The Beginning Of The End
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Too Big To Fail Banks Are Taking Over As Number Of U.S. Banks Falls To All-Time Record Low

Lower East Manhattan - Photo by Eric KilbyThe too big to fail banks have a larger share of the U.S. banking industry than they have ever had before.  So if having banks that were too big to fail was a “problem” back in 2008, what is it today?  As you will read about below, the total number of banks in the United States has fallen to a brand new all-time record low and that means that the health of the too big to fail banks is now more critical to our economy than ever.  In 1985, there were more than 18,000 banks in the United States.  Today, there are only 6,891 left, and that number continues to drop every single year.  That means that more than 10,000 U.S. banks have gone out of existence since 1985.  Meanwhile, the too big to fail banks just keep on getting even bigger.  In fact, the six largest banks in the United States (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.  If even one of those banks collapses, it would be absolutely crippling to the U.S. economy.  If several of them were to collapse at the same time, it could potentially plunge us into an economic depression unlike anything that this nation has ever seen before.

Incredibly, there were actually more banks in existence back during the days of the Great Depression than there is today.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the federal government has been keeping track of the number of banks since 1934 and this year is the very first time that the number has fallen below 7,000…

The number of federally insured institutions nationwide shrank to 6,891 in the third quarter after this summer falling below 7,000 for the first time since federal regulators began keeping track in 1934, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

And the number of active bank branches all across America is falling too.  In fact, according to the FDIC the total number of bank branches in the United States fell by 3.2 percent between the end of 2009 and June 30th of this year.

Unfortunately, the closing of bank branches appears to be accelerating.  The number of bank branches in the U.S. declined by 390 during the third quarter of 2013 alone, and it is being projected that the number of bank branches in the U.S. could fall by as much as 40 percent over the next decade.

Can you guess where most of the bank branches are being closed?

If you guessed “poor neighborhoods” you would be correct.

According to Bloomberg, an astounding 93 percent of all bank branch closings since late 2008 have been in neighborhoods where incomes are below the national median household income…

Banks have shut 1,826 branches since late 2008, and 93 percent of closings were in postal codes where the household income is below the national median, according to census and federal banking data compiled by Bloomberg.

It turns out that opening up checking accounts and running ATM machines for poor people just isn’t that profitable.  The executives at these big banks are very open about the fact that they “love affluent customers“, and there is never a shortage of bank branches in wealthy neighborhoods.  But in many poor neighborhoods it is a very different story

About 10 million U.S. households lack bank accounts, according to a study released in September by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. An additional 24 million are “underbanked,” using check-cashing services and other storefront businesses for financial transactions. The Bronx in New York City is the nation’s second most underbanked large county—behind Hidalgo County in Texas—with 48 percent of households either not having an account or relying on alternative financial providers, according to a report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, an advocacy organization for lower-​income Americans.

And if you are waiting for a whole bunch of new banks to start up to serve these poor neighborhoods, you can just forget about it.  Because of a whole host of new rules and regulations that have been put on the backs of small banks over the past several years, it has become nearly impossible to start up a new bank in the United States.  In fact, only one new bank has been started in the United States in the last three years.

So the number of banks is going to continue to decline.  1,400 smaller banks have quietly disappeared from the U.S. banking industry over the past five years alone.  We are witnessing a consolidation of the banking industry in America that is absolutely unprecedented.

Just consider the following statistics.  These numbers come from a recent CNN article

-The assets of the six largest banks in the United States have grown by 37 percent over the past five years.

-The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets.  The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and all of the other banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.

-Approximately 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared over the past five years.

-JPMorgan Chase is roughly the size of the entire British economy.

-The four largest banks have more than a million employees combined.

-The five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.

-Bank of America accounts for about a third of all business loans all by itself.

-Wells Fargo accounts for about one quarter of all mortgage loans all by itself.

-About 12 percent of all cash in the United States is held in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase.

As you can see, without those banks we do not have a financial system.

Our entire economy is based on debt, and if those banks were to disappear the flow of credit would dry up almost completely.  Without those banks, we would rapidly enter an economic depression unlike anything that the United States has seen before.

It is kind of like a patient that has such an advanced case of cancer that if you try to kill the cancer you will inevitably also kill the patient.  That is essentially what our relationship with these big banks is like at this point.

Unfortunately, since the last financial crisis the too big to fail banks have become even more reckless.  Right now, four of the too big to fail banks each have total exposure to derivatives that is well in excess of 40 TRILLION dollars.

Keep in mind that U.S. GDP for the entire year of 2012 was just 15.7 trillion dollars and the U.S. national debt is just 17 trillion dollars.

So when you are talking about four banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives you are talking about an amount of money that is almost incomprehensible.

Posted below are the figures for the four banks that I am talking about.  I have written about this in the past, but in this article I have included the very latest updated numbers from the U.S. government.  I think that you will agree that these numbers are absolutely staggering…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,947,794,000,000 (nearly 1.95 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $71,289,673,000,000 (more than 71 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,319,359,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $60,398,289,000,000 (more than 60 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,429,737,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $42,670,269,000,000 (more than 42 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $113,064,000,000 (just a shade over 113 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $43,135,021,000,000 (more than 43 trillion dollars)

Please don’t just gloss over those huge numbers.

Let them sink in for a moment.

Goldman Sachs has total assets worth approximately 113 billion dollars (billion with a little “b”), but they have more than 43 TRILLON dollars of total exposure to derivatives.

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 381 times greater than their total assets.

Most Americans do not understand that Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.  The big banks are being incredibly reckless with our money, and if they fail it will bring down the entire economy.

The biggest chunk of these derivatives contracts that Wall Street banks are gambling on is made up of interest rate derivatives.  According to the Bank for International Settlements, the global financial system has a total of 441 TRILLION dollars worth of exposure to interest rate derivatives.

When that Ponzi scheme finally comes crumbling down, there won’t be enough money on the entire planet to fix it.

We had our warning back in 2008.

The too big to fail banks were in the headlines every single day and our politicians promised to fix the problem.

But instead of fixing it, the too big to fail banks are now 37 percent larger and our economy is more dependent on them than ever before.

And in their endless greed for even larger paychecks, they have become insanely reckless with all of our money.

Mark my words – there is going to be a derivatives crisis.

When it happens, we are going to see some of these too big to fail banks actually fail.

At that point, there will be absolutely no hope for the U.S. economy.

We willingly allowed the too big to fail banks to become the core of our economic system, and now we are all going to pay the price.

All-Time High Unemployment: The Economic Depression In Europe Just Keeps Getting Deeper

Greece Riots - Photo by Master of PuppetsThe unemployment rate in the eurozone is higher than it has ever been before.  This week we learned that eurozone unemployment came in at an all-time high of 12.2 percent for September.  Back in January 2012, it was sitting at just 10.4 percent.  So anyone that believes that “things are getting better” in Europe is just being delusional.  In fact, the economic depression in Europe just keeps getting deeper.  The funny thing is that the mainstream media will barely call what is going on in Europe a “recession” even though the unemployment rates in both Spain and Greece are now much higher than anything that the United States ever experienced during the “Great Depression” of the 1930s.  There haven’t been as many headlines about the financial crisis in Europe lately because the ECB has been papering over the debt problems of the periphery (at least for the moment), but the economic conditions on the ground for average Europeans just continue to get even worse.  Later on in this article, you will read about a 25-year-old Spanish man with three college degrees that moved to London in a desperate search for a job who is now cleaning up poop for a living.  The economic collapse of Europe continues to march on, and there is no end in sight.

All you have to do is look at the latest unemployment numbers to realize that things are getting worse in Europe.

In Italy, the unemployment rate is up to 12.5 percent.

In January 2012, less than two years ago, it was sitting at just 8.9 percent.

In Greece, the unemployment rate is up to an astounding 27.6 percent.

In January 2012, it was sitting at just 21.4 percent.

In Spain, the unemployment rate is up to 26.6 percent.

In January 2012, it was sitting at just 22.8 percent, and all the way back in January 2008 it was just 8.6 percent.

The youth unemployment statistics in the eurozone are even more horrifying

Unemployment among the under-25s rose by 22,000 in September to 3,548,000 – nudging up youth jobless rate to 24.1%. In France, the youth jobless rate jumped from 25.6% to 26.1%, while in Italy it increased from 40.2% to 40.4%.

But as bad as those numbers are, they are nothing compared to what is going on in Spain and Greece.  In Spain, the youth unemployment rate is up to 56.5 percent, and in Greece the youth unemployment rate is up to 57.3 percent.

And of course unemployment is not the only problem that the European economy is dealing with right now.  The following are some more facts about the European economy that show that the economic depression in Europe just keeps getting deeper…

-European car sales are on pace to hit a 23 year low in 2013.

-The percentage of “bad loans” in Spain has soared to a new all-time record high.

-The number of mortgage applications in Spain has fallen 90 percent since the peak of the market.

-Citigroup is projecting that the unemployment rate in Greece will reach 32 percent in 2015.

-Over the last several years, Italy has experienced the biggest collapse in GDP growth that it has ever seen.  Overall, the GDP of Italy has contracted by about 8 percent since 2008.

-The number of unemployed workers in Cyprus is now five times higher than it was before the financial crisis of 2008.

-It is being projected that Spain’s debt to GDP ratio will rise to nearly 100 percent by the end of next year.

-The debt to GDP ratio of Portugal is already up to 123 percent.

-The debt to GDP ratio of Italy is already up to 127 percent.

-Even though Greece has implemented a whole host of “austerity measures”, the debt to GDP ratio of Greece is now up to 156 percent.

But what these numbers cannot really communicate is the tremendous amount of pain and despair that millions upon millions of Europeans are experiencing right now.

For example, consider the story of Benjamin Serra Bosch, a 25-year-old Spanish man that moved to London in a desperate search for a job.  He has three college degrees, including a Master’s Degree from the IEBS Business School in Barcelona.  The following is a rough translation of a message that he recently posted on Facebook

My name is Benjamín Serra, I have two bachelor degrees and a master’s degree, and I clean toilets.

No, it is not a joke. I do it to pay the rent for my room in London.

I’ve been working in a famous chain of cafes in the United Kingdom since May, and for the first time today, after 5 months working there, I see it clearly. I have been cleaning toilets. My thought was: “I received distinction in my two degrees and I clean other peoples’ poop in a country that isn’t my own.” Well, I also make coffee, clean the tables and wash cups.

And I am not ashamed to do so. Cleaning is a very decent job. What embarrasses me is having to do so because no one has given me an opportunity in Spain. Like me, there are many Spaniards, especially in London. “You are a plague,” I was told once here. And let’s not kid ourselves. We are not young people on an adventure to learn the language and have new experiences. We are immigrants.

I’ve always been very proud, I am not going to deny. Those who know me, you know. And I have to bust out a smile at customers who look over my shoulder as I am simply a “barista” (as they call it here). Some are so outrageous that it makes me want to pull out my University and master degrees and put them in their face. But it would not really do anything.  It appears that those titles now only serve to clean the poop that I clean from the toilets in the cafe. A pity.

I thought that it deserved something better after putting so much effort in my academic life. It seems that I was wrong.

As economic conditions continue to decline all over Europe, anger and frustration with the “European experiment” continue to grow.  UKIP’s Nigel Farage expressed these sentiments very eloquently during a speech on the 23rd of October when he stated that “what we are saying, large numbers of us from every single EU member state is: we don’t want that flag, we don’t want the anthem that you all stood so ram-rod straight for yesterday, we don’t want EU passports, we don’t want political union.”

Unfortunately, the elite of Europe are so obsessed with their little experiment that the only “solutions” to these economic problems that they are even willing to consider involve even more European integration.

And Americans certainly should not be looking down their noses at what is happening in Europe.

What is going on in Italy, France, Spain and Greece will be coming here soon enough.  In fact, even during the midst of this so-called “economic recovery”, poverty continues to absolutely explode in the United States.

Economic conditions in both the United States and Europe have never even gotten close to where they were prior to 2008, and now the next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.

This is just the beginning.  Things are going to get much worse in the years ahead.

Too Big To Fail Is Now Bigger Than Ever Before

Lower Manhattan At Night - Photo by Hu TotyaThe too big to fail banks are now much, much larger than they were the last time they caused so much trouble.  The six largest banks in the United States have gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.  Meanwhile, 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared from the banking industry during that time.  What this means is that the health of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley is more critical to the U.S. economy than ever before.  If they were “too big to fail” back in 2008, then now they must be “too colossal to collapse”.  Without these banks, we do not have an economy.  The six largest banks control 67 percent of all U.S. banking assets, and Bank of America accounted for about a third of all business loans by itself last year.  Our entire economy is based on credit, and these giant banks are at the very core of our system of credit.  If these banks were to collapse, a brutal economic depression would be guaranteed.  Unfortunately, as you will see later in this article, these banks did not learn anything from 2008 and are being exceedingly reckless.  They are counting on the rest of us bailing them out if something goes wrong, but that might not happen next time around.

Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, our politicians have been running around proclaiming that they will not rest until they have fixed “the too big to fail problem”, but instead of fixing it those banks have rapidly gotten even larger.  Just check out the following figures which come from the Los Angeles Times

Just before the financial crisis hit, Wells Fargo & Co. had $609 billion in assets. Now it has $1.4 trillion. Bank of America Corp. had $1.7 trillion in assets. That’s up to $2.1 trillion.

And the assets of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s biggest bank, have ballooned to $2.4 trillion from $1.8 trillion.

We are witnessing a consolidation of the banking industry that is absolutely stunning.  Hundreds of smaller banks have been swallowed up by these behemoths, and millions of Americans are finding that they have to deal with these banking giants whether they like it or not.

Even though all they do is move money around, these banks have become the core of our economic system, and they are growing at an astounding pace.  The following numbers come from a recent CNN article

-The assets of the six largest banks in the United States have grown by 37 percent over the past five years.

-The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets.  The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and the other 6,934 banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.

-Approximately 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared over the past five years.

-JPMorgan Chase is roughly the size of the entire British economy.

-The four largest banks have more than a million employees combined.

-The five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.

As I discussed above, without these giant banks there is no economy.  We should have never, ever allowed this to happen, but now that it has happened it is imperative that the American people understand this.  The power of these banks is absolutely overwhelming

One third of all business loans this year were made by Bank of America. Wells Fargo funds nearly a quarter of all mortgage loans. And held in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase is $1.3 trillion, which is 12% of our collective cash, including the payrolls of many thousands of companies, or enough to buy 47,636,496,885 of these NFL branded toaster ovens. Thanks for your business!

A lot of people tend to focus on many of the other threats to our economy, but the number one potential threat that our economy is facing is the potential failure of the too big to fail banks.  As we saw in 2008, when they start to fail things can get really bad really fast.

And as I have written about so many times, the number one threat to the too big to fail banks is the possibility of a derivatives crisis.

Former Goldman Sachs banker and best selling author Nomi Prins recently told Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com that the global economy “could implode and have serious ramifications on the financial systems starting with derivatives and working on outward.” You can watch the full video of that interview right here.

And Nomi Prins is exactly right.  Just like we witnessed in 2008, a derivatives panic can spiral out of control very quickly.  Our big banks should have learned a lesson from 2008 and should have greatly scaled back their reckless betting.

Unfortunately, that has not happened.  In fact, according to the OCC’s latest quarterly report on bank trading and derivatives activities, the big banks have become even more reckless since the last time I reported on this.  The following figures reflect the new information contained in the latest OCC report…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,948,150,000,000 (just over 1.9 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $70,287,894,000,000 (more than 70 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,306,258,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $58,471,038,000,000 (more than 58 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,458,091,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,543,003,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $113,743,000,000 (a bit more than 113 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $42,251,600,000,000 (more than 42 trillion dollars)

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 371 times greater than their total assets.

How in the world can anyone say that Goldman Sachs is not being incredibly reckless?

And remember, the overwhelming majority of these derivatives contracts are interest rate derivatives.

Wild swings in interest rates could set off this time bomb and send our entire financial system plunging into chaos.

After climbing rapidly for a couple of months, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasury bonds has stabilized for the moment.

But if that changes and interest rates start going up dramatically again, that is going to be a huge problem for these too big to fail banks.

And I know that a lot of you don’t have much sympathy for the big banks, but remember, if they go down we go down too.

These banks have been unbelievably reckless, but when they fail, we will all pay the price.

Those That Are Not Preparing For The Coming Economic Depression Are Going To Bitterly Regret It

RegretThe next great economic crisis is rapidly approaching, and most people are going to be totally blindsided by it.  Even though the warning signs are glaringly obvious, most Americans continue to believe that our “leaders” know what they are doing and that everything will be just fine.  But what will happen when the next great financial crash happens and trillions of dollars of “paper wealth” disappear into thin air?  What will happen when the coming credit crunch causes economic activity to dramatically slow down and millions upon millions of people lose their jobs?  This shouldn’t sound far-fetched to you.  Remember, this is exactly the kind of thing that we saw back in 2008, and the next great financial crisis is likely going to be significantly worse.  Our economy is in far worse shape than it was back in 2008, and government dependence is now at an all-time high even though most Americans are still enjoying debt-fueled false prosperity.  We are living in the largest debt bubble in the history of the planet, and when it bursts we are going to experience a crippling “adjustment” to our standard of loving.  Some people understand this and are busy preparing for what is ahead.  It has been estimated that there are approximately 3 million “preppers” in the United States, and that number is growing all the time.  Unfortunately, most Americans are not preparing for the coming economic depression and they are going to bitterly regret it.

So what does preparing for the coming economic depression look like?

Well, it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Most of the things that you should do are just common sense.

But there are some people that take things to extremes.  For example, a new National Geographic series is featuring a family that is actually constructing a “Doomsday Castle“.  The former U.S. Army officer that is building this unusual home is trying to prepare for virtually every type of disaster that he can imagine

Meet Brent Sr., the leader of the six-person family. Brent is a former Army Infantry Training Officer who is heading up the project to build an “EMP (electromagnetic pulse)-proof medieval castle in the woods of the Carolinas.”

According to National Geographic, Brent is teaching five of his 10 children survival skills.

The unfinished, fortified castle that Brent Sr. is building — an idea he got during the Y2K prep craze — will be able to sustain an EMP-event that could wipe out a power grid, but will also survive natural disasters like hurricanes.

He even plans to train his family members to use crossbows and a catapult to defend against potential home invaders.

Not many people out there are going to take “prepping” to such extremes.

But even if you don’t plan to build a “Doomsday Castle”, that doesn’t mean that you should be doing nothing.

Sadly, most Americans are quite ill-prepared for a major economic downturn at this point.  In fact, most Americans seem to be doing almost nothing to prepare.

Just consider the following statistics.  Most of these numbers come from one of my previous articles

-According to a survey that was recently released, 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

-46 percent of all Americans have less than $800 in savings.

-27 percent of all Americans do not have even a single penny saved up.

-Less than one out of every four Americans has enough money stored away to cover six months of expenses.

-Each year, 12 million Americans take out high interest payday loans.

-In 1989, the debt to income ratio of the average American family was about 58 percent.  Today it is up to 154 percent.

-It is estimated that less than 10 percent of the U.S. population owns any gold or silver for investment purposes.

-44 percent of all Americans do not have first-aid kits in their homes.

-48 percent of all Americans do not have any emergency supplies stored up.

-53 percent of all Americans do not have a 3 day supply of nonperishable food and water in their homes.

-One survey asked Americans how long they thought they would survive if the electrical grid went down for an extended period of time.  Incredibly, 21 percent said that they would survive for less than a week, an additional 28 percent said that they would survive for less than two weeks, and nearly 75 percent said that they would be dead before the two month mark.

Those numbers are absolutely appalling.

When the system fails, most people are going to be completely blindsided by it and millions upon millions of people are going to absolutely freak out.

Don’t let that happen to you.

So what are some basic things that you can do to get prepared for the great economic storm that is coming?

The following are a few of the things that Nicole Foss suggests…

1) Hold no debt (for most people this means renting)

2) Hold cash and cash equivalents (short term treasuries) under your own control

3) Don’t trust the banking system, deposit insurance or no deposit insurance

4) Sell equities, real estate, most bonds, commodities, collectibles (or short if you can afford to gamble)

5) Gain some control over the necessities of your own existence if you can afford it

6) Be prepared to work with others as that will give you far greater scope for resilience and security

7) If you have done all that and still have spare resources, consider precious metals as an insurance policy

8) Be worth more to your employer than he is paying you

9) Look after your health!

I think all of those are great pieces of advice.

In addition, below I have posted some of the things that I personally recommend.  The following is an excerpt from one of my previous articles entitled “25 Things That You Should Do To Get Prepared For The Coming Economic Collapse“…

#1 An Emergency Fund

Do you remember what happened when the financial system almost collapsed back in 2008?  Millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs, and because many of them were living paycheck to paycheck, many of them also got behind on their mortgages and lost their homes.  You don’t want to lose everything that you have worked for during this next major economic downturn.  It is imperative that you have an emergency fund.  It should be enough to cover all of your expenses for at least six months, but I would encourage you to have an emergency fund that is even larger than that.

#2 Don’t Put All Of Your Eggs Into One Basket

If the wealth confiscation in Cyprus has taught us anything, it is that we should not put all of our eggs in one basket.  If all of your money is in one single bank account, it would be easy to wipe out.  But if you have your money scattered around a number of different places it will give you a little bit more security.

#3 Keep Some Cash At Home

This goes along with the previous point.  While it is not wise to keep all of your money at home, you do want to keep some cash on hand.  If there is an extended bank holiday or if a giant burst from the sun causes the ATM machines to go down, you want to be able to have enough cash to buy the things that your family needs.  Just ask the people of Cyprus how crippling a bank holiday can be.  One way to keep your cash secure at home is by storing it in a concealed safe.

#4 Get Out Of Debt

A lot of people seem to assume that an economic collapse would wipe out all debts, but that will probably not be the case.  In fact, if you are in a tremendous amount of debt you will be very vulnerable if the economy collapses and you are not able to find a job.  Just ask the people who were overextended and lost their jobs during the last recession.  So please get out of debt.  Many debt collectors are becoming increasingly ruthless.  In many areas of the country they are now routinely putting debtors into prison.  You do not want to be a slave to debt when the next wave of the economic collapse strikes.

#5 Gold And Silver

In the long-term, the U.S. dollar is going to lose a tremendous amount of value and inflation is going to absolutely skyrocket.  That is one reason why so many people are investing very heavily in gold, silver and other precious metals.  All over the globe, the central banks of the world are recklessly printing money.  Everyone knows that this is going to end very badly.  In fact, there is already a push in more than a dozen U.S. states to allow gold and silver coins to be used as legal tender.  Someday you will be glad that you invested in gold and silver now while their prices were still low.

#6 Reduce Your Expenses

A lot of people claim that they can’t put any money toward prepping, but the truth is that we all have room to reduce our expenses.  We all spend money on things that we do not really need.  Those that are “lean and mean” will tend to do much better during the times that are coming.

#7 Start A Side Business

If you do not have much money, a great way to increase your income is by starting a side business.  And it does not take a lot of money – there are many side businesses that you can start for next to nothing.  And starting a side business will allow you to become less dependent on your job.  In this economic environment, a job could disappear at literally any time.

#8 Move Away From The Big Cities If Possible

For many people, this is simply not possible.  Many Americans are still completely and totally dependent on their jobs.  But if you are able, now is a good time to move away from the big cities.  When the next major economic downturn strikes, there will be rioting and a dramatic rise in crime in the major cities.  If you are able to move to a more rural area you will probably be in much better shape.

#9 Store Food

Global food reserves have reached their lowest level in nearly 40 years.  As the economy gets even worse and global weather patterns become even more unstable, the price of food will go much higher and global food supplies will become much tighter.  In the long run, you will be glad for the money that you put into long-term food storage now.

#10 Learn To Grow Your Own Food

This is a skill that most Americans possessed in the past, but that most Americans today have forgotten.  Growing your own food is a way to become more independent of the system, and it is a way to get prepared for what is ahead.

#11 Nobody Can Survive Without Water

Without water, you would not even make it a few days in an emergency situation.  It is imperative that you have a plan to provide clean drinking water for your family when disaster strikes.

#12 Have A Plan For When The Grid Goes Down

What would you do if the grid went down and you suddenly did not have power for an extended period of time?  Anyone that has spent more than a few hours without power knows how frustrating this can be.  You need to have a plan for how you are going to provide power to your home that is independent of the power company.

#13 Have Blankets And Warm Clothing On Hand

This is more for emergency situations or for a complete meltdown of society.  During any major crisis, blankets and warm clothing are in great demand.  They also could potentially make great barter items.

#14 Store Personal Hygiene Supplies

A lot of preppers store up huge amounts of food, but they forget all about personal hygiene supplies.  During a long crisis, these are items that you would greatly miss if you do not have them stored up.  These types of supplies would also be great for barter.

#15 Store Medicine And Medical Supplies

You will also want to store up medical supplies and any medicine that you may need.  In an emergency situation, you definitely would not want to be without bandages and a first-aid kit.  Over the course of a long crisis, you do not want to run out of any medicines that are critical for your health.

#16 Stock Up On Vitamins

A lot of preppers do not think about this either, but it is very important.  These days, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get adequate nutrition from the foods that we eat.  That is why it is very important to have an adequate store of vitamins and other supplements.

#17 Make A List Of Other Supplies That You Will Need

During any crisis, there will be a lot of other things that you will need in addition to food and water.  The following are just a few basic things that it would be wise to have on hand…

– an axe

– a can opener

– flashlights

– battery-powered radio

– extra batteries

– lighters or matches

– fire extinguisher

– sewing kit

– tools

This list could be much, much longer, but hopefully this will get you started.

#18 Don’t Forget The Special Needs Of Your Babies And Your Pets

Young children and pets have special needs.  As you store supplies, don’t forget about the things that they will need as well.

#19 Entertainment

This may sound trivial, but the truth is that our entertainment-addicted society would become very bored and very frustrated if the grid suddenly went down for an extended period of time.  Card games and other basic forms of entertainment can make enduring a crisis much easier.

#20 Self-Defense

In the years ahead, being able to defend your home and your family is going to become increasingly important.  When the economy crashes, people are going to start to become very desperate.  And desperate people do desperate things.

#21 Get Your Ammunition While You Still Can

Your firearms will not do you much good if you do not have ammunition for them.  Already there are widespread reports of huge ammunition shortages.  The following is from a recent CNS News article

“The run on ammunition has manufacturers scrambling to accommodate demand and reassure customers, as many new and seasoned gun owners stock up over fears of new firearms regulations at both the state and federal levels.”

Don’t just assume that you will always be able to purchase large amounts of ammunition whenever you want.  Get it now while you still can.

#22 If You Have To Go…

Have a plan for what you and your family will do if you are forced to leave your home.  If you do have to go, the following are some items that you will want to have on hand…

– a map of the area

– a compass

– backpacks for every member of the family

– sleeping bags

– warm clothing

– comfortable shoes or hiking boots

#23 Community

One of the most important assets in any crisis situation is community.  If you have friends or neighbors that you can depend upon, that is invaluable.  The time spent building those bonds now will pay off greatly during a major crisis.

#24 Have A Back-Up Plan And Be Flexible

Mike Tyson once said the following…

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

No plan ever unfolds perfectly.  When your plan is disrupted, what will you do?

It will be imperative for all of us to have a back-up plan and to be flexible during the years ahead.

#25 Keep Your Prepping To Yourself

Do not go around and tell everyone in the area where you live about your prepping.  If you do, then you may find yourself overwhelmed with “visitors” when everything falls apart.

And please do not go on television and brag about your prepping to a national audience.

Prepping is something that you want to keep to yourself, unless you want hordes of desperate people banging on your door in the future.

*****

For much more on prepping, I would encourage you to check out the dozens of excellent websites out there that teach people advanced prepping techniques for free.

So what do you think about all of this?

Are you getting prepared for the coming economic depression?

Please feel free to share your perspective on prepping by posting a comment below…

11 Signs That Italy Is Descending Into A Full-Blown Economic Depression

The Leaning Tower Of PisaWhen you get into too much debt, really bad things start to happen.  Sadly, that is exactly what is happening to Italy right now.  Harsh austerity measures are causing the Italian economy to slow down even more than it was previously.  And yet even with all of the austerity measures, the Italian government just continues to rack up even more debt.  This is the exact same path that we watched Greece go down.  Austerity causes government revenues to drop which causes deficit reduction targets to be missed which causes even more austerity measures to become necessary.  But if Italy collapses economically, it is going to be a far bigger deal than what happened in Greece.  Italy is the ninth largest economy on the entire planet.  Actually, Italy used to be number eight, but now Russia has passed it.  If Italy continues to stumble, India and Canada will soon pass it as well.  It really is a tragedy to watch what is happening in Italy, because it really is a wonderful place.  When I was a child, my father was in the navy, and I got the opportunity to live there for a while.  It is a land of great weather, great food and great soccer.  The people are friendly and the culture is absolutely fascinating.  But now the nation is falling apart.  The following are 11 signs that Italy is descending into a full-blown economic depression…

#1 The unemployment rate in Italy has risen to 12.2 percent.  That is the highest that it has been in more than 35 years.

#2 The youth unemployment rate in Italy is sitting at 38.5 percent, and in southern Italy it recently hit the 50 percent mark.

#3 An average of 134 retail outlets are shutting down in Italy every single day.  Overall, approximately 224,000 retail establishments have closed since 2008.

#4 Italy’s economy has now been contracting for seven quarters in a row.

#5 It is being projected that Italy’s GDP will shrink by 1.8 percent this year.

#6 Industrial production in Italy has declined for 15 months in a row.  It has now fallen to its lowest level in about 25 years.

#7 Overall, factory output in Italy has fallen by about one-fourth since 2008.

#8 In May, automobile sales in Italy were down 8 percent compared to one year earlier.

#9 The number of people that are considered to be “seriously deprived” in Italy has doubled over the past two years.

#10 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of 130 percent.

#11 It is being projected that Italy will need a major EU bailout within six months.

At this point, Italy is flat broke.

And unlike the U.S. or Japan, Italy cannot run over to a central bank and have them print up oodles of new money with which to buy up government bonds.  Italy is married to the euro, and so that greatly limits their options.  Unfortunately, the money is rapidly running out.  The following is from a recent article by Wolf Richter

In most countries, it would be an act of mind-bending chutzpah, or perhaps a display of political insanity, but in Italy it barely made ripples: for a government official, a minister no less, to declare that the country cannot pay its long overdue bills, and not for a month or two, but for the rest of this year! Due to “technical” problems.

The Italian government is out of money. Not that the US government is in any better shape in that respect, or the Japanese government for that matter, but they have central banks that print the missing moolah with lavish abandon. Italy doesn’t. It has the ECB which is run by an Italian who promised last year to print with lavish abandon to keep countries like Italy afloat. But that promise is not the same thing as having your own central bank.

On July 4, Italy’s budget fiasco came to light once again. Wracked by the pretense of austerity, expenditures rose 1.3% in the first quarter, while revenues remained flat. So the deficit rose to 7.3% of GDP, up from 6.6% last year, bringing the national debt to 130% of GDP. Ballooning debt and deficits in a shriveling economy – Italy has been in recession since the fourth quarter of 2011 – is a toxic combination in the Eurozone.

While those numbers may sound really bad, the reality is that the people that are suffering the most are the average folks on the street.  Many Italians have been completely blindsided by this economic depression, and suicides are skyrocketing

In Italy, the tragic stories of suicides apparently linked to the deep recession are becoming all too frequent. Last month, a former factory worker hanged himself near Turin because he could not find work, his relatives said. In May, a young man committed suicide outside of Rome shortly after he lost his job. The next day, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano begged the government to deliver “the utmost attention for situations of greatest malaise and need” to help stop the wave of suicides.

That is absolutely tragic.

But you know what?

The United States is headed down the same path that Italy has gone.

In the coming years unemployment and suicide will both skyrocket here too.

Those that are sticking their heads in the sand right now will be absolutely blindsided by what is coming.  But those that understand what is on the horizon and are preparing for it will have the best chance of making it through.

Italy is kind of like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Everyone knows that it is going to fall eventually, and when it does fall it is going to be a major disaster.

When the financial system of Italy totally implodes, that will be a sign that things are really starting to accelerate.  Expect dominoes to start tumbling much more rapidly in the aftermath.

19 Reasons To Be Deeply Concerned About The Global Economy As We Enter The 2nd Half Of 2013

EarthIs the global economic downturn going to accelerate as we roll into the second half of this year?  There is turmoil in the Middle East, we are seeing things happen in the bond markets that we have not seen happen in more than 30 years, and much of Europe has already plunged into a full-blown economic depression.  Sadly, most Americans will never understand what is happening until financial disaster strikes them personally.  As long as they can go to work during the day and eat frozen pizza and watch reality television at night, most of them will consider everything to be just fine.  Unfortunately, the truth is that everything is not fine.  The world is becoming increasingly unstable, we are living in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble in the history of the planet and the global financial system is even more vulnerable than it was back in 2008.  Unfortunately, most people seem to only have a 48 hour attention span at best these days.  They don’t have the patience to watch long-term trends develop.  And the coming economic collapse is not going to happen all at once.  Rather, it is like watching a very, very slow-motion train wreck happen.  The coming economic nightmare is going to unfold over a number of years.  Yes, there will be moments of great panic, but mostly it will be a steady decline into economic oblivion.  And there are a lot of indications that the second half of this year is not going to be as good as the first half was.  The following are 19 reasons to be deeply concerned about the global economy as we head into the second half of 2013…

#1 The velocity of money in the United States has plunged to an all-time low.  It is extremely difficult to have an “economic recovery” if banks are not lending money and people are not spending it…

Velocity Of Money

#2 The fall of the Egyptian government threatens to bring even more instability to the Middle East.  In response to the events in Egypt, the price of oil rose to more than 101 dollars a barrel on Wednesday.

#3 Every time the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has risen over $3.80 in the past three years, a stock market decline has always followed.

#4 As the world becomes increasingly unstable, massive citizen protest movements have been rising all over the globe

The protests have many different origins. In Brazil people rose up against bus fares, in Turkey against a building project. Indonesians have rejected higher fuel prices, Bulgarians the government’s cronyism.

In the euro zone they march against austerity, and the Arab spring has become a perma-protest against pretty much everything. Each angry demonstration is angry in its own way.

#5 The European sovereign debt crisis is flaring up once again.  This time it is Portugal’s turn to take center stage…

From Greece to Cyprus, Slovenia to Spain and Italy, and now most pressingly Portugal, where the finance and foreign ministers resigned in the space of two days, a host of problems is stirring after 10 months of relative calm imposed by the European Central Bank.

Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho told the nation in an address late on Tuesday that he did not accept the foreign minister’s resignation and would try to go on governing.

If his government does end up collapsing, as is now more likely, it will raise immediate questions about Lisbon’s ability to meet the terms of the 78-billion-euro bailout it agreed with the EU and International Monetary Fund in 2011.

#6 It is being projected that Italy will need a major EU bailout within six months.

#7 Bond investors are starting to panic.  In fact, even prominent firms such as Pimco are seeing investors pull massive amounts of money out right now…

In June, investors pulled $9.6bn from Bill Gross’s flagship fund at Pimco, the largest single month of outflows at the fund since Morningstar records began in 1993, the investment research firm said.

The outflows came after investors pulled $1.3bn from the fund in May, which marked the first outflows since December 2011.

Overall, a whopping 80 billion dollars was pulled out of bond funds during June.

#8 Central banks are selling off staggering amounts of U.S. Treasury bonds right now.

#9 U.S. mortgage bonds just suffered their largest quarterly decline in nearly 20 years.

#10 We continue to buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us.  The U.S. trade deficit for the month of May was 45.0 billion dollars.

#11 The severe drought that the western half of the United States is suffering never seems to end.  What will it do to food prices if ranchers and farmers out west have to go through another summer like they did last year?

#12 European car sales have fallen to a 20 year low.

#13 Unemployment in the eurozone is at an all-time high.

#14 Could the paper gold Ponzi scheme be on the verge of crumbling?  There are reports that there is now a 100 day delay for gold owners to take physical delivery of their gold from some warehouses owned by the London Metal Exchange…

We’re told that bullion-buyers in London must now wait more than 100 days to take delivery of the bullion for which they have already paid.

The comedic drones at Bloomberg, and officials of the London Metal Exchange itself would have us believe this is due to “warehouse queues.” While precious metals bulls undoubtedly appreciate the imagery implied of a 100-day line-up of armored cars waiting to load their bullion – in the middle of this “bear market” – the implication is fallacious.

In an era of just-in-time inventories; the notion that there can be a 100-day backlog to load bullion into armored cars with the metal already sitting in the warehouse is ludicrous. Clearly what the LME is really reporting here is a greater-than-three-month delay to refine the gold (or silver) being purchased here – and then ship it to their warehouse.

In other words, the “bullion” which traders believe they are purchasing today is in fact merely ore which hasn’t even been dug out of the ground yet.

#15 The number of mortgage applications in the United States is falling at the fastest rate in more than 3 years.

#16 Real disposable income in the United States is falling at the fastest rate in more than 4 years.

#17 The percentage of companies issuing negative earnings guidance for this quarter is at a level that we have never seen before.

#18 Is the dark side of derivatives trading about to be exposed?  EU officials claim that 13 major international banks have been colluding to control the trading of derivatives…

The European Commission says many of the world’s largest investment banks appear to have colluded to block attempts by exchanges to trade and offer more transparent prices for financial products known as credit derivatives.

The commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said Monday it has informed 13 banks — including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley — as well as the industry association for derivatives itself, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, ISDA, of the preliminary conclusions of an investigation that began in March.

#19 There are 441 trillion dollars of interest rate derivatives sitting out there and interest rates have risen rapidly over the past few weeks.  What is going to happen to those derivatives if interest rates keep going higher?

So what do you think?

Are there any items that are missing that you would add to this list?

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

10 Scenes From The Economic Collapse That Is Sweeping Across The Planet

Earth From SpaceWhen is the economic collapse going to happen?  Just open up your eyes and take a look around the globe.  The next wave of the economic collapse may not have reached Wall Street yet, but it is already deeply affecting billions of lives all over the planet.  Much of Europe has already descended into a deep economic depression, very disturbing economic data is coming out of the second and third largest economies on the globe (China and Japan), and in most of the world economic inequality is growing even though 80 percent of the global population already lives on less than $10 a day.  Just because the Dow has been setting brand new all-time records lately does not mean that everything is okay.  Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts.  The next major wave of the economic collapse is already sweeping across Europe and Asia and it is going to devastate the United States as well.  I hope that you are ready.

The following are 10 scenes from the economic collapse that is sweeping across the planet…

#1 27 Percent Unemployment/60 Percent Youth Unemployment In Greece

The economic depression in Europe just continues to get worse with each passing month.  According to the Daily Mail, the unemployment rate in Greece has nearly tripled since 2009…

Greek youth unemployment rose above 60 per cent for the first time in February, reflecting the pain caused by the country’s crippling recession after years of austerity under its international bailout.

Greece’s jobless rate has almost tripled since the country’s debt crisis emerged in 2009 and was more than twice the euro zone’s average unemployment reading of 12.1 percent in March.

While the overall unemployment rate rose to 27 per cent, according to statistics service data released on Thursday, joblessness among those aged between 15 and 24 jumped to 64.2 percent in February from 59.3 percent in January.

#2 Detroit, Michigan Is Insolvent And Is Rapidly Running Out Of Cash

I love to write about Detroit because it is a perfect example of where the rest of the country is headed.  They have just gotten there first.  At this point, Detroit is essentially bankrupt, and the new emergency financial manager is saying that Detroit may totally run out of cash next month

Detroit may run out of cash next month and must cut long-term debt and retiree obligations, according to emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr’s preliminary plan to save Michigan’s largest city from bankruptcy.

Orr’s report says the cost of $9.4 billion in bond, pension and other long-term liabilities is sapping the ability to provide public safety and transportation. He listed cutting debt principal, retiree benefits and jobs among his options.

“No one should underestimate the severity of the financial crisis,” Orr said yesterday in a statement. He called his report “a sobering wake-up call about the dire financial straits the city of Detroit faces.”

#3 Economic Despair In France

France is going down the same path that Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy have gone.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Economist

HELDER PEREIRA is a young man with no work and few prospects: a 21-year-old who failed to graduate from high school and lost his job on a building site four months ago. With his savings about to run out, he has come to his local employment centre in the Paris suburb of Sevran to sign on for benefits and to get help finding something to do. He’ll get the cash. Work is another matter. Youth unemployment in Sevran is over 40%.

#4 7,000 Abandoned Buildings In Dayton, Ohio

All over the upper Midwest, there are formerly great cities that are dealing with thousands of abandoned buildings.  Dayton, Ohio is one example…

Like many urban cities in recent years, Dayton still finds itself knee-deep in abandoned, dilapidated properties as the result of the foreclosure crisis and economic downturn five years ago.

Boarded up buildings that appear to be on their last legs litter the city as it attempts to recover.

Kevin Powell, the city’s acting manager of housing inspection, says officials plan to use $5.2 million — half from the state’s Moving Ohio Forward program and a matching grant from the city’s general fund — to raze 475 abandoned properties by the end of September.

That will scratch the surface of an estimated 7,000 abandoned property problem that is growing.

#5 Overwhelmed By Squatters In Spain

In Spain, unemployment is rampant and people have become incredibly desperate.  In fact, in some Spanish cities you can now find entire apartment buildings that are being overwhelmed by squatters

A 285-unit apartment complex in Parla, less than half an hour’s drive from Madrid, should be an ideal target for investors seeking cheap property in Spain. Unfortunately, two thirds of the building generates zero revenue because it’s overrun by squatters.

“This is happening all over the country,” said Jose Maria Fraile, the town’s mayor, who estimates only 100 apartments in the block built for the council have rental contracts, and not all of those tenants are paying either. “People lost their jobs, they can’t pay mortgages or rent so they lost their homes and this has produced a tide of squatters.”

#6 The Collapse Of Chinese Power Consumption

Energy consumption tends to closely mirror economic activity.  That is why the recent collapse of Chinese power consumption is so alarming.  The following is from Zero Hedge

According to CLSA’s Chris Wood using NEA data, China’s monthly power consumption (the most accurate proxy for underlying economic strength according to the current premier) growth slowed from 5.5% YoY in Jan-Feb 2013 to 1.9% YoY in March, the slowest growth rate since May 2009 (as discussed in-depth here).

#7 Horrible Economic Data Coming Out Of The Second Largest Economy On The Planet

The economic data that has been coming out of the second largest economy on the globe has been quite alarming recently…

For starters, China’s recent economic data, as massaged as it is to the upside, is downright awful. China’s PMI numbers were the worst in two years. Staffing levels in the Chinese service sector decreased for the first time since January 2009 (remember that year).

China’s LEI also shows no sign of recovery. If anything, it indicates China is heading towards an economic slowdown on par with that of 2008. And if you account for the rampant debt fueling China’s economy you could easily argue that China is posting 0% GDP growth today.

#8 One Out Of Every Five U.S. Households On Food Stamps

Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, even though we are supposedly in the midst of an “economic recovery”, food stamp enrollment continues to soar to new highs.  The following is from CNS News

The most recent Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP) statistics of the number of households receiving food stamps shows that 23,087,886 households participated in January 2013 – an increase of 889,154 families from January 2012 when the number of households totaled 22,188,732.

The most recent statistics from the United States Census Bureau– from December 2012– puts the number of households in the United States at 115,310,000. If you divide 115,310,000 by 23,087,866, that equals one out of every five households now receiving food stamps.

#9 Child Hunger In America

Those that work for the big banks on Wall Street may have no problems feeding their children, but overall there is a rapidly growing child hunger crisis in America today.  Just check out the following statistics from one of my previous articles

*For the first time ever, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

*In Miami, 45 percent of all children are living in poverty.

*In Cleveland, more than 50 percent of all children are living in poverty.

*According to a recently released report, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

#10 The Tremendous Suffering Of Hundreds Of Millions Of Desperately Poor People That We Never Hear About

There are billions of people around the globe that are deeply suffering but that do not have a voice.  We usually never hear about the desperate poverty that these people are living in, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.  The following statistics that Stephen Lendman recently compiled should shock and alarm you…

At least 80% live on less than $10 a day. Over three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 80% live in countries where income disparity is increasing.

The poorest 40% of world population has 5% of global income. The bottom fifth has $1.5%. The top 20% has 75%.

According to UNICEF, 22,000 impoverished children die daily. They “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

An estimated 28% of children in developing countries are underweight, malnourished and/or stunted.

How can so many people be living like that in a world with such wealth?

Sadly, things are going to get much worse.  The economic and financial systems of the world are rapidly breaking down, and in a few years these are going to look like “the good old days”.

And a growing number of people are starting to realize the direction that things are headed.  For example, according to a survey that has just been released, 48 percent of all Americans believe that the best days of America are now behind us.

So what do you think?

Are our best days behind us, or are they still ahead of us?

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

20 Signs That The Next Great Economic Depression Has Already Started In Europe

20 Signs That The Next Great Economic Depression Has Already Started In EuropeThe next Great Depression is already happening – it just hasn’t reached the United States yet.  Things in Europe just continue to get worse and worse, and yet most people in the United States still don’t get it.  All the time I have people ask me when the “economic collapse” is going to happen.  Well, for ages I have been warning that the next major wave of the ongoing economic collapse would begin in Europe, and that is exactly what is happening.  In fact, both Greece and Spain already have levels of unemployment that are greater than anything the U.S. experienced during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Pay close attention to what is happening over there, because it is coming here too.  You see, the truth is that Europe is a lot like the United States.  We are both drowning in unprecedented levels of debt, and we both have overleveraged banking systems that resemble a house of cards.  The reason why the U.S. does not look like Europe yet is because we have thrown all caution to the wind.  The Federal Reserve is printing money as if there is no tomorrow and the U.S. government is savagely destroying the future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have by stealing more than 100 million dollars from them every single hour of every single day.  We have gone “all in” on kicking the can down the road even though it means destroying the future of America.  But the alternative scares the living daylights out of our politicians.  When nations such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy tried to slow down the rate at which their debts were rising, the results were absolutely devastating.  A full-blown economic depression is raging across southern Europe and it is rapidly spreading into northern Europe.  Eventually it will spread to the rest of the globe as well.

The following are 20 signs that the next Great Depression has already started in Europe…

#1 The unemployment rate in France has surged to 10.6 percent, and the number of jobless claims in that country recently set a new all-time record.

#2 Unemployment in the eurozone as a whole is sitting at an all-time record of 12 percent.

#3 Two years ago, Portugal’s unemployment rate was about 12 percent.  Today, it is about 17 percent.

#4 The unemployment rate in Spain has set a new all-time record of 27 percent.  Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s the United States never had unemployment that high.

#5 The unemployment rate among those under the age of 25 in Spain is an astounding 57.2 percent.

#6 The unemployment rate in Greece has set a new all-time record of 27.2 percent.  Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s the United States never had unemployment that high.

#7 The unemployment rate among those under the age of 25 in Greece is a whopping 59.3 percent.

#8 French car sales in March were 16 percent lower than they were one year earlier.

#9 German car sales in March were 17 percent lower than they were one year earlier.

#10 In the Netherlands, consumer debt is now up to about 250 percent of available income.

#11 Industrial production in Italy has fallen by an astounding 25 percent over the past five years.

#12 The number of Spanish firms filing for bankruptcy is 45 percent higher than it was a year ago.

#13 Since 2007, the value of non-performing loans in Europe has increased by 150 percent.

#14 Bank withdrawals in Cyprus during the month of March were double what they were in February even though the banks were closed for half the month.

#15 Due to an absolutely crippling housing crash, there are approximately 3 million vacant homes in Spain today.

#16 Things have gotten so bad in Spain that entire apartment buildings are being overwhelmed by squatters

A 285-unit apartment complex in Parla, less than half an hour’s drive from Madrid, should be an ideal target for investors seeking cheap property in Spain. Unfortunately, two thirds of the building generates zero revenue because it’s overrun by squatters.

“This is happening all over the country,” said Jose Maria Fraile, the town’s mayor, who estimates only 100 apartments in the block built for the council have rental contracts, and not all of those tenants are paying either. “People lost their jobs, they can’t pay mortgages or rent so they lost their homes and this has produced a tide of squatters.”

#17 As I wrote about the other day, child hunger has become so rampant in Greece that teachers are reporting that hungry children are begging their classmates for food.

#18 The debt to GDP ratio in Italy is now up to 136 percent.

#19 25 percent of all banking assets in the UK are in banks that are leveraged at least 40 to 1.

#20 German banking giant Deutsche Bank has more than 55 trillion euros (which is more than 72 trillion dollars) of exposure to derivatives.  But the GDP of Germany for an entire year is only about 2.7 trillion euros.

Yes, U.S. stocks have been doing great so far this year, but the truth is that the stock market has become completely and totally divorced from economic reality.  When it does catch up with the economic fundamentals, it will probably happen very rapidly like we saw back in 2008.

Our politicians can try to kick the can down the road for as long as they can, but at some point the consequences of our foolish decisions will hunt us down and overtake us.  The following is what Peter Schiff had to say about this coming crisis the other day…

“The crisis is imminent,” Schiff said.  “I don’t think Obama is going to finish his second term without the bottom dropping out. And stock market investors are oblivious to the problems.”

“We’re broke, Schiff added.  “We owe trillions. Look at our budget deficit; look at the debt to GDP ratio, the unfunded liabilities. If we were in the Eurozone, they would kick us out.”

Schiff points out that the market gains experienced recently, with the Dow first topping 14,000 on its way to setting record highs, are giving investors a false sense of security.

“It’s not that the stock market is gaining value… it’s that our money is losing value. And so if you have a debased currency… a devalued currency, the price of everything goes up. Stocks are no exception,” he said.

“The Fed knows that the U.S. economy is not recovering,” he noted. “It simply is being kept from collapse by artificially low interest rates and quantitative easing. As that support goes, the economy will implode.”

So please don’t think that we are any different from Europe.

If the United States government started only spending the money that it brings in, we would descend into an economic depression tomorrow.

The only way that we can continue to live out the economic fantasy that we see all around us is by financially abusing our children and our grandchildren.

The U.S. economy has become a miserable junkie that is completely and totally addicted to reckless money printing and gigantic mountains of debt.

If we stop printing money and going into unprecedented amounts of debt we are finished.

If we continue printing money and going into unprecedented amounts of debt we are finished.

Either way, this is all going to end very, very badly.

European Central Bank, Frankfurt - by jpatokal

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