.  Major exporting nations such as China and Saudi Arabia end up with giant piles of our dollars.  Instead of just letting them sit there and do nothing, those nations often reinvest their dollars into securities that can rapidly be changed back into dollars if needed.  One of the most popular ways to do this has been to invest those dollars in U.S. Treasuries.  This has driven down interest rates on U.S. debt over the years and has enabled the U.S. government to borrow trillions upon trillions of dollars for next to nothing.

But if the rest of the world starts moving away from the U.S. dollar, all of this could change.

In order for our current standard of living to continue, it is absolutely imperative that everyone else around the globe continues to use our currency.

So if Russia really does pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” strategy, that would be huge – especially if the rest of the planet started following their lead.

The U.S. economy is already teetering on the brink of another major downturn, and there are a whole host of indications that big trouble is on the horizon.  For much more on this, please see the article that I posted on Monday entitled “If Economic Cycle Theorists Are Correct, 2015 To 2020 Will Be Pure Hell For The United States“.

Just about the last thing that we need right now is for our petrodollar monopoly to be threatened.

It would be nice if things would calm down in Ukraine and the relationship between the United States and Russia could go back to normal.

Sadly, that does not appear likely any time soon.

In fact, the Ukrainian government has already admitted that “we are essentially at war“, and on Tuesday six Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in a convoy attack in eastern Ukraine.

The regions in eastern Ukraine that have just declared independence have given the government in Kiev until Wednesday to pull their forces out of eastern Ukraine or else face war.

If a full blown civil war does erupt in Ukraine, it is going to take this crisis to a completely new level.

Unfortunately, most Americans are incredibly apathetic at this point and know very little about what is going on.

But in the end, this could have dramatic implications for all of us.

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