The Beginning Of The End
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The Velocity Of Money In The U.S. Falls To An All-Time Record Low

Velocity Of Money M2When an economy is healthy, there is lots of buying and selling and money tends to move around quite rapidly.  Unfortunately, the U.S. economy is the exact opposite of that right now.  In fact, as I will document below, the velocity of M2 has fallen to an all-time record low.  This is a very powerful indicator that we have entered a deflationary era, and the Federal Reserve has been attempting to combat this by absolutely flooding the financial system with more money.  This has created some absolutely massive financial bubbles, but it has not fixed what is fundamentally wrong with our economy.  On a very basic level, the amount of economic activity that we are witnessing is not anywhere near where it should be and the flow of money through our economy is very stagnant.  They can try to mask our problems with happy talk for as long as they want, but in the end it will be clearly evident that none of the long-term trends that are destroying our economy have been addressed.

Discussions about the money supply can get very complicated, and that can cause people to tune out, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

To put it very basically, when there is lots of economic activity, there is lots of money changing hands.

When there is not very much economic activity, the pace at which money circulates through our system slows down.

That is why what is happening in the U.S. right now is so troubling.

First, let’s look at M1, which is a fairly narrow definition of the money supply.  The following is how Investopedia defines M1…

A measure of the money supply that includes all physical money, such as coins and currency, as well as demand deposits, checking accounts and Negotiable Order of Withdrawal (NOW) accounts. M1 measures the most liquid components of the money supply, as it contains cash and assets that can quickly be converted to currency. It does not contain “near money” or “near, near money” as M2 and M3 do.

As you can see from the chart posted below, the velocity of M1 normally declines during a recession.  Just look at the shaded areas in the chart.  But a funny thing has happened since the end of the last recession.  The velocity of M1 has just kept falling and it is now at a nearly 20 year low…

Velocity Of Money M1

Next, let’s take a look at M2.  It includes more things in the money supply.  The following is how Investopedia defines M2…

A measure of money supply that includes cash and checking deposits (M1) as well as near money. “Near money” in M2 includes savings deposits, money market mutual funds and other time deposits, which are less liquid and not as suitable as exchange mediums but can be quickly converted into cash or checking deposits.

In the chart posted below, we can once again see that the velocity of M2 normally slows down during a recession.  And we can also see that the velocity of M2 has continued to slow down in the “post-recession era” and has now dropped to the lowest level ever recorded

Velocity Of Money M2

This is a highly deflationary chart.

It clearly indicates that economic activity in the U.S. has been steadily slowing down.

And if we are honest, we have to admit that we are seeing signs of this all around us.  Major retailers are closing down stores at the fastest pace since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, consumer confidence is down, trading revenues at the big Wall Street banks are way down, and the steady decline in home sales is more than just a little bit alarming.

In addition, the employment situation in this country is much less promising than we have been led to believe.  According to a report put out by the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee, an all-time record one out of every eight men in their prime working years are not in the labor force

“There are currently 61.1 million American men in their prime working years, age 25–54. A staggering 1 in 8 such men are not in the labor force at all, meaning they are neither working nor looking for work. This is an all-time high dating back to when records were first kept in 1955. An additional 2.9 million men are in the labor force but not employed (i.e., they would work if they could find a job). A total of 10.2 million individuals in this cohort, therefore, are not holding jobs in the U.S. economy today. There are also nearly 3 million more men in this age group not working today than there were before the recession began.”

Never before has such a high percentage of men in their prime years been so idle.

But since they are not counted as part of “the labor force”, the government bureaucrats can keep the “unemployment rate” looking nice and pretty.

Of course if we were actually using honest numbers, the unemployment rate would be in the double digits, our economy would be considered to have been in a recession since about 2005, and everyone would be crying out for an end to “the depression”.

And now we are rapidly approaching another downturn.  In my recent articles entitled “Has The Next Recession Already Begun For America’s Middle Class?” and “27 Huge Red Flags For The U.S. Economy“, I detailed much of the evidence for why this is true.

And those that run the Federal Reserve know all of this.

That is one of the reasons for all of the “quantitative easing” that they have been doing.  The folks at the Fed know that the U.S. economy would probably drift into a deflationary depression if they just sat back and did nothing.  So they flooded the system with money in a desperate attempt to revive economic activity.  But instead, most of the new money just ended up in the pockets of the very wealthy and further increased the divide between those at the top and those at the bottom in this country.

And now Fed officials are slowly scaling back quantitative easing because they apparently believe that the economy is getting “back to normal”.

We shall see.

Many are not quite so optimistic.

For example, the chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group, Peter Boockvar, believes that the S&P 500 could plummet 15 to 20 percent when quantitative easing finally ends.

Others believe that it will be much worse than that.

Since 2008, the size of the Fed balance sheet has grown from less than a trillion dollars to more than four trillion dollars.  This unprecedented intervention was able to successfully delay the coming deflationary depression, but it has also made our long-term problems far worse.

So when the inevitable crash does arrive, it will be much, much worse than it could have been.

Sadly, most Americans do not understand these things.  Most Americans simply trust that our “leaders” know what they are doing.  And so in the end, most Americans will be completely blindsided by what is coming.

What Is Going To Happen If Interest Rates Continue To Rise Rapidly?

Question MarkIf you want to track how close we are to the next financial collapse, there is one number that you need to be watching above all others.  The number that I am talking about is the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries, because it affects thousands of other interest rates in our financial system.  When the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up, that is bad for the U.S. economy because it pushes long-term interest rates up.  When interest rates rise, it constricts the flow of credit, and a healthy flow of credit is absolutely essential to the debt-based system that we live in.  Just imagine someone squeezing a tube that has water flowing through it.  The higher interest rates go, the more economic activity will be squeezed.  If interest rates continue to rise rapidly, it will be more expensive for the U.S. government to borrow money, it will be more expensive for state and local governments to borrow money, the housing market may crash again, consumer debt will become more expensive, junk bond investors will be in for a world of hurt, the stock market will experience a tremendous amount of pain and there is a good chance that we could see the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble implode.  And that is just for starters.

So yes, we all need to be carefully watching the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries.  On Friday, it opened at 2.76% and hit a high of 2.86% before closing at 2.83%.  The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is up nearly 120 basis points since the beginning of May, and almost everyone on Wall Street seems convinced that it is going to go much higher.

We are truly moving into unprecedented territory, because we have been in a bull market for U.S. Treasuries for the last 30 years.  Many investors don’t even know that it is possible to lose money on U.S. Treasuries.  They have been described as “risk-free” investments, but that is far from the truth.

In fact, we could see bond investors of all types end up losing trillions of dollars before it is all said and done.

And those in the stock market will lose lots of money too.  Low interest rates are good for economic activity which is good for the stock market.  The chart posted below shows that stock prices have generally risen as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has steadily declined over the past 30 years…

CFPGH-DJIA-20

When interest rates rise, that is bad for economic activity and bad for stocks.  That is why so many stock analysts are alarmed that interest rates are going up so rapidly right now.

And as I wrote about the other day, we have just witnessed the largest cluster of Hindenburg Omens that we have seen since before the last financial crisis.  The stock market already seems ripe for a huge “adjustment”, and rising interest rates could give it a huge extra push in a negative direction.

By the time it is all said and done, stock market investors could end up losing trillions of dollars in the next stock market crash.

In addition, rising interest rates could easily precipitate another housing crash.  As the Wall Street Journal discussed on Friday, as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up it will also cause mortgage rates to rise…

Higher yields will push up long-term borrowing cost for U.S. consumers and businesses. Mortgage rates will rise, and investors are keeping a close eye on whether this may derail the recovery of the housing market, which has shown signs of turning a corner this year.

In one of my previous articles, I included an example that shows just how powerful rising mortgage rates can be…

A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent.  The monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.

If the 30 year rate rises to 8 percent, the monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $2201.29.

Does 8 percent sound crazy to you?

It shouldn’t.  8 percent was considered to be normal back in the year 2000.

If you own a $300,000 house today, do you think it will be easier to sell it or harder to sell it if mortgage rates skyrocket?

Yes, of course it will be much harder.  In fact, there is a good chance that you will have to reduce your selling price significantly so that prospective buyers can afford the payments.

Let us hope that the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries levels off for a while.  If it says at this current level, the damage will probably not be too bad.

But if it crosses the 3 percent mark and keeps soaring, things could get messy pretty quickly.  In fact, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch investor survey, the 3.5 percent mark is when the collapse of the bond market is likely to become “disorderly”…

Our latest Credit Investor Survey, conducted July 8-11, showed that 3.5% on the 10-year is most commonly thought of as the trigger of a disorderly rotation – i.e. higher interest rates leading to outflows and wider credit spreads – among high grade investors.

Put differently, 3.0% on the 10-year will not lead to overall wider credit spreads if there is enough buying interest from institutional investors (though note that the 10s/30s spread curve would flatten further, as mutual fund/ETF holdings are concentrated in the belly of the curve, whereas institutional demand is disproportional in the long end of the curve). However, if the probability of a further move higher in interest rates to 3.5% is high – which will be the perception if interest rate volatility is high – certain institutional investors will choose to remain on the sidelines.

Thus there may not be enough institutional buying interest to mitigate retail fund outflows and contain overall high grade spread levels.

So what is causing this?

Well, there are a number of factors of course, but one very disturbing sign is that foreigners are selling off U.S. Treasuries at a pace that we have not seen since 2007…

One of the biggest fears in the financial markets is that foreign investors will stop buying U.S. Treasury securities, causing borrowing rates to surge.

Not that this is the beginning of a frightening trend, but new data from the Treasury Department shows that foreigners were net sellers in June. In fact, this is the largest net sale of U.S. securities since August 2007.

Do you remember all of the warnings that we have received over the years about what would take place when foreign countries started dumping U.S. debt?

Well, it looks like it may be starting to happen.

Unfortunately, there is no way that the party that the U.S. government has been throwing can continue without foreigners buying our debt.  We have added more than 11 trillion dollars to the national debt since the year 2000, and according to Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff we are facing unfunded liabilities in future years that are in excess of 200 trillion dollars.

Even with foreigners continuing to loan us gigantic mountains of super cheap money, it would still take a doubling of our taxes to put us on a fiscally sustainable course…

Writing in the September issue of Finance and Development, a journal of the International Monetary Fund, Prof. Kotlikoff says the IMF itself has quietly confirmed that the U.S. is in terrible fiscal trouble – far worse than the Washington-based lender of last resort has previously acknowledged. “The U.S. fiscal gap is huge,” the IMF asserted in a June report. “Closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 per cent of U.S. GDP.”

This sum is equal to all current U.S. federal taxes combined. The consequences of the IMF’s fiscal fix, a doubling of federal taxes in perpetuity, would be appalling – and possibly worse than appalling.

Prof. Kotlikoff says: “The IMF is saying that, to close this fiscal gap [by taxation] would require an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal income taxes, our corporate taxes and all other federal taxes.

“America’s fiscal gap is enormous – so massive that closing it appears impossible without immediate and radical reforms to its health care, tax and Social Security systems – as well as military and other discretionary spending cuts.”

Can you afford to pay twice as much in taxes to the federal government?

Very few Americans could.

But that is how serious the financial problems of the federal government are.

And all of the above assumes that interest payments on U.S. government debt will remain at current levels.  If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

Also, all of the above assumes that we will have a healthy financial system that does not need to be bailed out again.

But if rapidly rising interest rates cause the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble to implode, the bailout that the “too big to fail” banks will need will likely be far, far larger than last time.

In fact, once that bubble bursts there probably will not be enough money in the entire world to fix it.

If the picture that I have painted above sounds bleak, that is because it is bleak.

Sometimes I get frustrated with myself because I don’t feel I am communicating the tremendous danger that we are facing accurately enough.

We are heading for the worst financial crisis in modern human history, and the debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is going to go away and it is never going to come back.

You can dismiss that as “doom and gloom” and stick your head in the sand if you want, but that isn’t going to help anything.  Instead of ignoring reality you should be working hard to prepare your family for what is coming and warning others that they should be getting prepared too.

When a hurricane is approaching landfall, you don’t take your family out for a picnic at the beach.  That would be foolish.  Unfortunately, way too many Americans are acting as if nothing like the financial crisis of 2008 could ever possibly happen again.

If you deceive yourself into thinking that all of this is going to have a happy ending somehow, you are going to get blindsided by the coming storm.

But if you make preparations now, you might just be okay.

There is hope in understanding what is happening and there is hope in getting prepared.

So watch the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries.  The higher it goes, the later in the game we are.

Farewell Bernanke – Thanks For Inflating The Biggest Bond Bubble The World Has Ever Seen

Barack Obama And Ben BernankeFederal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is on the way out the door, but the consequences of the bond bubble that he has helped to create will stay with us for a very, very long time.  During Bernanke’s tenure, interest rates on U.S. Treasuries have fallen to record lows.  This has enabled the U.S. government to pile up an extraordinary amount of debt.  During his tenure we have also seen mortgage rates fall to record lows.  All of this has helped to spur economic activity in the short-term, but what happens when interest rates start going back to normal?  If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will suddenly be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.  And remember, there have been times in the past when the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt has been much higher than that.  In addition, when the U.S. government starts having to pay more to borrow money so will everyone else.  What will that do to home sales and car sales?  And of course we all remember what happened to adjustable rate mortgages when interest rates started to rise just prior to the last recession.  We have gotten ourselves into a position where the U.S. economy simply cannot afford for interest rates to go up.  We have become addicted to the cheap money made available by a grossly distorted financial system, and we have Ben Bernanke to thank for that.  The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic problems that we are facing in America, and this time is certainly no exception.

This week Barack Obama publicly praised Ben Bernanke and stated that Bernanke has “already stayed a lot longer than he wanted” as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Bernanke’s term ends on January 31st, but many observers believe that he could leave even sooner than that.  Bernanke appears to be tired of the job and eager to move on.

So who would replace him?  Well, the mainstream media is making it sound like the appointment of Janet Yellen is already a forgone conclusion.  She would be the first woman ever to chair the Federal Reserve, and her philosophy is that a little bit of inflation is good for an economy.  It seems likely that she would continue to take us down the path that Bernanke has taken us.

But is it a fundamentally sound path?  Keeping interest rates pressed to the floor and wildly printing money may be producing some positive results in the short-term, but the crazy bubble that this is creating will burst at some point.  In fact, the director of financial stability for the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, recently admitted that the central bankers have “intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history” and he warned about what might happen once it ends…

“If I were to single out what for me would be biggest risk to global financial stability right now it would be a disorderly reversion in the yields of government bonds globally.” he said. There had been “shades of that” in recent weeks as government bond yields have edged higher amid talk that central banks, particularly the US Federal Reserve, will start to reduce its stimulus.

“Let’s be clear. We’ve intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history,” Haldane said. “We need to be vigilant to the consequences of that bubble deflating more quickly than [we] might otherwise have wanted.”

Posted below is a chart that demonstrates how interest rates on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds have fallen over the last several decades.  This has helped to fuel the false prosperity that we have been enjoying, but there is no way that the U.S. government should have been able to borrow money so cheaply.  This bubble that we are living in now is setting the stage for a very, very painful adjustment…

Interest Rate On 10 Year U.S. Treasuries

So what will that “adjustment” look like?

The following analysis is from a recent article by Wolf Richter

Ten-year Treasury notes have been kicked down from their historic pedestal last July when some poor souls, blinded by the Fed’s halo of omnipotence and benevolence, bought them at a minuscule yield of 1.3%. For them, it’s been an ice-cold shower ever since. As Treasuries dropped, yields meandered upward in fits and starts. After a five-week jump from 1.88% in early May, they hit 2.29% on Tuesday last week – they’ve retreated to 2.19% since then. Now investors are wondering out loud what would happen if ten-year Treasury yields were to return to more normal levels of 4% or even 5%, dragging other long-term interest rates with them. They know what would happen: carnage!

And according to Richter, there are already signs that the bond bubble is beginning to burst…

Wholesale dumping of Treasuries by exasperated foreigners has already commenced. Private foreigners dumped $30.8 billion in Treasuries in April, an all-time record. Official holders got rid of $23.7 billion in long-term Treasury debt, the highest since November 2008, and $30.1 billion in short-term debt. Sell, sell, sell!

Bond fund redemptions spoke of fear and loathing: in the week ended June 12, investors yanked $14.5 billion out of Treasury bond funds, the second highest ever, beating the prior second-highest-ever outflow of $12.5 billion of the week before. They were inferior only to the October 2008 massacre as chaos descended upon financial markets. $27 billion in two weeks!

In lockstep, average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates jumped from 3.59% in early May to 4.15% last week. The mortgage refinancing bubble, by which banks have creamed off billions in fees, is imploding – the index has plunged 36% since early May.

If interest rates start to climb significantly, that will have a dramatic affect on economic activity in the United States.

And we have seen this pattern before.

As Robert Wenzel noted in a recent article on the Economic Policy Journal, we saw interest rates rise suddenly just prior to the October 1987 stock market crash, and we also saw them rise substantially prior to the financial crisis of 2008…

As Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker left the Fed chairmanship in August 1987, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 8.2% to 9.2% between June 1987 and September 1987. This was followed, of course by the October 1987 stock market crash.

As Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan left the Fed chairmanship at the end of January 2006, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 4.35% to 4.65%. It then climbed above 5%.

So keep a close eye on interest rates in the months ahead.  If they start to rise significantly, that will be a red flag.

And it makes perfect sense why Bernanke is looking to hand over the reins of the Fed at this point.  He can probably sense the carnage that is coming and he wants to get out of Dodge while he still can.

The Japanese Financial System Is Beginning To Spin Wildly Out Of Control

Wildly Out Of ControlThe financial system of the third largest economy on the planet is starting to come apart at the seams, and the ripple effects are going to be felt all over the globe.  Nobody knew exactly when the Japanese financial system was going to begin to implode, but pretty much everyone knew that a day of reckoning for Japan was coming eventually.  After all, the Japanese economy has been in a slump for over a decade, Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of well over 200 percent and they are spending about 50 percent of all tax revenue on debt service.  In a desperate attempt to revitalize the economy and reduce the debt burden, the Bank of Japan decided a few months ago to start pumping massive amounts of money into the economy.  At first, it seemed to be working.  Economic activity perked up and the Japanese stock market went on a tremendous run.  Unfortunately, there is also a very significant downside to pumping your economy full of money.  Investors start demanding higher returns on their money and interest rates go up.  But the Japanese government cannot afford higher interest rates.  Without super low interest rates, Japanese government finances would totally collapse.  In addition, higher interest rates in the private sector would make it much more difficult for the Japanese economy to expand.  In essence, pretty much the last thing that Japan needs right now is significantly higher interest rates, but that is exactly what the policies of the Bank of Japan are going to produce.

There is a lot of fear in Japan right now.  On Thursday, the Nikkei plunged 7.3 percent.  That was the largest single day decline in more than two years.  Then on Monday the index fell by another 3.2 percent.

And according to Business Insider, things are not looking good for Tuesday at this point…

In post-close futures trading, the Nikkei has dropped by another couple hundred points, and has dropped below 14,000.

Are we witnessing the beginning of a colossal financial meltdown by the third largest economy on the planet?  The Bank of Japan is starting to lose control, and if Japan goes down hard the crisis could spread to Europe and North America very rapidly.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers

As Japan has indicated, when bonds start to plunge, it’s not good for stocks. Today the Japanese Bond market fell and the Nikkei plunged 7%. The entire market down 7%… despite the Bank of Japan funneling $19 billion into it to hold things together.

This is what it looks like when a Central Bank begins to lose control. And what’s happening in Japan today will be coming to the US in the not so distant future.

If you think the Fed is not terrified of this, think again. The Fed has pumped over $1 trillion into foreign banks, hoping to stop the mess from getting to the US. As Japan is showing us, the Fed will fail.

Investors, take note… the financial system is sending us major warnings…

If you are not already preparing for a potential market collapse, now is the time to be doing so.

And all of this money printing is absolutely crushing the Japanese yen.  Since the start of 2013, the yen has declined 16 percent against the U.S. dollar, even though the U.S. dollar is also being rapidly debased.   Just check out this chart of the yen vs. the U.S. dollar.  It is absolutely stunning…

Japanese Yen

The term “currency war” is something that you are going to hear a lot more over the next few years, and what you can see in the chart above is only the beginning.

What the Bank of Japan is doing right now is absolutely unprecedented.  It has announced that it plans to inject the equivalent of approximately $1.4 trillion into the Japanese economy in less than two years.

As Kyle Bass recently discussed, that dwarfs the quantitative easing that the Federal Reserve has been doing…

“What they’re doing represents 70% of what the Fed is doing here with an economy 1/3 the size of ours”

The big problem for Japan will come when government bond yields really start to rise.  The yield on 10 year government bonds has been creeping up over the past few months, and if they hit the 1.0% mark that will set off some major red flags.

Because Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of more than 200 percent, the only way that it can avoid a total meltdown of government finances is to have super low interest rates.  The video posted below does a great job of elaborating on this point…

It really is very simple.  If interest rates rise substantially, Japan will be done.

Investor Kyle Bass is one of those that have been warning about this for a long time…

There’s a fatalism, he says, in everyone he talks to in Japan. Their thinking is changing, and the way they talk to him about debt is changing. They already spend 50% of tax revenue on debt service.

“If rates go up, it’s game over.”

The financial problems in Cyprus and Greece are just tiny blips compared to what a major financial crisis in Japan would potentially be like.  The Japanese economy is larger than the economies of Germany and Italy combined.  If the house of cards in Japan comes tumbling down, trillions of dollars of investments all over the globe are going to be affected.

And what is happening right now in Japan should serve as a sober warning to the United States.  Like Japan, the money printing that the Federal Reserve has been doing has caused economic activity to perk up a bit and it has sent the stock market on an unprecedented run.

Unfortunately, no bubble that the Federal Reserve has ever created has been able to last forever.  At some point, we will pay a very great price for all of the debt that the U.S. government has been accumulating and all of the reckless money printing that the Fed has been engaged in.

So enjoy the calm before the storm while you still can.

It won’t last for long.

100 Years Old And Still Killing Us: America Was Much Better Off Before The Income Tax

100 Years Old And Still Killing UsDid you know that the greatest period of economic growth in American history was during a time when there was absolutely no federal income tax?  Between the end of the Civil War and 1913, there was an explosion of economic activity in the United States unlike anything ever seen before or since.  Unfortunately, a federal income tax was instituted in 1913, and this year it turned 100 years old.  But there was no fanfare, was there?  There was no celebration because the federal income tax is universally hated.  Sadly, most Americans just assume that there is no other option to an income tax.  Most Americans just assume that it has always been with us and that it will always be with us.  This year, the American people will shell out approximately $4.22 trillion in state and federal income taxes.  That amount is equivalent to approximately 29.4 percent of all income that Americans will bring in this year, and that does not even take into account the dozens of other taxes that Americans pay each year.  At this point, the U.S. tax code is about 13 miles long, and those that are honest and pay their taxes every year are being absolutely shredded by this system.  But wouldn’t the federal government go broke if we didn’t have a federal income tax?  No, actually the truth is that the federal government did just fine before there was an income tax.  In fact, the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger since the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve were created by Congress back in 1913.  As I have written about previously, the Federal Reserve system was actually designed to trap the United States in a debt spiral from which it could never possibly escape, and the federal income tax was needed to greatly expand the size of the federal government and to soak the American people of the funds necessary to service that debt.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  America was once much better off before the income tax and the Federal Reserve were created, and we could easily go to such a system again.

What we desperately need to do is to teach the American people a little history lesson.  The truth is that the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was between the Civil War and 1913 when there was no federal income tax at all.  The following is from Wikipedia

The Gilded Age saw the greatest period of economic growth in American history. After the short-lived panic of 1873, the economy recovered with the advent of hard money policies and industrialization. From 1869 to 1879, the US economy grew at a rate of 6.8% for real GDP and 4.5% for real GDP per capita, despite the panic of 1873.  The economy repeated this period of growth in the 1880s, in which the wealth of the nation grew at an annual rate of 3.8%, while the GDP was also doubled.

Sadly, most Americans cannot even conceive of an economy like that.  Most Americans cannot even imagine having a nation without a massively bloated federal government and without an unelected central bank centrally planning our financial system.

But you know what?

It worked.  In fact, it worked fantastically well.

The period between the Civil War and 1913 propelled the United States to greatness.  Just check out all of the good things that Wikipedia says happened for the U.S. economy during those years…

The rapid economic development following the Civil War laid the groundwork for the modern U.S. industrial economy. By 1890, the USA leaped ahead of Britain for first place in manufacturing output.

An explosion of new discoveries and inventions took place, a process called the “Second Industrial Revolution.” Railroads greatly expanded the mileage and built stronger tracks and bridges that handled heavier cars and locomotives, carrying far more goods and people at lower rates. Refrigeration railroad cars came into use. The telephone, phonograph, typewriter and electric light were invented. By the dawn of the 20th century, cars had begun to replace horse-drawn carriages.

Parallel to these achievements was the development of the nation’s industrial infrastructure. Coal was found in abundance in the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania south to Kentucky. Oil was discovered in western Pennsylvania; it was mainly used for lubricants and for kerosene for lamps. Large iron ore mines opened in the Lake Superior region of the upper Midwest. Steel mills thrived in places where these coal and iron ore could be brought together to produce steel. Large copper and silver mines opened, followed by lead mines and cement factories.

In 1913 Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, a step in the process that became known as mass-production.

But if we didn’t have an income tax, how did we fund the government?  Well, we mostly did it with tariffs and excise taxes.  The following is from a recent article by Thomas R. Eddlem

Prior to ratification of the 16th (income tax) Amendment in February 1913, the federal government managed its few constitutional responsibilities without an income tax, except during the Civil War period. During peacetime, it did so largely — or even entirely — on import taxes called “tariffs.” Congress could afford to run the federal government on tariffs alone because federal responsibilities did not include welfare programs, agricultural subsidies, or social insurance programs like Social Security or Medicare. After the Civil War, tariff revenues sometimes suffered under a protectionist policy ushered in by the Republican Party that supplemented federal income via excises on alcohol, tobacco, and inheritances. But before the war, the need for tariff revenue to finance the federal government generally kept the tariff at reasonable levels. During wartime throughout early American history, the Founding Fathers were able to raise additional revenue employing a different method of direct taxation authorized by the U.S. Constitution prior to the 16th Amendment. These alternative taxing methods gave the young American nation embarrassing peacetime budget surpluses that several times came close to paying off the national debt.

So why didn’t we stick with that system?

Well, early in the 20th century the “progressives” and the social planners started to take control in Washington.

And one of the things that “progressives” and social planners love is an income tax.  In fact, the second plank of the Communist Manifesto is a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax”.

Of course they promised us that income tax rates would always remain low.  And at first they were quite low.  The following is from an article by Adam Young

The presidential election of 1912 was contested between three advocates of an income tax. The winner, Woodrow Wilson, after the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, called a special session of Congress in April 1913, which proceeded to pass an income tax of 1% on incomes above $3,000 and applied surcharges between 2% and 7% on income from $20,000 to $500,000.

But once the “progressives” and the social planners get their feet in the door, they always want more.

And we have seen how things have worked out.  Today, the American people are being taxed into oblivion.

In a previous article entitled “Show This To Anyone That Believes That Taxes Are Too Low“, I listed dozens of other taxes that the American people pay each year in addition to federal and state income taxes…

#1 Building Permit Taxes

#2 Capital Gains Taxes

#3 Cigarette Taxes

#4 Court Fines (indirect taxes)

#5 Dog License Taxes

#6 Drivers License Fees (another form of taxation)

#7 Federal Unemployment Taxes

#8 Fishing License Taxes

#9 Food License Taxes

#10 Gasoline Taxes

#11 Gift Taxes

#12 Hunting License Taxes

#13 Inheritance Taxes

#14 Inventory Taxes

#15 IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)

#16 IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)

#17 Liquor Taxes

#18 Luxury Taxes

#19 Marriage License Taxes

#20 Medicare Taxes

#21 Medicare Tax Surcharge On High Earning Americans Under Obamacare

#22 Obamacare Individual Mandate Excise Tax (if you don’t buy “qualifying” health insurance under Obamacare you will have to pay an additional tax)

#23 Obamacare Surtax On Investment Income (a new 3.8% surtax on investment income that goes into effect next year)

#24 Property Taxes

#25 Recreational Vehicle Taxes

#26 Toll Booth Taxes

#27 Sales Taxes

#28 Self-Employment Taxes

#29 School Taxes

#30 Septic Permit Taxes

#31 Service Charge Taxes

#32 Social Security Taxes

#33 State Unemployment Taxes (SUTA)

#34 Tanning Tax (a new Obamacare tax on tanning services)

#35 Telephone Federal Excise Taxes

#36 Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Taxes

#37 Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Taxes

#38 Telephone State And Local Taxes

#39 Tire Taxes

#40 Tolls (another form of taxation)

#41 Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)

#42 Utility Taxes

#43 Vehicle Registration Taxes

#44 Workers Compensation Taxes

Yet even with all of these taxes, our local governments, our state governments and our federal government are all absolutely drowning in debt.

In another previous article entitled “24 Outrageous Facts About Taxes In The United States That Will Blow Your Mind“, I listed a number of reasons why our federal income tax system has become a complete and utter abomination that can never be fixed…

1 – The U.S. tax code is now 3.8 million words long.  If you took all of William Shakespeare’s works and collected them together, the entire collection would only be about 900,000 words long.

2 – According to the National Taxpayers Union, U.S. taxpayers spend more than 7.6 billion hours complying with federal tax requirements.  Imagine what our society would look like if all that time was spent on more economically profitable activities.

3 – 75 years ago, the instructions for Form 1040 were two pages long.  Today, they are 189 pages long.

4 – There have been 4,428 changes to the tax code over the last decade.  It is incredibly costly to change tax software, tax manuals and tax instruction booklets for all of those changes.

5 – According to the National Taxpayers Union, the IRS currently has 1,999 different publications, forms, and instruction sheets that you can download from the IRS website.

6 – Our tax system has become so complicated that it is almost impossible to file your taxes correctly.  For example, back in 1998 Money Magazine had 46 different tax professionals complete a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All 46 of them came up with a different result.

7 – In 2009, PC World had five of the most popular tax preparation software websites prepare a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All five of them came up with a different result.

8 – The IRS spends $2.45 for every $100 that it collects in taxes.

9 – According to The Tax Foundation, the average American has to work until April 17th just to pay federal, state, and local taxes.  Back in 1900, “Tax Freedom Day” came on January 22nd.

10 – When the U.S. government first implemented a personal income tax back in 1913, the vast majority of the population paid a rate of just 1 percent, and the highest marginal tax rate was just 7 percent.

11 – Residents of New Jersey pay $1.64 in taxes for every $1.00 of federal spending that they get back.

12 – The United States is the only nation on the planet that tries to tax citizens on what they earn in foreign countries.

13 – According to Forbes, the 400 highest earning Americans pay an average federal income tax rate of just 18 percent.

14 – Warren Buffett had an effective tax rate of just 17.4 percent for 2010.

15 – The top 20 percent of all income earners in the United States pay approximately 86 percent of all federal income taxes.

16 – Sadly, as Bill Whittle has shown, you could take every single penny that every American earns above $250,000 and it would only fund about 38 percent of the federal budget.

17 – The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world (35 percent).  In Ireland, the corporate tax rate is only 12.5 percent.  This is causing thousands of corporations to move operations out of the United States and into other countries.

18 – Some tax havens are doing a booming business in setting up sham headquarters for U.S. corporations.  For example, the city of Zug, Switzerland only has a population of 26,000 people but it is the headquarters for 30,000 companies.

19 – In 1950, corporate taxes accounted for about 30 percent of all federal revenue.  In 2012, corporate taxes will account for less than 7 percent of all federal revenue.

The wealthy have become absolute masters at avoiding taxes, and the poor are not able to pay much.

So who always gets squeezed?

The middle class does.

No matter what our politicians promise us, the hammer is always brought down on the middle class.

And now, according to The Huffington Post, the IRS says that it can even read our old emails without a warrant to make sure that we are paying all of the taxes that we should be…

The IRS apparently interprets that authority very broadly, the documents show: as long as you’ve stored your email in a cloud service like Google Mail, and as long as those emails haven’t been deleted after a few months, the agency thinks it doesn’t need a warrant to read them.

The idea of IRS agents poking through your email account might sound at the very least creepy, and maybe unconstitutional. But the IRS does have a legal leg to stand on: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 allows government agencies to in many cases obtain emails older than 180 days without a warrant.

That’s why an internal 2009 IRS document claimed that “the government may obtain the contents of electronic communication that has been in storage for more than 180 days” without a warrant.

It should be noted that the IRS is claiming that it does not use emails “to target” specific taxpayers, but notice that they are not promising not to use old emails against taxpayers once they are officially being audited or investigated…

“Contrary to some suggestions, the IRS does not use emails to target taxpayers. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”

In any event, the truth is that we have one of the most complicated and one of the most intrusive tax systems in the history of the world.

Don’t the American people deserve better?

What do you think?

Should America go back to a system where there is no income tax and no Federal Reserve?

Please feel free to share what you think by leaving a comment below…

America Is Broke

20 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading For Big Trouble In The Months Ahead

20 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading For Big Trouble In The Months Ahead - Photo by Frank KovalchekIs the U.S. economy about to experience a major downturn?  Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of signs that economic activity in the United States is really slowing down right now.  Freight volumes and freight expenditures are way down, consumer confidence has declined sharply, major retail chains all over America are closing hundreds of stores, and the “sequester” threatens to give the American people their first significant opportunity to experience what “austerity” tastes like.  Gas prices are going up rapidly, corporate insiders are dumping massive amounts of stock and there are high profile corporate bankruptcies in the news almost every single day now.  In many ways, what we are going through right now feels very similar to 2008 before the crash happened.  Back then the warning signs of economic trouble were very obvious, but our politicians and the mainstream media insisted that everything was just fine, and the stock market was very much detached from reality.  When the stock market did finally catch up with reality, it happened very, very rapidly.  Sadly, most people do not appear to have learned any lessons from the crisis of 2008.  Americans continue to rack up staggering amounts of debt, and Wall Street is more reckless than ever.  As a society, we seem to have concluded that 2008 was just a temporary malfunction rather than an indication that our entire system was fundamentally flawed.  In the end, we will pay a great price for our overconfidence and our recklessness.

So what will the rest of 2013 bring?

Hopefully the economy will remain stable for as long as possible, but right now things do not look particularly promising.

The following are 20 signs that the U.S. economy is heading for big trouble in the months ahead…

#1 Freight shipment volumes have hit their lowest level in two years, and freight expenditures have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

#2 The average price of a gallon of gasoline has risen by more than 50 cents over the past two months.  This is making things tougher on our economy, because nearly every form of economic activity involves moving people or goods around.

#3 Reader’s Digest, once one of the most popular magazines in the world, has filed for bankruptcy.

#4 Atlantic City’s newest casino, Revel, has just filed for bankruptcy.  It had been hoped that Revel would help lead a turnaround for Atlantic City.

#5 A state-appointed review board has determined that there is “no satisfactory plan” to solve Detroit’s financial emergency, and many believe that bankruptcy is imminent.  If Detroit does declare bankruptcy, it will be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

#6 David Gallagher, the CEO of Town Sports International, recently said that his company is struggling right now because consumers simply do not have as much disposable income anymore…

“As we moved into January membership trends were tracking to expectations in the first half of the month, but fell off track and did not meet our expectations in the second half of the month. We believe the driver of this was the rapid decline in consumer sentiment that has been reported and is connected to the reduction in net pay consumers earn given the changes in tax rates that went into effect in January.

#7 According to the Conference Board, consumer confidence in the U.S. has hit its lowest level in more than a year.

#8 Sales of the Apple iPhone have been slower than projected, and as a result Chinese manufacturing giant FoxConn has instituted a hiring freeze.  The following is from a CNET report that was posted on Wednesday…

The Financial Times noted that it was the first time since a 2009 downturn that the company opted to halt hiring in all of its facilities across the country. The publication talked to multiple recruiters.

The actions taken by Foxconn fuel the concern over the perceived weakened demand for the iPhone 5 and slumping sentiment around Apple in general, with production activity a leading indicator of interest in the product.

#9 In 2012, global cell phone sales posted their first decline since the end of the last recession.

#10 We appear to be in the midst of a “retail apocalypse“.  It is being projected that Sears, J.C. Penney, Best Buy and RadioShack will also close hundreds of stores by the end of 2013.

#11 An internal memo authored by a Wal-Mart executive that was recently leaked to the press said that February sales were a “total disaster” and that the beginning of February was the “worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”

#12 If Congress does not do anything and “sequestration” goes into effect on March 1st, the Pentagon says that approximately 800,000 civilian employees will be facing mandatory furloughs.

#13 Barack Obama is admitting that the “sequester” could have a crippling impact on the U.S. economy.  The following is from a recent CNBC article

Obama cautioned that if the $85 billion in immediate cuts — known as the sequester — occur, the full range of government would feel the effects. Among those he listed: furloughed FBI agents, reductions in spending for communities to pay police and fire personnel and teachers, and decreased ability to respond to threats around the world.

He said the consequences would be felt across the economy.

“People will lose their jobs,” he said. “The unemployment rate might tick up again.”

#14 If the “sequester” is allowed to go into effect, the CBO is projecting that it will cause U.S. GDP growth to go down by at least 0.6 percent and that it will “reduce job growth by 750,000 jobs“.

#15 According to a recent Gallup survey, 65 percent of all Americans believe that 2013 will be a year of “economic difficulty“, and 50 percent of all Americans believe that the “best days” of America are now in the past.

#16 U.S. GDP actually contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012.  This was the first GDP contraction that the official numbers have shown in more than three years.

#17 For the entire year of 2012, U.S. GDP growth was only about 1.5 percent.  According to Art Cashin, every time GDP growth has fallen this low for an entire year, the U.S. economy has always ended up going into a recession.

#18 The global economy overall is really starting to slow down

The world’s richest countries saw their economies contract for the first time in almost four years during the final three months of 2012, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said.

The Paris-based thinktank said gross domestic product across its 34 member states fell by 0.2% – breaking a period of rising activity stretching back to a 2.3% slump in output in the first quarter of 2009.

All the major economies of the OECD – the US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and the UK – have already reported falls in output at the end of 2012, with the thinktank noting that the steepest declines had been seen in the European Union, where GDP fell by 0.5%. Canada is the only member of the G7 currently on course to register an increase in national output.

#19 Corporate insiders are dumping enormous amounts of stock right now.  Do they know something that we don’t?

#20 Even some of the biggest names on Wall Street are warning that we are heading for an economic collapse.  For example, Seth Klarman, one of the most respected investors on Wall Street, said in his year-end letter that the collapse of the U.S. financial system could happen at any time

“Investing today may well be harder than it has been at any time in our three decades of existence,” writes Seth Klarman in his year-end letter. The Fed’s “relentless interventions and manipulations” have left few purchase targets for Baupost, he laments. “(The) underpinnings of our economy and financial system are so precarious that the un-abating risks of collapse dwarf all other factors.”

So what do you think is going to happen to the U.S. economy in the months ahead?

Please feel free to express your opinion by leaving a comment below…

LoLCat - Help!

Large Cities All Over America Are Degenerating Into Gang-Infested War Zones

Large Cities All Over America Are Degenerating Into Gang-Infested War ZonesLarge U.S. cities that the rest of the world used to look at in envy are now being transformed into gang-infested hellholes with skyrocketing crime rates.  Cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Camden, East St. Louis, New Orleans and Oakland were once bustling with economic activity, but as industry has fled those communities poverty has exploded and so has criminal activity.  Meanwhile, financial problems have caused all of those cities to significantly reduce their police forces.  Sadly, this same pattern is being repeated in hundreds of communities all over the nation.  The mainstream media loves to focus on mass shooters such as Adam Lanza, but the reality is that gang violence is a far greater problem in the United States than mass shooters ever will be.  There are approximately 1.4 million gang members living in America today according to the FBI.  That number has shot up by a whopping 40 percent just since 2009.  There are several factors fueling this trend.  Unemployment among our young people is at an epidemic level, about one out of every three U.S. children lives in a home without a father, and there are millions of young men who have come into this country illegally and have no way to legally support themselves once they arrive in our cities.  Gangs provide a support system, a feeling of “community”, and a sense of purpose for many young people.  Unfortunately, most of these gangs use violence and crime to achieve their goals, and they are taking over communities all over America.  If your community is not a gang-infested war zone yet, you should consider yourself to be very fortunate.  If nothing is done about this, the violence and the crime that is fueled by these gangs will continue to spread, and eventually nearly every single community in the United States will be affected by it.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the large cities all over America that are degenerating into gang-infested war zones…

East St. Louis

East St. Louis has a national reputation for being a city that you want to avoid.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article about the growing crime in that community…

Dodging open manholes where thieves had swiped cast-iron covers, Stephen Wigginton drives the crumbling streets of his hometown, East St. Louis, Illinois, pointing out new landmarks in America’s most violent city.

There’s the shopping mall where a police officer was shot in the face, a youth center that saw a triple homicide in September, and scattered about the city of 27,000 are brightly lit gas stations that serve as magnets for carjackers, hit-and-run robbers and killers.

“It’s the Wild West,” said Wigginton, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.

Today, the murder rate in East St. Louis is 17 times higher than the national average, but financial problems have forced huge cuts to the police budget.  The number of police patrolling the streets of East St. Louis was reduced by 33 percent between 2008 and 2011.  Police in the city admit that they are outgunned and outmanned, but there is not much that can be done about it.

Camden

Camden, New Jersey is another city that has experienced huge cuts to the police budget.  Their police force shrank by about a third between 2008 and 2011.  Today, Camden is considered to be one of the most dangerous cities in America and it has a murder rate that is about ten times higher than New York City.

The gangs have a very strong hold over Camden, and kids kill kids on a regular basis in the city.  The following is a brief excerpt from a recent article about the horrible violence that is plaguing Camden

At the vigil last week, residents prayed that Camden would simply find peace and that the masked gunman who killed Jewel Manire and Khalil Gibson would be caught.

As it grew darker, Michael Benjamin stood toward the back of the crowd, his son huddled even closer now, and shook his head.

“I’ve known at least 45 kids who’ve been killed in my lifetime,” he said, the boy holding his finger. “I stopped counting in 2004, though.”

Chicago

In recent years there have been massive cuts to the police budget in Chicago due to financial difficulties.  At the same time, gang activity has dramatically increased in the city.

As a result, Chicago has become known for murders and violence.  The murder rate in Chicago was about 17 percent higher in 2012 than it was in 2011, and Chicago is now considered to be “the deadliest global city“.

If you can believe it, the number of murders in Chicago during 2012 was roughly equivalent to the number of murders in the entire country of Japan during 2012.

And the primary reason for all of this violence in Chicago is the gangs.  As I have written about previously, there are only about 200 police officers assigned to Chicago’s Gang Enforcement Unit.  It is their job to handle the estimated 100,000 gang members living in the city.

Approximately 80 percent of all murders and shootings in the city of Chicago are gang-related, and as the gangs continue to grow in size the violence in the city is going to get even worse.  If Barack Obama wants to do something about violence in America, perhaps he should start with his home city.

Detroit

I write a lot about Detroit, but that is because they are a perfect example of where the rest of America is headed if something dramatic is not done.

Detroit used to be one of the greatest manufacturing cities the world has ever seen, but over the past several decades the economic infrastructure of Detroit has been gutted and now there is very little industry left in the city.

Over half the children in the city live in poverty and a sense of hopelessness hangs in the air.  At the same time, financial problems have forced the city to lay off huge numbers of cops.  Back in 2005, there were about 4,000 police officers in Detroit.  Today there are only about 2,500 and another 100 are scheduled to be eliminated from the force soon.

Meanwhile, crime in Detroit just continues to get even worse.  There were 377 homicides in Detroit in 2011.  In 2012, that number rose to 411.

Things have gotten so bad that even even the Detroit police are telling people to “enter Detroit at your own risk“.

New Orleans

New Orleans was a crime-infested city even before Hurricane Katrina hit it in 2005, but life has never quite been the same since that time.

The gangs have a very strong presence in the city, and there simply are not enough financial resources to keep crime in check.

If New Orleans was considered to be a separate nation, it would have the 2nd highest murder rate on the entire planet.  There are some areas of New Orleans that you simply do not ever want to venture into at night.

Meanwhile, the police force has been such a mess in recent years that the federal government finally decided to step in.  It is hoped that the “reforms” will mean less crime in New Orleans in future years, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Oakland

Today, there are 626 police officers in Oakland, California.  That is about a 25 percent decline from the 837 police officers that were patrolling the streets of Oakland back in December 2008.

Predictably, criminals have stepped in and have taken advantage of the situation.  At one point in 2012, burglaries in the city of Oakland were up 43 percent over the previous year.

If you can believe it, more than 11,000 homes, cars and businesses were burglarized in Oakland during 2012.  That breaks down to approximately 33 burglaries a day.

Stockton

Police cuts in the city of Stockton, California have been so severe that the Stockton Police Officers’ Association ran a billboard advertisement with the following message at one point: “Welcome to the 2nd most dangerous city in California: Stop laying off cops!”

At the same time, crime in Stockton continues to get even worse.  there have been more than 250 gold chain robberies in Stockton since the month of April, and there is no indication that crime in the city is going to slow down any time soon.

So what is the solution?

Should we have everyone turn in their guns?

No, that would just make the problem even worse.  The gangs aren’t going to turn in their guns.  The only people who would turn in their guns would be law-abiding citizens.  That would just make them even more vulnerable to the violence and crime that are starting to spread like wildfire all over the nation.

We don’t have a gun problem in America.  What we have is a gang problem.

In 2006, the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center reported that Mexican drug cartels were actively operating in 50 different U.S. cities.  By 2010, that number had risen to 1,286.

Many of these gang members run up long criminal records, but our overcrowded prison systems just keep releasing them back into the streets.  The results of this philosophy have been predictable.  The following is from a recent article by Daniel Greenfield

A breakdown of the Chicago killing fields shows that 83% of those murdered in Chicago last year had criminal records. In Philly, it’s 75%. In Milwaukee it’s 77% percent. In New Orleans, it’s 64%. In Baltimore, it’s 91%. Many were felons who had served time. And as many as 80% of the homicides were gang related.

Chicago’s problem isn’t guns; it’s gangs. Gun control efforts in Chicago or any other major city are doomed because gangs represent organized crime networks which stretch down to Mexico, and trying to cut off their gun supply will be as effective as trying to cut off their drug supply.

This is not a time to take away the ability of law-abiding American families to defend themselves.  Instead, people need to put even more emphasis on self-defense as police forces all over the country are cut back.

Just recently, the city attorney of San Bernardino, California told citizens living there to “lock their doors and load their guns” because the police force in that city is being cut back again.

And that is good advice.  As the economy continues to decline and as millions more Americans fall into poverty, the violence is going to get even worse.

What would you do if a desperate criminal broke into your house and started searching through your home room by room?  That is the horrifying situation that one young mother down in Georgia was recently faced with

She quickly retreated to an attic crawlspace with the children, but not before she also picked up her handgun.

The burglar, whom police identified as Paul Ali Slater, did a room-by-room search of the home, and when he reached the attic, she was ready.

Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman told WSBTV: ‘The perpetrator opens that door. Of course, at that time he’s staring at her, her two children and a .38 revolver.’

She reportedly fired all six rounds, missing only once. The other shots hit Slater about the face and neck.

Sheriff Chapman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: ‘The guy’s face down, crying. The woman told him to stay down or she’d shoot again.’

What would have happened if she had not had any way to defend herself and her children?

That is something that we all need to think about.

For the last couple of decades, we have been fortunate to live in an era of falling crime rates.  Unfortunately, that era is now over.  Large cities all over the country are degenerating into gang-infested war zones, and what we are seeing right now is just the tip of the iceberg.

After the economy collapses, millions of people are going to become incredibly desperate and things are going to get much, much worse than this.

So what are you seeing in your area of the country?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below…

Crime

The Largest Economy In The World Is Imploding Right In Front Of Our Eyes

A devastating economic depression is rapidly spreading across the largest economy in the world.  Unemployment is skyrocketing, money is being pulled out of the banks at an astounding rate, bad debts are everywhere and economic activity is slowing down month after month.  So who am I talking about?  Not the United States – the economy that I am talking about has a GDP that is more than two trillion dollars larger.  It is not China either – the economy that I am talking about is more than twice the size of China.  You have probably guessed it by now – the largest economy in the world is the EU economy.  Things in Europe continue to get even worse.  Greece and Spain are already experiencing full-blown economic depressions that continue to deepen, and Italy and France are headed down the exact same path that Greece and Spain have gone.  Headlines about violent protests and economic despair dominate European newspapers day after day after day.  European leaders hold summit meeting after summit meeting, but all of the “solutions” that get announced never seem to fix anything.  In fact, the largest economy on the planet continues to implode right in front of our eyes, and the economic shockwave from this implosion is going to be felt to the four corners of the earth.

On Friday, newspapers all over Europe declared that Greece is about to run out of money (again).

The Greek government says that without more aid they will completely run out of cash by the end of November.

Of course the rest of Europe is going to continue to pour money into Greece because they know that if they don’t the financial markets will panic.

But they are also demanding that Greece make even more painful budget cuts.  Previous rounds of budget cuts have been extremely damaging to the Greek economy.

The Greek economy contracted by 4.9 percent during 2010 and by 7.1 percent during 2011.

Overall, the Greek economy has contracted by about 20 percent since 2008.

This is what happens when you live way above your means for too long and a day of reckoning comes.

The adjustment can be immensely painful.

Greece continues to implement wave after wave of austerity measures, and these austerity measures have pushed the country into a very deep depression, but Greece still is not even close to a balanced budget.

Greece is still spending more money than it is bringing in, and Greek politicians are warning what even more budget cuts could mean for their society.

For example, what Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had to say the other day was absolutely chilling….

“Greek democracy stands before what is perhaps its greatest challenge,” Samaras told the German business daily Handelsblatt in an interview published hours before the announcement in Berlin that Angela Merkel will fly to Athens next week for the first time since the outbreak of the crisis.

Resorting to highly unusual language for a man who weighs his words carefully, the 61-year-old politician evoked the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party to highlight the threat that Greece faces, explaining that society “is threatened by growing unemployment, as happened to Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic”.

“Citizens know that this government is Greece’s last chance,” said Samaras, who has repeatedly appealed for international lenders at the EU and IMF to relax the onerous conditions of the bailout accords propping up the Greek economy.

But don’t look down on Greece.  They are just ahead of the curve.  Eventually the U.S. and the rest of Europe will go down the exact same path.

Just look at Spain.  When Greece first started imploding, Spain insisted that the same thing would never happen to them.

But it did.

By itself, Spain is the 12th largest economy in the world, and right now it is a complete and total mess with no hope of recovery in sight.

The national government is broke, the regional governments are broke, the banking system is insolvent and Spain is in the midst of the worst housing crash that it has ever seen.

On top of everything else, the unemployment rate in Spain is now over 25 percent and the unemployment rate for those under the age of 25 is now well above 50 percent.

An astounding 9.86 percent of all loans that Spanish banks are holding are considered to be bad loans which will probably never be collected.  Before it is all said and done, probably ever major Spanish bank will need to be bailed out at least once.

Manufacturing activity in Spain has contracted for 17 months in a row, and the number of corporate bankruptcies in Spain is rising at a stunning rate.

Five different Spanish regions have formally requested bailouts from the national government, and the national government is drowning in an ocean of red ink.

Meanwhile, panic has set in and there has been a run on the banks in Spain.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article….

Banco Santander SA (SAN), Spain’s largest bank, lost 6.3 percent of its domestic deposits in July, according to data published by the nation’s banking association. Savings at Banco Popular Espanol SA, the sixth-biggest, fell 9.5 percent the same month.

Eurobank Ergasias SA, Greece’s second-largest lender, lost 22 percent of its customer deposits in the 12 months ended March 31, according to the latest data available from the firm. Alpha Bank SA (ALPHA), the country’s third-biggest, lost 26 percent of client savings during that period.

Overall, the equivalent of 7 percent of GDP was withdrawn from the Spanish banking system in the month of July alone.

Thousands of Spaniards have become so desperate that they have resorted to digging around in supermarket trash bins for food.  In response, locks are being put on supermarket trash bins in some areas.

But Greece and Spain are not alone in seeing their economies implode.

As I wrote about recently, the number of unemployed workers in Italy has risen by more than 37 percent over the past year.

The French economy is starting to implode as well.  Just check out this article.

The unemployment rate in France is now above 10 percent, and it has risen for 16 months in a row.

It is just a matter of time before things in Italy and France get as bad as they already are in Greece and Spain.

The chief economist at the IMF is now saying that it will take until at least 2018 for the global economy to recover, but unfortunately I believe that he is being overly optimistic.

As I have said so many times before, the next wave of the global economic crisis is rapidly approaching.  Depression is already sweeping much of southern Europe, and it is only a matter of time before it sweeps across northern Europe and North America as well.

Neither Obama or Romney is going to be able to stop what is coming.  The global economy is getting weaker with each passing day.  The central banks of the world can print money until the cows come home, but that isn’t going to fix our fundamental problems.

The largest economy in the world is imploding right in front of our eyes and nobody seems to know what to do about it.

If you believe that Barack Obama, Mitt Romney or Ben Bernanke can somehow magically shield us from the economic shockwave that is coming then you are being delusional.

Just because what is going on in Europe is a “slow-motion train wreck” does not mean that it will be any less devastating.

Yes, we can see what is coming and we can understand why it is happening, but that doesn’t mean that we will be able to avoid the consequences.

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